Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
  • خیبر پختونخوا(Urdu)
  • خیبر پښتونخوا(Pashto)
Flag of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
Official seal of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Location of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan
Location of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan
Coordinates: 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
Established1 July 1970
Largest cityPeshawar
 • TypeSelf-governing province subject to the federal government
 • BodyGovernment of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
 • GovernorShah Farman[1]
 • Chief MinisterMahmood Khan
 • Chief SecretaryDr. Kazim Niaz[2]
 • LegislatureProvincial Assembly
 • High CourtPeshawar High Court
 • Total101,741 km2 (39,282 sq mi)
Area rank4th (Pakistan)
 • Total35,525,047[a]
 • Rank3rd (Pakistan)
Time zoneUTC+05:00 (PST)
Area code(s)9291
ISO 3166 codePK-KP
Main Language(s)Pashto, Hindko, Saraiki, Khowar, Kohistani, Urdu
Notable sports teams
Seats in National Assembly65
HDI (2019)0.527 Increase[4]
Seats in Provincial Assembly145
Union Councils986

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (/ˌkbər pəkˈtŋkwə/; Pashto: خیبر پښتونخوا‎; Urdu: خیبر پختونخوا),[1] often abbreviated as KP or KPK and formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province, is one of the four provinces of Pakistan. It is located in the northwestern region of the country, along the Afghanistan–Pakistan border.

It was previously known as the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) until 2010, when the name was changed to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan, and is known colloquially by various other names. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the third-largest province of Pakistan in terms of both population and economy, though it is geographically the smallest of the four provinces.[5] Within Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa shares a border with the Islamabad Capital Territory, Punjab, Balochistan, and the Pakistani-administered territories of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. It is home to 17.9% of Pakistan's total population, with the majority of the province's inhabitants being ethnic Pashtuns and Hindko speakers.

The province is the site of the ancient kingdom of Gandhara, including the ruins of its capital Pushkalavati, located near modern-day Charsadda. Once a stronghold of Buddhism, the history of the region was characterized by frequent invasions by various empires due to its geographical proximity to the Khyber Pass.[6]

On 2 March 2017, the Government of Pakistan considered a proposal to merge the adjoining Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and to repeal the Frontier Crimes Regulations, a set of British Raj-era special laws that continued to govern the tribal areas at the time.[7] However, some political parties opposed the merger, and called for the tribal areas to instead become a separate province entirely.[8] On 24 May 2018, the National Assembly of Pakistan voted in favour of an amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan to merge the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[9] The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Assembly then approved the historic FATA–KP merger bill on 28 May 2018, which would merge FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[10] The bill was then signed by erstwhile President Mamnoon Hussain, officially completing the process of this historic merger.[11][12]


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa means the "Khyber side of the land of the Pashtuns,[13] where the word Pakhtunkhwa means "Land of the Pashtuns",[14] while according to some scholars, it refers to "Pashtun culture and society".[15]

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.[16] After the creation of Pakistan, Pakistan continued with this name but a Pashtun nationalist party, Awami National Party demanded that the province name be changed to "Pakhtunkhwa".[17] Their logic behind that demand was that Punjabi people, Sindhi people and Baloch people have their provinces named after their ethnicities but that is not the case for Pashtun people.[18]

Pakistan Muslim League (N) was against that name since it was too similar to Bacha Khan's demand of a separate nation of Pashtunistan.[19] PML-N wanted to name the province something other than which does not carry Pashtun identity in it as they argued that there were other minor ethnicities living in the province especially Hindkowans who spoke Hindko, thus the word Khyber was introduced with the name because it is the name of a major pass which connects Pakistan to Afghanistan.[18]


Early history[edit]

During the times of Indus Valley Civilization (3300 BCE – 1300 BCE) the modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Khyber Pass, through Hindu Kush provided a route to other neighboring regions and was used by merchants on trade excursions.[20] From 1500 BCE, Indo-Aryan peoples started to enter in the region(of modern-day Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North India) after having passed Khyber Pass.[21][22]

Gold coin of Kushan king Kanishka II, featuring lord Shiva (200–220 AD)
Approximate boundaries of the Gandharan Empire; Alexander Army also passed through this area centered on the modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan

The Gandharan civilization, which reached its zenith between the sixth and first centuries BCE, and which features prominently in the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharatha,[23] had one of its cores over the modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Vedic texts refer to the area as the province of Pushkalavati. The area was once known to be a great center of learning.[24]

