Move for provincial status for Malakand Division surfaces as well

February 13,2017

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Diverse opinion over proposal to divide Swat into two districts

MINGORA: Politicians, civil society members, traders and lawyers have diverse opinions on the proposal to divide the Swat district into two administrative units of Lower and Upper Swat.

Consultations and jirgas are underway in this regard in lower and upper parts of the district. It is said that an estimated three million people live in the Swat district. Being the largest district of Malakand Division, Swat mostly comprises of hilly areas.

Movement from one part of the district to another is not an easy task and usually takes hours. The district has 67 union councils from Landaki to the scenic valley of Kalam. The Swat valley is populated mostly by Pashtun, Gujjar and Kohistani communities. The languages spoken in the valley are Pashto, Gojri, Torwali and Kohistani.

According to unofficial estimates, the total population of Malakand Division is about seven million. It has eight National Assembly and 22 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly constituencies. Swat alone has two national and seven provincial assembly seats.

On the issue of the division of district Swat into two parts, a jirga was called by the Chairman of District Development Advisory Committee (DDAC) Fazal Hakim. During the jirga, Swat District Nazim Muhammad Ali Shah opposed the creation of Upper Swat district. He termed the move as a conspiracy against the historical status of Swat. "If the government is sincere in addressing the problems of the area, it should come forward to establish new schools, hospitals and link roads," he told the jirga members.

Shamsher Ali Khan, district president of the Pakistan People's Party, said the new district be given practical shape only after achieving a consensus.

Abdul Rahim, president of Swat Traders Association, opposed the idea of new district. He said instead of demanding a new district, struggle ought to be launched for getting provincial status for Malakand.

"The aspirations of the people should be honoured," District head of Jamaat-e-Islami, Muhammad Amin said. Dr Khalid Mahmood Gujjar, provincial deputy secretary of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, supported the demand for the new district.

"We will never allow the establishment of the new district and will oppose the idea at every forum," declared Hazrat Maaz, president District Bar Association Swat. Awami National Party leader Khwaja Muhammad Khan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's Member Provincial Assembly Fazal Hakim told the jirga that the opinion of the people should be respected.

However, PTI local leader and member of the provincial assembly, Dr Haider Ali, strongly supported the division of Swat into two districts. He believed the creation of the new district would bring prosperity to the area. "There is a negative propaganda from some political leaders Karachi on Altaf Hussain’s orders that he had been issuing from the British soil. Hundreds of people had been killed apart from the losses of billions of rupees inflicted to the economy and businesses by the strikes called by him in Karachi. The British authorities did not move to check him or send him back to Pakistan to face arraignment in courts.

It was only because of the aggressive campaign of the Rangers that incapacitated Altaf Hussain in shutting down Karachi on the spur of the moment over even frivolous excuses. The British authorities have not made any contribution to rein in MQM founder when his actions did not need any proof.

The present red warrants that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) wants the Interpol to issue for Altaf Hussain relate to the violence that ensued in Karachi after the MQM founder’s incendiary anti-Pakistan speech on August 22 last. The FIA is acting on an order issued by an ATC of Karachi, which has directed authorities to produce him before it.

Obviously, the sending of request to the Interpol by the FIA regarding the red warrants will put pressure on Altaf Hussain, who is already in a deep soup due to his own handiworks. The pressure will further mount on him if the Interpol actually issued the warrants. Then, the ball will be in Britain’s court. On its part, Islamabad will keep urging London to oblige with little or no hope of any assistance from it.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, Altaf Hussain has burnt its boats because he has no plan to return to physically lead his party. After his marginalization in the wake of his Aug 22 outburst, the MQM stands seriously split into different factions with some groups that have been carved out of it also struggling to grab their share from its fragmentation.

However, with the weakening of Altaf Hussain’s iron grip over Karachi and Hyderabad, his relevance at home and abroad has drastically waned. His falling health has also debilitated him to a great extent. The faction he heads has no organizational structure in Pakistan and whatever it had put up was quickly dismantled by authorities in Karachi some time back.


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