Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
  • خیبر پختونخوا  
  •   خیبر پښتونخوا
KP flag
KP logo
Nickname(s): Frontier, Frontier Province, Sarhad
Location of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within Pakistan
Location of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within Pakistan
Coordinates (Peshawar): 34°00′N 71°19′E / 34.00°N 71.32°E / 34.00; 71.32Coordinates: 34°00′N 71°19′E / 34.00°N 71.32°E / 34.00; 71.32
Country  Pakistan
Established 14 August 1947
re-established 1 July 1970
Capital Peshawar
Largest city Peshawar
 • Type Province
 • Body Provincial Assembly
 • Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra (PML(N))[1]
 • Chief Minister Pervez Khattak (PTI)
 • Chief Secretary Amjad Ali Khan
 • Legislature Unicameral (124 seats)
 • High Court Peshawar High Court
 • Total 74,521 km2 (28,773 sq mi)
Population (2011)[2]
 • Total 27,296,829
 • Density 370/km2 (950/sq mi)
Time zone PKT (UTC+5)
Area code(s) 9291
ISO 3166 code PK-KP
Main Language(s)
Other languages: Hindko, Khowar, Kalami, Torwali, Maiya, Bateri, Kalkoti, Chilisso, Gowro, Kalasha, Palula, Dameli, Gawar-Bati, Yidgha, Burushaski, Wakhi
Notable sports teams Peshawar Zalmi
Peshawar Panthers
Abbottabad Falcons
Assembly seats 124
Districts 26
Union Councils 986

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (abbreviated as KP; Urdu: خیبر پختونخوا‎ ; Pashto: خیبر پښتونخوا‎)[1] is one of the four provinces of Pakistan, located in the northwestern region of the country. It was formerly known as North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and commonly called Sarhad, which in Urdu means "frontier." Its provincial capital and largest city is Peshawar, followed by Mardan. It shares borders with the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to the west; Gilgit–Baltistan to the northeast; Azad Kashmir, Islamabad and Punjab to the east and southeast. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa does not share a border with Balochistan, which lies to its southwest. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also shares an international border with Afghanistan, connected through the Khyber Pass.

It is also the site of the ancient kingdom Gandhara, the ruins of its capital, Pushkalavati, (modern day Charsadda), and the most prominent center of learning in the Peshawar Valley, Takht-i-Bahi. It has been under the suzerainty of the Persians, Greeks, Mauryans, Kushans, Shahis, Ghaznavids, Mughals, Afghanistan, Sikhs, and British Empire throughout its long history. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the third largest province of Pakistan by the size of both population and economy though it is geographically the smallest of four.[3] It comprises 10.5% of Pakistan's economy, and is home to 11.9% of Pakistan's total population, with the majority of the province's inhabitants being Pashtuns, Hazarewal, Chitrali, and Kohistanis.

Since the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a major theatre of militancy and terrorism which intensified when the Taliban began an unsuccessful attempt to seize the control of the province in 2004. With the launch of Zarb-e-Azb against the Taliban insurgency, the casualty and crime rates in the country as a whole dropped by 40.0% as compared to 2011–13, with even greater drops noted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,[4] despite the province capital being the site of a massacre of schoolchildren on 16 December 2014.


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa means "Khyber side of the land of Pakhtuns"[5] while only the word Pakhtunkhwa means "Land of Pakhtuns"[6] and according to some scholars it means "Pakhtun culture and society".[7]

When the British established it as a province, they called it "North West Frontier Province" (abbreviated as NWFP) due to its relative location being in north west of their Indian Empire.[8] After independence of Pakistan, Pakistan continued with this name but a Pakhtun nationalist party, Awami National Party demanded that the province name be changed to "Pakhtunkhwa".[9] Their logic behind that demand was that Punjabi people, Sindhi people and Balochi people have their provinces named after their ethnicities but that is not the case for Pashtun people.[10]

Major political parties especially Pakistan Muslim League (N) were against that name since it was too similar to Bacha Khan's demand of separate nation "Pashtunistan".[11] They wanted to name the province something other than which does not carry Pakhtun identity in it as there were other minor ethnicities living in the province especially Hindkowans who spoke Hindko dialect of Punjabi language thus the word Khyber was introduced with the name because it is the name of a major pass which connects Pakistan to Afghanistan.[10]


Early history[edit]

The ancient Aryan Migration is believed to have taken place around 2000 BCE, when semi-nomadic peoples entered the Gangetic plains of India after having passed modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Khyber Pass.[12]

Standing Buddha, in the style of Gandhara.
Approximate boundaries of the Gandharan Empire, Alexander Army also passed through this area centered on the modern day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan

The Indo-Greek Gandharan civilization, which reached its zenith between the sixth and first centuries BCE, and which features prominently in the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharatha,[13] had one of its cores over the modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

At around 516 BCE., Darius Hystaspes sent Scylax, a Greek seaman from Karyanda, to explore the course of the Indus river. Darius Hystaspes subsequently subdued the races dwelling west of the Indus and north of Kabul. Gandhara was incorporated into the Persian Empire as one of its far easternmost satrapy system of government. The satrapy of Gandhara is recorded to have sent troops for Xerxes' invasion of Greece in 480 BCE.[citation needed]

