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Anything that exists in this universe has an identity which imparts meaning to its existence. For human beings, the identities are of their tribes, ethnicities and their ancestral lands. Recent primordial and modernist theories on the subject of ethnic nationalism may not be effective in describing the origin and classification of people into particular ethnic groups but they are surely successful in providing a detailed micro and macro analysis of how ethnic identities are politicized to achieve political power. This quest for political power is founded in the urge for ethnic preservation and protection of identity. Thus a historical analysis of political history provides us with examples where ethnic groups demand for recognition through historical names and languages. For example in 1971 East Pakistan which is now an independent state of Bangladesh, was separated from West Pakistan. Along with other factors of separation most common were the issues of nationalistic and linguistic identity. Similarly since the existence of Pakistan, there has been a debate of identity across its various groups of inhabitants for themselves and their respective territories. In the past two decades, the issues of nationalistic identity got much more acerbity. This debate was mostly upon the issue of renaming one of its provinces North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Although renaming of NWFP as Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KPK) is a controversial debate, however it was a demand of the majority of its inhabitants and they considered it a victory in the process of attaining their identity, furthermore this renaming is in the favor of national interest as scenarios before the renaming process were taking the direction of early 1970s as East Pakistan separated on the basis of nationalistic issues.
The demand of renaming the province NWFP as Pukhtunkhwa (land of Pukhtuns) was a demand of majority of the people of NWFP who are Pukhtuns. This fact is evident from the results of 1998 census and 2008 elections. “The 1998 census showed that 73.9 per cent of NWFP’s population spoke Pashto and are Pukhtuns, 3.86 per cent, largely in Dera Ismail Khan, spoke Saraiki, 0.97 per cent Punjabi, 0.78 per cent Urdu, 0.04 per cent Sindhi and 0.01 per cent Balochi. 20.43 per cent people listed in the “Others” column obviously included speakers of Hindko (believed to around 18 per cent), Chitrali, Gojri and other languages. While 99.1 percent of the 3.176 million population of federally administrated tribal area (FATA) of NWFP, declared Pashto as their mother tongue and called themselves as Pukhtuns.” (qtd. In “PAKISTAN-CENSUS”)  Furthermore, in 2008 elections, the point of renaming the province was the top most manifesto of Awami National Party (ANP) which won majority seats in KPK in general elections of 2008 and formed the government. The manifesto of ANP has been mentioned in the Dawn Peshawar edition of 17th Dec, 2007, which as follows: “The Awami National Party (ANP) has announced here today its election manifesto in which it has been said that it would change the name of the NWFP province to Pukhtunkhwa after coming into power.” (3) Moreover, a survey carried in the province predicted that majority of the voters of ANP voted for it in order to rename the province and attain their identity in the form of changing the name from NWFP to Pukhtunkhwa. As a renowned journalist and anchor Mr.Safi said “My team carried a survey throughout the province KPK, and it was inferred from the statistics of the survey that 89.7 percent voters of ANP voted because they strongly favored the renaming manifesto of the party.” (16)
Likewise, other parties which got majority votes after ANP and won considerable number of seats in KPK assembly also supported the renaming. They gave their votes in the national assembly and senate for resolution in the favor of renaming NWFP. “Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamiat Ulema Islam JUI (F), Pakistan People’s Party (Sherpao), Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and Baloch nationalist parties too, went along with ANP in renaming NWFP.”(Khan, 34) The only party which opposed the renaming was Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) but it has least representation with only 6 out of 124 seats in KPK assembly.
             On the other hand, the critics are of the view that people belonging to other ethnicities such as people of Hazara division, Chitral and Dera Ismail Khan (DI Khan) are also a part of KPK, so renaming NWFP as KPK has emotionally made them hurt. Here the fact must be noticed that in a democratic system, the majority consensus over an issue is the basic necessity for it to become a part of constitution and the majority consensus over the renaming has been proved by the statistics of 1998 census and 2008 elections. Furthermore, in a democratic system, the legislatives are the representatives of the people, and the legislatives from the Chitral and DI Khan which are ethnic majority areas other than Pukhtun have strongly supported the new name of the province. These legislatives were Saleem Khan of PPP from Chitral and from DI Khan, were Molana Fazlur Rehman of JUI (F) and Deputy Speaker National Assembly Faisal Karim Kundi of PPP. Moreover, in order to reveal the representation of such minorities in Hazara, where they are in a relatively larger proportion, the prefix Khyber has been added to the name Pukhtunkhwa. Khyber refers to the very famous historical Khyber Pass that passes through the Hazara belt and enters Afghanistan. So renaming NWFP as Khyber Pukhtunkhwa has also represented the minority ethnic existence in the province.