Persian and Greek Invasions[edit]

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.[23]

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.[23] 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.[25]

Pre-Islamic era[edit]

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.[25]

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.[25]

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 Buddhist king Kanishka, who himself was succeeded by Huvishka, and Vasudeva I.[25]

Early Islamic Invasions[edit]

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

After the Saffarids had left in Kabul, the Hindu Shahis had once again been placed into power. The restored Hindu Shahi kingdom was founded by the Brahmin minister Kallar in 843 CE. Kallar had moved the capital into Udabandhapura in modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Kabul. Trade had flourished and many gems, textiles, perfumes, and other goods had been exported West. Coins minted by the Shahis have been found all over the Indian subcontinent. The Shahis had built Hindu temples with many idols, all of which were later looted by invaders. The ruins of these temples can be found at Nandana, Malot, Siv Ganga, and Ketas, as well as across the west bank of the Indus river.[26][27]

At its height, King Jayapala, the rule of the Shahi kingdom had extended to Kabul from the West, Bajaur to the North, Multan to the South, and the present-day India-Pakistan border to the East.[26] Jayapala saw a danger from the rise to power of the Ghaznavids and invaded their capital city of Ghazni both in the reign of Sebuktigin and in that of his son Mahmud. This had initiated the Muslim Ghaznavid and Hindu Shahi struggles.[28] Sebuktigin, however, defeated him and forced Jayapala to pay an indemnity.[28] Eventually, Jayapala refused payment and took to war once more. The Shahis were decisively defeated by Mahmud of Ghazni after the defeat of Jayapala at the Battle of Peshawar on 27 November 1001.[29] Over time, Mahmud of Ghazni had pushed further into the subcontinent, as far as east as modern-day Agra. During his campaigns, many Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries had been looted and destroyed, as well as many people being converted to Islam.[30]

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 Khalji 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,[31] and displaced the Swatis of bhittani confederation ( a predominant Pashtun tribe of Hazara div ) and Dilazak Pashtun tribes across the Indus River to Hazara Division.[31]


Bestowed by Mohabbat Khan bin Ali Mardan Khan in 1630, the white-marble façade of the Mohabbat Khan Mosque is one of Peshawar's most iconic sights.

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,[32] and determined to hold Peshawar and Kabul at all cost against any threats from the Uzbek Shaybanids.[32]

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,[33] though the region was never considered to be fully subjugated to the Mughals.[31]

Under the reign of Babar's son, Humayun, a direct Mughal rule was briefly challenged with the rise of the Pashtun Emperor, 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.[citation needed]

Yusufzai tribes rose against Mughals during the Yusufzai Revolt of 1667,[32] and engaged in pitched-battles with Mughal battalions in Peshawar and Attock.[32] Afridi tribes resisted Aurangzeb rule during the Afridi Revolt of the 1670s.[32] The Afridis massacred a Mughal battalion in the Khyber Pass in 1672 and shut the pass to lucrative trade routes.[34] Following another massacre in the winter of 1673, Mughal armies led by Emperor Aurangzeb himself regained control of the entire area in 1674,[32] and enticed tribal leaders with various awards in order to end the rebellion.[32]

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 the revolt against the Mughals and became renowned for his poems that celebrated the rebellious Pashtun warriors.[32]


On 18 November 1738, Peshawar was captured from the Mughal governor Nawab Nasir Khan by the Afsharid armies during the Persian invasion of the Mughal Empire under Nader Shah.[35][36]

Durrani Afghans[edit]

The area fell subsequently under the rule of Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the Afghan Durrani Empire,[37] following a grand nine-day long assembly of leaders, known as the loya jirga.[38] In 1749, the Mughal ruler was induced to cede Sindh, the Punjab region and the important trans Indus River to Ahmad Shah in order to save his capital from Afghan attack.[39] In short order, the powerful army brought under its control the Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, and other tribes of northern Afghanistan. Ahmad Shah invaded the remnants of the Mughal Empire a third time, and then a fourth, consolidating control over the Kashmir and Punjab regions, with Lahore being governed by Afghans. In 1757, he captured Delhi and sacked Mathura,[40] but permitted the Mughal dynasty to remain in nominal control of the city as long as the ruler acknowledged Ahmad Shah's suzerainty over Punjab, Sindh, and Kashmir. Leaving his second son Timur Shah to safeguard his interests, Ahmad Shah left India to return to Afghanistan.

