Pakhtunkhwa Times

Pakhtunkhwa in light of history Professor Ahmad Hasan Dani

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on January 21, 2009


The name North-West Frontier Province is a colonial legacy to Pakistan. While it had a relevance in British India, today the name has no particular significance. Even in British India North West Province had been changing in its geographical application, depending upon the territorial limit of the raj. The present name North-West Frontier Province was given after 1901 when the British decided upon a new “Forward Policy” during the viceroyalty of Lord Curzon and they wanted to have a direct control over this province and hence they evolved a system of “tribal area” and “settled area”, as distinct from the old Punjab boundary. The British divided the Pashtuns, and Dr Akbar S. Ahmad, in his thesis submitted to the University of London, wrongly justified that division and maintained it in his book “Swat Pathans”. However, such a division is denied by history. As early as the time of the Ghaznavids, if not earlier, the Pashtuns have been living in the hilly area right down to Peshawar. Subuktigin is recorded to have entered in agreement with their leaders and recruited them in his forces.

On the basis of “Tarikh-i-Farishta”, the late S.M. Jafar has traced the early history of the Afghans in the following way: “Economic forces such as increase in population, etc., necessitated the outward expansion of the Afghans to the borderland between India and Afghanistan and colonised in the territory which comprised Kurmaj, Peshawar and Shnuran. This colonisation was viewed with grave concern and resented by Jaipal, the Hindu raja of Waihind… Alptigin led a number of expedition against the Afghans and harassed them so much that they could not but seek the aid of the Indian raja against him. The raja responded to their request with scant courtesy and treated the frontier problem with indifference. After consulting the raja of Bhatiya he disposed it of by handing over to the Afghans territory inhabited by them so that they serve as a buffer state.

“Thus for the first time the Afghans have an independent government in their territory. The indifference and the aloofness of the raja, who did not want to meddle in frontier affairs, coupled with the political pressure that was brought to bear upon the Afghans by the Ghaznavid ruler, Shaikh Hamid, the Afghan ruler of the Frontier, made peace with Subuktigin and agreed to pursue a policy of neutrality in so far as India was concerned.”

This long history is quoted here to throw light on the original history of the Afghans, who consisted of Pashtuns. This position continued through the Mughal period when Peshawar was treated as a part of the Subah of Kabul. It is only from the time of Ranjit Singh that Peshawar was separated from Afghanistan and Khyber was made the boundary. The Sikhs built their last fort at Jamrud. When the British took over from the Sikhs, in due course they pursued the “Forward Policy” and finally demarcated the Durand Line as the boundary between British India and Afghanistan. Later when they created the new province of NWFP, they added to it the region of Hazara which had beenseparated from Kashmir as Gulab Singh could not pay the whole sale price to the British. Such a position was inherited by Pakistan in 1947, when the late Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan started his Pakhtunistan movement probably on the instigation of Afghanistan and

Indian National Congress, of which he had been a member for long. To cut the story short, the referendum of the people of NWFP finally gave the decision and NWFP became a part of Pakistan with the free consent of the people. Ghaffar Khan’s movement died its natural death although Afghanistan of Zahir Shah kept up the bogey of Pakhtunistan.

To this original province of NWFP President Yahya Khan, in 1969, added Swat, Dir, Chitral and Kohistan when he abolished one unit system, with some definite end in view so that these areas should not be involved in the Kashmir problem.

The new addition has certainly changed the ethnic and linguistic character of the province but the people have so far never resisted any voice of dissent for joining the province and they have all enjoyed the benefit of neighbourly communication and economic profits arising out of it and also political so much so that the present chief minister hails from Hazara. Never has there been any local political movement to go back and join with Afghanistan, either here in the province or in the tribal area. That is simply because the Pashtuns are now spread all over Pakistan and they are managing important economic organisations. They are living in large number in Balochistan and yet they have agreed to call that province Balochistan.

Similarly during one unit time Dr Khan Saheb, the brother of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, accepted to be the chief minister of West Pakistan Province. Today the cities of Karachi and Islamabad are bubbling with Pashtuns and the truck service between Karachi and Peshawar is manned almost eighty percent by the Pashtuns. There is no denying the fact that they are playing an important role in the economic life of Pakistan. And yet there has been a rightful clamour to give a proper name to the province of NWFP and do away with the colonial legacy of the unsuitable name. If the old history can give any lesson, either we could revive the pre-Muslim names of the province and call it Gandhara name which was given by the Aryans, or change over to the new name after the Afghans (i.e. the Pashtuns) built a kingdom here and abolished the old name of Gandhara. The new name could be no other than Pakhtunkhwa, literally meaning the land of the Pashtuns, just as Punjab means the land of the five rivers and Balochistan means the land of Baloch.

Although in Balochistan other people than Baloch are living, similarly in NWFP many Hazarawals, Kohistanis, Chitralis, Hindko and Seraiki speakers have lived together to form one province and share in the political, social, economic and educational benefits. They never bothered to cut themselves away from the province. It will therefore be in the fitness of things that a new suitable name, keeping in view of the past history, should be adopted for the province and that name should be proposed by the present chief minister himself so that it is accepted by all the people. As they have unitedly played common political and economic role, no political strings should be attached to the name. If the history that I have traced has any relevance, there should be no hesitation to accept the name of Pakhtunkhwa and do away with the British colonial legacy.

Frontier Post – November 9, 1999


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