Saturday, April 3, 2010

There should be a Hazara Province also

March 27, 2010
There should be a Hazara Province also
By Saeed Qureshi
The Stance taken by Mian Nawaz Sharif, the leader of Pakistan Muslim League (N) is right and reasonable. The population of Hazara is ethnically, culturally and linguistically different from the Pashto speaking population mostly living along the Durand Line. Administratively too it would not be efficacious for this huge chunk of land to be administered and governed from Peshawar. The inhabitants of Hazara live in the scenic valleys of Swat, Dir, along the Indus River, in Abottabad, Garhi Habibullah, and Balakot and beyond that picturesque Kaghan valley. The Hazara Division if we may call it so borders on Punjab on one side, Azad Kashmir on the other and as well as panoramic Chitral valley. It touches the Pashto speaking area from river Indus at Nowshera. Between Nowshera in Peshawar, Hindko a mix of Pashto and Punjabi dialect is spoken. So Hazara is geographically larger area than the one where the Pashto or Dari speaking Pakistanis live.
As long as the British given name, North West Frontier Province ( NWFP) (a roundabout name to define the entire northern belt between the then Afghanistan’s territorial jurisdiction and the British colonized area), remains in vogue, it would be acceptable because it does not identify any particular race or ethnic community giving them a special distinction or edge over others. But to rename it as Pakhtunkhawa, means the land of Pashto speaking people which factually it is not. If this name is retained and the NWFP is renamed with Pakhtunkhawa, it is going to be a sure recipe for racial tension between the Pashto and non Pashto speaking areas and may also lead to serious administrative problems.
In a haste rather and taking a myopic view, the incumbent government has clearly ignored the people of Hazara and perhaps they were not taken into confidence and their consent was not acquired before taking such a momentous decision which patently would alter the demographic and ethnic balance and affinity thus far maintained, though visibly. It is surmised and presaged that the riots and agitations would sprout everywhere in the Hazara belt once this decision becomes a part of the constitution. If later a stark realization of the inherent flaw in the decision dawns upon the government, why not resolve it before it poses a severe crisis to the federation.
The rational or the pragmatic course is to divide the NWFP into two provinces: one should be nomenclatured as Pakhtunkhawa and the other Hazara province. Historically, the people of Hazara have not opposed the creation of Pakistan and rather overwhelmingly and enthusiastically supported it and rendered sacrifices for it. On the other hand the Pashto population was divided and the ANP (formerly NAP) and during the partition, the Red Shirts opposed and voted against the establishment of Pakistan. The credentials of ANP have remained dubious till they had no choice but to accept the reality of Pakistan and start talking about Pakistan as a country for the Muslims. This metamorphosis or change of heart is clearly manifest after the sway and advent of Taliban in NWFP and in Afghanistan that completely stymied the chances for ANP to fight on two fronts and keep on opposing Pakistan or at least accepting it with reservations. In the wake of the stupendous influence of Taliban and their irresistible murderous and savage style, entailing countless casualties of the ANP rank and file also, the party aligned itself with the PPP coalition government.
The ANP has suffered in all manners at the hands of the Taliban bands who almost virtually established their writ in Swat, Dir, Malakand, Mardan and in the tribal belt. For ANP this gubernatorial threat could not be countenanced and therefore they watched from the sideline the Pakistan army annihilating these ferocious and merciless fighters, with complete silence and avowed cooperation. Of late, it is amazing to watch the ANP leaders talking of the territorial integrity of Pakistan, the appreciation of Pakistan armed forces and the sanctity of the constitution on the media and otherwise. One may guess that ANP leadership has realized that their dream of keeping the NWFP on a rebellious course is no more practically possible so better get the name of the province changes that will somehow accord the Pashtuns a separate identity which in future can be cashed by reverting to the old ideological brinkmanship.
But all said and done, now when the PPP government is set on a course of swinging the political system to a parliamentary form and the coalition partners MQM and ANP and even the opposition parties are supporting this endeavor, the sentiments of the Hazara people need to be catered, respected and accommodated as far as possible. Also in other areas, where ethnic or linguistic divide is distinct such as the Saraiki belt, more provinces should be created for social harmony which is going to entrench and consolidate the political system and in return the federation.
The government should defer the decision of renaming the NWFP as Pakhtunkhawa and enter into parleys both with the Pashtuns and the Hazaras for an amicable solution which in this scenario is to create two provinces, each separately for two culturally and ethnically races. Otherwise the impostion of the decision of naming NWFP as Pakhtunkhawa on the entire region is fraught with foreseeable unrest, frustration and disturbance.

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