Their rule was interrupted by a brief invasion of the Hindu Marathas, who ruled over the region following the 1758 Battle of Peshawar for eleven months till early 1759 when the Durrani rule was re-established.[41]

Under the reign of Timur Shah, the Mughal practice of using Kabul as a summer capital and Peshawar as a winter capital was reintroduced,[31][42] 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.[43] 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.[43] 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.[43] 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,[43] which lasted under 1818.


Ranjit Singh invaded Peshawar in 1818 and captured it from the Afghan Empire.[44] 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.[44] In 1823, Ranjit Singh returned to capture Peshawar, and was met by the armies of Azim Khan at Nowshera.[44] Following the Sikh victory at the Battle of Nowshera, Ranjit Singh re-captured Peshawar.[44] Rather than re-appointing Jehandad Khan of Khattak, Ranjit Singh selected Yar Muhammad Khan to once again rule the region.[44]

The Sikh Empire annexed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region following advances from the armies of Hari Singh Nalwa.[44] An 1835 attempt by Dost Muhammad Khan to re-occupy Peshawar failed when his army declined to engage in combat with the Dal Khalsa.[44] Dost Muhammad Khan's son, Mohammad Akbar Khan engaged with Sikh forces the Battle of Jamrud of 1837, and failed to recapture it.

During Sikh rule, an Italian named Paolo Avitabile was appointed an 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 Sikhs,[45] who also rebuilt the Bala Hissar fort during their occupation of Peshawar.[43]

British Raj[edit]

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 revolt against British during the Mutiny of 1857, local Pashtun tribes throughout the region generally remained neutral or supportive of the British as they detested the Sikhs,[22] 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 Pakistan was created. 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.[46] 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,[47] 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 Pakhtunkhwa 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 II 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 Province to create the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), which was renamed "Khyber Pakhtunkhwa" in 2010.[48][citation needed]

During this period, North-West Frontier Province was a "scene of repeated outrages on Hindus."[49] During the independence period there was a Congress-led ministry in the province, which was led by secular Pashtun leaders, including Bacha 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.[50] The secular stance of Bacha Khan had driven a wedge between the ulama of the otherwise pro-Congress (and pro-Indian unity) Jamiat Ulema Hind (JUH) and Bacha 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. British Indian court ruled against the marriage of a Hindu-converted Muslim girl at Bannu, after the girl's family filed a case of abduction and forced conversion. The ruling was based on the fact that the girl was a minor and was asked to make her decision of conversion and marriage after she reaches the age of majority, till then she was asked to live with a third party.[51] The verdict 'enraged' the Muslims - especially the Pashtun tribesmen. The Dawar Maliks and mullahs left the Tochi far the Khaisora Valley to the south to rouse the Torikhel Wazir. The enraged tribesmen mustered two large lashkars 10,000 strong and battled the Bannu Brigade, with heavy casualties on both sides. Widespread lawlessness erupted as tribesmen blocked roads, overran outposts and ambushed convoys. The British retaliated by sending two columns converging in the Khaisora river valley. They suppressed the agitation by imposing fines and by destroying the houses of the ringleaders, including that of Haji Mirzali Khan (Faqir of Ipi). However, the pyrrhic nature of the victory and the subsequent withdrawal of the troops was credited by the Wazirs to be a manifestation of the power of Mirzali Khan. He succeeded in inducing a semblance of tribal unity, as the British noticed with dismay, among various sections of Tori Khel Wazirs, the Mahsud and the Bettani. He cemented his position as a religious leader by declaring a Jihad against the British. This move also helped rally support from Pashtun tribesmen across the border.

Such controversies stirred up anti-Hindu sentiments amongst the province's Muslim population.[52] By 1947 the majority of the ulama in the province began supporting the Muslim League's idea of Pakistan.[53]

Bannu Resolution[edit]

In June 1947, Mirzali Khan (Faqir of Ipi), Bacha Khan, and other Khudai Khidmatgars declared the Bannu Resolution, demanding that the Pashtuns be given a choice to have an independent state of Pashtunistan composing all Pashtun majority territories of British India, instead of being made to join the new state of Pakistan. However, the British Raj refused to comply with the demand of this resolution, as their departure from the region required regions under their control to choose either to join India or Pakistan, with no third option.[54][55]

By 1947 Pashtun nationalists were advocating for a united India, and no prominent voices advocated for a union with Afghanistan.[56][57]