Similarly, the Pukhtuns, who constitute the majority in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, considered the renaming of their province as their basic right. One of the main factors for this Pukhtun’s mentality was the names of other provinces of Pakistan which predict definite identities. Pukhtuns felt it a strong discrimination towards their identity. Pukhtuns were of the view that the state of Pakistan is not willing to bestow them the rights which citizens of the state deserve, among which identity was considered to be the most essential and basic right. They termed the renaming issue solely the issue of their identity and so further delaying this process was growing the seeds of violence in their hearts. As one of the most famous journalist of Pakistan Mr. Rahimullah Yusufzai said in his article The Case for Pukhtunkhwa: “The debate on renaming the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) is serious business because it concerns the identity of its people and their place in the federation of Pakistan.” (The News, 33)
Another major reason of the Pukhtun demand of renaming the province is that since 15th century, this Pukhtun majority belt of sub-continent was known by the word Pukhtunkhwa and also with similar names of Paktia and Pushtunistan before 15th century. As Dr. Ahmad Hasan Dani, a well known historian, archaeologist and Ex-Director of the Islamabad-based Center for the Study of the Civilizations of Central Asia said: “Culturally there is no doubt that the land of NWFP was called Pukhtunkhwa in Pashtu literature since 15th century (we have a trace of literature since that time only) (Dawn, 7).” Likewise this fact is also evident from a poetic verse of Ahmad Shah Abdali who wrote it in 18th century. He said:
 “The thorn of Delhi no more sustains its’ value in my eyes
   When I remember the mountain tops of my beautiful Pukhtunkhwa.”  (Safi, 16)
On the contrary, the opponents of this change in the name of NWFP, argues that it was solely the political motives of ANP since its existence that provoked Pukhtuns to demand for a change in the name of their province. It is a matter of fact that the ANP represented Pukhtuns in the renaming issue but it cannot be inferred that it was ANP that was involved solely in provoking people of NWFP to fight for changing the name of NWFP. The reason is that the history of ANP is traced back earliest to Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan commonly known as Bacha Khan and he was born in 1890, while the name Pukhtunkhwa was used in 15th century and before. It was changed later in the British colonial rule on Sub-continent. So Pukhtuns were demanding the name “Pukhtunkhwa” on its relevance to that historical context. “Pukhtuns demanded the renaming of NWFP as Pukhtunkhwa, citing historical references both dating to the time of Greek historian Herodotus and later to Emperor Shahabuddin Ghauri and then” (Khan, 34)
Furthermore, the renaming issue resulted in a serious trouble which was definitely causing a significant harm to the national interest. This problem was the inefficiency, which was caused in the performance of KPK provincial assembly. The provincial assembly of KPK was inefficient in contributing their efforts to solve other national issues. In Pakistan legal system, the provincial assemblies act in collaboration to the National assembly in order to carry out the government affairs, so a proper active role of provincial assembly is extremely necessary towards establishing an efficacious government writ. But looking towards the past provincial assembly tenures of KPK, it is vivid that almost none of the elected assembly worked efficiently or completed its tenure according to the regulations of democracy. Most of the times, the reason behind this inefficiency was the controversy of renaming. The examples to this fact are the tenures of KPK assembly in 1990s that are stated below.
In 1994, the Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML) coalition government was put down because of the distances that came in between the two ruling allies upon the renaming issue. This scenario produced an extreme unhealthy political environment in the province and the trend of horse trading (selling of vote by a legislator within the assembly) took place. The horse trading trend is considered to be a very undesirable act in the politics because vote is sold for money. Despite of the fact that majority seats were won by ANP in 1992 elections, they offered high government offices including the Chief Minister office to PML on the condition that both parties will collaborate in centre towards the renaming of the province. But afterwards PML tried to procrastinate the task of fulfilling constitutional requirement to rename NWFP. This situation produced favorable conditions for Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to horse trade the members of PML and to take charge of the government. This political game produced a feeling of discontent and uncertainty in the hearts of Pukhtuns of KPK. Similar situation again took place in 1997 when again the coalition between the then partners ANP and PML broke up in NWFP and Baluchistan provincial assemblies on the renaming issue. “In 1997, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League, with which Asfandyar Wali’s Awami National Party twice shared power, one again refused to support the amendment of renaming NWFP, leading to the collapse of their coalition government in the NWFP and Baluchistan.”(Yusufzai, 8) After this, the agenda of Pukhtuns regarding the renaming of NWFP gained more strength and the concepts of Pukhtuns turned extremely stern in this matter. Consequently Pukhtuns started talking of even separation from Pakistan to become a separate state or merge into Afghanistan. This fact is evident from the controversial signboards put up in the Bannu, Lakki Marwat and Sarai Nurang districts and also on the Indus Highway in Kohat district of KPK. These signboards had the maps of “Greater Pukhtunistan” printed on them in which NWFP was shown as a part of Afghanistan.
