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Violence In Pakistan Over Provincial Name Change

Pakistani gather around the wreckage of a police truck torched by demonstrators in Abbottabad on April 12.
Pakistani gather around the wreckage of a police truck torched by demonstrators in Abbottabad on April 12.
A proposal to rename Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) has led to violence that left at least 10 dead and more than 100 injured in two days of riots, RFE/RL's Mashaal Radio reports.

The proposed new name, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is currently being considered by the Pakistani Senate as part of a package of constitutional amendments.

A general strike is being observed in the province's Hazara area today, as ethnic Hazara activists try to stop the name change. They held rallies and protests in various municipalities, as well as funeral prayers for those killed in the April 12 violence.

Scattered violence again shook the Hazara region today.

The name change to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, supported by the province's Pashtun majority, has been opposed by people living in the Hazara area. Most people in that area speak the Hindko language, not Pashto.

Omar Ayub Khan, the leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League Qaid-i-Azam group (PML-Q), told Mashaal Radio that the name Khyber Pakhtunkhwa does not offer anything for the province's Hazaras.

"Seeds of hatred are sown by renaming the province," Khan said. "In the past we have also said that the province should not be renamed because it will set the whole province on fire."

The province's ruling Awami National Party, which is supported by the territory's Pashtuns, has spearheaded the movement for the name change.

A party spokesman, Senator Zahid Khan, told Mashaal Radio that the province's situation is under control.

"We have formed a committee that has started negotiations with the elders in Hazara, and a judicial commission will be established and a judge from the high court will carry out the inquiry about the violence," Khan said.

Khan blamed the PML-Q for the violence.

When asked how the provincial government will address the demands of the Hazaras, Khan highlighted that the Saraiki minority in the Punjab has also demanded its own province. He said that any name change or new province could only be created through democratic, constitutional means.

Meanwhile, the NWFP's Hazara region remains tense as protests continue.

In addition, the local bar association is boycotting court proceedings and the city administration in Mansehra has closed all educational institutions for three days.

Hazara University will also remain closed for an indefinite period, officials announced.