1947 NWFP referendum[edit]

Immediately prior to 1947 Partition of India, the British held a referendum in the NWFP to allow voters to choose between joining India or Pakistan. The 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 2,874 (0.98%) were cast in favor of India. The Muslim League declared the results as valid since over half of all eligible voters backed the merger with Pakistan.[58]

The then Chief Minister Dr. Khan Sahib, along with his brother Bacha Khan and the Khudai Khidmatgars, boycotted the referendum, citing that it did not have the options of the NWFP becoming independent or joining Afghanistan.[59][60]

Their appeal for boycott had an effect, as according to an estimate, the total turnout for the referendum was 15% lower than the total turnout in the 1946 elections,[61] although over half of all eligible voters backed merger with Pakistan.[58]

Bacha Khan pledged allegiance to the new state of Pakistan in 1947, and thereafter abandoned his goals of an independent Pashtunistan and a united India in favor of supporting increased autonomy for the NWFP under Pakistani rule.[22] He was subsequently arrested by Pakistan several times for his opposition to the strong centralized rule.[62] He later claimed that "Pashtunistan was never a reality". The idea of Pashtunistan never helped Pashtuns and it only caused suffering for them. He further claimed that the "successive governments of Afghanistan only exploited the idea for their own political goals".[63]

After the creation of Pakistan[edit]

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan

After the creation 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.[64] 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.[65] As had been agreed to by the Afghan government following the Second Anglo-Afghan War and after the treaty ending Third Anglo-Afghan War, no option was available to cede the territory to the Afghans, 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.

In 1950, Afghan-backed separatists in the Waziristan region declared the independence of Pashtunistan as an independent nation o dr the entirety of the NWFP. A Pashtun tribal jirga, held in Razmak, Waziristan, appointed Mirzali Khan as the President of the National Assembly for Pashtunistan. His popularity among the people of Waziristan declined over the years. He died a natural death in 1960 in Gurwek, Waziristan.[66]

The growing participation of Pashtuns in the Pakistani government, however, resulted in the erosion of the support for the secessionist Pashtunistan movement by the end of the 1960s.[67]

All the princely states within the boundaries of the NWFP were allowed to maintain certain autonomy following independence in 1947, but In 1969, the autonomous princely states of Swat, Dir, Chitral, and Amb were fully merged into the province.

For travelers, the area remained relatively peaceful in the 1960s and '70s. It was the usual route on the Hippie trail overland from Europe to India, with buses running from Kabul to Peshawar.[68] While waiting to cross at the border visitors were however cautioned not to stray from the main road.

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 organizational and networking base for the anti-Soviet Afghan fighters.[69] 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. The Hindkowans, Kohistanis, and Chitralis are the last remains of ancient Gandhari people and they jointly protested for the preservation of their culture. Seven people were killed and 100 injured in protests on 11 April 2011.[70] 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]

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been a site of militancy and terrorism that started after the attacks of 11 September 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.[71]

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[72][73][74] have led to the deaths of over 50,000 Pakistanis since the country joined the U.S-led War on Terror,[75] 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 FATA. 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,[76] despite the province being the site of a large massacre of schoolchildren by terrorists in December 2014.


Northern parts of the province feature forests and dramatic mountain scenery, as in Swat District.

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.[77] 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 zone extending from the ranges of the Hindu Kush to the borders of the Peshawar basin and the southern zone 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 the Peshawar basin, which is hot in summer and cold in winter. It has moderate rainfall.[citation needed]

The southern zone is arid with hot summers and relatively cold winters and scanty rainfall.[78] The Sheikh Badin Hills, a spur of clay and sandstone hills that stretch east from the Sulaiman Mountains to the Indus River, separates Dera Ismail Khan District from the Marwat plains of the Lakki Marwat. The highest peak in the range is the limestone Sheikh Badin Mountain, which is protected by the Sheikh Badin National Park. Near the Indus River, the terminus of the Sheikh Badin Hills is a spur of limestone hills known as the Kafir Kot hills, where the ancient Hindu complex of Kafir Kot is located.[79]

The major rivers that criss-cross the province are 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.[80]


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.[81]

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 especially in monsoon season from mid-June to mid-September.

