Afghans are Pashtuns, Pashtuns are Afghans

Posted: February 11, 2018 in Afghanistan, Pashtun

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 As a consequence of the May 1879 Treaty of Gandamak after the Second Afghan War, Britain had taken control of Afghanistan’s foreign affairs. This treaty also gave Britain control over traditional Pashtun territory west of the Indus including Peshawar and the Khyber Pass.

After the Panjdeh incident a joint Anglo-Russian boundary commission, without any Afghan participation, fixed the Afghan border with Turkestan, which was the whole of Russian Central Asia, now Kirghizstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Thus, as a consequence of the competition between Britain and Russia, a new country, the Afghanistan we know today, was created to serve as the buffer.

Historically Pashtuns/Pakhtuns/Pathans and Afghans refer to the same people. The Pashtuns, who live east of the Durand line live in the mountainous areas and are made up of tribes such as the Afridi, Orakzai, Shinwari, Bangash and Turis. West of the Khyber, in today’s Afghanistan, live the Pashtuns consisting mainly of two great tribes – the Durranis also known as Abdalis and the Ghilzais.

In 1901 the British created the NWFP de-linking Pathan lands from Afghanistan and Punjab. They further divided NWFP into the settled districts that were directly administered by the British and five autonomous Tribal Agency areas ruled by local chieftains but with British Agents keeping an eye on them, as in the Indian princely states.

From the very beginning the Durand Line was not an international border but a line of control. The Simon Commission Report of 1930 stated quite explicitly: “British India stopped at the boundary of the administered area.”

When Pakistan came into being the vast majority of Muslims residing in what is now India stayed back and a Muslim homeland was fashioned out of Punjab, Sind, East Bengal and an unwilling North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which actually voted against the separatist Muslim League in the 1946 elections.

The British administered Tribal Agencies (now FATA) did not vote. Baluchistan at that time consisted of the independent state of Kalat ruled by the Khan, and the Quetta region that was leased by the British in 1876.

Gwadar and most of the Makran district in what is now in the Baluchistan Province of Pakistan, was under the control of the Sultan of Muscat, who relinquished it to Pakistan only in 1958.

The US National Intelligence Council 2008 report on “Global Trends 2025 states: “The future of Pakistan is a wildcard in considering the trajectory of neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and tribal areas probably will continue to be poorly governed and the source or supporter of cross-border instability.

If Pakistan is unable to hold together until 2025, a broader coalescence of Pashtun tribes is likely to emerge and act together to erase the Durand Line, maximizing Pashtun space at the expense of the Punjabis in Pakistan and the Tajiks and others in Afghanistan.”

And this is what Afghanistan’s revered national poet, Khushal Khan Khattak, has to say who the Afghans are:

“Pull out your sword and slay any one,
That says Pashtun and Afghan are not one.
Arabs know this and so do Romans,
Afghans are Pashtuns, Pashtuns are Afghans.”

  1. arivind says:

    A right picture of state of Pakistan


  2. Dilip says:

    Discipline. And fierce loyalty to the crown. High quality diplomacy, and professionalism


  3. Nandan Vaidya says:

    How did British reach, control and administer such vast geographical area ? What special skills they had to be so so good at controlling all kind of people and lands ?
    What was administrative mechanism to achieve this extraordinary feat ?


  4. Southern Afghanistan and NWFP ane the traditional homeland of the Pathan.

    There are more Pathans in India than in Pakistan and Afghanistan put together.

    In Tamil Nadu, the Patani are descended from Pathan men and Tamil women.

    Mostly non-Pathan people live in northern Afghanistan.


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