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Thank you, democracy! NWFP to be renamed as ‘Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’

The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PCCR) has agreed to rename North West Frontier Province (NWFP) with ‘Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’ on Wednesday.

The PCCR met with its chairman Senator Raza Rabbani of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in chair to end the deadlock between Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Awami National Party (ANP) on the renaming of NWFP.

The consensus on the new name was announced after hours of discussion in PCCR meeting – following behind-the-curtains contacts between different political forces continued since a deadlock occurred last week on renaming NWFP and criteria for the appointment of judges in the higher judiciary.

Rabbani and PML-N’s Senator Ishaq Dar also held a one-on-one meeting on the sidelines of CRC meeting.

Consistent with its democratic and pluralistic agenda, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party is currently puhsing the reform package, which would leave President Asif Ali Zardari, the party chief, largely a figurehead, consistent with a parliamentary style of government. Former military leader Pervez Musharraf had accumulated the powers when he was president.

Renaming the province was included in the package by President Zardari in response to a demand by the Awami National Party, which leads the provincial government in the NWFP.

ANP leaders wanted to call the province “Pakhtoonkhwa” to reflect the Pashtun (or Pakhtoon) ethnicity of three-fourths of its 20 million people. They argued the province’s current name does little more than help people find it on a map, while other Pakistani provinces – Sindh, Baluchistan, and Punjab – have names that match ethnic groups.

The main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, said “Pakhtoonkhwa” marginalized other ethnic groups in the province. The opposition party, whose primary strength comes from Punjab province, suggested non-ethnic labels such as “Abaseen” or “Khyber” in what is seen as an attempt for it to shore up its support among its non-Pashtun voter base in NWFP.

The name is still subject to approval by Parliament. Khyber is also the name of a semiautonomous tribal region along the Afghan border that is home to the famed Khyber Pass, a major supply route for material heading to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In Peshawar, the main city in the northwest, residents generally reacted positively to the news.


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  • CRC members sign 18th Amendment draft
    Updated at: 2250 PST, Wednesday, March 31, 2010


    ISLAMABAD: All members of the parliament’s constitutional reforms committee have signed the draft of 18th Amendment after reaching a consensus here on Wednesday.

    The signing ceremony took place at the committee room in Parliament.

    Federal Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was the first to sign the draft followed by Naveed Qamar.

    Besides, Sardar Mehtab Abbasi and Ishaq Dar, Babar Awan, Lashkari Raisani, Wasim Sajjad and others also singed the draft.

    The committee reached a consensus on the draft of 18th Amendment following the detailed deliberations lasting several months.


  • this is a historic day for Pakistan! thanks to PPP for following politics of reconciliation and compromise even though all their oppoents have shown themselves to be completely shameless in the last week.

  • In general its a victory for Democracy – Pakistan Zindabad, Khybar Pakhtunkhwa Paindabad.

  • The debate on a new name for the Frontier province, and this in a country where the other three provinces are named after the majority of the nationalities/nations inhabiting them, betrays not only ignorance of democratic principles but also contempt for them. No outsider has any business to deny the Pakhtuns their right to give their land the name of their choice. Those who do not wish to be counted with the Pakhtuns have a right to be heard but no right to veto the aspirations of the majority.

    This right is not being conceded to the Seraikis and Potoharis in Punjab , to the non-Sindhis (if any person living in Sindh can claim this status) in Sindh, and to the non-Baloch in Balochistan. All those going berserk in opposition to the NWFP being called Pakhtunkhwa need to remember that they are playing with fire that might not leave them unscathed.


  • It took 109 years to correct a historical wrong and what a journey it has been. It was in 1901, when the North-West Frontier Province was carved out of Punjab. The province was merged into what was called One Unit in 1955, with Lahore becoming the capital of the new administrative unit.

    Gen Yahya Khan dissolved the One Unit in July 1970 and restored the provinces of the NWFP, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. The 1973 Constitution continued with the British nomenclature.

    Pakhtun nationalist leader, Wali Khan, who despite being the Leader of the Opposition in the lower house of the Parliament and having reservations over the nomenclature, affixed his signature to give Pakistan its first consensus Constitution.

    The Pakhtun nationalist parties, however, continued to press for a change of name. Alternatives included Pashtunistan, Pakhtunkhwa and Afghania. It was widely thought that Pakistan’s military establishment viewed the Pashtun nationalist parties with suspicion as they had close ties to the regimes in Afghanistan, and thus opposed the alternatives as being smacking of secessionism.

    Sensing strong opposition to Pashtunistan, the nationalist parties later changed tack and started calling the NWFP as Pakhtunkhwa, citing historical references both dating to the time of Greek historian Herodotus and later to emperor Shahabuddin Ghauri.

    Pakhtunkhwa, they hoped, would be less controversial and therefore find approval, particularly in Punjab, whose votes were crucial in amending the Constitution.

