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Chitralis perceive discrimination

A Hazara based NGO worker hailing from Chitral recently complained that he and his other Chitrali colleagues were facing discrimination at the hands of their Pathan bosses or politicians in matters of posting and promotion. I found this young man highly qualified, energetic and promising and it pained me to hear that he was being discriminated against, especially when ANP is in power. I have high regards for Khan Ghaffar Khan and his Khudai Khidmatgar movement. The humanism of Pathan poets and philosophers is widely known and admired. How come this tradition has been mired at the hands of the very people who were expected to uphold it? Has the renaming of the province given them the wrong sense of ownership or arrogance or the dispensation is driven by selfish motives?

“What is in a name “so spoke William Shakespeare meaning thereby that it is the substance not form that matters in the final analysis. Our friends in the then Khudai khidmatgar movement, now ANP did not agree. They considered renaming of their province as life and death matter. As a result of their long struggle, which at times earned them the unenviable distinction of being anti- state, they were finally able to get the name, though in a diluted form, through the 18th constitutional amendment. Their jubilation over the success had barely culminated when the highly reputed Transparency International branded the Khyber Pakhtoonkha (KP) province as the most corrupt province and their detractors in the Punjab ended up as the least corrupt among the four provinces. Now the devastating floods have exposed the limitations of their Government to provide the effectees timely relief. There are reports of pilferage in the distribution of relief goods

The response of the Government of KP to the Transparency report was initially lukewarm and apologetic. However as an after thought and by way of damage control exercise the out-spoken and charismatic Information Minister of the Province posed a question to media persons in a press conference that how can a corrupt government wage successful anti - terror war? The point was valid but so was the reply. The successful anti -terror war was being led and fought by the Pakistan Army and the para military heavily drawn from non Pashtoons, especially Chitralies and the provincial Government only gave its assent. The nature and quality of post- war rehabilitation work rather than conduct of the war should therefore be used to establish the credentials of the provincial Govt. Unfortunately there is no achievement worth mentioning in this area to project its claim of good governance. It is true that ANP has paid considerable price in the anti- terror war in terms of men and materials to rid KP of the scourge of militancy and terrorism. It is not incidental that the policy would benefit the liberals and the secular left, which includes the ANP. So ANP can claim credit for its steadfast policies and sacrifices in the war against terrorism and the fact that religious right is again ganging up to bolster support explains the kind of challenge that ANP still faces and this challenge demands merit based policies rather than monopolistic ones that the case in point brings up.

ANP led Govt. in KP should not take shelter behind the anti -terror war success euphoria to wash the stigma of being the most corrupt Govt. They owe it to their ancestors, the Khudai Khidmatgars, to come out clean. Even the excuse that its leadership has shifted from one family to another may not bail them out. The torch bearers of Khudai Khidmatgar ideology owe it to history and to their future generations to accept responsibility for their present performance and come down heavily against the corrupt. They can not deny that KP is the only province that has failed to establish the office of provincial Mohtasib to redress public complaints against Govt. functionaries and punish those guilty of maladministration. How could ANP explain its opposition to the establishment of this constitutional office, if it is not for the fear of being exposed?.

Instead of looking for short cuts to establish Pakhtoon ownership of the province, the ANP Govt. must follow the more sustainable route through good and clean governance. Pathan ownership of KP is already under strong challenge by Hazarawals and other ethnic minorities may also join the foray if issues of governance are not addressed in right earnest. Chitralies have aggressively been defending their image as simple and honest people throughout history and they will not be prepared now to let it go for fear of being held hostage by the majority. One must not forget that the economy of KP largely depends on Chitral and an alienated Chitral may hurt them the most. Thus in its own interest ANP must accept pluralism and collective ownership of the province if it wants other nationalities to sustain the existing dispensation, failing which Hazarawals may go for a separate province, triggering similar demands elsewhere. Chitralies may be forced to re-invent their demands for a province of their own or in collaboration with Gilgit- Baltistan , with whom they have enjoyed close historical, cultural and ethnic links. There was a recent movement for Bloristan province in Gilgit –Baltistan-a name that was perhaps given to the region under the Chinese rule or the more unfamiliar name- Dardistan that it is said to have carried in the past because of the Dardic group of languages spoken in the region.

At the moment things are not looking up good for ANP or the future of KP. Extremism, terrorism, floods and Transparency International report have given it a rude shock and a timely wake up call. The complaint of my Chitrali friend may be a petty matter but it does indicate a looming malaise that every right thinking person must guard against. It is a testing time for ANP leadership. It is wants to prove its detractors wrong, it must make KP stand for virtue, humanism (with which Ghaffar Khan’s name is synonymous) and good governance, otherwise narrow mindedness would drown it, bringing to naught its struggle to find identity in a name which might prove to be a zero sum game and a non- starter, if not a beginning of its own unmaking as a pluralistic society respectful of diversity as Pakhtoon poets, mystics and philosophers would have liked it to become. --By Islamuddin, 30 Aug 10.


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