The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly on Friday passed two seemingly contradictory resolutions – to establish Hazara as a separate province and to change the name of the existing province to Hazara Pakhtunkhwa.
Interestingly, both resolutions were introduced by the treasury benches, polarising legislators across the floor of the house. The chief minister himself exited the assembly when the resolution for a separate Hazara province was presented for approval, returning only when the second resolution regarding the name change was approved.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Sardar Idrees presented the resolution to carve out Hazara as a separate province. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), however, opposed it.
The resolution stated, “[Though] the Constitution of Pakistan did not prevent the formation of new provinces on administrative basis under the confederation of the country, this house recommends to the central government, in accordance with the needs of new administrative units including Hazara province, it should present a bill for the amendment in Pakistan’s constitution in the assembly and make a commission in this regard as soon as possible.
In response, Sardar Babak of the ANP argued Hazara was an integral part of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and hence they were opposed to the division of the province. He claimed in the prevailing circumstances, when the province was confronted with numerous problems, the resolution was a conspiracy against K-P. Babak contended no province should be made on the basis of language or race.
PPP’s Nighat Orakzai chimed in saying the time was not right for such a move. She maintained they were not opposed to changing the name of the province, but would not tolerate its division.
Wajihuz Zaman, however, claimed the resolution was not about the Hazara province but about administrative units, adding they never talked about the division on the basis of language or race. He reiterated they have only asked for the formation of a commission for the purpose.
“The region should be divided on population and strategic basis,” said Adviser to the chief minister on higher education Mushtaq Ghani. “We even raised the issue during ANP’s tenure, asking for a referendum to let the people decide the issue of renaming the province. Unfortunately, they did not pay heed to their demands.”
Ghani said the situation had sparked unrest in the past, resulting in the death of 11 people and leaving over 200 others injured in ensuing scuffles. “The judicial commission report says 1,500 bullets were fired on the protesters and the situation led to a movement for a new province from the earlier demand of renaming the existing one,” he said, referring to the skirmish in Abbottabad on April 12, 2010.
Exhibiting the evident disagreement within the coalition government over the issue, senior minister Sirajul Haq said that instead of forming another province, it should be renamed Hazara Pakhtunkhwa to address the grievances of the region’s people.
“The successive governments’ flawed policies have increased the sense of deprivation among the people, therefore, the federal government should name the province as Hazara Pakhtunkhwa,” read the text of the second resolution introduced by Health Ministet Shaukat Yousafzai. The resolution carried the signatures of Qalandar Lodhi, Maleeha Khan, Nargis Bibi, Mushtaq Ghani, Muzafar Sayed, Akbar Ayub Khan, Maulana Asmatullah, Wajeehuz Zaman, Mufti Sayed Janan and Faisal Zaman.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2014.