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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Khatak asks Nawaz to hold refrendum on "Punjab"

Khatak asks Nawaz to hold refrendum on "Punjab"
Thursday, 10 September 2009
KW News

Peshawar: Provincial Chief of the Awami National Party Senator Afrasiab Khatak has rejected the proposal of holding referendum on the renaming of NWFP as Pukhtoonkhwa, and vowed that the province would be renamed as popular demand of the people.

Addressing a press conference here at Peshawar Press Club, provincial President of ANP Afrasiab Khattak expressed surprise over the demand of Pakistan Muslim League (N) chief Mian Nawaz Sharif, asking him to first hold referendum on renaming of Punjab as the name Punjab was not acceptable to most of the people in the Seraiki belt.

He said that ANP had raised the issue of provincial autonomy, and rights of Pashtuns and renaming of the Frontier province as Pukhtoonkhwa to give identification to the people of the province at central level.

Senator Khatak said, it had been decided that renaming of the province along with other issues would be discussed only in constitutional committee, but the PML-N had launched a media blitz against the "Pakhtunkhwa", which was quite surprising. He said the constitutional committee was trying to evolve a consensus on renaming the province.

"The matter should be left to the constitutional committee of the Parliament," he said.

He said that the government had finalised the prolonged issue, but the PML-N was creating hurdles in it. Afrasiab Khattak further said the incumbent democratic government would never allow anyone to interfere with the provincial matters.

He said that that the people of the province wanted a separate identity as enjoyed by other provinces as the present name was given by the British Raj. He alleged that certain quarters were trying to create controversy over the name of Pukhtoonkhwa. The attitude of such elements was sheer injustice and anti-Pukhtun, he added.

The ANP leader said that both President Asif Ali Zardari and Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani were using the nomenclature of Pukhtoonkhwa for the province, which meant that the political leaderships agreed upon the renaming of the province.

Replying to a query, he suggested that they could think about the name of Afghania for the Frontier province, but unfortunately all such names, which demonstrated the identity of Pushtuns, were not acceptable to the PML-N. He said that a constitutional committee had been formed under the supervision of the Federal government in which Senator Haji Mohammad Adeel was representing the province. However, he said that the matters of this committee were completely confidential.

Showing flexibility over the renaming, however the ANP provincial chief said that instead of "Pakhtunkhwa", Afghania would be acceptable to the ANP as a new name for province if the constitutional committee of the Parliament agreed to it. He said the opponents of the "Pakhtunkhwa should take the issue seriously because it was a matter of the identity of a nation having a history spanned over thousands of years. He said the identity was of paramount importance for any nation.

"Nobody showed any apprehension over renaming the Nothern Areas as Gilgit Baltistan, then why on Pakhtunkhwa", he said adding they were not afraid of referendum on renaming the province but this demand was altogether unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, Provincial Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain said there was no need to hold referendum for renaming the NWFP as Pakhtunkhawa as two speakers of provincial assemblies have announced their rulings in this regard.

Commenting on the statement of PML-N Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif urging referendum for renaming the province, he said the ANP would never accept referendum on the issue.

The provincial assembly had passed unanimous resolution twice on renaming the province. The PML-N did not oppose the unanimous resolution at that time, he recalled. Was there any referendum for renaming the Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh, he said, adding referendum should also be held for allowing third time premiership.

Castigating Nawaz, he said it is incomprehensible why Nawaz has changed his stance so rapidly. He urged both the PPP and the PML-N to include name changing in the constitutional package. He urged Nawaz not to confine himself in the Punjab.

“Help Pakhtuns to secure their rights. Nawaz should avoid creating uncalled for controversies. During his premiership, Nawaz had agreed to change the name of the NWFP into Pakhtunkhawa,” he said.

The ANP would continue calling the province as Pakhtunkhawa, he said, adding nobody should dare snatching the rights of Pakhtuns. “We should not waste our time in bickering on trivial issues. We should hold negotiations to take the country forward and strengthen democratic institutions,” he added.

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