    It however, remained a distant dream. The PML, with which the ANP twice shared power, refused to support the amendment, leading to the collapse of their coalition government in the NWFP.

    Much to its pleasure, the ANP found broad political support over the renaming issue, from its coalition partner, the PPP. The MQM, JUI(F), the PPP (Sherpao), the PMAP, the PML(F) and Baloch nationalist parties too, went along. Even the Jamaat-i-Islami, which has been a traditional opponent of the ANP, said it would support any consensus name.

    The only opposition came from the PML-N and the PML-Q, prompting some to liken it to Punjab’s traditional opposition to any such endeavour. It is therefore, no small achievement and the credit goes to the collective wisdom of political parties across the aisle for showing flexibility on what arguably was the most difficult, controversial and divisive issue of all.

    But it will be the ANP which will rightly claim the credit for undertaking what was until recently considered an impossible task of correcting a historical wrong and giving an identity to the people of “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa”.

    From NWFP to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
    By Ismail Khan
    Thursday, 01 Apr, 2010

  • The 27-member parliamentary committee was constituted on June 23 last year to revisit the 1973 Constitution in order to repeal the 17th Amendment and strike a balance of powers between the president and the prime minister, including removal from the Constitution of the controversial clause 58(2)b.

    President Asif Ali Zardari, who had advised Speaker of the National Assembly Fehmida Mirza to constitute the committee in an address to a joint sitting of parliament in March last year, is expected to address the joint session soon after April 4 _ the death anniversary of PPP’s founding chairman Z.A. Bhutto.

    The signing of the amendment bill by the committee was earlier scheduled for March 24, but it had to be put off after the PML-N backtracked from its stance on the issue of judges’ appointment and renaming of the NWFP, stalling the much-awaited reforms package for an indefinite period.

    The signing ceremony was telecast live by all television channels. Except for JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman and ANP president Asfandyar Wali Khan, leaders of all major parties attended it. Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was the first person to sign the document.

    Raza Rabbani, the committee’s chairman, was the last signatory to the constitutional amendment. He congratulated the nation on achieving a consensus on all matters.

    The Rabbani committee held some 79 meetings and resolved all issues without succumbing to external pressures. Mr Rabbani praised committee members for sticking to their objective and by rising above party affiliations.

    “This is the day of members who despite differences of opinion kept their integrity and proved that as people’s representatives they are capable of achieving anything for the sake of the nation,” Mr Rabbani said.

    He also thanked leaders of all parties for giving precious advice from time to time to complete otherwise a very complex work. He also praised the role of the media.

    Those who signed the consensus amendment document included, among others, PPP’s Raja Pervez Ashraf, Babar Awan, Haji Lashkari Raeesani and Mian Raza Rabbani, PML-N’s Ishaq Dar, Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan and Hassan Iqbal, PML-Q’s Wasim Sajjad, S.M. Zafar and Humayun Saifullah Khan, Muttahida’s Dr Farooq Sattar and Haider Abbas Rizvi (MQM), Afrasayab Khattak and Haji Muhammad Adeel (ANP), Rehmatullah Kakar (JUI-F), Justice (retd) Abdur Razzaq Thaheem (PML-F), Srarullah Zehri (BNP-A), Prof Khurshid Ahmad (Jamaat-i-Islami), Mir Hasil Bizenjo (NP), Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao (PPP-S), Abdul Rahim Mandokhel (PMAP), Shahid Hasan Bugti (JWP) and Munir Khan Orazkzai (Fata). Karamat Hussain Niazi, secretary of the National Assembly, and Raja Muhammad Amin, secretary of the Senate, also signed the document as parliamentary officials.

    Parties strike accord on 18th Amendment
    By Ahmad Hassan
    Thursday, 01 Apr, 2010

  • The PPP has emerged as the hero in this latest chapter….

    The PML-N’s stance over the renaming of NWFP – one of the issues which it now says held up the signing of the agreement on the passage of the 18th Amendment – also exposes once more its damagingly Punjab-centric approach. The appeal by Shahbaz Sharif to the Taliban to avoid targeting that province – while presumably going ahead with activities that involve blowing Pathans, Balochis or Sindhis to miniscule smithereens – was of course another example of this. If allowed to vote, there seems little real doubt the majority of residents of NWFP would opt for the ‘Pakhtunkhwa’ name for their province championed by the ANP. It is hard to see what all the fuss is about. After all, a specific ethnic group is identified in the names of each of the other provinces. Since Mian Sahib is evidently so concerned about the failure to represent other groups living in the stretch of territory that makes up NWFP, perhaps he should focus his energies on setting an example by renaming Punjab as ‘Punjab-Seraikistan’ or ‘Punjab-Gandhara’ or whatever other complex, two-barrelled name strikes his fancy.

