Historical Significance
Pakhtunkhwa, Pashtoonkhwa, or Pakhtoonkhwa means “The Land of the Pakhtuns”. This name was used for the area where Pakhtuns were dominant before the creation and forming of modern day Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Historically Pakhtunkhwa the name of the territory or area where the Pashtoons, Pakhtuns or Afghans have lived for a long time, was 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.

Greek historian Herodotus has recorded the area as Paktia, but Pakhto poets from the time of Shahabuddin Mohammad Ghori down to the present age, have been referring to it as Pakhtunkwa. 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”
پختونخواپه مثال شپه وه، دې ډيوه وه په اندهير کښې
(Translation: Pakhtunkhwa was like a night and he [Pir Baba Syed Ali Termezi] was like a candle). Khushal Khan Khattak (1613 – 1689) Pakhtun warrior, poet and tribal chief of the Khattak tribe wrote in his book “Kulyat Khushaal Khan Khattak” writes

“Nora warda Pakhtunkhwa peh zai maishta wa
KhoYao ze de zamaney paka Mansur krdm”

نوره واړه پختونخوا په ځائي مېشتۀ وه

خو يو زه دې زمانې په کښې منصور کړم

(Translation: The whole Pakhtunkhwa stood in its place, only I was made Mansur by time) Another great Pakhtun poet Ameer Hamzar Shinwari (1907 – 1994) writes:

La peh ofaq da Pakhtunkhwa hum zaleydalay na yum,
Ze agha lamr yum da afaq chi rakhataley na yum.

لا په افق د پختونخوا لا ځلېدلے نه يم

زه هغه لمر يم ده افاق چې راختلے نه يم

(Translation: I have not yet shown on the horizon of Pakhtukhwa, I am that universal sun which has not risen.)
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

ده ډيلي تخت هېرووم چې راپه ياد کړم

زما د خپلې پختونخوا د غرو سرونه

(Translation: I forget my Delhi throne when I recall the mountain peaks of my own Pakhtunkhwa). Pakhtu poets and writers have frequently used this name for the area which was later named as North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) by the British rulers after they occupied and separated it from Afghanistan dividing the Pakhtuns into
four divisions. The name Pakhtunkhwa was also used in the modern poetry by contemporary poets
like Qalandar Momand (1930 – 2003) long before it was suggested as the nomenclature for the NWFP.
Besides Pakhtuns, there are many non-Pakhtuns 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 Da Shaer Har w Bahar”, a selection of Pashto poems with a valuable essay on this Afghan language. During Lord Hastings (1786-1796) term a delegation sent to Afghanistan use of the name Pakhtunkhwa is mentioned in Henry George Raverty’s book Notes on Afghanistan and Baluchistan as follows:
“When you lose it altogether and reach the crest of the great western range of Mihtar Suliman or Kohisiyah the outer most slopes of which the extreme boundary in this direction between the territory of Ghazni and Afghanistan or Pushtun khwa.”
In 1867, Dr. Henry Walter Bello in his Pushtu grammar book has referred to Pakhtunkhwa in the following words:
“More especially as the nation though it has for many centuries occupied its present ground at the point of junction between the Indian and Persian empires in the country known as Afghanistan to the stranger and as Pakhtunkhwa to the Afghans or the Pukhtuns.”
Dr. A. H. Dani, a well known historian and archaeologist, told Dawn that
“Pakhunistan is a political name where as Pakhtunkhwa is not. Culturally there’s 
no doubt that the land was called Pakhtunkhwa in Pushtu literature since the 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.”

