Saturday, April 24, 2010

Chitralis indifferent to new name, willing to be merged with Gilgit Baltistan

As the protest against the renaming of NWFP as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa continues in the Hazara Division, the other non-Pashtun areas, especially Chitral, have largely been indifferent to the issue.

Most of the people of Chitral contacted for comments by Dawn were of the view that the renaming of the province was not an issue as there were already plenty of problems needing resolution on a priority basis. However, they said the Pashtoon people, who were in majority in the province, had the right to rename the province as they wished.

Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) MNA from Chitral Shahzada Mohiyuddin did not raise any voice against the renaming of the province in the National Assembly. He even objected to a remark by an MNA from Abbottabad that the people of Chitral were also against the renaming of the province as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. On a point of order, Mr Mohiyuddin clarified that though the people of Chitral did not speak Pashto and have a distinct cultural identity, they were not against the renaming of the province as Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa.

However, Jamaat-i-Islami leader and former MNA Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali expressed concern over the way the provincial and federal governments had renamed the province without taking non-Pashtoon groups into confidence. He said Chitral was inhabited by over 0.6 million people who spoke the Khowar language. He said the political representatives of Chitral should have been taken onboard. “This unilateral decision of the government threatens the very existence of all the non-Pashtoon groups besides creating ethnic polarisation in the province,” he maintained.

Meanwhile, the youth of Chitral have opposed the renaming of the province saying it threatened the identity and survival of the non-Pashtoon people.

Talking to Dawn, Idrees Hayat, the chairman of Chitral Students Welfare Organisation (CSWO), said the silence of Chitralis should not be taken as a sign of weakness. “It is not the nature of Chitralis to make hue and cry; we are a peaceful people, but let it be known to all that the vast majority of the people of Chitral are against the renaming of NWFP as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.”

He said the Pashtoons and Khow people of Chitral have lived together in peace and harmony, but the fact of the matter is that we are not Pashtoons and are against the renaming of NWFP as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. “We wholeheartedly support the people of Hazara in their stand against the unjust renaming of our province.”

He said the areas inhabited by non-Pashto speaking people like Chitral, Hazara, Kohistan and Dera Ismail Khan collectively formed majority of the land of NWFP. He said the renaming of the ethnically and geographically diverse province after one group of people was an injustice with the other groups.

A number of residents of Chitral while talking to Dawn said Chitral was one of the princely states that were the first to join Pakistan in 1947. They said Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had assured the then Mehtar (ruler) of Chitral that the government of Pakistan would not interfere in the internal affairs of the princely state. “However, soon after the death of the Quaid, the rulers started indulging in conspiracies and in 1969 merged the area into the NWFP as a district without taking the local people into confidence or promising to ensure their socio-economic and cultural well being.

“Since then we have faced all types of discrimination and injustices. Today Chitral remains one of the most backward and neglected areas of the country despite the fact that it possesses abundant natural and human resources,” they added.

They said in order to promote and protect their socio-economic interests and cultural identity, Chitral should either be given under the direct administrative control of the federal government or merged into Gilgit-Baltistan.

Report by Zar Alam Khan, Dawn

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