The brick-bat over Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in Hazara – by Ismail Khan

Source Dawn:

DOES this demonstrate a genuine, legitimate concern of a people who fear their status and interests as equal citizens being seriously undermined in a newly-named province?

What is this kerfuffle all about? Is there politics behind it? And is it really an issue that concerns the whole of “Hazara Division”, as is being wittingly or unwittingly bandied about?

These are important issues and need to be explained to better understand the reasons behind the anti-Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa campaign.

As the landmark 18th Constitutional Amendment sailed through the National Assembly, no other amendment therein has caused so much commotion and emotional outburst, than the one that changed the 1901-British-given name of NWFP to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

A zillion things could be said and a million names could be tossed up as an alternative to the soon-to-become history; the NWFP. But if those, who are whipping up the frenzy over the new name, could say one thing with logic as to what harm would this bring to our brothers in the Hindko-speaking areas of Hazara, then it would have been understandable.

But logic is not what is at play here. It is politics, pure and simple. Just a glance at the leading lights of the “movement” would show the real intent of those, who are pulling their hair over the new name.

Most of them have lost the last elections (of the nine leaders leading the protests, six lost the last elections, mostly to the PML-N) and therefore, what good an opportunity to embarrass the sitting members of parliament and cash in on the issue — than the one presented by the new name — a name that, unfortunately, had long been used as a scare-crow by the many leaders there, to protect their vote banks, against heaven knows what.

It is opportunism and expediency rather than any real fear or genuine political agenda that is driving this campaign.

What however, is more surprising is the seemingly deliberate indifference of some of the PML-N leaders, from Abbottabad, who had opposed renaming of the NWFP, but had grudgingly supported the move under pressure from their leader, Mian Nawaz Sharif.

Instead of defending their party position on the issue, these leaders have allowed their opponents to gain a political mileage out of this and embarrass their own leader.

The unfortunate part is that while politics is being played on what is now a settled matter, the raucous has given an ethnic dimension to the issue and ironically, this is being done by leaders, who represent the so-called national parties.

Besides, some of the gentlemen, who are now crying wolf, have represented this province as cabinet ministers at some point both at the provincial as well as federal level.

For historical reference, seven of the total 19 chief ministers this province has had since independence, have come from “Hazara Division”, from Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan to Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan Abbasi.

To be fair, was there even a whimper as to why a “Hazarawal” was ruling a predominantly Pashtun province, 73.9 per cent of the population that is?

By the same yardstick, many people here now wonder why some of the anti-name campaigners find it hard to live with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa but happily lived with Abbottabad, which is named after Major Abbott (1849-1853), Haripur, which took its name from Ranjit Singh’s commander in chief Hari Singh Nalwa in 1822 or Mansehra, said to have been named after another Sikh commander, Man Singh.

Lets put the demographic number game straight as well to remove the misperception and misrepresentation of facts being deliberately twisted by vested interests to portray as if the whole of “Hazara” has risen against the new name.

Hazara Division has five districts: Abbottabad, Mansehra, Haripur, Battagram and Kohistan.

Of the five, Battagram is predominantly Pashtun (81.65 %) while 95.98 per cent of the people in Kohistan speak Shina or Kohistani. Little wonder there has not been a single protest over the renaming issue in the two districts, despite being part of Hazara division. Commentators and anchors please note!!!

This leaves us with the three districts of which 77.1 per cent of the people speak “other languages” including Hindko, while 21 per cent speak Pashto. This includes Mansehra, where the population speaking both languages, are evenly positioned.

On the aggregate, nearly 18 per cent people in the erstwhile NWFP speak Hindko, a big majority of them perhaps live in the districts of Peshawar and Kohat than Hazara. Why is it then, that there have been no protests in either of the districts? So much for the ‘crisis’ over the issue???

The truth of the matter is that the protests are largely confined to Abbottabad which is being played up as if the whole of “Hazara Division” is up in revolt.

It would be instructive for the leading lights of “Hazara Province” to do some mathematics, learn a bit about their own area and its people and more so about the constitution which clearly stipulates the process for redrawing the boundaries of a province — an impossible task given the number game involved in it.

So to believe that those behind the hoo-ha over Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa do not know this all, would be naïve. Sure, they know it. But their problem is that they have to play politics and what better an issue to kick around their opponents with than Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Little do they realise of course that in the process they may also be causing harm to ethnic harmony and co-existence that has been the hallmark of the people of this province.

Let politicians show some maturity and the main responsibility in this, lies on the shoulders of the ANP leadership, to reach out to those opposing the new name, placate their anger and address their concerns if there are any. The PML-N, too, needs to shoulder this responsibility to help bring the situation under control.

It took a long time for the PML-N to come out of its ghetto politics but it will do well to play its role in restoring harmony and cohesion.



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