Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dialogue on Provincial Autonomy

SDAWP Activity in the month of 2008July

Act!onaid and CRSD arranged a dialogue on provincial autonomy and water accord at S.S. Hall, University Road Peshawar on 8th July 2008

The writer of this activity was invited as chairperson SDAWP.

Azhar Lashari opened the first session of this dialogue. The theme was “NFC, Water accord, control over natural resources and royalty issue”. He pointed out the growing frustration among politically, socially and economically deprived communities throughout Pakistan and in this regard he invited speakers and participants to provide recommendations on how to empower and reconcile these communities. Mr. Abdula Akbar Khan (PPP), Ex-speaker NWFP publicly declared Punjab as responsible for all troubles in the country. He said all natural resources are being exploited by Punjabis for their ulterior purpose through a self created federation. He openly declared Pakistan army as Punjabi army. He said according to Water accord Punjab can’t use one cusec of Indus waters. He emphasized the creation of Seraiki province as a fifth political unit of Pakistan. Let us rewrite our constitution. It is the voice of reason, he said.

Dr. Said Alam Mehsud, a political analyst was the next to take mike. He said provincial autonomy is meaningless if Pakhtuns and Seraiki speaking people are not given right of self governance. He wanted new elections for constitutional assembly to frame a new constitution because the constitution of 1973 is Frankenstein monster; it killed its own creator.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, ANP, minister of information quoted the example of Indian constitution that protects the rights of minority and its supreme court doesn’t allow a Hindu to buy land in Kashmir.

Siraj Ul Haq Amir Jamat e Islami, ex finance minister said natural resources should be divided on the basis of need to overcome poverty in vast areas. He said if royalty on hydro centricity is genuinely paid we can become self sufficient in no time.

Opening the forum for debate among barrage of questions, the writer of this report complained about the attitude of provincial government towards people of southern districts. He said that arrogant behavior reflects Punjabi tone when they decide our fate. He said Seraiki speaking majority believes it is better to be part of Punjab than NWFP.

Most of the questions were on failure of present coalition government to solve people’s problems.

Second Session on dialogue was equally vibrant. Dr. Professor Sarfaraz moderated it.

Mukhtiar Aurakzai, PMAP, like Mian Iftikhar Hussain preferred to speak in Pakhtu, condemned the occupation of Pakhtun land by Punjab and Baloch people. He expressed anguish over unfair distribution of natural resources. He wanted political, social and financial autonomy.

Syed Mukhtiar Bacha of National Party said two nation theory is dead. He said Pakhtuns can’t succeed until they recognize other linguistic and social groups. He objected on using constitution of 1973 by Punjabi civil and military bureaucracy to silence their opposition from other provinces. He feared break up of Pakistan if Federation doesn’t change.

Qazi Anwar Advocate brought pin drop silence to the hall when he mentioned death of his mother who taught him to fight with tyranny. He wanted rights of all Muslim communities enshrined in Qarardad- e- Muqasad of 1940. He mentioned Tariq Ali’s banned book “Is Pakistan Viable?” He talked of a picture hanging at his back in his office. There is an Afghan child with torn clothes and a sign of interrogation. The child is asking what kind of Pakhtunkhua province will emerge in the future. To me Qazi Anwar brought an old memory of 1972 in Alig CafĂ© at Peshawar. Over a cup of tea I enjoyed an interview with Dr. Majid Khan of Physics Department. His message in simple words was that we shouldn’t ask for autonomy if we are not prepared for it.

When session was opened up for discussion participants offered Fatiha for the great mother of Qazi Anwar.

Final session was held after lunch moderated by Amjad Nazeer of Act!onaid.

Shuja Ul Mulk, General Secretary of JUI-F and Prof. Dr. Ijaz Khattak spoke on importance of administrative autonomy to all provinces of Pakistan. After a speech by Dr. Sarfaraz Afrasiab Khattak, ANP Provincial President took control of the mike and declared his party policy on autonomy. He said ANP is a democratic party and recognizes the rights of Seraiki people for an independent province. He said federation should feel its responsibility to democratize its political units. At the end Amjad Nazeer concluded the dialogue by announcing two more dialogues at Lahore and Islamabad in coming days.

M. Shahjahan Bhatti

Chairperson SDAWP

Dera Ismail Khan

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