Wednesday 7 April 2010

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa - what the fuss is all about

I have been watching with bemusement the rumpus in the political circles in Pakistan caused by discussions around renaming of the North West Frontier Province - a name which does not represent anything other then a effigy of the British Raj in India.

Right wing media in Pakistan, including my personal favourite daily newspaper Nawa-e-Waqt that I grew up reading has been up in arms at the thought of the province being named Pakhtunkhwa - reminding the audiences that this is in some way giving in to the long dead Pashtun nationalist leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan's demands who wanted independence for NWFP and having failed to see that happen continued another struggle to get the province named as Pakhtunkhwa.

I am failing to understand that if the province inhabited by majority of Punjabi speaking Punjabis is called Punjab, that of Sindhi speaking Sindhis is called Sind, that of Balochi speaking Blauchs is called Baluchistan and that of Kashmiri speaking Kashmiris is called Kashmir then what is the harm in shedding the legacy of the Raj and calling NWFP - a province of Pashtu speaking Pakhtun majority as Pakhtunistan.

Worth noting that I am not, in anyway suggesting splitting up the country in small unmanagable provinces split on linguistic lines. It is worth acknolwedging that in Punjab the number or real Punjabi speakers is not more than 75.23% and the second bigger lingistic group Saraiki speakers (17.36%) have for quite some time been raising their voices for a provincial status. Similarly in Sind only 59.73% of the population speaks Sindhi, while 21.05% speaks Urdu - and they have in the past raised similar voices for a provincial status for Karachi. In Baluchistan 54.76% people speak Balochi compared to 29.64% Pashto speakers.

There are already protests in Hazara region where speakers of other languages are unhappy at the naming of the province as Khyber-Pakhtunkwa. At the moment various political parties are being compelled to back the demand for Hazara province in view of the growing support for the idea. Lets not go down that road.

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