It was a long standing wish and a demand from the majority of Pashtuns in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) to rename the province to better represent their identity. The British regime had named the province as NWFP in 1901 but it remained the same from 1947 to 2010 even under the government of Pakistan. Therefore, the Awami National Party (ANP) decided to take up this mission in their election mandate in the post-2008 elections era. After the elections, the ANP formed a coalition provincial government with the Pakistan People's Party. The strongholds of the party are in the Pashtun areas of Pakistan, in particular in Peshawar. The ANP also won two seats in Sindh assembly because there are roughly seven million Pashtuns in and around Karachi.

The ANP sought to rename the province "Pakhtunkhwa" which means "Land of Pakhtuns" in the local language. This proposed name has been opposed by some non-Pashtuns in the province and also by some leading political actors, namely Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N); and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). The PML-N has a stronghold in non-Pashtun Hazara region of the province and MMA was the ruling party in the province until 2008.

In early 2010, it was decided by the then provincial government of NWFP, under the leadership of ANP, to finally have a new name for the province. This triggered a wave of anger and protests in the Hazara region. The protestors in Hazara demanded a separate province for their people. However, out of respect for the democratic principles, on 15 April 2010, the province was official named as "Khyber Pakhtunkhawa" through the 18th amendment in the constitution of Pakistan.

The discussions to rename the province were not free from criticism, concerns and demands from various political factions. Therefore, to accommodate the view of the majority, it was finally decided to call the province "Khyber Pakhtunkhwa". Geographically the province remains the same - bordering Afghanistan to the north-west, Gilgit-Baltistan to the north-east, Azad Jammu & Kashmir to the east, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to the west and south, Baluchistan to the south and Punjab and the Islamabad Capital Territory to the southeast. The majority ethnic group in the province is the Pashtuns (Pakhtuns). Kyber Pakhtunkhwa is comprised of 24 districts and Peshawar is the provincial capital.

Renaming a city or a province costs a lot of money and according to estimate it is likely to cost the government more than Rs. 5 billion (approximately £40 million sterling) to change the name of the province on official documents, stationary and websites. Also the name "Khyber Pakhtunkhwa" surprised many around the country, in particular in the province. Even the Pakhtunkhwa Jamhoori Tarun party rejected the name and also said that they had never heard of this name before due to an addition of "Khyber". Once the new name was approved, violent protests broke out in Hazara. According to a report seven people lost their lives and over 100 were injured on 12 April 2010 when police used force to break up a protest against the renaming of NWFP as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The protestors were politically motivated and guided by leaders of the PML-N and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q). Although the anti-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa protests are now over, there still remain questions on the sustainability of peace over the situation in the province over this controversial issue.

It seems that the majority Pashtuns in the province are contended with the new name but the minority in Hazara Division are feeling as if their rights and concerns are being denied. As it has become a political issue and not a social conflict, concerned political parties need to show some maturity to resolve the issue once and for all by respecting the decision by the majority in the provincial and national assemblies, the senate and the president.

Click to review a video of the protests in Hazara.

Zahid Ahmed Shahab, Pakistan Local Correspondent. 12 May 2010