Sunday July 03, 2022

Unfazed by opposition & controversy

October 26, 2020

PESHAWAR: The controversy over changing the name of Lakki Marwat is unlikely to end any time soon as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Social Welfare, Special Education and Women Empowerment, Dr Hisham Inamullah Khan, has termed it his mission to get the district renamed as Mohammadiyah Marwat.

He told The News that he has already secured a directive from Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to the Senior Member Board of Revenue (SMBR) with the remarks that the application be processed on priority basis. Hisham Inamullah had written the letter to the chief minister for renaming Lakki Marwat on July 10 and received a reply five days later. The application is still with the SMBR and it isn’t clear when and what decision would be made.

The move generated a heated controversy. There is no real chance at this stage of achieving a consensus on the issue, but this hasn’t stopped Hisham Inamullah from campaigning for his cause. His brother Faisal Inamullah Khan and supporters are assisting him in running the campaign. However, his close relatives, the Saifullah family, while not opposing the proposal reportedly cautioned Hisham Inamullah to show restraint while highlighting sensitive issues such as changing the name of their district. The Saifullahs have been a dominant force in Lakki Marwat politics for years before a decline in their political fortunes.

Hisham Inamullah, a dental surgeon belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was elected member of the provincial assembly in the July 2018 general election from one of the three seats in Lakki Marwat by polling 38,500 votes, the highest by any elected MPA in southern districts of the province. He was made a minister and got the prized portfolio of health. A long strike by doctors and other issues prompted Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to change his portfolio and make him the minister for social welfare, special education and women empowerment, an inconsequential ministry compared to health.

The suggestion by Hisham Inamullah to rename Lakki Marwat as Mohammadiyah Marwat. provoked strong opposition from a number of political parties in the district. The most vocal opposition came from the JUI-F, which is one of the major parties in Lakki Marwat as it has two elected MPAs and the lone MNA. One of the MPAs, Munawar Khan, raised the issue on the floor of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and rejected the proposal. Hisham Inamullah’s reply was elaborate and cogent. He even threw a challenge to Munawar Khan that he will contest the next general election against him from PK-91 Lakki Marwat constituency as well as his own PK-92 and campaign for changing the name of the district.

Alhaj Aslam Khan, the head of the Marwat Qaumi Jirga and the Raees of Eisakkhel, claimed that no political party including the ruling PTI was supporting the proposal for changing Lakki Marwat’s name. His opposition is understandable as he belongs to the JUI-F after having abandoned the Saifullah family. Hisham Inamullah also questioned the representative status of the Marwat Qaumi Jirga.

Talking to The News, Hisham Inamullah gave a number of arguments in support of his suggestion. One, the people of Lakki Marwat have deep love for Islam and Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and they support the demand to rename their district as Mohammadiyah Marwat. Two, the names of 18 districts and cities in Pakistan have already been changed and Lakki Marwat would get the distinction of being the first to be named after the beloved prophet of Muslims.

Another argument made by him concerns the historical background as to how the district inhabited by the majority Marwat Pakhtun tribe and also Wazir, Khattak, Bettani and Niazi came to be known as Lakki.

He recalled that the old name of Lakki Marwat was Thall Daman, meaning sandy area. He said that Sikh ruler Ranjeet Singh leased it to a Hindu revenue collector, Deewan Lakki Mal, for Rs40,000 in 1836 to collect tax from the people. He maintained that Lakki Mal wasn’t a government official and was known for using strongarm tactics to collect tax. “The word Lakki reminds us of the time of slavery. Rather than a Hindu name, we want our district to be named after our holy prophet as the Marwats have always been his steadfast followers,” he argued.

Hisham Inamullah also face taunts, particularly from the JUI-F and certain other religious circles, that he should first change his own name, Hisham, as the infidel Abu Jahl’s original name was also Hisham. In his reply, Hisham Inamullah listed 23 Muslims in the early years of Islam who were named Hisham and some embraced martyrdom during the life of the Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him). When he was accused of desecrating the prophet’s name by using it to name a district for political purposes, he approached a body of Ulema and Muftis in Peshawar to secure a ‘Fatwa’ (religious edict) that decreed that it would be a good deed to name Lakki Marwat as Mohammadiyah Marwat to serve as an inspiration for Muslims.

Hisham Inamullah seems prepared to answer every objection to his proposal. As a minister, he has also been able to sanction development funds for Lakki Marwat, more so for his constituency. He is banking on the chief minister to change Lakki Marwat’s name, but taking such a decision won’t be easy for him considering the opposition to it by activists of other political parties, including PTI’s former MNA, retired Colonel Amirullah Marwat.