Monday, 26 June 2017

QK Archives: A case for Afghania

Circa 1998 published by Frontier Post

A case for Afghania

Afrasiab Khattak

Public debate over changing the name of North-West Frontier Province is entering a new and interesting stage as the high rhetoric and demagogy for and against proposition is coming to an en.d and a more realistic and business-like attitude is emerging. A consensus is already in right about the necessity of changing the name which was given to the province by colonial rulers and which represent the political realities of that time and which has become an anachronism with the passage of time with the growing urbanisation and increasing communication links, Pukhtoons are overcoming trible and territorial divisions creating an urge for cultural and political identity. Moreover, the changed regional political climate has helped all concerned to overcome the phobias of the past about renaming the province and the old polarisation on the issue has receded to to the background. These developments have brought us to the question as to what should be the new name, which they argue is also the original and ancient name of this area. They have got very strong and irrefutable evidence from history and literature to provide their point. support for renaming the province as Pukhtoonkhwa has considerably increased. So much so that if the issue is put to vote in the present provincial assembly, it is sure to get majority. But it would be more desirable to bring about the change with general consensus. It is evident that opposition to Pukhtoonkhwa stems mainly from partisan rivalries, the opponents of Pukhtoonkhwa think that as the main champion of it as Awami National Party (ANP), the credit will also be bagged by the ANP if and when such a change occurs. It would be only fair to add that ANP has also maintained a monopolistic attitude on the issue and has not made meaningful efforts to develop it into a national instead of a Pakistan issue. The opponents of Pukhtoonkhwa also respond in a narrow and rigid partisan way. This is not surprising in view of the limitations imposed by feudal and tribal culture and the ego-centric personalities of our society.

Be that as it may, the opponents of Pukhtoonkhwa say that they will accept any other name. Afghania is a name which has the potential of creating a consensus. There are controversies attached with this name. It is an established fact of history that the people of this area were also called Afghans for time immemorial. It was not a coincidence that the warrior-poet Khushal Khan Khattak gripped his sword Tto defend the honour of AfghansU. Throughout history, this area was different from India as it was the land of Afghans. Even now, in revenue record, which was prepared under British rule, most of the people living in the province are referred to as Afghans.

The first ever reformist movement which as established in the early twentieth century in Peshawar was the Association for Reformation of Afghans (Anjuman-e-Islaha-Afghania). And the most important thing is that Choudri Rehmat Ali who coined the word Pakistan as a name for a separate state of the Muslims of South Asia had Afghania in mind as a new name for NWFP so it is according to the original scheme of the creation of Pakistan. The founders of Pakistan knew fully well that Afghania will be a source of strength for the state of Pakistan as it will help the new Muslim country to establish a distinct Muslim cultural personality which is also evident from the poetry of Allama Iqbal. Had it not been for the unfortunate political confrontation which had developed in the NWFP at the time of partition of sub-continent, the province would have been immediately renamed as Afghania.

Even now, there is a strong case for Afghania. This is a name which represent the cultural identity of the area, but at the same time it stands above the narrow ethnic or linguistic divisions. There is no political dispute or controversy attached to this name. It was proposed by some people from amongst the founders of Pakistan, as according to them,the letter A in pakistan stands for Afghania. So renaming NWFP Afghania would would be only a stet forward both in letter and spirit in completion of Pakistan as envisaged by the founding fathers. As no single political party is the champion of the name or claim monopoly over the name, there is no partisan controversy about Afghania and no party can single handedly bag the credit for renaming the province.

Some people may question the wisdom of renaming NWFP as Afghania just on the border of Afghanistan. This would be typical of the old thinking based on the conspiracy theory of history, because even if we do not have the name Afghania, can any one deny the cultural, religious and historical affinity between the people living on both sides of the borders. Then there a number of examples where there are provinces bordering on the countries with a similar name. Both Pakistan and India have their own provinces of Punjab with geographical proximity India has the state (province) of West Bengal having common border with Bangladesh. Northern Island is a province of United Kingdom bordering on Ireland such examples are numerous and fully prove that such communalities are natural and can become a basis for developing close links between countries. Pakistan has got special relation with Afghanistan and under changed circumstances, these relations are expected to grow. Pakistan having the province of Afghania at the borders of Afghanistan will have stronger reasons to have the closest possible relations with the brotherly Muslim country. Such a relationship can become an important factor in developing economic cooperation in the region. Afghania as the new name of the NWFP will not only be acceptable at all parts of the NWFP and all segments of society of the province, but it will also become a bridge for the gradual integration of the FATA with this province. This is very important for the process of state and nation-building in Pakistan. Pakistan cannot indefinitely maintain the administration structures created by the British rule as these arrangements have already become in compatible with her developmental requirements. Bold and imaginative efforts are required to boost the process of nation building in Pakistan. This is particularly important on the North-Western borders where Pakistan is passed to build new strategic relations only a leadership with a distorcial vision can utilise the historic opportunities spring by momentus changes in the world in the region. We have to grow out of stride polarisations and political squabbles of the past. Petty politics have to give way to creative and statesman like approach. Renaming the NWFP as Afghania can be the fist step in this direction.

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