In the spring of 327 BCE Alexander the Great crossed the Indian Caucasus (Hindu Kush) and advanced to Nicaea, where Omphis, king of Taxila and other chiefs joined him. Alexander then dispatched part of his force through the valley of the Kabul River, while he himself advanced into modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Bajaur and Swat regions with his troops.[13] Having defeated the Aspasians, from whom he took 40,000 prisoners and 230,000 oxen, Alexander crossed the Gouraios (Panjkora River) and entered into the territory of the Assakenoi - also in modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Alexander then made Embolima (thought to be the region of Amb in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) his base. The ancient region of Peukelaotis (modern Hashtnagar, 17 miles (27 km) north-west of Peshawar) submitted to the Greek invasion, leading to Nicanor, a Macedonian, being appointed satrap of the country west of the Indus, which includes the modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.[14]

After Alexander's death in 323 BCE Porus obtained possession of the region, but was murdered by Eudemus in 317 BCE. Eudemus then left the region, and with his departure Macedonian power collapsed. Sandrocottus (Chandragupta), the founder of the Mauryan dynasty, then declared himself master of the province. His grandson, Ashoka, made Buddhism the dominant religion in ancient Gandhara.[14]

Relics of the Buddha from the ruins of the Kanishka stupa at Peshawar -now in Mandalay, Myanmar.

After Ashoka's death the Mauryan empire collapse, just as in the west the Seleucid power was rising. The Greek princes of neighboring Bactria (in modern Afghanistan) took advantage of the power vacuum to declare their independence. The Bactrian kingdoms were then attacked from the west by the Parthians and from the north (about 139 BCE) by the Sakas, a Central Asian tribe. Local Greek rulers still exercised a feeble and precarious power along the borderland, but the last vestige of Greek dominion was extinguished by the arrival of the Yueh-chi.[14]

The Yueh-Chi were a race of nomads that were themselves forced southwards out of Central Asia by the nomadic Xiongnu people. The Kushan clan of the Yuek Chi seized vast swathes of territory under the rule of Kujula Kadphises. His successors, Vima Takto and Vima Kadphises, conquered the north-western portion of the Indian subcontinent. Vima Kadphises was then succeeded by his son, the legendary king Kanishka, who himself was succeeded by Huvishka, and Vasudeva I.[14] Under the reign of Vasudeva, who abandoned Buddhism in favor of Hinduism, the dominions of the Kushan empire shrank to an area roughly approximating the boundaries of modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Common Era[edit]

Asia in 565 CE, showing the Shahi kingdoms, centered on modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

During the early 1st millennium CE, prior to Muslim conquests, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region was ruled by the Shahi dynasty. The early Shahi kings were Buddhist, like their Kushan predecessors prior to the reign of Vasudeva. The later Shahi kings of Kabul and Gandhara were Hindu, and had strong ties to ruling dynasties in neighboring regions of modern Kashmir and Punjab. The Hindu Shahis are believed to have been a ruling elite of a predominantly Buddhist, Hindu and Shamanistic population and were thus patrons of numerous faiths. Various artefacts and coins from their rule have been found that show evidence of their multicultural domain. By the time the Chinese monk Xuanzang visited the region early in the 7th century, the region was ruled by affiliates of the Shahi kings, but was no longer under direct rule of the Shahis, whose efforts were focused on regions to the east of modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Shahi suzerainty continued in the region until 870 CE when local noblemen began to carve out their own fiefdoms largely independent of Shahi control, but nominally subservient to the Shahi dynasty. The remnants of Shahi rule were wiped out by Mahmud of Ghazni after the defeat of Jayapala at the Battle of Peshawar on November 27, 1001.

Early Islamic[edit]

When Ghazni arrived in the region, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Shamanism were the prominent religions. Local Pashtun and Dardic tribes converted to Islam, while retaining some local traditions (albeit altered by Islam) such as Pashtunwali or the Pashtun code of honor. Vestiges of shamanism are still to be found in the Chitral Valley, where the Kalash people still practice their pre-Islamic faith.

Between 963 and 1187 CE, the area of modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa became part of larger Islamic empires, including the Ghaznavid Empire (975-1187), headed by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, and the empire of Muhammad Shahabuddin Ghauri (reigned 1202–1206). The Ghaznavid domain included large swathes of modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. It was ruled from its capital at Lahore from 1151 to 1186.

Following the collapse of Ghaznavid rule, local Pashtuns of the Delhi Sultanate controlled the region. Several Turkic and Pashtun dynasties ruled from Delhi, having shifted their capital from Lahore to Delhi. Several Muslim dynasties ruled modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the Delhi Sultanate period: the Mamluk dynasty (1206–90), the Khilji dynasty (1290–1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1413), the Sayyid dynasty (1414–51), and the Lodi dynasty (1451–1526).

Yusufzai Pashtun tribes from the Kabul and Jalalabad valleys began migrating to the Valley of Peshawar beginning in the 15th century,[15] and displaced the Dilazak Pashtun tribes across the Indus River.[15]


Mughal suzerainty over the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region was partially established after Babar, the founder of the Mughal Empire, invaded the region in 1505 CE via the Khyber Pass. The Mughal Empire noted the importance of the region as a weak point in their empire's defenses,[16] and determined to hold Peshawar and Kabul at all cost against any threats from the Uzbek Shaybanids.[16]

He was forced to retreat westwards to Kabul, but returned to defeat the Lodis in July 1526, when he captured Peshawar from Daulat Khan Lodi,[17] though the region was never considered to be fully subjugated to the Mughals.[15]

Under the reign of Babar's son, Humayun, direct Mughal rule was briefly challenged with the rise of the Pashtun king, Sher Shah Suri, who began construction of the famous Grand Trunk Road - which links Kabul, Afghanistan with Chittagong, Bangladesh over 2000 miles to the east. Later, local rulers once again pledged loyalty to the Mughal emperor.

