"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
This famous quote by William Shakespeare might work to win the love of a woman, but when it comes to love for a land and its people, I would say there is a lot in a name. Names give identity to people and this identity collectively binds them into nations and cultures.
Sarhad was a name that bound together the people of this province for over half a century. The people of Sarhad Pakhtuns, Hazarawals, Kohistanis, Chitralis and the Seraiki people in the south of the province lived in relative peace and harmony. Their collective identity was the province of Sarhad and clearly there was no problem.
But then the Awami National Party (ANP) came along, a Pakhtun nationalist party that emerged from years of political wilderness, and started to rule the roost in Sarhad. The ANP had always demanded that the province be renamed, because it seems they were constantly going through an identity crisis and wanted to feel more secure by calling the province Pakhtunistan or Pakhtunkhwa.
The other ethnicities of the province had no such issues. The ANP, being the coalition partners in the government, finally got their chance to change the name of the province by exploiting the 18th amendment. The PML-N, the only major political party that opposed the name because they had a huge vote bank in the Hazara region, initially wavered and then finally compromised over the bizarre name of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
And in this manner, the province of Sarhad was given a false identity in the name of political expediency, vested interests, shallow egos and fossilized nationalism. The people of Sarhad were not taken into confidence; there was no referendum, no debate, no brain storming and no consensus was reached. They were left high and dry in the wilderness by political parties who claimed to represent them.
A superficial name imposed on the people of Sarhad was too much for the people of Hazara who took to the streets to protest this highhandedness and injustice. For eight days there were peaceful protests and then the ANP stoked the already highly charged emotions of the people of Hazara by celebrating the new name and by imposing section 144 in Abbottabad.
Consequently the protests turned violent eight people were killed and 150 injured by indiscriminate police firing. The ruling ANP, responsible for creating unity and harmony among the people of the strife-ridden province, has driven a wedge between the populace of Sarhad at a very critical time. N
ow, the demand for the creation of the province of Hazara will ring louder than before as the ANP has cast the first stone in the Balkanization of the province of Sarhad. Abandoned by the PML-N at the last minute, the people of Hazara have been left to fend for their own grievances. The PML-Q, now in disarray, is trying to exploit the situation but the people of Hazara who have been stabbed in the back by most of the other major political parties are now smart enough to realize that the PML-Q is also trying to gain political mileage out of this issue.
A political vacuum has emerged in the region of Hazara as the Hazarawals now don’t trust PML-N, JUI-F or PML-Q to represent them. What they need right now is a brand new political party based on nonethnic and linguistic lines that should strive for the creation of the province of Hazara by taking in administrative, economic and governmental aspects into account.
This party should give voice to the people of Hazara and rise above the prejudices of language, caste, race and religion. It is also high time for the leaders of different political parties who are disgruntled with their own leadership and have resigned, or are thinking of resigning over the issue of renaming the province, to come forward and join their heads together to form this new political party and call it the Hazara Awami League.
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