19 February 2003
The problem of Pukhtunistan
Dr. Sher Zaman Taizi
This area was called Pukhtunkhwa (Pukhtun Quarter, according to Bellew) or Paktika (according to Herodotus) and mentioned by many Pushto poets in their verses as Pukhtunkhwa since 11th century. The famous couplet of Ahmad Shah Abdali,
Da Dili takht herauma cheh rayad krhm,
Zma da khkule Pukhtunkhwa da ghre saroona.
I forget Delhi when I recall,
The mountain peaks of my beautiful Pukhtunkhwa.
During World War I, German and Turk governments sent a joint delegation to Kabul to win favour of Amir Habibullah Khan. The Amir was a protégé of the British government. He delayed the delegation for over a year without any positive response. There were some revolutionaries and Afghan leaders including a brother of the Amir named Nasrullah Khan who were in favour of the delegation and wanted the Amir declare Jihad.
That delegation included Kazim Bey, a Turk minister and special envoy of the last Sultan of Turkish Usmania dynasty - Mohammad V (known as Mohammad Khamis) who was virtually the Caliph of the Islamic world. In un-divided India, imams read the Khutba in his name in their Friday sermons. When the British government engineered plots to dethrone him, the Muslims of India launched a movement in his favour in the name of Khilafat movement which bore the Hijrat movement in 1920s.
Kazim Bey carried a farman from the Khalifa in Persian. It was addressed to “the residents of Pathanistan.” It said: when the British were defeated, His Majesty the Khalifa, in agreement with allied States, will acquire guarantee for independence of the united state of Pathanistan and will provide every kind of assistance to it. Thereafter, I will not allow any interference in the country of Pathanistan. (Ref: Pukhtunkhwa Kiyun Nahin by Dr. Mubarak Ahmad Chagharzai; 1989; PP: 138-139).
The word Pathanistan is not Persian but Indian. It shows that the Khalifa had already acquired the consent of the Muslim leaders of India or these leaders might have motivated the Khalifa to first liberate the Pukhtuns' land (Pathanistan) to build up a strong base against the British Empire in India. Any how, this farman was distributed in the tribal belt.
When the British Empire decided to leave India after its division in two separate States - Bharat and Pakistan - the Khudai Khidmatgar movement led by Bacha Khan opposed the division. Although the Congress had agreed to the division, all the other major parties of India including Jamaat Islami, Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind (Mufti Mahmood’s) and Ihrar also opposed it. However, the British government of India proposed a referendum in NWFP for India or Pakistan. Bacha Khan demanded that it should be Pakistan or Pukhtunistan. On 21 June 1947, Khudai Khidmatgar leaders met under the presidency of Amir Mohammad Khan (father of Nasim Wali Khan) at Bannu and declared that Pukhtuns did not accept India or Pakistan. Hence, the one-sided referendum was manipulated in favour of Pakistan. But the hero of the referendum, Amin-ul-Hasanat the Pir of Manki Sharif, later repented his role in the referendum and joined Bacha Khan. According to his will, his body was lowered in the grave by Bacha Khan.
Pakistan was created. Khudai Khidmatgar leaders assembled at Sardaryab on 3 and 4 September 1947 and passed a resolution that that accepted the ground reality that Pakistan had come into being. They would leave in Pakistan as its bona fide citizens. They however opposed the dismissal of Dr. Khan Sahib and installation of Qayum Khan as the Chief Minister, but decided to refrain from making any sort of disturbance and difficulty for the new state.
Bacha Khan took oath as member of the Legislative Assembly of Pakistan and in his maiden speech demanded that NWFP should be given the name of Pukhtunistan. At one point, when Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan tried to interrupt him and said something mentioning Pathanistan, then Bacha Khan scolded him that he had said Pukhtunistan and not Pathanistan.
Qayum Khan arrested Bacha Khan and then allowed indiscriminate firing at a gathering at Babra killing several hundred people, who demanded release of Bacha Khan. Hisaction and brutal policies were criticised by the major dailies, particularly the Civil and Military Gazette.
The Afghan government managed to gather a number of tribal elders in Kabul on 01 September 1949, which demanded Pukhtunistan and then formed even a sort of shadow government under the presidency of the Faqir of Ipi.
Qayum seized that opportunity and linked the movement of Bacha Khan to Afghanistan and India and one-sided propaganda was launched against Bacha Khan. This policy of Qayum Khan suited the resolution drawn in what was called “secret document” prepared in 1948 by a few immigrant Muslim League leaders headed by Liaquat Ali Khan. That resolution was aimed at pushing the native leaders to into obscurity to enable the immigrant leadership to hold the power.
Field Marshal Ayub Khan indicated the difference between the Pukhtunistan of Utmanzai and the Pukhtunistan of Kabul in his book Friends Not Masters. However, the immigrant bureaucracy stuck to its policy to alienate the native leaders, including Bacha Khan, Abdul Samad Khan, Abdul Hamid Bhashani and G.M. Syed.
In the meantime, the government used all its resources to introduce Urdu, the language of a few hundred thousand immigrants, as the national language. The first voice was raised by Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din against this policy, which, eventually, led to bifurcation of Pakistan and creation of Bangla Desh.
Zia-ul-Haq agreed with Bacha Khan to change the name but he contended that the term Pukhtunistan had become controversial. Bacha Khan suggested Pukhtunkhwa. But, again, some hitch was created and Zia-ul-Haq asked Bacha Khan to suggest another name. In response, Bacha Khan wrote a letter (in Pushto) to the President to give up his efforts if he was so much constrained.
The assembly of the nameless province passed three resolutions to give province the name of Pukhtunkhwa, but the federal government did not honour the resolutions.
It is now high time that the ulema give attention to this problem and fulfil the wish of the last Caliph of Islam, Mohammad V, to name the province as Pukhtunistan.
(Daily The Statesman, Peshawar, 24 February 2003)