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.
When Northern Ireland’s Omagh bomb exploded, killing 29 people, I was in England, by cruel coincidence attending the wedding of a young man who had been badly injured in another attack in the town of Enniskillen more than a decade earlier.
I had just switched my phone on after leaving the church on a glorious, sunny Saturday afternoon when my news editor called. “There’s been a bomb. It sounds bad. We’re trying to get you on a flight.”
Ten days have passed since Pakistan cut a deal with Islamists to enforce sharia in the turbulent Swat region in return for a ceasefire, and we still don't know many details about what was agreed. The deal made international headlines. It prompted political and security concerns in NATO and Washington and warnings about possible violations of human rights and religious freedom. (Photo: Supporters of Maulana Sufi Mohammad gather for prayers in Mingora, 21 Feb 2009/Adil Khan)
In the blogosphere, Terry Mattingly over at GetReligion has asked in two posts (here and here) why reporters there aren't supplying more details about exactly how sharia will be implemented or what the doctrinal differences between Muslims in the region are. Like other news organisations, Reuters has been reporting extensively on the political side of this so-called peace deal but not had much on the religion details. As Reuters religion editor and a former chief correspondent in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I'm very interested in this. I blogged about the deal when it was struck and wanted to revisit the issue now to see what more we know about it.