    We have learnt nothing from history
    Thursday, April 01, 2010
    Kamila Hyat

  • Celebrating change

    Friday, April 02, 2010
    After a gap spanning nearly three decades, power has returned from the presidency to parliament. The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms – after the unexpected stutter encountered a week ago – has put its signature on 95 amendments which make up the 18th Amendment Bill. The Constitution reverts far more closely to the form it took in 1973 than at any previous time since 1979. Key powers have been taken away from the president, including the right to dissolve parliament. Against the backdrop of the events we have seen unfold repeatedly since 1988, when democracy returned to the country following the death of General Ziaul Haq, this in itself is a hugely significant development. It changes dramatically the balance of power on Pakistan’s political see-saw. The fact that power now rests for the most part with parliament also places on it a great deal of responsibility. People will expect it to come up to the mark. We have seen too many years of governance by ordinance. The challenge now for legislators is to take matters into their own hands and see if they can deliver to people the kind of governance they seek. The time for playing of games is over. We need the National Assembly to rise up to the occasion, and prove its worth. It is now a fully sovereign body.

    After over a century, we also have a new provincial name on the map. The scenes of rejoicing in Peshawar and other places indicate just how much delight there is over the ushering in of the somewhat awkwardly named Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. In real terms, the renaming means very little. It will not in itself bring an end to the militancy that has wrecked the region or to the poverty that has been a factor in its rise. But symbolic change means a lot too, and the new name perhaps brings with it hope of a better future. The selection of a new name was one of the two issues which had caused the PML-N to dig in its heels. We wonder what it has achieved by insisting on attaching the word ‘Khyber’ to the name put forward by the ANP. Perhaps a great deal more could have been gained by a display of graciousness from a party associated chiefly with the majority province. But the most important thing is that despite the dissenting note from the PML-Q the two major parties have agreed on this and on the issue of appointing judges to the superior judiciary.

    The PCCR and its chairman Raza Rabbani deserve a round of applause. A task that had at the start seemed impossible has been achieved with goodwill and consensus. The few disagreements that inevitably surfaced during the drafting of the 18th Amendment have been included in the draft – a somewhat rare show of magnanimity given the history of law-making in the recent past. The PPP too deserves credit. The promise of parliament with greater powers has been delivered on. Key players have been taken along in this task. This is a big achievement. Some analysts already hold it is as significant a step in our constitutional history as the 1973 document itself. Only time will tell if this assessment is correct. But there can be no doubt that a huge stride forward has been taken, and this, alone, is reason enough to celebrate.


  • Editorial: Historic national consensus

    In a landmark move, the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms has finally reached a consensus on the draft 18th Amendment bill on March 31. Senator Raza Rabbani, who headed the all parties constitutional reforms committee, handed over the draft to Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza on Thursday.

    It would not be wrong to say that this consensus has been the most historic one to date since the 1973 Constitution.

    The draft bill would have been finalised on March 25 had it not been for the PML-N’s blunder. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s u-turn earned him a lot of criticism from all the political forces of Pakistan. Despite this, Mr Sharif was in no mood to budge from his stand on the judicial commission as well as the renaming of the NWFP.

    Senator Rabbani should be commended for not letting months of sheer hard work of the constitutional committee go to waste. In the end, the demands of the PML-N were incorporated.

    Now the proposed judicial commission, to be headed by the Chief Justice (CJ), would have a retired Supreme Court judge as its seventh member. The seventh member will be one who never took oath under a Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) and would be nominated by the CJ.

    One of the most historic provisions of this draft amendment bill would be the renaming of NWFP. Notwithstanding the note of dissent by the PML-Q, the committee has reached a consensus that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa would be the new name of the province. There have been celebrations all over Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa after this historic decision. It took more than a hundred years to do away with this hangover from the colonial times.

    What is even more significant is that the Concurrent List of the 1973 Constitution will be abolished, a belated and overdue redemption of the pledge by the framers of the original 1973 Constitution. An understanding was reached when the 1973 Constitution was promulgated that the Concurrent List would be abolished after 10 years but the decision was overtaken by events. The issue of provincial autonomy has also been settled in the draft bill.

    It should be noted that within hours of the promulgation of the 1973 Constitution, fundamental rights given under it were suspended, with adverse consequences for the people of Balochistan and their elected representatives, but that is another story. It is hoped that this time around, the Baloch people would not be treated as they were in the past. Historical mistakes should not be repeated, as it would be tantamount to putting the federation at stake.

    Removing the name of the most despicable of dictators, General Ziaul Haq, from the constitution is also a welcome move and one that was long overdue. This aberration had to go sooner or later. Zia’s era was the darkest period in Pakistan’s history and his legacy still continues to haunt us in the shape of the growing militancy in the country. The reforms committee has also abolished that most controversial of clauses, 58-2(b), which gives the president the power to dissolve the Assemblies.

    The 18th Amendment draft bill is a landmark in our history. The PPP should be given due credit for this as no government has been able to bring about such a consensus in the past. Hopefully, democracy is well on the way to consolidation now.