Yusufzai tribes rose against Mughals during during the Yusufzai Revolt of 1667,[16] and engaged in pitched-battles with Mughal battalions in Peshawar and Attock.[16] Afridi tribes resisted Aurangzeb rule during the Afridi Revolt of the 1670s.[16] The Afridis massacred a Mughal battalion in the Khyber Pass in 1672 and shut the pass to lucrative trade routes.[18] Following another massacre in the winter of 1673, Mughal armies led by Emperor Aurangzeb himself regained control of the entire area in 1674,[16] and enticed tribal leaders with various awards in order to end the rebellion.[16]

Referred to as the "Father of Pashto literature" and hailing from the city of Akora Khattak, the warrior-poet Khushal Khan Khattak actively participated in revolt against the Mughals, and became renowned for his poems that celebrated the rebellious Pashtun warriors.[16]


On 18 November 1738, Peshawar was captured from the Mughal governor Nawab Nasir Khan by the Safavid armies during the Persian invasion of the Mughal Empire under Nader Shah.[19][20] During the chaotic post-Mughal period, Peshawar in 1747 was taken by Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the Afghan Durrani Empire,[21] following a grand nine-day long meeting known as th Loya Jirga that took place after Nader Shah's death.[22]

The area fell subsequently under the rule of Ahmed Shah Durrani, founder of the Durrani Empire. Muslim rule was interrupted by a brief invasion of the Hindu Marathas, who established a tenuous rule over the region from 1758 following the 1758 Battle of Peshawar. Durrani rule was re-established eleven months later in early 1759.[23]

Under the reign of Timur Shah, the Mughal practice of using Kabul as a summer capital and Peshawar as a winter capital was reintroduced,[15][24] Peshawar's Bala Hissar Fort served as the residence of Durrani kings during their winter stay in Peshawar.

Mahmud Shah Durrani, became king, and quickly sought to seize Peshawar from his half-brother, Shah Shujah Durrani.[25] Shah Shujah was then himself proclaimed king in 1803, and recaptured Peshawar while Mahmud Shah was imprisoned at Bala Hissar fort until his eventual escape.[25] In 1809, the British sent an emissary to the court of Shah Shujah in Peshawar, marking the first diplomatic meeting between the British and Afghans.[25] Mahmud Shah allied himself with the Barakzai Pashtuns, and amassed an army in 1809, and captured Peshawar from his half-brother, Shah Shujah, establishing Mahmud Shah's second reign,[25] which lasted under 1818.


Ranjit Singh invaded Peshawar in 1818 and captured it from the Durranis.[26] The Sikh Empire based in Lahore did not immediately secure direct control of the Peshawar region, but rather paid nominal tribute to Jehandad Khan of Khattak, who was nominated by Ranjit Singh to be ruler of the region.

After Ranjit Singh's departure from the region, Khattak's rule was undermined and power seized by Yar Muhammad Khan.[26] In 1823, Ranjit Singh returned to capture Peshawar, and was met by the armies of Azim Khan at Nowshera.[26] Following the Sikh victory at the Battle of Nowshera, Ranjit Singh re-captured Peshawar.[26] Rather than re-appointing Jehandad Khan of Khattak, Ranjit Singh selected Yar Muhammad Khan to once again rule the region.[26]

The Sikh Empire annexed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region following advances from the armies of Hari Singh Nalwa[26] An 1835 attempt by Dost Muhammad Khan to re-occupy Peshawar failed when his army declined to engage in combat with the Dal Khalsa.[26] Dost Muhammad Khan's son, Mohammad Akbar Khan engaged with Sikh forces the Battle of Jamrud of 1837, resulting in the death of Hari Singh Nalwa.

During Sikh rule, an Italian name Paolo Avitabile was appointed administrator of Peshawar, and is remembered for having unleashed a reign of fear there. The city's famous Mahabat Khan, built in 1630 in the Jeweler's Bazaar, was badly damaged and desecrated by the Sikh conquerors.[27]

Sikh settlers from Punjab were settled in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. Peshawar's only remaining Gurdwaras were built by Hari Singh Nalwa to accommodate the newly-settle Sikhs.[28] The Sikhs also rebuilt the Bala Hissar fort during their occupation of the Peshawar.[25]

British Raj[edit]

Main article: British Raj

British East India Company defeated the Sikhs during the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849, and incorporated small parts of the region into the Province of Punjab. While Peshawar was the site of a small mutiny against British during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, local Pashtun tribes throughout the region generally remained neutral and supportive of the British as they detested the Sikhs,[12] in contrast to other parts of British India which rose up in revolt against the British. However, British control of parts of the region was routinely challenged by Wazir tribesmen in Waziristan and other Pashtun tribes, who resisted any foreign occupation until the British granted Pakistan its independence. By the late 19th century, the official boundaries of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region still had not been defined as the region was still claimed by the Kingdom of Afghanistan. It was only in 1893 The British demarcated the boundary with Afghanistan under a treaty agreed to by the Afghan king, Abdur Rahman Khan, following the Second Anglo-Afghan War.[29] Several princely states within the boundaries of the region were allowed to maintain their autonomy under the terms of maintaining friendly ties with the British. As the British war effort during World War One demanded the reallocation of resources from British India to the European war fronts, some tribesmen from Afghanistan crossed the Durand Line in 1917 to attack British posts in an attempt to gain territory and weaken the legitimacy of the border. The validity of the Durand Line, however, was re-affirmed in 1919 by the Afghan government with the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi,[30] which ended the Third Anglo-Afghan War - a war in which Waziri tribesmen allied themselves with the forces of Afghanistan's King Amanullah in their resistance to British rule. The Wazirs and other tribes, taking advantage of instability on the frontier, continued to resist British occupation until 1920 - even after Afghanistan had signed a peace treaty with the British.

