“The Afghans saw Pashtunistan as the first sign of the undoing of the Durand Line… to most Afghans, Pashtunistan, meant only the disappearance of the Durand Line, although the true begetters of the idea had taken existence of the Durand Line as the basis of their new national identity” 20
After the assassination of his father, Habibullah Khan, his son, Amir Amanullah Khan, succeeded the throne in 1919. It did not take him long to declare war against the British in May 1919 in a bid to free the country from Britain’s grip of imperialism. The third Anglo-Afghan war was successful in achieving an independent Afghanistan resuming control over her foreign affairs, once again. The treaty of Rawalpindi was signed in 1919 which meant that Afghanistan accepted the frontiers between British India and Afghanistan. The Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1921 recognised Afghanistan’s interest in the tribal areas providing Afghanistan with the legal base for its claims across the Durand Line.21
Amanullah was overthrown in 1929 by a religious revolt in protest of his ‘westernised’ social reforms with the Pashtun Nationalists in the North-West Frontier Province claiming it to being a colonial conspiracy. All this was happening at a time when national movements against British rule in India was on the rise and the country was in “the grip of a political upsurge”22 The disapproval of Amanullah was seen as a colonial conspiracy by Pashtun nationalists in the North West Frontier, who were gaining momentum since the 1930s.
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan also known as ‘Badshah Khan’ meaning ‘King of Chiefs’ emerged, launching the peasant movement of the ‘Khudai Khidmatgars’ (Servants of Gods) or ‘Red Shirts’ as early as the 1920s. He is often called the ‘Frontier Ghandi’ in
Pashtuns of their ‘glorious’ past along the way (Khan, 2005, p.92). He formed an alliance with the Indian National Congress after rinding the Muslim League too pro-British in their approach.
After Britain’s defeat in the Second World War, Britain looked to be declining in India also. The Afghan Government in 1944, headed by Zahir Shah, took the opportunity to remind the British Indian Government that it was interested in the fate of the Pashtuns, East of the Durand Line. The British response was that the matter did not concern Afghanistan since the line in question was a settled international boundary (Dupree, 1973, p.488). The last British Viceroy made this statement regarding the Durand Line in paragraph 17 of the partition agreement on June 3 1947: “Agreements with the tribes on the North-West Frontier of India mil have to be negotiated with the appropriate successor authority” (Dupree, 1973, p.488).
And according to Qureshi, the successor state came to be Pakistan, “the British Government affirmed the Durand Line to be the international frontier and Pakistan to be the successor state of British India in these areas as recognised in international law, through her Secretaries of State for Commonwealth Relations” (Qureshi, 1966, p.103). When Pakistan looked set to be bom, the Khudai Khidmatgar party desired independence as a separate state, giving rise to the ‘Pashtunistan’ notion. On 21 June 1947, a resolution was passed at a meeting of Khudai Khidmatgar’s at Bannu in the North West Frontier calling for an establishment of an independent Pashtunistan with the Faqir of Ipi leading the active underground guerrilla movement for the cause. Unfortunately for the Pashtuns in Afghanistan, calls for an independent Pashtunistan meant that the foreign imposed Durand Line had succeeded in dividing the Pashtun people into two units, despite close linguistic, cultural and historical ties (Anwar, 1988, p.30). Ironically, Afghanistan already means land of the Pashtuns.
This changed what Afghanistan would claim and insist upon regarding the Durand Line and the nature of support the Pashtuns in the North-West of Pakistan would get.
The partition plan in 1947 addressed the North West Frontier Province’s future in a post-British India, offering it the choice to join India or Pakistan in a British sponsored referendum Both the government of Afghanistan and the Khudai Khidmatgar party were deeply unsettled by these terms. Abdul Ghaffar Khan called for the referendum to be boycotted, in protest against the failure of it to include an independent Pashtunistan or joining with Afghanistan as options. The boycott saw 55.5 per cent of eligible voters of the NWFP vote. The plebiscite was only held in the settled areas, where less than one quarter of the Pashtuns live (Qureshi, 1966), as the tribal territories had no electoral system so they did not get to express themselves. It was obvious the Pashtuns would choose Islam, so it was no surprise that 55 per cent of the 55.5 per cent that took part, voted to join Pakistan.
Afghanistan protested against the terms of the plebiscite arguing that the Pashtuns should be given the option of independence or merge with Afghanistan. However, most Pakistani Pashtuns eventually accepted Pakistan’s sovereignty. Ghaffar Khan also accepted the creation of Pakistan with his Khudai Khidmatgars expressing loyalty to the new state at their provincial party meeting in September 1947. The concept of Pashtunistan no longer meant a free state outside the framework of Pakistan. Their political objectives were watered down from an independent Pashtunistan to an autonomous one, “thus a new national identity was imagined and constructed which shared the past with Afghanistan but did not want a future with
it” (Anwar, 1988, p.31).
Afghanistan, therefore, had no choice but to adapt to the NWFP Pashtuns’ wants and desires. The return of annexed Pasthun land across the Durand Line had always been an Afghan demand, however, the Afghan government were eventually “obliged to support an independent Pashtunistan”30 separate from Afghanistan. This shows Afghanistan’s lack in power in determining what happens to the land they so strongly cling onto. Without the support of the Pashtuns east of the Durand Line, Afghanistan has no choice but to go with what they say.
Continue reading – 2.2 Strained relations