[lg policy] Afghania: Renaming NWFP through Consensus

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 9 22:15:56 UTC 2010

 Forwarded  From:  <ebashir at yahoo.com>
Date: Sat, Jan 9, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Afghania: Renaming NWFP through Consensus
Dr. Mohammad Taqi

January 9th, 2010

 "What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would
smell as sweet."

At this time in the constitutional history of Pakistan, there
apparently is a lot in a name; a name for the NWFP, that is. Two major
political parties of Pakistan viz. Awami National Party (ANP) and
Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) have nominated a five member
committee each, to meet and hopefully agree upon rechristening the
NWFP.  In and of itself this may not be a major development for rest
of the Pakistan, but on its resolution apparently hinges the forward
movement in repealing the 17th Amendment to the 1973 Constitution of
Pakistan.  The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is likely to bless the
consensus developed by the ANP and PML-N.

The North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) was so named, when in November
1901 the Viceroy of British India, Lord George Nathaniel Curzon, the
First Marquess of Kedleston, carved out the Peshawar, Dera Ismail
Khan, Bannu, Kohat and Hazara districts from the Punjab province and
consolidated them into one administrative entity and appointed Sir
Harold Deane as its first Chief Commissioner.  The chief
commissionerate was abolished in 1932 and the NWFP became a Governor’s
Province with the then Chief Commissioner Sir Ralph Griffith
continuing as the first Governor. Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum became
the province’s first minister. The first general elections under the
Government of Indian Act 1935 were held in 1937 and Sahibzada Abdul
Qayyum was elected the first chief minister of the province.

Four of the districts originally incorporated into the NWFP had
sizable non-Pashtun and/or non-Pashto speaking populations, Hazara
being the most important such district.  However, large proportions of
the Hindko speakers of Hazara and Peshawar City trace their lineage to
Pashto or Persian speaking Afghans.    While the demographic makeup of
the Peshawar city, Kohat and Dera Ismail Khan has changed favorably
towards the Pashtun ethnicity and language, over the last thirty
years, the Hazara - now a division - remains very much a Hindko
speaking region.

Hazara has also been the bastion of various incarnations of the
Pakistan Muslim League and remained so in the 2008 elections,
returning six Muslim Leaguers to the National Assembly of Pakistan
from its seven allocated seats; hence the PML-N’s intense focus on
Hazara in the renaming process.  The ANP on the other hand, has been
consistently demanding a change in the province’s name since the
party’s inception in 1986. The term Pukhtunkhwa was introduced in its
current political context right around that time.

Pukhtunkhwa certainly is a term that has not only been used
politically to describe the land of the Pashtuns but was also deployed
frequently by the twentieth century Sufi poet Amir Hamza Shinwari and
later by the more politically attuned poets like Ajmal Khattak,
Qalandar Momand and Rehmat Shah Sael gave it currency. It thus has
significant cultural and popular history in contrast with the exonym
NWFP.  The ANP had proposed this name as an alternative to the more
political - and to some a secessionist - term Pashtunistan.
Pashtunistan had its origin in the duel between the All India Muslim
League and the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement, where the latter proposed
that the NWFP and FATA remain independent - under the Pashtunistan
banner - than join Pakistan or India.

The Pashtun nationalist movement and its leaders remained ‘outsiders’,
from 1947 through the mid-1980s, as far as the power politics of
Pakistan go. The call for renaming the NWFP had then remained one of
the rallying points for the ANP’s “National Democratic Revolution”, a
neo-irredentist modification of the Leninist theory of the same name.
Irredentism by definition being “a policy directed towards the
incorporation, of irredentas - territories historically or ethnically
related to one political unit but under the political control of
another-back into their historically or ethnically related political

In due course the Pashtun nationalist movement, which in the NWFP
essentially meant the ANP, was absorbed into the mainstream Pakistani
politics. after forming a coalition with the PML of Nawaz Sharif in
1990, the party was formally initiated into the Islamabadian
realpolitik and its leaders rehabilitated as “patriotic” Pakistanis
from a hithertofore “traitor” status. The issue of renaming the NWFP
has however, continued to be a point of contention between the ANP and
the PML-N not least because of the different ethno-linguistic
demographic that each draws its support from. Each side had its
reservations entrenched in the irredentism – real or perceived – of
the other.

 Over the last several years, efforts have been made by many to arrive
at a consensus name for the province.  The proposed alternatives have
ranged from Gandhara - the ancient name of the region, Khyber,
Abaseen, Neelab, Peshawar and Afghania. Each of these names has had
its supporters and critics. Going back to Gandhara is considered by
some to ignore centuries of sociological evolution that the people of
this region have gone through. Khyber, Abaseen, Neelab and Peshawar
represent a geographical nomenclature that is devoid of the ethnic,
linguistic, religious and cultural connotations.

While geographical renaming has been a common practice in the
post-colonial nation-states, it is rather a reverse sociological
evolution to use geographic landmarks to name regions where a peoples’
identity is also an issue. The Pakistani provinces like Punjab or
Sindh did not gain their names in this fashion. The geographical
landmarks developed their significance over the ages and people
inhabiting those regions subsequently drew their name and identity
from these landmarks and regions. Within the last two weeks, the PML-N
has proposed a slate of three names i.e. Abaseen, Neelab and
Pukhtunkhwa-Hazara whereas the Chief of the ANP, Asfandyar Wali Khan
has given a mandate to his committee to agree upon Pukhtunkhwa,
Pashtunistan or Afghania.

 Among all the names proposed by the two parties Afghania is one
entity that has no political baggage attached to it. Indeed Afghania
is the word represented by the letter ‘A’ in the acronym PAKISTAN as
originally coined by Chaudhry Rehmat Ali in his 1933 pamphlet “Now or
Never”. In his later book “Pakistan: the fatherland of the Pak
nation”, Chaudhry Rehmat Ali calls the word NWFP an “official but
nondescript” term used for the province of Afghania.

In addition to the ANP President’s standing offer to accept Afghania
as the province’s new name, its central leader and key ideologue
Senator Afrasiab Khattak had also written a well-argued article
supporting this name. There could potentially be a question about
having a province named Afghania right at the border of Afghanistan
and a few may balk at this. However, from Allama Iqbal and Quaid e
Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to the religious parties of Pakistan,
everyone has acknowledged the strong ties of languages, culture,
religion and trade between the two adjoining regions. If anything,
Afghania would only strengthen and bolster these relations.

Afghania as the new name for the NWFP will not only be acceptable to
all people of this region but will also bring to close a chapter of
imperial history. It is in sync with the wishes of the founding
fathers and the will of the people today. ANP and PML-N have the
initiative in their hands; now or never, as Chaudhry Rehmat Ali would
have said.

(Author teaches and practices medicine at the University of Florida
and can be reached at mazdaki at me.com)


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