PESHAWAR: Provincial President of the Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Afrasiab Khattak has said the demand for the new provinces must be based on solid reasons, logic and rationale.
“The issue should be deliberated as was done by the political parties on the question of the provincial autonomy. No decision should be taken in haste and all the stakeholders must be taken on board to develop a consensus on creation of new provinces,” he said while talking to The News.
The ANP senator said gone were the days when people demanding provincial autonomy or separate province were dubbed as traitors. “People are witness to the fact that 14 political parties agreed to the 18th Amendment and the federating units achieved their rights with consensus,” he reminded.
He opined that administrative, cultural and linguistic factors should be taken into account while creating new provinces. “Only administrative factor is not enough as there must be some rallying point for creation of new provinces,” he maintained.
The ANP leader advocated the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “People of Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa share the same history, culture, language and geography. They are the same people and the inclusion of Fata into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a natural and pragmatic approach,” he argued.
Afrasiab Khattak said initially Fata should be given representation in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and then gradually with the consent of tribespeople it should be merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “The British separated Pakhtuns by dividing them in different administrative setups, which is not divine law and can be amended keeping in mind the needs of the time,” the Senator said.
Defending his point, he argued that in last 150 years the tribesmen and people of districts adjoining the tribal agencies had developed a strong bond. “Who can separate Bajaur from Jandool, Thall from Parachinar, Mohmand from Shabqadar, Hangu from Orakzai, Bannu from Miramshah, Tank from Waziristan,” he added.
Afrasiab Khattak said that geographical location of tribal agencies also supports their merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He added that many provincial government departments were also active in Fata.
The ANP provincial chief said it was quite strange that under One Unit the provincial assembly of West Pakistan in Lahore had representation of Fata while the provincial assembly that sits in Peshawar has no representation of tribal areas.
To a question, he said they were in contact with public representatives of Fata over the issue. However, he added, many of them don’t know the benefits of merger of Fata into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Besides, the bureaucracy that ruled Fata since the formation of Pakistan was also not in favour of its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as such a move would deprive them of their fiefdom.
“After the extension of Political Parties Act, we have the legal right to access the Fata people and put the question of its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the tribesmen,” the Senator said.
He said the ANP was the only political party that has been demanding new provinces on the basis of culture, nationality and history. Since 1986, he said, the ANP had treated the Seraiki belt as separate unit and not as part of Punjab. Similarly, he added, the ANP had a clear stand on the Pakhtuns living in Balochistan.
“The Pakhtuns of Balochistan should be given chance to merge with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or have their own province. In the constitutional committee, the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party presented the same options and the ANP supported its stance,” the ANP leader said.
About the demand to merge Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts of KP with the proposed Seraiki province, Afrasiab Khattak said before demanding merger with a province the cultural and administrative realities should be assessed in depth.
“If political parties continue sloganeering and referring to history, then we can also demand merger of Mianwali and Attock districts with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because both were part of the then NWFP before the One Unit,” he stressed.
He said politicians must exhibit maturity as such statements further complicate issues, he said without naming National Assembly Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi who has been vociferously calling for inclusion of Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts of the KP in the proposed Seriakistan province.
About the Hazara province, he said while in principle one can agree with this demand as it was the right of the people, but in reality the case for Hazara province is very weak.
“They haven’t done homework and have no rationale. It is an emotional outburst expressed after renaming of the North West Frontier Province,” he said, adding that the supporters of Hazara province also failed to point out the issues they faced after renaming of the province.
“The people of the proposed Abaseen division in present-day Hazara are not in favour of a separate province. How can a province comprise just two or three districts? It is not a feasible idea,” he claimed.