The debate over the renaming of the NWFP continued on Monday, as leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League(Nawaz), PML(Q) and the PML(Q dissident group) publicly opposed the three names proposed by the Awami National Party (ANP).

The leaders said the renaming issue should not be linked with the passing of the 18th Amendment package.

PML-Q dissident leaders Saleem Saifullah and Hamid Nasir Chattha proposed a referendum in the province over the issue and convening an all parties’ conference to build consensus.

The PML-N and the two factions of the PML-Q held separate meetings with their NWFP chapters, during which they criticised the ANP for blowing the renaming issue out of proportion.

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting of his party’s NWFP chapter that again ended without arriving at a conclusion. The party decided to continue discussions on the issue.

The opposition of the PML to NWFP’s renaming is bringing them closer and it seems the factions are inching towards a joint stance not only on the NWFP issue, but also on separating the 18thAmendment package from other matters.

The ANP has vowed that it will not be party to any constitutional package that would exclude the renaming of NWFP, claiming that the PPP, PPP-Sherpao, JUI-F, JI and the MQM were supporting their proposed name forthe province.

It would be impossible to pass an amendment supporting the renaming of the NWFP if all factions of the PML join hands to oppose it in parliament.

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Earlier in the day, a delegation of ANP consisting of Afrasiab Khattak, Bushra Gohar and Zahid Khan met the PML-Q leadership to discussthe issue. Bushra Gohar said PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain asked the delegation if the ANP would agree to a hyphenated name for the province.

She added that the party had already shown flexibility on the issue and would continue to do so.

Following the ANP-PML-Q meeting, PML-Q leaders met to deliberate the issue and formed a committee headed by the party’s NWFP President Ameer Muqam to continue intra and inter-party discussions.

Speaking at press conference after the meeting, Shujaat and Mushahid Hussain said the issue of NWFP’s renaming should not be linked with settled issues of the constitutional amendment bill.

The PML-Q’s stance on the issue appears quite similar to that of the PML-N. The rival parties can easily thwart a move to pass the amendment bill if they join hands in parliament.

Also, PML-Q dissident group chairman Hamid Nasir Chattha met the faction’s NWFP chapter, suggesting holding a referendum in the NWFP overthe issue.

Holding the ANP responsible for what he called “a useless debate”, Chattha said the government ought to convene an All Parties’ Conference (APC) over the matter if it were unable to hold a referendum.

He said the province’s new name should not reflect the lingual leaning of the people and it should reflect the region as a whole.

Chattha also criticised the impression being given by the government that only the 18th Amendment could heal the sufferings of the people and they would be relieved of their problems once the reforms implemented.