British campaigns to subdue tribesmen along the Durand Line, as well as three Anglo-Afghan wars, made travel between Afghanistan and the densely populated heartlands of Khyber Pakhtunkwa increasingly difficult. The two regions were largely isolated from one another from the start of the Second Anglo-Afghan War in 1878 until the start of World War Two in 1939 when conflict along the Afghan frontier largely dissipated. Concurrently, the British continued their large public works projects in the region, and extended the Great Indian Peninsula Railway into the region, which connected the modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region to the plains of India to the east. Other projects, such as the Attock Bridge, Islamia College University, Khyber Railway, and establishment of cantonments in Peshawar, Kohat, Mardan, and Nowshera further cemented British rule in the region. In 1901, the British carved out the northwest portions of Punjab to create the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), which was renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2010.

Disassociation from Afghanistan, and increased connectivity to Punjab and the Gangetic Plains beyond Punjab, had a profound effect on Pashtun tribes living on the British side of the Durand Line. With few exception of the tribesmen living close to the border with Afghanistan, the vast majority of Pashtuns under British held areas increasingly viewed themselves as Indians, and found it easier to travel to Lahore and Delhi than to Kabul or Kandahar. Large numbers of Pashtuns also enlisted in the British Indian Army, and were stationed throughout British held territories in India and educated in the British Indian system, both of which helped to further re-orient the local population eastwards towards the heartlands of India. The in migration of Hindu and Sikh traders to the NWFP from India also strengthened cultural re-orientation towards British India. This dramatic shift in self-identification is epitomized the Khudai Khidmatgar movement of the popular Pashtun nationalist Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who non-violently campaigned for the independence of a united India, and not for joining Afghanistan.[12] Further, no prominent leaders amongst the Pashtuns campaigned for unification with Afghanistan during the period preceding independence. The NWFP was granted limited home-rule by the British in 1937. Beginning in 1940, support for the Pakistan Movement, which sought the establishment of an Indian Muslim homeland, increased in the NWFP.

During the Independence period there was a Congress-led ministry in the province, which was led by secular Pashtun leaders, including Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who preferred joining India instead of Pakistan. The secular Pashtun leadership was also of the view that if joining India was not an option then they should espouse the cause of an independent ethnic Pashtun state rather than Pakistan.[31] The secular stance of Abdul Ghaffar Khan had driven a wedge between the ulama of the otherwise pro-Congress (and pro-Indian unity) Jamiat Ulema Hind (JUH) and Abdul Ghaffar Khan's Khudai Khidmatgars. The directives of the ulama in the province began to take on communal tones. The ulama saw the Hindus in the province as a 'threat' to Muslims. Accusations of molesting Muslim women were levelled at Hindu shopkeepers in Nowshera, a town where anti-Hindu sermons were delivered by maulvis. Tensions also rose in 1936 over the abduction of a Hindu girl in Bannu. Such controversies stirred up anti-Hindu sentiments amongst the province's Muslim population.[32] By 1947 the majority of the ulama in the province began supporting the Muslim League's idea of Pakistan.[33]

Immediately prior to Pakistani independence from Britain in 1947,the British held a referendum in the NWFP to allow voters to choose between joining Pakistan or India. The referendum was held on 2 July 1947 while polling began on 6 July 1947 and the referendum results were made public on 20 July 1947. According to the official results, there were 572,798 registered voters out of which 289,244 (99.02%) votes were cast in favor of Pakistan while only 2874 (0.98%) were cast in favor of India. According to an estimate the total turnout for the referendum was only 15% less than the total turnout in the 1946 elections.[34][35] At the same time a large number of Khudai Khidmatgar supporters boycotted the referendum and intimidation against Hindu and Sikh voters by supporters of the Pakistan Movement was also reported.[36] Abdul Ghaffar Khan pledged allegiance to the new state of Pakistan in 1947, and thereafter abandoned his goal of a United India, in favor of supporting increased autonomy for the NWFP under Pakistani rule.[12] He was subsequently arrested several times for his opposition to strong centralized rule.[37]

As the region came under British control, as had been agreed to by the Afghan government following the British victory over Afghanistan in the Second Anglo-Afghan War and after the treaty ending Third Anglo-Afghan War, no option was available to cede the territory to the rule of the Afghan king even though Afghanistan continued to claim the entire region as it was part of the Durrani Empire prior the conquest of the region by the Sikhs in 1818. By 1947 Pashtun nationalists were advocating for a united India, and no prominent voices advocated for a union with Afghanistan. Also in line with similar votes held throughout the British controlled territories in India, no option was accommodated for independence.[38][39] However, all the princely states within the boundaries of the NWFP were allowed to maintain certain autonomy, but in 1970s most of the princely states were merged completely into Pakistan.

After Pakistani Independence[edit]

Main article: Pakistan Movement
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, Afghanistan was the sole member of the United Nations to vote against Pakistan's accession to the UN because of Kabul's claim to the Pashtun territories on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line.[40] Afghanistan's Loya Jirga of 1949 declared the Durand Line invalid, which led to border tensions with Pakistan, and decades of mistrust between the two states. Afghan governments have also periodically refused to recognize Pakistan's inheritance of British treaties regarding the region.[41] During the 1950s, Afghanistan supported the secessionist Pushtunistan Movement, although it failed to gain substantial support amongst the population of the North-West Frontier Province.

