Central & South Asia
Name change stirs Pakistan protest
Eight killed in clashes over proposal to change name of North West Frontier Province.
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2010 17:18 GMT
Non-Pashtun groups are opposing plans to change NWFP's name [AFP]

Eight people have been killed in northwestern Pakistan during protests against plans to rename the country's North West Frontier Province, witnesses reported.

The protests erupted on Monday and continued for a second day on Tuesday, as scores of people took to the streets of the city of Abbottabad.

Police fired tear gas and bullets into the crowd after protesters attacked two police stations and torched several vehicles, killing seven people, Asif Gohar Khan, a local police official, told The Associated Press news agency.

But demonstrators said police shot and killed at least eight people during the clashes.

The demonstrators were protesting against a parliamentary proposalto change the name of the North West Frontier Province, or NWFP, to Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa.

The name change was pushed in part by the Awami National Party, a Pashtun nationalist group that leads the provincial government in the northwest.

But the violent protests have temporarily delayed the scheduled presentation of a constitutional reform bill to change the name to the upper house of parliament.

Heated debate

Proponents say the bill is designed to strengthen parliamentary democracy and give greater power to the provinces, as well as replace the British-colonial name of North West Frontier Province.

The lower house of parliament voted through the 18th amendment in a unanimousvote last week.

But many non-Pashtun groups in the northwest, including the area's ethnic Hazara population, have opposed the idea.

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from the city of Abbottabad, said the 18th amendment has become a real problem for Pakistan.

"The people of Hazara say that renaming the province is going to divide the province," he said.

"They say that it should remain as the [NWFP], otherwise they say they should have a second province called Hazara.

"Yesterday, peaceful protesters were out on the streets. But they say the police opened indiscriminate fire, killing eight people on the spot.

"The protesters ... are saying they will not accept the agenda of renaming this province."

Al Jazeera and agencies
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