“The people of Hazara have the right to demand a separate province in their area, but they have no right to dictate a name of their choice on the overwhelming majority of the Pakhtun”, writes Farhat Taj
Renaming of the NWFP as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the 18th constitutional amendment has led to a wave of violence in Hazara Division. Eight people have been killed, including policemen on duty and dozens injured. The PMN-N and the PML-Q hold each other’s politics responsible for the unrest in Hazara. Together they also consider the ANP responsible for this violent situation. Farooq Leghari, the former president of Pakistan, said the renaming of the province would create divisions in Pakistan. Mr Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N leader, repeatedly said he reluctantly agreed to rename the province as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Someone even challenged the renaming of the NWFP in the high court on the plea that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is a step towards Pakhtunistan. Leaders of the demonstrators in Hazara openly declare they will take revenge from the Pakhtuns for the killing of their companions. The media is giving an unprecedented coverage to the protests in Hazara — such coverage has never been given to any Pakhtun issues that even remotely depict Pakhtun nationalism.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is a compromised name — thanks to the ANP. This party has a track record of compromising on the Pakhtun interests. It did so on this occasion as well. The ANP should have stuck to Pakhtunkhwa and should have rejected the whole constitutional package for that. Moreover, the constitutional package offers nothing for the people of FATA. How could the ANP, a Pakhtun nationalist party, accept the constitutional package without FATA reforms? It is ridiculous that one of the FATA parliamentarians proposed ‘Qabailistan’ as a new name for FATA but he and his colleagues said nothing about the constitutional reforms in FATA.
Despite the ANP’s compromises, the way the Hazara protests have been exploited by the Punjab-based political parties and covered by the Pakistani media shows once more that many powerful forces in Pakistan are paranoid about anything that symbolises Pakhtun ethnic identity. The Pakistani state has suppressed Pakhtun nationalism for decades and has divided the people in four administrative units (FATA, NWFP, Balochistan and the Pakhtun territories in the Punjab province). For the paranoid Pakistanis, the only acceptable Pakhtun is either a murdered Pakhtun or Talib Pakhtun. There is so much goodwill for the Pakhtun Taliban and so much oblivion, even disgust for the anti-Taliban Pakhtun. The anti-Taliban Pakhtuns, whether nationalists or otherwise have been killed like insects all over FATA by the military and its B-team, the Taliban, and no one in Pakistan seems to care, whereas the Hazara anti-Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa demonstrations have captured the imagination of entire Pakistan.
There is so much media uproar over the killing of the people in Hazara. This is justified and those who killed the innocent people must be held accountable. But the same media outlets are deaf and dumb over the brutal killing of over 70 innocent Pakhtun women, children and men in Tirah, FATA, by the Pakistan Army a week ago! All the politicians and news analysts screaming over the killings in Hazara are deadly silent over the murderous act of the Pakistan Army against the innocent Pakhtun civilians.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has made a judicial committee to probe the killings in Hazara. Who will make a similar judicial committee to investigate the killings in Tirah? It is true that the Pakhtun of FATA have no human rights under the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. But the republic has signed the UN Human Rights Declaration that guarantees human rights to the people of FATA. Should the people of FATA turn to the UN for a judicial investigation since the military and political masters of Pakistan never considered the death and destruction in FATA worthy of judicial investigation?
The Pakhtuns are subservient and loyal citizens of Pakistan and yet there is no dearth of fellow Pakistanis who doubt their loyalty to the state the moment they refer to their ethnic identity. They are not even welcomed to celebrate the belated state recognition of their right, i.e. their ethnic identity being reflected in the name of their province. Politicians and news analysts have condemned the ANP for the celebrations. Rana Sanaullah, provincial law minister Punjab, holds the ANP celebrations over the renaming of the province responsible for the protests in Hazara. There are also those who cannot even tolerate the celebrations and have killed tens of Pakhtuns in Timergara by attacking the celebration rally. The media and politicians of Pakistan have forgotten the martyrs of Timergara, but continue to criticise the Pakhtuns who celebrated the renaming. What kind of state-citizens relationship is this where the Pakhtuns cannot even express joy?
The ANP has already announced to welcome a separate province in Hazara through constitutional means. Now the PML-N must show the grace to accept the Seraiki demand of a separate province in south Punjab.
The people of Hazara have the right to demand a separate province in their area, but they have no right to dictate a name of their choice on the overwhelming majority of the Pakhtun. Seventy-three percent of population of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa identify Pashto as their mother tongue according to the 1998 census in Pakistan. According to the same census, Pakhtuns are the second largest ethnic group of Pakistan after the Punjabis in terms of mother language.
Let us not forget that the population of Hazara is not homogenous in terms of culture and language. Hazara is also home of those Pakhtuns who have preserved their language, tribal culture and customs, like the Pakhtuns in Batagram, Kaladaka, Oogi, etc. The Jaduns and Tareens of Hazara are ethnic Pakhtun, although they have abandoned the Pashto language. It is pertinent to mention that some elected representatives and civil society members from Batagram, Kaladaka, Kohistan and Shangla have demanded separation from Haraza Division to join the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in the event of Hazara becoming a separate province. It is clear that most of the Pakistani media and the political forces, paranoid about the Pakhtun ethnic identity, would ignore this demand of the Pakhtuns in Hazara.
I am afraid peace is not going to come to the Pakhtun land as along as our fellow Pakistanis in Punjab are caught up in fear of the Pakhtun identity. They have to get rid of their paranoia for a durable peace in Pakistan.
The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org