Renaming NWFP

This article was originally carried in The Frontier Post in 2008.

ArticleYAABy: Yasmeen Aftab Ali

With reference to Asfandyar Wali’s ANP Manifesto, Editorial Frontier Post dated 18th Dec. 2007.

Before the start of the process of renaming a province commences, various intrinsic factors must be kept in mind.Like the historical geographic boundaries, the d emographic placement of pathans and non pathans in the old districts of NWFP, that is, Peshawar, Hazara, Kohat, Bannu and D. I Khan, also to be kept in mind is the linguistic background  of the races which have inhabited the present NWFP since time immemorial to date in order, to give a name which has an equitable meaning and relevance to all its inhabitants.

Pakistan since 1947, is a culmination of many different races, each representing a different culture and heritage, therefore, just because an effective pressure group, now so wishes to rename a province as per their perspective, which negates the other races, who have inhabited this land much before the entry of the pushto-speaking races in this area ,will be an injustice to them. These races, are not represented by an equally well organised and motivated leadership to counter the pressure being so exerted at this point in time. However, in due course of time, there will be a reaction thus creating more ethnic complications for our nation.

Administratively, in the Mughal set up as created by Akbar the present NWFP, was part of Suba Kabul and consisted of various Tumans(Districts), Bolaks (Tehsils) and Sarkars. East of Kabul City, lay Lamghan, consisting of the Tumans of Ali Shang, AliNgar, Mandrawar, Kunar, Nurgul and Bolaks of Darra-i-Nur and Kama, within Lamghan was the Tuman of modern Ningnahar, with its headquarters, initially at” Admah”, between Kabul and Surkh-ab( Rivers). It was Akbar Badshah who shifted the capital of this province to a new location, and, it was named after him,” Jalalabad”, his full name being,”Jalal-ud-din Mohammad Akbar”.

Nangnahar, was originally ” Nekanhar”, meaning thereby, Nek, signifying in persian “good/beneficial” and Anhar is the plural of Nahr or streams or rivulets. Nekanhar by degrees got corrupted into Nangnahar in due course of time. It had nine Darahs out of which flowed nine rivers, all fell in one, now called Kabul River. The two eastern most Tumans of Kabul subah were Hashtghar and Bigram, it was the Tuman of Bigram, which is now called Peshawar. Hashtgar, had, eight towns ie Charsadda, Omarzi, Parang, Sherpao, Tarangzi,Rajur, Usmanzi and Tangi- the “zi” element is a new addition .

The Sufed Koh, earlier called Ak-tagh by the Turks, and by the new people ie the pushto speakers, is called Spin-ghar, seperated the Tumans of Nangnahar and Bangash which also included the Kurram Valley. Bangash was divided two parts ; Bala , meaning Upper and Pain meaning Lower. Bala Bangash started from Thal area and Pain Bangash was the now Kohat Region. The thanedar of Bala and Pain Bangash was located at Kohat.

Bannu, was bordered on the north by the mountains of Bangash and Nughz( Durrand Line -Range). The three Sarkars of Suwat, Bunner and Bajuar were also in Kabul suba. Modern Hazara ,was called Pakli Sarkar, sometimes it was administrated by Kabul, later, it was transferrred to Kashmir suba. Pakli consisted of Dhudhial, Nawa-Shahr and Dhamtaur. Darband and rest of Hazara, ie the lower parts of the present Hazara were part of Lahore suba.

Beyond, in the north of Bajauar, Bunner and Lower Suwat was a track of land called Baloristan, NOT part of the Mughal set up. Sometimes Badkhshan and sometimes Kashghar, dominated the region. Baloristan , extended to the North till the Wakhan Valley. Now coming to the latest addition meaning thereby, other than the old districts already mentioned as part of old NWFP. A description about the land of Chitral is relevant. Till the late 19th century, Chitral( A new name) old being Kashkar, had as its rulers, the progeny of Mohammad Baig. Chitral (Town area and below to the south till Dir), came under Mohtaram Shah and Upper Chitral was held by Shah Khushwakht, the elder brother of Mohtaram Shah.

Mohtaram Shah was known as Aman-ul-Mulk, ie his designation. In 1878, he accepted an agreement with the Maharaja of Kashmir on the behest of the British and started getting a grant of Rs 12000/- per year. The elder brother, refused to acknowledge the Maharaja of Kashmir and the British Rule.Hence, he recruited forces from YASIN, DAR-AL, TANGIR and HUNZA  areas of his rule and so went on a war against the Dogra Rule.While, the elder brother fought the British and Maharaja of Kashmir’s forces with full valour, his younger brother attacked him from behind on the behest of British & the Maharaja and thus the elder brother lost the war and turned a fugitive.