Political Relevance:
The name Pakhtunkhwa or Pashtunkhwa 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 Pakhtunistan or Pashtunistan.
The Pakhtuns 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 Pakhtuns, live in the
NWFP. This is excluding the roughly 14 million population of the NWFP. According to the 1998 census, 73.9 per cent of NWFP’s population spoke Pashto, 3.86 per cent, largely in Dera Ismail Khan, spoke Saraiki, 0.97 per cent Punjabi, 0.78 per cent Urdu, 0.04 per cent Sindhi and 0.01 per cent Balochi. A significant 20.43 per cent people listed in the “Others” column obviously included speakers of Hindko (believed to around 18 per cent), Chitrali, Gojri and other languages.
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 Pakhtuns.
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, popularly known as Bacha Khan, proposed the name as an alternative to Pakhtunistan to the military dictator, General Zia ul Haq in 1978 when the latter refused to accept the demand from the latter to rename the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) as Pakhtunistan. Presently, what is known as the NWFP is home to the majority of the Pakhtuns or Pashtuns as well as other smaller ethnic groups. The Province borders Afghanistan to the North West, the Northern Areas to the North East, Azad Kashmir to the East, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to the West and South, and the Punjab and Islamabad Capital Territory to the South East. The principal language spoken is Pakhtu or Pashtu and the Provincial capital is Peshawar. The detractors of Pakhtunkhwa say that unlike Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan, there are several linguistic groups in NWFP and hence their opposition to give an assumed purely ethnic name to a Province. However, Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan, also have sizeable linguistic groups, probably more than in the NWFP and these Provinces acquired their respective names to reflect the majority ethnic inhabitants. The main opposition to the name by the Pakistan Muslim Leagues is because of their political base in Hazara. However, the arguments presented don’t have much substance. Hazara division is the biggest division of NWFP and has five districts — Haripur, Abbottabad, Mansehra, Battagram and Kohistan. The population of the area was some 4.5 million in 2005. Hindko is main language in Haripur, Abbottabad and Manshera. Pashto is major language in Battagram, followed by Hindko. Kohistani is the main language in Kohistan district followed by Gujri and Pashto. Pashto is also spoken in pockets of Mansehra and Haripur districts.
Although Hindko is the main language in Hazara division, most of the people who speak Hindko are Afghan by ethnicity. Tanoli, Jadoon, Tareen, Mishwani, Swati, Tahirkheli, Dilazak, etc, are all Afghan by race but speak Hindko. Same is the
case of Kakar, Durrani, Popalzai, Saddozai, Khogyani, Rohila, Ghaznavi, Akhunzadas, etc and several others who belong to Peshawar, Nowshera and Kohat, who speak Hindko but are Afghan/Pakhtun by race. Even the genealogy of Awans of
NWFP is traced to Qutub Shah, who was a prominent ruler of Herat province of Afghanistan.
A very prominent pashtun nationalist leader of 20th century Khan shaheed{Abdusamad Khan Achakzai} named his party as Pashtunkhwa National Awami Party after parting ways with Awami National Party in 1969.
The name Pakhtunkhwa for NWFP was heard for the first time in the 1980s in the Provincial Assembly when the then Awami National Party (ANP) leaders wanted to move a resolution for changing the name of the Province. The matter echoed in the National Assembly in November 1990 when Afzal Khan of PDA referred to the NWFP as Pakhtunkhwa. The name Pakhtunkhwa is popular with the ordinary Pakthun and has been approved by the democratically elected Provincial Assembly, in 1997 and again in 2008. In the general elections in 2008 Pakhtunkhwa was one of the
most important election slogans of ANP and people voted for it. But it should also be made clear that support for the name Pakhtunkhwa as the new name of the province is not any more confined to Pakhtunn nationalists. Pakhtunkhwa as the name for NWFP has attracted the support of the mainstream political parties such as Pakistan Peoples Party [Parliamentarian], JUI [f], PPP [Sherpao], National Party Pakistan, MQM, PML [F] and a number of other parties of Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan. If Pakhtunkhwa is approved by the parliament as the new name of the province the credit will belong to all the democratic political forces of the country. The proposed change if approved by the parliament will be a big boost for the state–building and nation-buillding process in Pakistan as Pakhtuns will feel more integrated after having proper identity in Pakistan. We should also keep it in mind that names like NWFP, FATA and PATA sound more like chemistary formulas than a name with cultural identity. It is worth mentioning that the name Pakhtunkhwa was used for the first time in the United Nation’s General Assembly by Pakistan’s head of state, President Asif Ali Zardari on September 26, 2008 in his address to the General Assembly.People of Pakistan have already accepted the name. We hope the democratic political forces will implement it.