Pakhtunkhwa,Pukhtunkhwa, Pashtoonkhwa, or Pashtunkhwa (Pashto: پښتونخوا) is the name used by the majority Pashtun people for the Pashtun areas of Pakistan. More recently it has been again used by the nationalist Pashtun people in Pakistan as the name by which they would like to rename the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) with, known unofficially as Sarhad (Urdu/Persian: سرحد) sincel 1901 to some people as Afghania since 1933, to some people as Pakhtunkhwa and to some people as Pakhtunistan.
Pakhtunkhwa, Pashtoonkhwa, or Pakhtoonkhwa means "near the Pakhtuns. The nationalist Pakhtuns claim Pakhtunkhwa is an old name of the area inhabited by Pakhtuns. But in fact Pakhtoon leader Bacha Khan proposed this name as alternative to Pakhtunistan to military dictator General Ziaul Haq in 1978 when the latter refused to accept the demand from the latter to rename the NWFP as Pakhtunistan. Greek historian Herodotus had recorded it as Paktia, but Pakhto poets from the time of Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori down to the present age, have been mentioning it as Pakhtunkhwa.
The earliest available historical proof is Akhund Darweza's (d. 1638) Makhzanul Islam (written between 1603 and 1612). A verse in this book reads: "Pakhtunkhwa pa misal shpa wa, dai deewa wo pa andher ke" (Translation: Pakhtunkhwa was like a night and he [Pir Baba Syed Ali Termezi] was like a candle).
Dr. A. H. Dani, a well known historian and archaeologist, presently the Director of the Islamabad-based Center for the Study of the Civilizations of Central Asia, told Dawn that Pakhtunistan is a political name but Pakhtunkhwa is not. "Culturally there is no doubt that the land was called Pakhtunkhwa in Pushtu literature since 15th century (we have a trace of literature since that time only). The term has been applied for both tribal and settled areas, he added.
Similarly, the often-quoted two lines of a poem by Ahmad Shah Abdali (1723-1773), the Founding Father of Afghan state, clearly mention Pakhtunkhwa as the land of the Pashtoons or Pakhtuns. Here are the lines:
Da Dehli takht herawoma che rayad kram Zama da khpale Pakhtunkhwa da ghro saroona
(Translation: I forget my Dehli throne when I recall the mountain peaks of my own Pakhtunkhwa).
After him Pashto poets and writers have frequently used this name for the area which was later named as North Western Frontier Province by the Britons after they occupied and separated it from Afghanistan dividing the Pashtoons into four divisions.
The word Pakhtunkhwa was also used in the modern poetry by contemporary poets like Qanaldar Momand (1930-2003) long before it was suggested as the nomenclature for the NWFP.
Besides Pashtoons, there are many non-Pashtoons who have mentioned this name in their writings. A book by French orientalist James Darmesteter (March 28, 1849-October 10, 1894) has the title, "Da Pakhtunkhwa Bagh w Bahar", a selection of Pashto poems with a valuable essay on this Afghan language.
Pakhtunkhwa the name of the territory or area where the Pashtoons/Pakhtuns/Afghans have lived for a long time, is an area between the river Oxus from the north and river Indus from the south east, in its north east Himalayan mountain ranges and in the west its boundaries lies with the Russian states.
Pakhtunkhwa is home to the majority Pakhtuns (Pashtuns) as well as other smaller ethnic groups. The province borders Afghanistan to the northwest, the Northern Areas to the northeast, Azad Kashmir to the east, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to the west and south, and Pakistani Punjab and Islamabad Capital Territory to the southeast. The principal language is Pashto and the provincial capital is Peshawar.
The name Pakhtunkhwa for NWFP was heard for the first time in 1980s in the Provincial Assembly when the than ANP leaders wanted to move a resolution for changing the name. At that time the ANP or any other party did not press for the adoption of the resolution any further as the than Speaker of the Provincial Assembly Masoud Kosar ruled that the MPA's were free to call their province whatever name they liked and this freedom todate has not/cannot been denied.
The matter echoed in the National Assembly in November 1990 when Afzal Khan of PDA referred to the province as Pakhtunkhwa.
The name Pakhtunkhwa is very popular with the ordinary Pukhtun people and has been approved by the democratically elected constitutional assembly of the province, in 1997 by a 53:02 (45 abstentions) majority vote.
Some 53 percent of the total lawmakers of the NWFP Assembly voted in favour of the Pakhtunkhwa name when a resolution was moved and passed by the provincial assembly in November 1997. The 47 percent legislators opted for opposition and abstentions but the opposition only amounted to two members both of whom were Pakhtuns. The supposed lack of support is said by the PML-N to be due to the nationalistic politics being pursued by the Awami National Party.
The detractors of Pakhtunkhwa say that unlike Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan, there are several linguisitic groups in NWFP, and hence their opposition to give an assumed purely ethnic name to a province. However Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan, do have very sizable far more linguistic groups than in the NWFP and yet the Punjab based PML-N are ever so busy creating anti-Pakhtunkhwa groups in the several districts of the province which have very active politically motivated PML-N locals.