In the area known as Dir, now, a Mulla Ilyas, also called as Akhund Baba, a pushto speaker had created a following. In the 1880s,Rehmatullah, the younger brother of Jamdad Khan, the Head of Mullazi Clan( From Mulla a term comes Mullazi), took monetary assistance from Maharaja of Kashmir and deposed his elder brother. By 1895, Rehmatullah’s son, Mohammad Shareef was doing a lot of, “good service” to the British and had especially helped them in the capture of Chitral town. He had also helped the British in capturing, Sher Afzal ,one of the outlawed brothers of Aman-ul-Mulk of Chitral. For his good services, rendered to the British Crown, Mohammad Shareef was made a Nawab. When the Fakir of Api revolted the newly created Nawab of Dir, vide an agreement of december 1898, with the British, had the Fakir of Api declared,”enemy of the State and the Crown”. For these services rendered, his subsidy was raised to Rs 15000/- per annum with an antedate of first October 1898.

The purpose of this information is to establish the fact that, niether was Baloristan a part of Kabul suba nor was Dir. It was much later that they became part of NWFP or Punjab as it was earlier known ie after the annexation of 1849 by the British.

Dera Ismael Khan, was always a part of suba Multan.

These administrative boundaries lasted till 1739, from then till 1747 the whole of Trans-Indus was part of the Iranian Empire. On the asassination of Nadir Shah, Ahmed Shah Abdali who was a Captain of his bodyguards, moved to Qandhar and also took the bulk of the treasure taken from Lahore and Delhi by Nadir Shah. With this money he established himself as an independent ruler in the eastern regions of the Iranian Empire of Nadir Shah. Till the death of Ahmed Shah Abdali and much later there is no entity known as Afghanistan.Ahmed Shah was called in his lifetime as Badhsha-e-Khurrassan. On his death in 1773 his son, Taimur shah shifted the capital to Kabul by now the Sikhs had started their inroads and raids in the eastern parts of Taimur Shah’s kingdom. By 1823 Sikhs had entered Peshawar area and Hazara was annexed by Sikhs in 1818.

The Nawab of Mankera, Hafiz Mohammad Khan ruled an area till the present Muzaffargarh districts, Kot Addu Tehsil and had in the scramble, conquered, Isa Khel and outskirts of Bannu, the old areas of Kabul kingdom. By 1821, the Nawab of Mankera had lost in subsequent battles to the sikhs his lands and was pensioned off to D. I Khan. Kohat recieved its first Governor of Sikhs in 1834 and by 1836, Ranjit Singh had given  Sultan Mohammad, Kohat, Tiri and Hangu in a service jagir.

Demographically, the census of 1881 was held 2 years after the Treaty of Gandamak by virtue of which Khyber and Michni Pass and Kurram areas became part of the British empire and hence Punjab. Of the old five districts which are the heartland of NWFP, ie D. I Khan, Bannu, Peshawar, Hazara and Kohat the following is the demographic aspect as per the above census quoted:

a) D.I Khan had a total of 73022 pathans out of a total population of 441,649. In the pathans so mentioned the Niazis were 2377 and the Khetran were 1324, both seraiki speakers but somehow included in the pathan total.
b) Bannu had, 141,022 pathans, out of a population of 322,577,of whom the bulk were Jats, Rajputs, awans, Sheikhs, Mughals, syeds etc. then came others like Nais(Barbers), tarkhans(Carpenters), kumar(Potters),Rangrez(Dyers), a similar composition was in earlier mentioned D. I Khan’s figures too.Bannu had Tehsils of Bannu, Marwat, Isa Khel and Mianwali.
c)Hazara, had a population of 407,075 ,the pathans were numbered as 64,695 out of which 16962 were Jaduns, Hindko speakers and 28906 swatis again hindko speakers too but somehow classified as pathans. Hazara had the following tehsils; Abbotabad, Mansehra, and Haripur.
d) Kohat had a population of 181,540 and an area of Kohat, Hangu and Teri tehsils. In 1855 it had a population of 101,232 but a massive immigration caused a large number of pushto speakers from across the Durrand Line to enter in Kohat regions, thus by 1881 the pushto speakers alone stood at 116,431 rest were hindko/kohati speakers all non pushto ie Awans and other allied aborigine races.
e)Peshawar had the following tehsils; Peshawar, Charsadda, Swabi, Mardan and Nowshera. Between 1881 -1931 a span of 50 years the number of Afghan immigrants who entered this district alone were 249,347 a breakdown on 10 yearly basis to further elaborate the immigration factor is:
-1881: 35892(immigrants)
-1891: 56089(immigrants)
-1901: 55537(immigrants)
-1911: 45366(immigrants)
-1921: 30886(immigrants)
-1931: 25577(immigrants)
Therefore in this district the number of pathans keeping in view the above data was the highest in the 1881 census. The figure of Pathans stood at 276,656 but alongwith this came other races namely Awans: 97445, Gujjars: 13514, Baghban(Arians): 21240, Sheikhs: 9596, Jats: 4917, Rajputs: 3181, Mughals : 4538, Nais; 5648, Kashmiris; 13082, Churra: 7653, Tarkhan: 12504, Mochi: 3263 etc etc etc. Here we see that inspite of the massive inroads of Afghan immigrants since 1855 to 1931 the local population of aborigines remained a steady number. All of the above, were non pathans and spoke the orginal local peshawari/hindko dialects.To further elaborate my point, Bannu too had had, a massive inroad of Afghan immigrant between 1855 -1881 as in 1855 Bannu had a population of 237,557 by 1881 it has arisen to 332,577.

