Political HistoryResearch

Abdul Samad Khan’s Perceptions of Pashtoonistan (Part-I)

Abdul Samad Achekzai was the pro-Pashtun nationalist leader, whose political idea dominated Pashtun-nationalist political perspective in Balochistan.

Abdul Samad Khan opposed the British imposed system of Nawabs and Sardars, and had also demanded the abolition of Sardari and Nawabi system in Pakistan.

By Aman Ullah and Dr. Kaleem Ullah Khan Barech

[Pak-Afghan border remain one of the important factor, which influenced Pak-Afghan relation since the emergence of Pakistan. It is important to highlight the significance of Durand line in historical perspective. At one end Durand line is internationally agreed as border between Pakistan and Afghanistan but on the other side time and again officials from Afghanistan denied it. This resulted in the sparking of a movement in Pashtun areas of Pakistan to undo Durand Line and include the Pashtun areas of Pakistan in Afghanistan. This movement was named as Pashtoonistan movement and it lasted basis in the province of KPK and Balochistan. The main supporters of the moment were some Pashtun nationalist, whom politically supported the idea of Pashtoonistan. This paper deals with the perspective of Abdul Samad Khan Achekzai regarding Pashtoonistan. Abdul Samad Achekzai was the pro-Pashtun nationalist leader, whose political idea dominated Pashtun-nationalist political perspective in Balochistan. This research aims to explore and analyze the perceptions of Abdul Samad Khan Achekzai regarding Pashtoonistan. This work is important as Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party (PkMAP) inherited the legacy of Abdul Samad Khan and PkMAP is one of the dominant political parties of Balochistan (Southern Pakhtunkhwa)]

The worsening security situation in Afghanistan as well in Pakistan is associated with the cross-border management of both neighboring countries. From 2009 the cross border incursions highlights border areas of Pakistan in international media. At one end it was considered as matter of significance for the success of War against Terrorism in Afghanistan, and on other side for the internal security of the two neighboring countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Both countries are blaming each other for their involvement, in cross-border infiltration. Afghanistan is blaming Pakistan for supporting the religious extremist groups, which are menacing security in Afghanistan. Similarly Pakistan also blames Afghanistan for their support toward insurgencies; especially in Balochistan.

Durrand-1021x580These blaming of each other has a long history, which started at least from 1947; when Pakistan got independence. Tariq Mahmood provided with history of Pak-Afghan relation and established his point of view that from beginning the relation between these two states remain in worst position. He further elaborated that initially Afghanistan government shows antagonism toward newly established state of Pakistan.

He further coined the Durand Line as one of the main cause for the Afghan hostile attitude toward Pakistan. Afghanistan government from 1947 tried to undo the Durand Line agreement, which allow British India and her successor (Pakistan), to have control of the Pashtun areas.

Afghanistan in response supported Baloch and Pashtun tribesmen to raise separatist’s movement in Pakistan. Afghanistan government supported both Pashtun and Baloch ethno-nationalists to initiate separatist movements in Pakistan. The Pashtun ethno-nationalist movement was known as Pashtoonistan or Pakhtunistan. This movement was considered as constant threat for the security of Pakistan. It was in 1979 that government of Pakistan remain successful for accumulating external support to minimize the risk of the issue. In 1979 during Russian invasion of Afghanistan, not only the anti-communist powers especially U. S. A. but also many of the Muslim powers such as Saudi Arabia supported Pakistan to counter Russian forces in Afghanistan, by supporting Mujahedeen in Afghanistan.

Pashtoonistan issue remain the most effective factor in Pak-Afghan relation. The resolution of the issue will ease both the state to establish friendly relations. This study deals with Pashtoonistan issue but main focus is laid on the perception of Abdul Samad khan regarding Pashtoonistan. The perception of Abdul Samad khan provided a balance and democratic point of view. Analysis of the Abdul Samad Khan’s perception of Pashtoonistan is also important because it serves as legacy for one of the leading political party of Norther-Balochistan (Southern Pashtunkhwa) i.e. Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).

Abdul Samad Achakzai- Abdul Ghaffar KhanA Short Overview of Pashtoonistan

Hallberg’s socio-linguistic analysis of Pakistan’s Pashtu-speaking populations conveys that Pashtuns have very optimistic attitudes toward their particular language. It is not only virtually the merely language of use in maximum domains, but also Pashtu is perceived as a strong stain of their identity and pride. Hallberg though does not touch the history of the Pashto being as a movement, the efforts made by contemporary Pashtuns to promote the custom of Pashtu in the spheres of power. The only evidence available about these determinations is in articles forms, which are generally in Pashto. Shabbir Hasan Josh (an Urdu-speaking poet of Pashtun origin from Malihabad UP India), informs us that the Pashtuns of India grabbed pride in their ethnic orientation and reflected themselves brave and aggressive.

Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the well-known Pashtun ethno-nationalist of Pakistan, accounts that in 1920s when he went to Afghanistan; at the loftiness of the Hijrat movement (migration to Afghanistan) as India was professed a non-Muslim country. He saw the ignorance of Pashtun nationalism. When he meets the ruler of Afghanistan; Amir Aman ullah Khan, he finds that Amir did not pay any attention for the development of Pashtun Nationalism and Pashto. During a meeting while having a conversation with Amir Amanullah, Ghaffar Khan said that, “what a pity it is that you, who know so many languages, do not know Pashto, though it is your mother tongue and your national language!’ The King agreed with me and soon he began to learn Pashto”.

Pashto being as a language was promoted during the rule of Aman ullah khan and later by his followers in the kingdom of Afghanistan. Barth argues this insignificance to Pashto in kin to the up keeping of identity. He claims that closeness to centralized power made the affirmation of autonomy and classlessness. He wrote that: “The elite and urban middle class in this purely Afghan kingdom have shown a strong tendency to Persianization in speech and culture, representing I would argue a sophisticate’s escape from the impossibility of successfully consummating a Pathan identity under these circumstances”.

But this ideal-type society is almost fictional in the urban areas and even in the tribal townships of Pakistani Pashto-speaking areas. The urbanized Pashtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1920s roused the Pashto and Pashtun identity movement which was supported by Afghan State. King Amir Aman ullah, who even himself, cannot speak Pashto, encouraged the language promotion of Pashto in the 1920s. As anxiety to British India, Abdul Ghaffar Khan pioneered the tendency of emphasizing Pashto and Pashto language as Pashtun identity. In British India the Pashtuns needed a symbol for unity to confront the British Raj. Thus this Pashtun movement of unity was suspect by the colonial authorities and, also of its descendants.

The British took control of the NWFP province from the dominions of Ranjit Singh when British annexed Punjab in 1849. NWFP was ruled from Lahore; till 1901. In 1901 it was declared a separate province supervised by a commissioner. The status of full-plague province was given in 1932. British language strategies were subjective under their imperatives of imperial regulation. After the war of 1857, the Pashtuns were measured trustworthy and were employed in large numbers in British army. Their European officers were particularly initiated to learn the Pashto language for the control of Pashtuns, which helped the British officers for making and appliance of imperialist policies over the Pashtun subject of Indo-Pak.

It seems that the British strategy towards Pashto learning was merely for control while they were denying the use of Pashto in the spheres of power, which was centered on their imperialist benefits. Pashto was being used as identity marker of Pashun as a nation; by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1987), who was the founder of Khudai Khidmatgar movement. Which began in the NWFP in 1929 and it was the anti-British, pro-Congress movement. The Khudai Khidmatgars were seen as Soviet-inspired revolutionaries and supporters for Afghanistan’s claims of Pashtoonistan by British authorities as will by the Pakistani authorities. In short, the language of Pashto was seen as an important and necessary ingredient for Pashtun ethnicity and the development of their ethnic nationalism, which was supposed to central to the progress of their ethnic group.

The arrogance of the Pakistani governing elite towards Pashto can be assumed superior in the light of Afghanistan’s claim to parts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and northern part of Balochistan. This area was called Pashtoonistan (the land of the Pashtuns) by the Pashtun nationalists. The Pashtun ethno-nationalist leaders were being suspected of their support for Pashunistan movement. All India Muslim League (AIML) wanted a referendum on the question of accession to Pakistan or India. The referendum was aimed to know the opinion of the people of North West Frontier Province as they want to join Pakistan or Hindustan. The Indian National Congress acknowledged the Muslim League’s demand but Abdul Ghaffar Khan boycotted from the referendum. Abdul Ghafar Khan was of the opinion that if referendum is to be held, it should be an open choice at all not the question of joining any of the two domains (Khan, 1969). Abdul Ghafar Khan initially defined Pakhtunistan as a “free Pashtun state” on June 24, 1947.

In this regard Tahir Amin, a very famous contemporary Pakistani writer wrote that, “Later, the terms ‘Pakhtunistan’ and ‘Pakhtunkhwa’ were also used by Khan Wali Khan, as a substitute for the British name ‘NWFP’ for this Pakhtun-dominated province. This change of stance from demanding independence to mere symbolic assertion of cultural autonomy reflects the decline in separatist tendencies in the NWFP”. (Continues)


Courtesy: Bilingual/Bi-annual Pakistan Studies English / Urdu Research Journal VOl.No.09, Issue No. 01 January -June, 2019



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