Hazara province – will they get it?


Obaid Ur Rehman July 30, 2010

Political analysts in and out of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are confident that Hazara’s dream of a separate province is just that, a dream but determined Hazarewals are committed to seeing their dream realised. With such polarised views, how does one ascertain the viability of a separate province?

The present unrest in Hazara is the product of a complex and long-standing cocktail of administrative, political, social, ethnic and linguistic issues. And it is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. “This is not a small issue which can be solved by merely issuing statements,” says Sardar Hyder Zaman Baba, a Hazara leader.

To view the situation merely through the prism of ethnicity would be a mistake. It is not just about the Hazaras fearing domination by Pakhtuns or their frail relationship with Pakhtun nationals dating back to pre-Partition. It runs deeper, to Hazarewals’ belief that they were instrumental in the creation of Pakistan, more so than the Pakhtuns whose allegiance lay with the late Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi, the politician whose views on Pakistan are all too well known. Hazarewals view Pakhtuns as a people who have since the birth of Pakistan tried in different ways to assert their identity over others, especially the Hazarewals, and this resentment has carried over all this time.

The desire to assert their identity is the easiest explanation behind the demand for a Hazara province but, as former speaker of the National Assembly Gohar Ayub Khan says, there are “other complicated confluence factors” that need to be understood. The demand for a Hazara province is akin to challenging the notion that the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is “home to Pakhtuns”. The Hazarewal is not a singular identity, nor is it a distinct ethnicity bound by one language; they speak Hindko, Pashto, Kohistani, Gojri and Potwari. This explains why the Hazaras opposed the name Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa because, as a local Hazara leader Javed Iqbal said, “we want to stay away from linguistic politics and our multi-ethnic nature is testament to that”. A Hazara province would thus be free of one ethnicity asserting itself over another.

Although the issue may be getting a lot more press coverage today, the movement for a Hazara province can be traced to 1987 with the creation of Hazara Qaumi Mahaz by advocate Asif Malik. He died in 2008 but a new spirit seems to have been infused into the party and it is not just based on ethnic or linguistic lines, even if detractors prefer viewing it as such. This dominantly Muslim League district has never been given its due, say HQM supporters but when it came to supporting the name change to K-P, the PML-N was hesitant to alienate its vote-bank. Nonetheless, the end result was clear to all and an enraged Hazara populace has turned its back on the PML-N. Sardar Mehtab Khan Abbasi’s plea, that one cannot attain a goal by creating unrest and that all stakeholders have to be taken on board, has fallen on deaf ears. (to be continued)

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2010.

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