Therefore, keeping the above figures in mind, of the inroads of Afghan immigrants speaking the pushto language spanning only over 150 years back cannot justify of renaming an area as that of Pakhtunkhwa.

Coming now to the main linguistic issue. The languages from North to South of the present NWFP now consisting of 25 administrative units including FATA and administration areas spread over 101,741 kilometers has at its base from the north the following languages/dialects:wakhani, besh-gali,wai-ali,pashai,dardic,khowar or chitrali,shini,kashmiri or koshir, kohistani,hindkohi,tianuali of Hazara, awankari of Kohat, dhundi-kairali of Abbotabad, kohati of Kohat, khetrani/jaffari(seraiki) of D. I Khan and mulki of Bannu.

Now reverting to the mother language of all the above stated dialects is dardic, a term coined by the British. Being the base of all the languages/dialects spoken in the Sindh Valley/Present NWFP, by the original aborigines of this land. Even in the past, dardic influence is found amongst the original inhabitabts of Lamghan and nangnahar, even in the Teri Valley.This language was once spoken in areas now, presently inhabited by the Afridi Pathans.

Technically, dardic languages also covered Baltistan and western Tibet, philology, also shows that it had covered nearly the whole of the Sindh Valley. Punjabi and Lahnda still show traces of the earlier dardic mother language.

Ormuri, in South of present Afridi country is again dardic. Similarly, the Waziristan area on the whole was originally an Ormuri area before the influx of the pathans. Khetrani and Jaffari are again laced with the traces of dardic. Sindhi has in the Lari area ie below Hyderabad, the dardic influence.

In the Dir area,before the advent of the pathans, a language called Diri was spoken which has now in certain cases merged in Garwi of the Swat Kohistan. Lower down the Chitral(Kashkar), River which has now become to be known as Kunar River on it’s right bank lived the people who spoke the Pashai , a language of Dehgans of Lamghan. The area inhabited by the Dehgans(was)between west of Lamghan River and the north of boundry of Kafirs & to the east the Kunar River and to the south the Kabul River.

Tirahi was spoken at one time in Nangnahar and Tira Valley and is closely connected with Pashai and Gawar-bati. Khowar is the language of the Khos, the most important tribe of Chitral(Kashkar state) . On its west, comes the kafir languages & on its east, Shina spoken in present Gilgit area. It should also be borne in mind that Khowar is also related to the original Pamir language ie ghal chah.

The new cultures, in the Sindh Valley like the pushto, baluchi, punjabi, urdu, and ofcourse the english have in the last 150 years entered the Sindh Valley but the basic local languages and culture have till now held on. For example, in our canal colonies, of the present Punjab province the canal colonists of 1886 from what is now called East Punjab have given to our original inhabitants of this a derogatory name

The deductions of the above information is that no one speaks for the locals of the Sindh Valley because the intellectual in the literary circles is either an urdu speaker( a language of ganga jumna doaba) or a punjabi, a language spoken between sutlej & jumna ie that of the canal colonies or a baluchi or a pathan. And to top it the english speaker whose very thought process is on a different tangent altogether. The net result is, our old culture, languages & heritage is slowly being merged in a set of new languages and cultures , this is very detrimental to our very base.