Chitral District[edit]

Chitral District, due to its location, is 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.[82] 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.[83] 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.[82]

Central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa[edit]

Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: World Climate Data[84]

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[85]

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.[86] This creates a unique situation characterized by a bimodal rainfall regime, which extends into the southern part of the province described below.[86]

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.[citation needed]

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.[87]

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 Khyber 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 Khyber 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).[88] 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]

There are about 29 National Parks in Pakistan and 7 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Name Photo Location Date established Area (Hec) Key wildlife
Ayubia National Park Mukeshpuri.jpg Abbottabad District 1984 3,122 Indian leopard, Leopard cat, Yellow-throated marten, Asian palm civet, Masked palm civet, Rhesus macaque, Red giant flying squirrel, Koklass pheasant and Kalij pheasant
Chitral Gol National Park Meadows of Chitral Gol National Park; Tahsin Shah 03.jpg Chitral District 1984 7,750 Markhor, Urial, Snow leopard, Persian leopard, Himalayan lynx, Himalayan brown bear, Chukar partridge, Snow partridge, Himalayan snowcock and Himalayan black bear
Broghil Valley National Park I took this picture of Karmbar lake on my recent visit. Im donating it only to wikipedia for public knowledge.jpg Chitral District 134,744 Siberian ibex, Himalayan musk deer, Himalayan brown bear and Long-tailed marmot
Sheikh Badin National Park Dera Ismail Khan District 1999 15,540 Persian leopard, Indian wolf, Bengal fox, Urial, Markhor, Chukar partridge, Indian boar, Black francolin and Grey francolin
Saiful Muluk National Park Saif ul Maluk Lake 2.jpg Mansehra District 2003 12,026 Himalayan black bear, Yellow-throated marten, Masked palm civet, Himalayan goral, Himalayan musk deer, Siberian ibex, Himalayan monal and Cheer pheasant
Lulusar-Dudipatsar National Park Dudiptsar Lake.jpg Mansehra District 2003 75,058 Persian leopard, Yellow-throated marten, Himalayan black bear, Siberian ibex, Himalayan goral, Himalayan monal and Western tragopan


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [89][90]: 8 

The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had a population of 35.53 million at the time of the 2017 Census of Pakistan. The largest ethnic group are the Pashtuns, who historically have been living in the areas for centuries.[91] Around 1.5 million Afghan refugees also remain in the province,[92] the majority of whom are Pashtuns followed by Tajiks, Hazaras, Gujjar and other smaller groups. Despite having lived in the province for over two decades, they are registered as citizens of Afghanistan.[93]

The Pashtuns of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa observe tribal code of conduct called Pashtunwali which has four high value components called nang (honor), badal (revenge), melmastiya (hospitality) and nanawata (rights to refuge).[5]


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 that speak other ethnic languages.[5]

The most widely spoken language is Pashto, native to 80% of the population.[94] Other languages with significant numbers of speakers include Hindko (9.9%), Saraiki (3.2%), Khowar and Kohistani. In 2011 the provincial government approved in principle the introduction of these five regional languages as compulsory subjects for schools in the areas where they are spoken.[95]


The majority of the residents of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa overwhelmingly follows and professes the Sunni principles of Islam while the small followers of Shia principles of Islam are found among the Isma'ilis in the Chitral district.[26] The tribe of Kalasha in southern Chitral still retain an ancient form of Hinduism mixed with Animism.[26] There are very small numbers of residents who are the adherents of Roman Catholicism denomination of Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism.[96][97]

Government and politics[edit]

A map of the districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Colors correspond to divisions.
A map of the districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with their names. Colors correspond to divisions.
Political leanings and the Legislative branch

The Provincial Assembly is a unicameral legislature, which consists of 145 members elected to serve for a constitutionally bounded term of five years. Historically, the province perceived to be a stronghold of the Awami National Party (ANP); a pro-Russian, by procommunist, left-wing and nationalist party.[98][99] Since the 1970s, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) also enjoyed considerable support in the province due to its socialist agenda.[98] Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was thought to be another leftist region of the country after Sindh.[99]

After the nationwide general elections held in 2002, a plurality voting swing in the province elected one of Pakistan's only religiously-based provincial governments led by the ultra-conservative Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) during the administration of President Pervez Musharraf. The American involvement in neighboring Afghanistan contributed towards the electoral victory of the Islamic coalition led by Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JeI) whose social policies made the province a ground-swell of anti-Americanism.[100] The electoral victory of MMA was also in context of guided democracy in the Musharraff administration that barred the mainstream political parties, the leftist Pakistan Peoples Party and the centre-right Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML(N)), whose chairmen and presidents having been barred from participation in the elections.[101]

