New name for NWFP threatens to hit constitutional reforms
The blame game between the two parties started a day after the 26-member all-party parliamentary committee on constitutional reforms completed the first reading of the draft of the proposed 18th constitution amendment bill.
ISLAMABAD: The continuing tussle between Awami National Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz over renaming the NWFP threatens to scuttle the almost agreed constitutional reforms package.
Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of Awami National Party accused the PML-N on Sunday of playing politics over the issue and adopting a “delaying tactic”.
And PML-N’s former secretary general Iqbal Zafar Jhagra accused the ANP of blackmailing his party by raising the matter although the real issue was scrapping the 17th Amendment.
The blame game between the two parties started a day after the 26-member all-party parliamentary committee on constitutional reforms headed by Senator Raza Rabbani completed the first reading of the draft of the proposed 18th constitution amendment bill.
Mr Bilour said in a statement that instead of “using delaying tactics” the PML-N should adopt a clear stance on the renaming of the NWFP. “ANP will be obliged to Nawaz Sharif if he agrees on Pakhtoonkhwa.”
He said three names were being considered for the province — Pakhtoonkhwa, Pakhtoonistan and Afghania.
He said that the letter ‘A’ in ‘Pakistan’ given by Chaudhry Rehmat Ali was for ‘Afghania’.
The ANP leader claimed that the top PML-N leadership had no reservations on “Pakhtoonkhwa” but some leaders were “misguiding” it. He said all PML-N legislators supported ANP’s stance.
“We want to put Pakhtoonkhwa on Pakistan’s map, otherwise sentiments of the people may be hurt,” the ANP leader said.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Jhagra refuted Mr Bilour’s allegation that the PML-N was using delaying tactics on the issue and accused the ANP of “blackmailing” it on the issue at a time when there was complete unanimity among all parties and the nation over repealing the 17th Amendment.
He warned that the ANP would be responsible if the renaming issue hampered progress on the constitution reforms bill.
He said the PML-N had always offered sacrifices for the cause of democracy and national unity and had agreed to ANP’s demand for provincial autonomy.
Mr Jhagra said the PML-N was not against renaming the province, but did not want a “controversial” name.
He claimed that the name ‘Pakhtoonkhwa’ would divide the people of NWFP.
He said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and other PML-N leaders belonging to other provinces had no problem with the name but he party’s NWFP chapter was opposing it because it knew that the move could have “dangerous repercussions”.
Mr Jhagra said Mr Sharif would call a meeting of the party’s NWFP chapter in Lahore in a couple of days to discuss the issue.
The Rabbani committee finalised most of the draft of the 18th amendment at a five-hour meeting on Saturday, with only five or six issues remaining to be settled.
The sources said that except for the renaming of the NWFP the other issues were of minor nature.
The committee which started article-wise review of the Constitution had to drop finalisation of a proposal to amend Article 1 because of differences between the two parties over renaming the NWFP.
The members had decided to take up the issue after reviewing all other articles of the Constitution.
PML-N’s stronghold in the NWFP is the Hazara region and adjoining areas where people mostly speak Hindko.
In December, the PML-N chief constituted a five-member committee to hold talks with ANP on the issue, but it failed to end the deadlock.
The sources told Dawn that the PML-N had agreed to rename the NWFP as ‘Abaseen Afghania’, but ANP did not accept it.
The ANP says it may settle for ‘Afghania’ as a compromise, but without any prefix.