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A New Map for Pakistan

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Finally, no more acronyms! April brings new changes to the map of Pakistan. Pakistan is made up of four provinces, lines drawn out by the British upon leaving the region back in 1947. But in the late hours of April 1st, 2010 lawmakers finally passed a resolution to rename the fourth province.

The other three provinces are named after the ethnicity of the people who reside there, Sindh for the Sindhis, Punjab for the Punjabis and Balochistan for the Balochis. But the British couldn't come up with a name for the fourth province or just ran out of time to think hard enough and left it with the oddest of them all, the North West Frontier Province, or the N.W.F.P.

The problem with this strange acronym is for the last 64 years, there really hasn't been any translation for this province's name in Pakistan's national language. In Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, N.W.F.P. is called Sarhad, which just means the border.

Well, now to be fair it has also taken Pakistani lawmakers more than 64 years to agree upon a name for this troubled province as well. The new name is Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for the Pashtun majority in the province.

Having their own identity within Pakistan has been a contentious issue with most Pashtuns. This is the same region bordering Afghanistan, with people of the same ethnicity on both sides of another British-drawn border.

Amid many celebrations for this achievement, the new name also has its opponents. Some political parties representing the other ethnicities in Khyber-Pakhtunkwa say the name does not represent them, thus reject it. This brouhaha over the new name continues nearly ten days after the parliament has ratified the new name.

According to some estimates, it is going to cost the provincial government Rs. 5 billion to change the maps and stationary. The same estimate accounts for a cost of Rs. 3 billion for the federal government to change the name of a province.

Even with the objections and the high cost this is monumental day for Pakistan. National and ethic identity begins with the right name and this move by the parliament is certainly a step in the right direction.