Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Changing the name of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to “Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa” has triggered a new debate over whether other ethnic communities have the right to claim and win separate regions.
Parliament last week approved the new name, reflecting the Pashtuns’ demographic dominance of the province.
Pashtun nationalists, represented by the Awami National Party (ANP), who lead the coalition government in the province, argue the old NWFP name indicates only a geographical location rather than the ethnicity of its inhabitants, unlike the other three Pakistan provinces — Punjab for Punjabis, Sindh for Sindhis and Baluchistan for Baluchis.
But before its passage in the Senate, angry protesters in the Hindko-speaking dominated region of Hazara in NWFP took to the streets. They burned tyres, blocked roads, damaged buildings and vehicles and observed a strike. Seven people died in clashes with police.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is used to being Pakistan’s most popular politician, but lately he has become the country’s most criticised.
The government had planned to push through the parliament this month a reform package that would have stripped President Asif Ali Zardari of his sweeping powers, but that seems unlikely now after Sharif abruptly raised new objections on Thursday. Sharif was the one who loudly and actively campaigned against his arch-rival Zardari.