As a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, over five million Afghan refugees poured into Pakistan, mostly choosing to reside in the NWFP (as of 2007, nearly 3 million remained). The North-West Frontier Province became a base for the Afghan resistance fighters and the Deobandi ulama of the province played a significant role in the Afghan 'jihad', with Madrasa Haqqaniyya becoming a prominent organisational and networking base for the anti-Soviet Afghan fighters.[42] The province remained heavily influenced by events in Afghanistan thereafter. The 1989-1992 Civil war in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Soviet forces led to the rise of the Afghan Taliban, which had emerged in the border region between Afghanistan, Balochistan, and FATA as a formidable political force.

In 2010 the province was renamed "Khyber Pakhtunkhwa." Protests arose among the local Hindkowan, Chitrali, Kohistani and Kalash populations over the name change, as they began to demand their own provinces. Seven people were killed and 100 injured in protests on 11 April 2011.[43] The Awami National Party sought[when?] to rename the province "Pakhtunkhwa", which translates to "Land of Pashtuns" in the Pashto language. The name change was largely opposed by non-Pashtuns, and by political parties such as the Pakistan Muslim League-N, who draw much of their support from non-Pashtun regions of the province, and by the Islamist Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal coalition.

War and militancy[edit]

See also: Zarb-e-Azb

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been a site of militancy and terrorism that started after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and intensified when the Pakistani Taliban began an attempt to seize power in Pakistan starting in 2004. Armed conflict began in 2004, when tensions, rooted in the Pakistan Army's search for al-Qaeda fighters in Pakistan's mountainous Waziristan area (in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas), escalated into armed resistance.[44] Fighting is ongoing between the Pakistani Army and armed militant groups such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Jundallah, Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI), Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), al-Qaeda, and elements of organized crime[45][46][47] have led to the deaths of over 50,000 Pakistanis since the country joined the U.S-led War on Terror,[48] with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa being the site of most of the conflict.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is also the main theater for Pakistan's Zarb-e-Azb operation – a broad military campaign against militants located in the province, and neighboring F.A.T.A. By 2014, casualty rates in the country as a whole dropped by 40% as compared to 2011–2013, with even greater drops noted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,[49] despite the province being the site of a large massacre of schoolchildren by terrorists in December 2014.


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa sits primarily on the Iranian plateau and comprises the junction where the slopes of the Hindu Kush mountains on the Eurasian plate give way to the Indus-watered hills approaching South Asia. This situation has led to seismic activity in the past.[50] The famous Khyber Pass links the province to Afghanistan, while the Kohalla Bridge in Circle Bakote Abbottabad is a major crossing point over the Jhelum River in the east.

Geographically the province could be divided into two zones: the northern one extending from the ranges of the Hindu Kush to the borders of Peshawar basin and the southern one extending from Peshawar to the Derajat basin.

The northern zone is cold and snowy in winters with heavy rainfall and pleasant summers with the exception of Peshawar basin, which is hot in summer and cold in winter. It has moderate rainfall. The southern zone is arid with hot summers and relatively cold winters and scanty rainfall.[51]

The major rivers that criss-cross the province are the Kabul, Swat, Chitral, Kunar, Siran, Panjkora, Bara, Kurram, Dor, Haroo, Gomal and Zhob.

Its snow-capped peaks and lush green valleys of unusual beauty have enormous potential for tourism.[52]


The climate of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa varies immensely for a region of its size, encompassing most of the many climate types found in Pakistan. The province stretching southwards from the Baroghil Pass in the Hindu Kush covers almost six degrees of latitude; it is mainly a mountainous region. Dera Ismail Khan is one of the hottest places in South Asia while in the mountains to the north the weather is mild in the summer and intensely cold in the winter. The air is generally very dry; consequently, the daily and annual range of temperature is quite large.[53]

Rainfall also varies widely. Although large parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are typically dry, the province also contains the wettest parts of Pakistan in its eastern fringe specially in monsoon season from mid June to mid September.

Chitral District[edit]

Chitral District lies completely sheltered from the monsoon that controls the weather in eastern Pakistan, owing to its relatively westerly location and the shielding effect of the Nanga Parbat massif. In many ways Chitral District has more in common regarding climate with Central Asia than South Asia.[54] The winters are generally cold even in the valleys, and heavy snow during the winter blocks passes and isolates the region. In the valleys, however, summers can be hotter than on the windward side of the mountains due to lower cloud cover: Chitral can reach 40 °C (104 °F) frequently during this period.[55] However, the humidity is extremely low during these hot spells and, as a result the summer climate is less torrid than in the rest of the Indian subcontinent.

Most precipitation falls as thunderstorms or snow during winter and spring, so that the climate at the lowest elevations is classed as Mediterranean (Csa), continental Mediterranean (Dsa) or semi-arid (BSk). Summers are extremely dry in the north of Chitral district and receive only a little rain in the south around Drosh.

