I am an authentic “Hazarawal”, and I am against the demand for making Hazara a separate province.
Born in a remote place bordering Kala Dhaka, or the Black Mountain, I am a native Hindko speaker who is also comfortable with Pashto. I was comfortable with the old name of the province, NWFP, and am not uncomfortable with the new name, Pukhtunkhwa.
Therefore, the intense reaction to the renaming and the consequent demand for a separate province for Hazara came as a surprise to me. Perhaps watching the situation from ten thousand miles away, one cannot feel the heat of emotions that the name change may have unleashed, but the distance also enables one to view the situation dispassionately.
First, let us look at the ethnic mix of the area. Hazara is a multi-ethnic region comprising five districts and an affiliated tribal area known as Kala Dhaka. The total population of the region is estimated to be over 4 million, with Mansehra being the largest (over 1 million) and Batagram and Kohistan the smallest (about half a million each).
Other than Kohistan, whose people have a distinct ethnicity and a language called Kohistani, the districts of Hazara present a mixed ethnic picture, and the languages spoken there are mainly Hindko in various dialects and Pashto. However, in spite of an overall majority of Hindko speakers in Hazara, culturally most of them identify themselves more with Pakhtuns than with any other ethnic group of Pakistan.
The name change could have been handled better. The Awami National Party has not been particularly creative neither in thinking up a widely acceptable name, nor in handling the opposition to the name change. The administration’s response to the protests was shockingly disproportionate, resulting in loss of life.
The PML-N has not been helpful either. First, it opposed the name change, stirring up sentiments amongst the people of Hazara, and then conceded only after adding the prefix of Khyber to what was already a mouthful of a name. The addition of Khyber not only made the name unnecessarily longer but also distanced Hazara, literally, from the rest of the province.
The PML-Q did what losing politicians, desperate to gain a political foothold, always do they appealed to the lowest common denominator, in this case, chauvinism. Usually, voices for a separate political or administrative status are raised when people feel deprived of a share in economic development and are discriminated against in education and employment opportunities on the basis of ethnicity.
This has not been the case with Hazara. In fact, Hazara, with the exception of some remote and mountainous areas is more developed in terms of the availability of education, infrastructure and industry than the southern districts of the province. Hazara has some of the best-known schools in the province the first medical college outside Peshawar was built in Abbottabad and it has a university, a cadet college and the Military Academy at Kakul Pakistan’s West Point.
Plus, it has had a fair share in the services (civil and military), the higher judiciary, academia and other professions (not to mention the first, and so far the last, field marshal of the Pakistan Army, who was also the president of Pakistan for 10 years.) Yes, Hazara needs good governance, more education and more development. But a new province merely to create a class of VIPs flaunting flags on their cars? No! The country is already infested with these so-called VIPs.
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