Policy enforcement of a range of social restrictions, though the implementation of strict Shariah was introduced by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal government the law was never fully enacted due to objections of the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa backed by the Musharraff administration.[100] 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 led to the creation of a thriving underground music scene in Peshawar.[102] The Islamist government also attempted to enforce compulsory hijab on women,[103] and wished to enforce gender segregation in the province's educational institutions.[103] The coalition further tried to prohibit male doctors from performing ultrasounds on women,[103] and tried to close the province's cinemas.[103] 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.[104]

At the height of Taliban insurgency in Pakistan, the religious coalition lost its grip in the general elections held in 2008, and the religious coalition was swept out of power by the leftist Awami National Party which also witnessed the resignation of President Musharraf in 2008.[100] The ANP government eventually led the initiatives to repeal the major Islamist's social programs, with the backing of the federal government led by PPP in Islamabad.[105] Public disapproval of ANP's leftist program integrated in civil administration with the sounded allegations of corruption as well as popular opposition against religious program promoted by the MMA swiftly shifted the province's leniency away from the left in 2012.[98] In 2013, the provincial politics shifted towards populism and nationalism when the PTI, led by Imran Khan, was able to form the minority government in coalition with the JeI; the province now serves as the stronghold of the PTI and is perceived as one of the more right wing areas of the country.[106] After the 2018 election, PTI increased their seat share and formed a majority government.

In non-Pashtun areas, such as Abbottabad, and Hazara Division, the PML(N), the centre-right party, enjoys considerable public support over economical and public policy issues and has a substantial vote bank.[106]

Executive Branch

The executive branch of the Kyber Pakhtunkhwa is led by the Chief Minister elected by popular vote in the Provincial assembly[107] while the Governor, a ceremonial figure representing the federal government in Islamabad, is appointed from the necessary advice of the Prime Minister of Pakistan by the President of Pakistan.[108]

The provincial cabinet is then appointed by the Chief Minister who takes the Oath of office from the Governor.[109] In matters of civil administration, the Chief Secretary assists the Chief Minister on executing its right to ensure the writ of the government and the constitution.[26][110]

Judicial Branch

The Peshawar High Court is the province's highest court of law whose judges are appointed by the approval of the Supreme Judicial Council in Islamabad, interpreting the 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 division is split up into anywhere between two and nine districts, and there are 35 districts in the entire province. Below you can find a list showing each district ordered by alphabetical order. A full list showing different characteristics of each district, such as their population, area, and a map showing their location can be found at the main article.

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 and Bannu NA35 is the largest NA Seat of the province.


Khyber 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%.[111] Currently, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa accounts for 10% of Pakistan's GDP,[112] 20% of Pakistan's mining output[113] and, since 1972, it has seen its economy grow in size by 3.6 times.[114]

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 have 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 the 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.[115]


The Sharmai Hydropower Project is a proposed power generation project located in the Upper Dir District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the Panjkora River with an installed capacity of 150MW.[116] 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.[117] 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.[118] On 15 April 2010 Pakistan's senate officially named the province "Khyber Pakhtunkhwa" with 80 senators in favour and 12 opposed.[119] The MMA, who until the elections of 2008 had a majority in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, had proposed "Afghania" as a compromise name.[120]

After the 2008 general election, the Awami National Party formed a coalition provincial government with the Pakistan Peoples Party.[121] 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.[122] In the 2008 election, the ANP won two Sindh assembly seats in Karachi. The Awami National Parbeen 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.[123]

Non-government organisations[edit]

The following is a list of some of the major NGOs working in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa:[124][125]

Folk music and culture[edit]

Pashto folk music is popular in Khyber 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.[126]


Year Literacy rate
1972 15.5%
1981 16.7%
1998 35.41%
2017 54.02%


This is a chart of the education market of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa estimated[129] by the government in 1998.[130]

Qualification Urban Rural Total Enrolment ratio (%)
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
2,994,084 14,749,561 17,743,645

Public Medical colleges[edit]

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province has 9 government medical colleges

Engineering Universities[edit]

Major educational establishments[edit]


Cricket is the main sport played in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It has produced world-class sportsmen like Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan, Khushdil Shah, Fakhar Zaman and Umar Gul. Besides producing cricket players, Khyber 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]


  1. ^ Including Population of FATA Which is Merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2018.


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