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Name Change Closer For Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province

Many people took to the streets across the province to celebrate the parliament's move
Many people took to the streets across the province to celebrate the parliament's move
PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Pakistan's parliament has taken a key step toward renaming the country's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.

Pakistan's parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms today sent the decision on the new name to the National Assembly speaker as part of a constitutional package. The step comes one day after political factions reached consensus on the package, which includes a series of other reforms.

Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group in the province of 21 million people, celebrated the news. Pashtun nationalists have long called for the renaming of NWFP as Pakhtunkhwa.

Radio Mashaal correspondents have reported informal parades, musical events, and chanting in support of the decision in the cities of Peshawar, Quetta, and Karachi.

Asfandyar Wali Khan, the leader of the province's biggest political party, the Awami National Party, praised Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and its influential Muslim League political party for their support in the renaming. Khan told journalists, "today the name of Pakhtunkhwa has appeared on the map of Pakistan."

Khan also assured members of the province's minority ethnic groups that they will enjoy the same rights as ethnic Pashtuns in the renamed province.

Meanwhile, elements representing the province's non-Pashtun communities held protests in the province's northeastern Hazara region.

Although the name change has been passed to the assembly speaker, it is not yet law. Pakistan's parliament will vote on the name change as part of a constitutional amendment and will require a two-thirds vote for approval. It would be the country's 18th constitutional amendment to its 1973 constitution.