At elevations above 5,000 metres (16,400 ft), as much as a third of the snow which feeds the large Karakoram and Hindukush glaciers comes from the monsoon since these elevations are too high to be shielded from its moisture.[54]

Central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa[edit]

Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: World Climate Data[56]

On the southern flanks of Nanga Parbat and in Upper and Lower Dir Districts, rainfall is much heavier than further north because moist winds from the Arabian Sea are able to penetrate the region. When they collide with the mountain slopes, winter depressions provide heavy precipitation. The monsoon, although short, is generally powerful. As a result, the southern slopes of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are the wettest part of Pakistan. Annual rainfall ranges from around 500 millimetres (20 in) in the most sheltered areas to as much as 1,750 millimetres (69 in) in parts of Abbottabad and Mansehra Districts.

This region's climate is classed at lower elevations as humid subtropical (Cfa in the west; Cwa in the east); whilst at higher elevations with a southerly aspect it becomes classed as humid continental (Dfb). However, accurate data for altitudes above 2,000 metres (6,560 ft) are practically nonexistent here, in Chitral, or in the south of the province.

Dera Ismail Khan
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: World Climate Data[57]

The seasonality of rainfall in central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa shows very marked gradients from east to west. At Dir, March remains the wettest month due to frequent frontal cloud-bands, whereas in Hazara more than half the rainfall comes from the monsoon.[58] This creates a unique situation characterized by a bimodal rainfall regime, which extends into the southern part of the province described below.[58]

Since cold air from the Siberian High loses its chilling capacity upon crossing the vast Karakoram and Himalaya ranges, winters in central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are somewhat milder than in Chitral. Snow remains very frequent at high altitudes but rarely lasts long on the ground in the major towns and agricultural valleys. Outside of winter, temperatures in central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are not so hot as in Chitral. Significantly higher humidity when the monsoon is active means that heat discomfort can be greater. However, even during the most humid periods the high altitudes typically allow for some relief from the heat overnight.

Southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa[edit]

As one moves further away from the foothills of the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges, the climate changes from the humid subtropical climate of the foothills to the typically arid climate of Sindh, Balochistan and southern Punjab. As in central Pakhtunkhwa, the seasonality of precipitation shows a very sharp gradient from west to east, but the whole region very rarely receives significant monsoon rainfall. Even at high elevations annual rainfall is less than 400 millimetres (16 in) and in some places as little as 200 millimetres (8 in).

Temperatures in southern Pakhtunkhwa are extremely hot: Dera Ismail Khan in the southernmost district of the province is known as one of the hottest places in the world with temperatures known to have reached 50 °C (122 °F). In the cooler months, nights can be cold and frosts remain frequent; snow is very rare, and daytime temperatures remain comfortably warm with abundant sunshine.

National parks[edit]

Name Photo Location Date established Area (Hec) Key wildlife
Ayubia National Park Mukeshpuri Abbottabad District 1984 3,122 Koklass pheasant, kalij pheasant, chukar partridge, yellow-throated marten, common leopard, rhesus macaque, flying squirrel.
Chitral Gol National Park Chitral District 1984 7,750 Markhor, urial, snow leopard, wolf, Himalayan snowcock, chukar partridge, greenwood pigeon
Broghil Valley National Park Karambar Lake Chitral District 2010 134,744 Ibex, blue sheep, snow leopard, brown bear, Tibetan wolf, golden marmot, snow cock, chukar partridge
Sheikh Buddin National Park Dera Ismail Khan District 1999 15,540 Black partridge, grey partridge, chukar partridge, rock dove, pied bush chat, red-vented bulbul, fox, hare, jackal, jungle cat, porcupine, wild boar, wolf
Saiful Muluk National Park Saif ul Maluk Lake Mansehra District 2003 12,026 Asian black bear, marten, ram chakor, snow partridge, Himalayan monal
Lulusar-Dudipatsar National Park Dudiptsar Lake Mansehra District 2003 75,058 Common leopard, Asian black bear, ibex, marten, Himalayan monal, koklass pheasant, ram chakor


Historical populations
Census Population Urban

1951 4,556,545 11.07%
1961 5,730,991 13.23%
1972 8,388,551 14.25%
1981 11,061,328 15.05%
1998 17,743,645 16.87%

The province has an estimated population of about 26 million, according to 2011 estimates, that is an increase of 51.6% over 1998 figures, ranking Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over Islamabad, Punjab and Azad Kashmir in population gains during that period.[2] The largest ethnic group is the Pashtun, who historically have been living in the areas for centuries.[59] Around 1.5 million Afghan refugees also remain in the province,[60] the majority of whom are Pashtuns followed by Tajiks, Hazaras, and other smaller groups. Despite having lived in the province for over two decades, they are registered as citizens of Afghanistan.[61]

The Pashtuns of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa observe tribal code of conduct called Pakhtunwali which has four high value components called nang (honor), badal (revenge), melmastiya (hospitality) and nanawata (rights to refuge).[3]

According to the 1998 census, the population of the province was approximately 17 million,[62] of whom 52% are males and 48% are females. The density of population is 187 per km2 and the intercensal change of population is of about 30%.

In most rural areas of the centre and south, Pashtun tribes can be found including the Gigyani (Their main land is Shabqadar Doaaba), Bangash, Bhittani, Daavi, Khattak, Qazi khail also known as Qaziye Babar, Gandapur, Gharghasht, Marwat,[3] Afridi, Shinwari, Orakzai, Mahsud, Mohmand,[3] Wazir and Bannuchi as well as other tribes of Hazara division, Kakar, Tareen, Jadoon and Mashwani. Yusufzai Pashtuns are known to be living in Swat.[3]

There are non-Pashtun tribes including Arain, Maliar, Jat, Mughal, Turks, Karlal, Rajpoot, Dhund Abbasi, Syed, Awan, Kashmiri, Qureshi, Gujar and Sarrara. The mountainous Hindukush region includes the Chitral and Kohistan districts that are home to diverse Dardic ethnic groups such as the Khowar, Kohistani, Shina, Torwali, Kalasha[3] and Kalami.

