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Pashtunistan - 1946-1947

When the Indian independence struggle intensified, Afghanistan stepped up efforts to reclaim NWFP, FATA and parts of Balochistan lost to the Sikhs and the British in the 19th century. The fertile NWFP offered a hope to replace the British subsidies for the economic survival of the Afghan state. Afghanistan actively supported Faqir Ipi in FATA and political groups in both NWFP and Balochistan to position itself favorably with the Pushtoons.

In 1946, when the British government announced its firm resolves to transfer its sovereignty over the sub-continent, the Afghan government advanced territorial claims on the British Indian Empire, demanding the restoration of a large area of the sub-continent on the ground that, with the withdrawal of the British, the 1893 treaty would lapse automatically, thereby claiming that the boundary of Afghanistan in the east was that delimited by Ahmad Shah Durrani's Empire (1747-73). Kabul laid claim to part of northern areas where the Pashtuns live, and even non-Pashtun area of Balochistan, perhaps reaching as far as even the Arabian Sea.

Pakistan rejected extra-territorial claims of Kabul as untenable. To begin with the Pathans living in NWFP and Balauchistan frustrated lndo-Afghan machinations when the Indian National Congress in collaboration with some officers of the British Political Service sponsored the idea of "self-determination" for Pakistani Pashtoors in 1946. Likewise in 1947 people of NWFP and Baluchistan in two separate referenda over-whelmingly voted for Pakistan. The Kabul Government and its agents and collaborators however continued to agitate for Pakhtoonistan.

In 1947, just before it was decided to hold referendum in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) the then Chief Minister of the Province who was heading a Congress Ministry made frantic efforts to have a third option of an independent Pakhtoon State be included in the proposed referendum but Mountbatten refused. Despite the fact that Nehru once admitted to Mountbatten quite candidly that NWFP could not possibly stand by itself, the Congress Committee of the NWFP along with the Red Shirts passed a resolution for the establishment of a Free Pathan State and asked the Central Committee to influence Mountbatten.

The 'Pashhtoonistan' question was raised by Kabul with His Majesty's Government of India (HMG) in June 1947. That was on the eve of British departure from South Asia and the creation of the independent states of India and Pakistan. However, the Afghan govenment was not reconciled. They would not accept the validity of the Durand Line, drawn in 1893, on the grounds that Amir Abdur Rahman had acquiesced to it under duress. But the fact remained that the line was owned and recognized by the successors of Amir Abdur Rahman, as inter-state boundary between Afghanistan and British India. In 1919, Amir Amanullah revalidated the Durand Line in the famous Treaty of Rawalpindi. The position of the Durand Line was once again confirmed in the Afghan-British Treaty of 1921. In 1930, King Nadir Shah confirmed the existing Durand Line to the British Government.

In June 1947, when the provinces and princely states were to chose between India and Pakistan, the Indian National Congress sought to detach the NWFP from Pakistan. First came the demand by the Indian National Congress Working Committee that the voters' choice in NWFP be widened to include independence, and idea rejected by Lord Mountbatten. Afghanistan sent a note to Delhi and London on July 3, 1947 demanding that people of the NWFP and Balochistan in areas west of the River Indus (a land inhabited by Afghans) should be given the right to decide whether their future should lie with India, Afghanistan, or be independent. In July 1947, the British held a referendum in the Settled Districts of the province offering the population the choice of either joining an independent India or a now-inevitable Pakistan. An estimated 56 percent of the eligible voters participated and over 90 percent elected to join Pakistan. A loya jirgah was held in the Tribal Agencies. Offered a choice between joining India or Pakistan, the tribes declared their preference for the latter.

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