While the concept was first mentioned in the twentieth century by Khan Abdul Wali Khan and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the proposed name change has recently, drawn local criticism from the region's some Pashtoon and some non-Pashtun communities, notably the Hindkowans, Seraikis. Chitralis and other non-Pashto speaking inhabitants of the province who say/claim they are in total 50 percent of the whole population of the province.
Former president Zia-ul-Haq agreed with Bacha Khan to change the name but he contended that the term Pashtunistan had become controversial and was being politicized by Afghanistan. Bacha Khan suggested Pakhtunkhwa. But, again, some hitch was created and Zia-ul-Haq asked Bacha Khan to suggest another name. At other times, Afghania has also been suggested as a possible alternative name for the province.
Within the NWFP Provincial Assembly the first party to table a bill for the renaming of NWFP was the Pakistan Peoples Party NWFP chapter under Aftab Ahmad Sherpao. Sherpao cleverly exploited the renaming issue to cause a split between the Awami National Party and its right wing allies (traditional opponents of the ANP's progressive/social/liberal/non-confrontational politics and in particular renaming NWFP). The bill failed to pass in its first attempt but the issue did anger opponents in the party of the ANP's alliance with the Pakistan Muslim League (PML). The ANP leadership, however, cited its lack of a majority in the provincial assembly and how the issue has not been placed as part of a formal agreement with the leader of the Muslim League Nawaz Sharif as a reason for the bill's failure to pass. Prior to the 1997 general elections, the ANP claimed having obtained a formal commitment from Nawaz Sharif on the renaming issue as part of their pre-election political/electoral alliance.
After the alliances victory in the 1997 elections, the PPP under Aftab Sherpao again tabled a bill for a resolution on the renaming issue in the provincial assembly. The issue was eventually taken up by the Assembly in the latter half of 1997, and after a brief debate the NWFP Assembly speaker Hidayatullah Chamkani called the issue to a vote asking those members opposing the issue to stand up. This move caught the Muslim League members off guard as they had already decided they would not support the renaming issue. The Pakhtoonkhwa resolution was supported by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Jamaat-e-Islami, and the Jamiat Ulema -i- Islam (JUI) (F) while the PML with 37 members abstained. It was opposed only by two members both Pakhtuns - from the PML (J) Salim Saifullah and Humayun Saifullah.
The name "Pakhtunkhwa" should be understood as it draws support as well as opposition within Pakistan and should thus be understood on its own terms, independent of Afghanistan's claim over Pashtunistan/Pakhtunistan. In Pakistan, the Pashtuns are the majority ethnic group in the NWFP, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and northern Balochistan. About two-thirds of the two million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, who are mostly ethnic Pashtuns, live in the NWFP. This is excluding the roughly 14 million population of the NWFP (as per the 1998 census). According to the NWFP government statistics, 68 per cent of people in the province speak Pashto, 18 per cent speak Hindko, 8 per cent speak Seraiki and about 2 per cent speak Urdu and Punjabi. Proponents of the struggle to rename the British-created NWFP, such as Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Khan Abdul Wali Khan, viewed it as not just a change of name, but as an issue of safeguarding the provincial autonomy and more importantly preserving the indigenous culture and language of the Pashtuns. Much of the supposed opposition to this move is said to come from the non-Pashtun ethnic minorities in the province, in the Chitral district and in Hazara division.
This information is supported by traditional Pashto literature, for example, in the writings of the 17th-century Pashto poet Khushal Khan Khattak:
In May 2008 to accommodate a demand by the people of NWFP who voted for the ANP, the PPP proposed that the name of the North-West Frontier Province be changed to Pakhtoonkhwa,, however the Muslim League Nawaz which has considerable support in the Hindko speaking Hazara region of the province announce it may oppose the name change because of it "being on ethnic grounds" due to opposition by its provincial leadership, yet the party fails to explain the fact that the names of the other three provinces, Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan do represent the ethnic identity of their majority populace, despite how they camouflage this fact with their version of the history of these provinces. 
Realising the opposition to Pakhtoonkha name, Awami National Party has of late started softening its stance on the issue. The ANP central president Asfandyar Wali Khan and NWFP President Afrasiab Khattak have suggested Afghania (the abode of the Afghans)as a new name for NWFP, instead of Pakhtunkhwa. Asfandyar Wali Khan suggested the Afghania name while speaking at a party gathering at Nishtar Hall, Peshawar in January 2009 held to mark the death anniversaries of Fakhr-e-Afghan Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (called Bacha Khan by his supporters)and Khan Abdul Wali Khan. He repeated the suggestion again while addressing newsmen outside the National Assembly. Afrasiab have been suggesting Afghania as a new name for NWFP since 1997 when opposition surfaced (from Punjab) after the NWFP Assembly passed the only renaming resolution in favour of Pakhtunkhwa by 53:02 (45 abstentions) majority vote.
The name Pakhtunkhwa was mentioned for the first time in the United Nation's General Assembly by Pakistani President Asif Zardari on 26 September 2008.
Pashtunkhwa- A Development Framework