Riots in Abottabad

Salman Masood April 14, 2010

KARACHI: The cauldron of political unrest stemming from lingual, social and ethnic grievances has the potential to come to a boil in Pakistan.

The fire of resentment and anger that has engulfed the Hazara districts can spread to other parts of the country, especially Southern Punjab, unless political parties do not rise above petty interests. It is clear that the PML-Q stoked the protests in Abbottabad, although absolute blame cannot be apportioned on them alone. After suffering electoral defeat in the 2008 elections PML-Q leaders have been groping for any opportunity that can resuscitate their political fortunes.

But apart from a dismal showing at the ballot the party has suffered from internal divisions leading to splinter groups, which have also been at a loss to find their desired political space. Renaming the NWFP has provided the party with a much-needed opportunity and several politicians belonging to Haripur and Abbottabad feel that they can now crawl out of political wilderness. Resentment in Hazara over renaming the province is not new. Such demands have been voiced in the past and more recently after the announcement of the Gilgit-Baltistan package. Latent anger already existed, waiting to be tapped.

The PML-N, which has traditionally been strong in these districts, exhibited its characteristic equivocation over the issue before caving in to the demands of political expediency. It failed to recognise the grass-root sentiments of the people of Hazara. PML-Q politicians, on the other hand, tried too hard. And the dynamics of the protests changed completely. The ANP, which has championed the cause of ‘Pakhtunkhwa’, acted with indifference and arrogance. Its ministers, sitting in Peshawar, thought that the tide of emotions would subside and police high-handedness would quell the unrest. The loss of six lives should be a learning lesson for all sides.

The damage is extensive: hundreds have been injured, and emotions run high, clouding reason and restraint.Protests in the country are turning violent in an alarming way. Violence should not take precedence over dialogue. The sense of neglect and depravation is pervasive in parts of Punjab and politicians in southern Punjab are already saying that the call for a Seraiki province will be the vote-getter in the next elections. Such demands can emanate not just from Punjab. Several other parts of the country, be they in Sindh or Balochistan, remain volatile. Political violence can further exacerbate the fissures that already exist within the country.

Politicians should have demonstrated more vision while going through the process of passing the 18th amendment bill through parliament. The haste was perhaps unwarranted. There is also need for a debate on the demands and futility of carving out more provinces from the existing federal structure. A lack of such informed debate over renaming the restive northwestern province has already caused unfortunate and avoidable damage.


Sardar Ahmed Durrani | 12 years ago | Reply I do not agree that this is an issue which has crept up only due to renaming of a single province. There is an elephant in the room which everyone is too scared to point out; we need more provinces. its as simple as that. Just to give you some numbers, below is some data from the rest of the world which shows you the ratio of population to representation in their respective legislative bodies. We are one of the worst represented people in the world. Thats because the 'seasoned politicians' cannot swallow the pill of losing swathes of land under their power while being a provincial minister now, to being reduced (and rightly so) to a district leader upon devolution of provincial powers. Data I mentioned above is as follows: Country, Population, GDP 2009, Number of Provinces. Pakistan, 180 million, $448 Billion, 4 provinces. Turkey, 76 million, $907 Billion, 81 provinces. Iran, 66 million, $842 Billion, 30 provinces. Japan, 127 million, $4.3 Trillion, 47 provinces. Indonesia, 240 million, $916 Billion, 32 provinces. Algeria, 34 million, $236 Billion, 48 provinces. India, 1.2 Billion, $3.2 Trillion, 35 provinces. Kenya, 41 million, $62 Billion, 26 provinces. France, 64 million, $2.1 Trillion, 26 provinces. Italy, 58 million, $1.8 Trillion, 20 provinces. Hungry, 10 million, $206 Billion, 33 provinces. Mexico, 111 million, $1.6 Trillion, 31 provinces. Argentina, 41 Million, $576 Billion, 31 provinces. Russia, 140 million, $2.2 Trillion, 83 provinces. USA, 290 million, $14.3 Trillion, 50 provinces. China, 1.3 Billion, $7.8 Trillion, 31 provinces. Unless we go back to the initial idea of multiple provinces where the proposed structure revolves around each division being converted to a province, we are bound to get politicians who represent only a segment of society and are in no way or form representing the true, on the ground, sentiments of their voters. Regards. Long live Pakistan.
Umair Jav | 12 years ago | Reply Why do people insist on explaining these riots as the outcome of large-scale instigation by opportunistic politicians. Everyone needs to recognize that the issue is of 'real' concern to the people of Hazara and there is only so much that a political party can do to either magnify or quell public sentiment. There needs to be engagement at three levels for this problem to be solved Between the federal government and provincial parties Between the various provincial parties within NWFP Between the electorate of both Pashtun areas as well as Hazara division with those that claim to represent them. Politicians will have to make a lot of room for each other as well as for the people that they so casually claim to speak on behalf of.
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