ISLAMABAD: The leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will meet next week to discuss how the party can regain its lost support in the Hazara division over the renaming of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif will chair the meeting of his close associates to discuss options to win back the overwhelming support it once had in the non-Pashto-speaking belt of the KP province. The party was criticised by thousands of diehard supporters when it voted in favour of the 18th amendment bill which renamed NWFP to KP — a decision most Hazarewals oppose. A PML-N official said that they may announce to either back calls for a separate province for the five districts of Hazara or to promise another constitutional amendment to change the name again.
“These two options would certainly be on the table when we meet,” the official added. PML-N has never been in favour of creating new provinces in Pakistan but, according to sources, is considering changing its stance with the shifting dynamics of Pakistani politics. Hazara was the only political stronghold of the PML-N outside its traditional base of central Punjab to which the party was restricted to in the 2008 general polls. Official say that Sharif wants the party to regain its support in Hazara at any cost and has asked his workers and leaders to come up with workable options to achieve this goal.
Another PML-N official claims that Member National Assembly (MNA) Mehtab Abbasi, who resigned from his National Assembly (NA) seat to protest the name change, has said that he will only take back his resignation if PML-N either back calls for a separate province or promises supporting another constitutional amendment to change the name again. Current political issues, matters related to budget, price hikes, target killings in Karachi and a possible meeting between Sharif and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will also be discussed at the meeting.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2010