If the Sindh Valley has opened its arms to refugees from Afghanistan since  1855 and now they have developed a pressure group in all justice, our old cultures ,languages, and heritage cannot be wiped out which has traditionally stood fast for thousands of years and a massive inroads of various invaders.Under the circumstances “SARHAD” is a good name ,if the name of NWFP has to be changed. It takes in consideration all races, cultures, languages having existed in “NWFP” from time immemorial.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan. Her email is: and tweets at @yasmeen_9

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  • Wequar Azeem  On March 23, 2014 at 6:58 am

    Only the Victors get to write history.
    The masses guided by doctored history are the generations that follow.
    Unfortunately, people in power do not HAVE to be just and fair.
    Power intoxication muddies the sense of fair play.
    Human psychology has not evolved during the recorded history.
    It keeps reminding the curious among us that it is not going to change in next few millenniums.
    Sadly the majority lives in denial, all the same.

  • Akmal Wasim  On March 23, 2014 at 6:59 am

    Dear Ms Yasmeen Ali,
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful historical appraisal of ‘sarhad’.
    Very enlightening indeed. Given my own passion for history I must commend you for your intrinsic knowledge.
    Best regards

    Prof. Mohammad Akmal Wasim
    Advocate Supreme Court
    Head, Litigation & Research
    Legal Aid Office
    Karachi – 75500

    sent from Samsung Mobile

  • viqar ahmed abdi  On March 23, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Wounderfully written article, most informative and all at one place. I lived nearly a life time in formerNWFP and read the traditions of this important area of our country in the old manuals and guide books left by our past rulers in the Miranshah fort in the district head quarters Kohat some pamphlets written by late Mr Awan who was known political service’s officer but no where I found so much of information and in such short brief. very well done.

  • Imtiaz Akhter  On March 23, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Remarkable research.

  • Omar Nasarullah  On March 23, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Dear Yasmeen
    your erudition is mindblowing

    Watching from an igloo, it is my wish
    that your knowledge and ideas,
    would be used to educate the people of this country

    there appears to be little hope
    that the people can use your vast

    the leaders are only shopkeepers,
    busy selling the assets to the highest bidders

    may you be blessed


  • Tarique Hussain  On March 23, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Couldn’t agree with you more. Pakhtunkhwa was adopted as a knee jerk reaction without reflection as can be seen from the need to change it so soon. Unfortunately the new name is even more awkward !

  • KAM  On March 23, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    I recently visited peshawar after 6 years & was looking for neya Pakistan or neya peshawar but was disappointed to see everything at same old pace PTI to make provincial capital a bit of beautiful there is nothing in the name whether its KP or HKP but plz let it KP

    Best Wishes

  • Manzoor Naazer  On March 24, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Respected Madam,

    Hope this will find you in best of your life. I have read your article titled “Renaming NWFP” shared by you on facebook recently but written a few year back. This article is well researched and quite informative. It has really impressed me and prompted me to write these lines.

    I have done Ph. D. in Politics and International Relations and currently work as a Research Associate in a university in Islamabad. I also worked in some newspapers being from Islamabad. Besides, I also write columns /articles for newspapers on occasional basis.

    I belong to Galiat area of district Abbottabad. I always feel dis-comfortable and annoyed over issue of renaming of the province. However, due to my personal problems I was not able to highlight this issue as u did in your article. However, I had suggested the name of Hazara-Pakhtunkwha in 2009 but it was not accepted by then ruling elites.

    Madam, your article is based on facts and deserve special appreciation for raising voice for the rights of original / natives inhabitants of the province. I would be happy if you can help me to provide references in support of your arguments so that a research article can be written and published on the subject. I expect that you would happily write a research article (with references) to make you voice more authentic and louder in support of the real inhabitants of the province. I would also like to request you to provide me references / material on the topic for further research.

  • Shams Zaman  On March 25, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Indeed a very informative and well researched article. Unfortunately I am not much aware of the old history of the region despite that I have pakthoon origins (Mohmamd Agency).

    Most of details in the article will not last very long in my memory as I have moved on from these trivial historical issues.

    The onus of this fuss rests with the ANP who unnecessarily renamed the province just to fuel the dormant ethnic sentiments in other groups of the then NWFP. The ANP history has always been to racial and ethnic oriented which has severely harmed Pakistan’s interests and integration.

    If Pushtuns have the right to rename the province just for their sick ethnic prejudices then others have also the right to demand for separate province.
    The clowns in ANP must now respect the democratic rights of other ethnic groups as well.

  • Shahid Hussain Raja  On March 28, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Reblogged this on Shahid Hussain Raja.

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