PML-N’s softening stance towards the proposal of carving out new provinces, including one in the Hazara region, earned local political leaders’ praises.
Terming the approach pragmatic and positive, they said it was aimed at winning back its previous political clout, which allowed it to bag a maximum number of National Assembly and provincial assembly seats.
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who now publicly supports the idea of carving out new provinces, including one in southern Punjab and a Hazara province in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, recently formed a 15-member committee headed by Raja Zafarul Haq to weigh various proposals in this regards.
Commenting on the situation, Yousuf Ayub Khan, a former provincial minister and a leader of the Tehrik Suba Hazara (TSH), said that it was a political compulsion for the mainstream political parties to support the Hazara province if they wanted to keep their vote bank intact.
He said that his party would appreciate all parties which lent support to the call for a new province.
“The PML-N’s move is appreciable. This clearly demonstrates political maturity,” said Javed Qureshi, former general secretary of the local bar association.
Naseem Awan, the information secretary of the Hazara Qauma Mahaz, said that the people had demanded a new province after suffering at the hands of anti-Hazara elements for the past six decades, adding that the idea was gaining widespread support.
He said that the support of mainstream political parties, which initially was confined to just Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), was now gaining momentum with the expression of support from the PML-N, which was at first antagonistic to the very idea.
Syed Waqar Shah, a leader of the Freedom Party who contested polls from NA-19, said that the ANP leadership should also support the demand for a Hazara province in a practical way, adding that there were two resolutions pending before the KPK assembly for the past year, adding that it was high time for them to mend fences with the people of Hazara.
On April 12 this year, the TSH in collaboration with the MQM, PML-Q, Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F, Tehrik-e-Insaaf, Pakistan Awami Tehrik and Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan and regional groups like the Hazara Qaumi Mahaz, Hazara Awami Itehad and the Hazara Graduates, observed the first anniversary of the violent protests held in support of the demand for a new province in which at least seven people lost their lives in Abbottabad a year ago.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2011.