However, in the southernmost district such as Dera Ismail Khan live some of the Baloch tribe: Kori, Buzdar, Kanera, Leghari, Rind and some other sub tribes of Lashari tribe. These Baloch tribes speak Saraiki as their first language. In this southern district, most of its population speaks Saraiki.


Khyber Pakhtukhwa is a multi-lingual region and by far the linguistically richest province of Pakistan, where people speak different dialects of a number of different languages. Pashto is the majority language, spoken by more than 73% of the population according to the 1998 census. Urdu, being the national and official language, serves as a lingua franca for inter-ethnic communications, and sometimes Pashto and Urdu are the second and third languages among communities which speak other ethnic languages.[3] English is co-official and also used in education, while Arabic is used for religious purposes and education. There is some population in Peshawar city who speak Persian since nineteenth century; this population saw an increase during 1980s and 1990s due to migration from Afghanistan.[3] The table below shows the break-up of the province's first language speakers.

Rank Language % Population[10][63][64][65] Dialects
1 Pashto 73%
  • Yousafzai dialect: in Swat, Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Malakand, Shangla, Buner, Swabi, Mardan, Charsadda, Nowshera,Torghar, Mansehra, Balakot & Peshawer districts
  • Khattak dialect: in Kohat, Hangu, Karak & Lakki marwat districts
  • Bannuchi dialect: in Bannu district
  • Gandapuri dialect: in Kulachi.
2 Punjabi 23.3%
3 Khowar 1% It is spoken by majority in Chitral district which is the largest district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by area and by far the linguistically richest district of Pakistan by the number of distinct languages spoken. In addition to Khowar, seven other languages are spoken in that district including Kalasha, Phalura, Dameli, Gawar-Bati, Yidgha, Eastern Kativiri and Kamviri/Shekhai.[3]
4 Kohistani 1% Different varieties of Kohistani which is also known as Maiya are spoken by majority in Kohistan, which is Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's second largest district.[3] Kalami and Torwali are spoken in Swat.
5 Urdu 1% It is spoken as first language by upper class in cities.
Others 0.7% Other minor languages are spoken in the rest of the province are Bateri, Kalkoti, Chilisso, Gowro, Palula, Burushaski and Wakhi. A scattered population of Gujars speak Gujari.[3]


Most of the inhabitants of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa profess Islam, with a Sunni majority and significant minorities of Shias and Ismailis, .[73][74] Many of the Kalasha of Southern Chitral still retain their ancient Animist/Shamanist religion.

There are very small communities of Hindus, Christians and Sikhs.[75][76]

Government and politics[edit]

District map of Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Legislative Branch

The Provincial Assembly is a unicameral legislature, which consists of 124 members elected to serve for a term of five years.

Historically, the province perceived to be a stronghold of the ANP– a left-wing and pro-nationalist party.[77][78] The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) also enjoyed considerable support in the province due to its socialist agenda.[77] Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was thought to be another leftist region of the country after Sindh.[78]

A plurality of voters in the province elected one of Pakistan's only religiously-based provincial governments in 2002 during the period of military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf. A ground-swell of anti-American sentiment after the 2001 United States invasion of Afghanistan contributed to the Islamist coalition's victory.[79] The 2002 was also in context of a ban by Musharraf against extensive canvassing by Pakistan's two most popular political parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League, with the heads of both parties having been barred from participation in the elections.[80]

The MMA government introduced a range of social restrictions, though Islamic Shariah law was never fully enacted.[79] Restrictions on public musical performances were introduced, as well as a ban prohibiting music to be played in public places as part of the "Prohibition of Dancing and Music Bill, 2005" – which lead to the creation of a thriving underground music scene in Peshawar.[81] The Islamist government also attempted to enforce compulsory hijab on women,[82] and wished to enforce gender segregation in the province's educational institutions.[82] The coalition further tried to prohibit male doctors from performing ultrasounds on women,[82] and tried to close the province's cinemas.[82] In 2005, the coalition successfully passed the "Prohibition of Use of Women in Photograph Bill, 2005," leading to the removal of all public advertisements that featured women.[83]

The religious coalition was swept out of power by the secular and leftist Awami National Party in the free elections of 2008 that took place after the fall of Musharraf,[79] leading to the repeal of the Islamist social agenda.[84] In 2013, the centre-right Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was elected to power in the province. Public disapproval of ANP's leftist program integrated in civil administration and popular opposition against religious program promoted by the MMA swiftly shifted the province's leniency towards the right-wing spectrum led by the PTI in 2012.[77] With PTI forming the government in 2013, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa serves as a stronghold of the rightist PTI and is perceived as right-wing spectrum of the country.[85] In non-Pashtun areas, such as Attock, Abbottabad, and Hazara District, the PML(N), the centre-right party, enjoys considerable public support over economical and public policy issues and has a substantial vote bank.[85]

Executive Branch

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa executive branch consists of the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa appointed by President of Pakistan (subject to Prime Minister advice), Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elected by Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Cabinet of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa appointed by Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (subject to Chief Minister advice).

Judicial Branch
Main article: Peshawar High Court

The High Court and lower courts, judges are appointed by Chief Justice of Pakistan with Supreme Judicial Council of Pakistan approval, interpret laws and overturn those they find unconstitutional.

