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.
Was it necessary to divide India and Pakistan ? Was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, really the obdurate Muslim leader who forced Partition along religious lines in 1947 or was he pushed into it by leaders of India’s Congress party, especially first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
A new book by former Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh re-opens that painful, blood-soaked chapter whose price the region is still paying more than 60 years on.
The future of President Pervez Musharraf grows more opaque by the day. At its simplest level, it seems that while many people think he should step down, few want to see him forced out in a way that would divide and damage the country.
In the latest stories highlighting the currents and counter-currents swirling around the former army general, Musharraf lashed out at “rumour-mongers” for suggesting he planned to quit, while President George W. Bush telephoned him to pledge his continued backing. Meanwhile disgraced scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, has begun speaking out against Musharraf by complaining he was unfairly made to take the rap for selling nuclear secrets. That A.Q. Khan now feels safe to speak after four years under house arrest is seen as one of the most telling indications of the times turning against Musharraf.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is pushing for visa-free travel with India, and has gone to the extent of saying Islamabad might do it unilaterally if New Delhi is not prepared to go the distance.
As ideas go, visa-free travel in a globalised world isn’t anything remarkable. In the context of the tortured India-Pakistan relationship this, however, would be nothing short of a political masterstroke.