By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent
Most cities of NWFP are under fire because of the protest against renaming the province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Protests and rallies took place in cities such as Abbottabad, Haripur, Mansehra, Oghi, Balakot, and Garihabibullah.
Protestors set fire to tires on the streets in different areas of Abbottabad and Mansehra. People gathered around official buildings and the PML-N secretariat. The police fired teargas and shells in order to disperse the crowds.
Situation got completely out of hand in Abbotabad and Hazarawhere protestors came out in thousands and disrupted the normalcy of life in the city. The crowd was setting fire to vehicles and tires and was very restless. The protestors threw stones at the police and set fire to police cars along with one Edhi Foundation ambulance and smashed billboards.
The Karrakuram Highway and most main roads and streets had to be completely closed off. Children who were in school could not leave school and had to go through a lot of trouble to get home.
According to the police things were completely out of control, so in order to control the situation the police fired shots and killed seven people while 200 others were injured. The police say that they did not have a choice and the act was purely self defense.
District police chief Iqbal Khan told journalists that police opened fire in self-defense after a number of people who were a part of the protest rally took over the Mirpur police station. Even though there was a ban put on protests rallies people still came out and protested under section 144. Section 144 prohibits assembly of five or more persons, holding of public meetings, and carrying of firearms and can be in effect for up to two months. It also gives the courts the power to issue orders regarding apprehending or arresting any person or persons related to the violation of the ban.
However, according to the protestors the police opened fired at them and did not discriminate as to who gets hurt in the process of them trying to discourage the crowds from gathering.
A unanimous resolution in the legal community demanded the government to declare Hazara a separate province and arrest DIG and Commissioner Hazara who ordered the firing, which left seven protestors dead on Monday.
On the request of high court bar association Hazara Division, the lawyers boycotted the court proceedings. The lawyers also took out a protest rally, and marched through various roads gathering at the Zafar Ground.
Information Minister Mian Iftikhar said that judiciary inquiry would be held to look into this matter. He also added that there were â€œhidden handsâ€ and â€œunseen elementsâ€ behind the violent protests and rallies. He also commented that it is acceptable for people to view their opinions and show their dislike of a decision. It is the right of the public to come out and demonstrate peacefully he added. However he also said that acts of violence and criminal activity will not be tolerated. Mr. Iftikhar also said that burning of vehicle and vandalizing property and material will not be over looked. He emphasized that the culprits who committed these crimes will be found and will be given due punishment.
The Minister claimed, â€œWe contacted prominent leaders of different parties in Hazara division and assured them that the provincial government would address their concerns over the renaming of the NWFP as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but not a single leader came forward for talks.â€ He appealed to political parties, their leaders and the public to stay calm and try to resolve this matter by identify the culprits who committed these terrible crimes so that they could be brought to justice.
The President of The National Awami Party, Afrasiab Khattak said that Asfandyar Wali, Nawaz Sharif are meeting soon and will sort out the reservations on renaming the province. He urged political parties to resolve this important issue through negotiation and the decision should be made by a consensus. He also noted that there is no deadlock of political parties over the renaming of the province.
Tension in Abbottabad is still at a high and all government and private institutions remained closed on Tuesday April 13, 2010 due the uncertain situation in the city. It meshed with the complete shutter down protest in Hazara. People blocked streets and made sure the rules of the protest was being implemented.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) local chapter had announced that it would hold a convention at the Fawara Chowk on Monday apparently to counter the anti-Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa campaign launched by the Action Committee for Hazara province. The latter is headed by a former district Nazim of Abbottabad, Sardar Haider Zaman Khan, and includes political leaders mostly from the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q).
The bill was drafted by an all-party parliamentary committee headed by Pakistan Peoples Partyâ€™s Senator Raza Rabbani. This bill was passed unanimously on Thursday April 8th 2010 by all the 292 members of the 342-seat National Assembly who were present and must also be approved by the required two-thirds majority of the 100-seat Senate before President Asif Ali Zardari signs it to put it into effect.
Even after all the problems and opposition surrounding it the bill was tabled in senate regardless of all this. The aims of bill include a return to a genuine parliamentary form of government with the transfer of some key presidential powers to the prime minister, enhance provincial autonomy and provide for a parliamentary oversight of the appointment of superior court judges.