Administrative divisions and districts[edit]

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is divided into seven Divisions - Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Hazara, Kohat, Malakand, Mardan and Peshawar - each under an appointed Commissioner. The Divisions were abolished in 2000, but were restored after the 2008 election. The Divisions are subdivided into twenty-six districts, comprising twenty-one Settled Area Districts and five Provincially Administered Tribal Area (PATA) Districts. The administration of the PATA districts is vested in the President of Pakistan and the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, by Articles 246 and 247 of the Constitution of Pakistan.[86]

The twenty-six districts are:[87]

Major cities[edit]

Peshawar is the capital and largest city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The city is the most populous and comprises more than one-eighth of the province's population.


Pakhtunkhwa's dominance: forestry

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has the third largest provincial economy in Pakistan. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's share of Pakistan's GDP has historically comprised 10.5%, although the province accounts for 11.9% of Pakistan's total population. The part of the economy that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa dominates is forestry, where its share has historically ranged from a low of 34.9% to a high of 81%, giving an average of 61.56%.[88] Currently, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa accounts for 10% of Pakistan's GDP,[89] 20% of Pakistan's mining output[90] and, since 1972, it has seen its economy grow in size by 3.6 times.[91]

After suffering for decades due to the fallout of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, today they are again being targeted for a different situation of terrorism.[citation needed]

Agriculture remains important and the main cash crops include wheat, maize, tobacco (in Swabi), rice, sugar beets, as well as fruits are grown in the province.

Some manufacturing and high tech investments in Peshawar has helped improve job prospects for many locals, while trade in the province involves nearly every product. The bazaars in the province are renowned throughout Pakistan. Unemployment has been reduced due to establishment of industrial zones.

Workshops throughout the province support the manufacture of small arms and weapons. The province accounts for at least 78% of the marble production in Pakistan.[92]


The Sharmai Hydropower Project is a proposed power generation project located in Upper Dir District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the Panjkora River with an installed capacity of 150MW.[93] The project feasibility study was carried out by Japanese consulting company Nippon Koei.

Social issues[edit]

The Awami National Party sought to rename the province "Pakhtunkhwa", which translates to "Land of Pakhtuns" in the Pashto language.[94] This was opposed by some of the non-Pashtuns, and especially by parties such as the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). The PML-N derives its support in the province from primarily non-Pashtun Hazara regions.

In 2010 the announcement that the province would have a new name led to a wave of protests in the Hazara region.[95] On 15 April 2010 Pakistan's senate officially named the province "Khyber Pakhtunkhwa" with 80 senators in favor and 12 opposed.[96] The MMA, who until the elections of 2008 had a majority in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, had proposed "Afghania" as a compromise name.[97]

After the 2008 general election, the Awami National Party formed a coalition provincial government with the Pakistan Peoples Party.[98] The Awami National Party has its strongholds in the Pashtun areas of Pakistan, particularly in the Peshawar valley, while Karachi in Sindh has one of the largest Pashtun populations in the world—around 7 million by some estimates.[99] In the 2008 election the ANP won two Sindh assembly seats in Karachi. The Awami National Party has been instrumental in fighting the Taliban. In the 2013 general election Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf won a majority in the provincial assembly and has now formed their government in coalition with Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan.[100]

Non Government Organisations[edit]

The following is a list of some of the major NGO's working in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa[101][102]

  1. Al-Khidmat Foundation
  2. Aurat Foundation
  3. Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre
  4. Sarhad Rural Support Programme
  5. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Folk music and culture[edit]

Hindko and Pashto folk music are popular in Pakhtunkhwa and has a rich tradition going back hundreds of years. The main instruments are the rubab, mangey and harmonium. Khowar folk music is popular in Chitral and northern Swat. The tunes of Khowar music are very different from those of Pashto and the main instrument is the Chitrali sitar. A form of band music composed of clarinets (surnai) and drums is popular in Chitral. It is played at polo matches and dances. The same form of band music is played in the neighbouring Northern Areas.[103]


Abbottabad is the only city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with higher literacy rate in province and also in Pakistan.The trend towards higher education is rapidly increasing in the province and the Pakhtunkhwa is home to Pakistan's foremost engineering university (Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology), which is in Topi, a town in Swabi district. The University of Peshawar is also a notable institution of higher learning. The Frontier Post is perhaps the province's best-known newspaper and addresses many of the issues facing the population.

Year Literacy rate
1972 15.5%
1981 16.7%
1998 35.41%
2012 60.9%


This is a chart of the education market of Pakhtunkhwa estimated by the government in 1998. Also see[106]

Qualification Urban Rural Total Enrolment ratio (%)
2,994,084 14,749,561 17,743,645
Below Primary 413,782 3,252,278 3,666,060 100.00
Primary 741,035 4,646,111 5,387,146 79.33
Middle 613,188 2,911,563 3,524,751 48.97
Matriculation 647,919 2,573,798 3,221,717 29.11
Intermediate 272,761 728,628 1,001,389 10.95
BA, BSc... degrees 20,359 42,773 63,132 5.31
MA, MSc... degrees 18,237 35,989 53,226 4.95
Diploma, Certificate... 82,037 165,195 247,232 1.92
Other qualifications 19,766 75,226 94,992 0.53

Major educational establishments[edit]


Cricket is the main sport played in Pakhtunkhwa. It has created world-class sportsmen like Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan and Umar Gul. Besides producing cricket players, Pakhtunkhwa has the honour of being the birthplace of many world-class squash players, including greats like Hashim Khan, Qamar Zaman, Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

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