            But today, as the renaming issue has been solved, it has been observed that other important national issues which were essential towards pure democracy and national unity have also been solved. Most of these problems held unsolved in the previous democratic governments. In the past governments, for supporting any amendment in constitution, the Pukhtun legislators of KPK assembly used to put the condition of renaming NWFP, and so was a prominent reason of delay in solving these issues. One of these issues was the 18th amendment in the constitution of Pakistan, which is passed with mutual consensus after the renaming condition has been fulfilled. Through this 18th amendment, ways for a dictator have been blocked in the constitution of Pakistan and the powers have been shifted to the Prime Minister from the President. These are some of the basic requirements of parliamentarian system of Pakistan.  Similarly the mutual consensus has been reached upon the National Finance Commission (NFC) award which remained unsolved for more than one decade. NFC award refers to the distribution of financial assets and resources among the provinces of Pakistan by the federal government.  Consensus upon NFC award is extremely necessary for unity of the nation. As Dr. Ashfaque Hassan Khan, dean and professor at NUST Business School said in his article The NFC Award: “The federal and provincial governments have developed a landmark consensus on the Seventh National Finance Commission (NFC) Award after 13 long years. The historic consensus could not have been achieved without the rare display of mutual understanding, accommodation and magnanimity of all stakeholders” (Dawn, 7)
            On the contrary, the critics argue that since Pukhtuns have been given their identity in the form of renaming NWFP, the demand of the people of Hazara division to create a new province Hazara must also be fulfilled. But the point must be noted that to create an autonomous province, there are constitutional requirements that must be attained. Those requirements are population, assets and production requirement, and consensus of majority people that comprise that particular province. If Hazara division has met these requirements then the people of Hazara division has the right to demand for an autonomous province and their demand must be fulfilled through a legal constitutional process. However, currently the situation predicts that Hazara division has not met these conditions; the fact is evident from the results of following statistics. Hazara division comprises of six districts which are Abbotabad, Haripur, Battagram, Kohistan, Mansehra and the new district of Kala Dhaka since 28th January, 2011. The population of Hazara division is 4.5 million and the districts of Battagram, Kohistan and Kala Dhaka together contribute around 2.8 million to the figure 4.5 million. These districts demand a separate Abaseen division for them and have opposed the idea of becoming part of Hazara Province. “The people of  Battagram, Kohistan and Kala Dhaka districts would be happy to remain part of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa after getting a new administrative division by the name of Abaseen comprising Battagram, Kohistan and Kala Dhaka districts” (Yusufzai, 8).
            To conclude, it is a most important fact that to attain a national core doctrine (a principle that connects ethnic, cultural and liberal concepts of nationality), it is necessary to incorporate the demands of all centrifugal forces that may lead to the disintegration of a society. These forces are mostly evident in the form of ethnic, cultural, class based or religious nationalism. As Sinisa Malesevic in her paper “Nationalism, War and Social Cohesion” argued that the political and social stability of a nation state depends upon the establishment of firm ideological institutions. These institutions are shaped by rising ethno-nationalist movements. Thus it is evident that renaming of N.W.F.P was a core, unfulfilled political and cultural demand of the Pukhtun ethnic population of NWFP. It was a necessary and pragmatic step initiated by the provincial government and approved by federal government keeping in view the long term positive consequences of this act. Firstly, by satisfying the political demand of Pukhtuns, a way has been paved by the federal structure for reinsertion of the long marginalized and isolated Pukhtun population into the mainstream nation building process. And secondly, constitutional demand for a federal structure in Pakistan, where provinces enjoy political autonomy has been practiced and a step towards democratization has been taken.

Written By: Muhammad Azhar ( LUMS)

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