Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (often abbreviated KPK; formerly known as North-West Frontier Province, is one of the four administrative provinces of Pakistan, located in the northwestern region of the country along the international border with Afghanistan. It was previously known as the North-West Frontier Province until 2010 when the name was changed to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by the 18th Amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution, and is known colloquially by various other names. 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. Within Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa shares a border with Punjab, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Islamabad. It is home to 17.9% of Pakistan’s total population, with the majority of the province’s inhabitants being Pashtuns. The province is the site of the ancient kingdom Gandhara, including the ruins of its capital Pushkalavati near modern-day Charsadda. Originally a stronghold of Buddhism, the history of the region was characterized by frequent invasions under various Empires due to its geographical proximity to the Khyber Pass.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa means the “Khyber side of the land of the Pashtuns (or Pakhtuns)”, where the word Pakhtunkhwa means “Land of the Pashtuns”, while according to some scholars, it refers to “Pashtun culture and society”.The province is so named due to its ethnic Pashtun majority.
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. 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”. 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.
Pakistan Muslim League was against that name since it was too similar to Bacha Khan’s demand of separate nation of Pashtunistan. 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
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 neighbouring regions and was used by merchants on trade excursions. 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
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, had one of its cores over the modern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The modern day capital city of Peshawar was originally known in ancient times as Purushapura when the region was Hindu. Vedic texts refer to the area as the Janapada of Pushkalavati. The area was once known to be a great center of learning.
Persian and Greek Invasions
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.
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. 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.
Hindu and Buddhist Rule
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.
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.
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 Hindu king Kanishka, who himself was succeeded by Huvishka, and Vasudeva I.
Early Islamic Invasions
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.
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. 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. Sebuktigin, however, defeated him, and forced Jayapala to pay an indemnity. 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 November 27, 1001. 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 forcibly converted into Islam.
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).
Tanolis of Ghazni Afghanistan are also came with Ahmad Shah Durrani and settled in the mountainous area of Hazara called Tanawal (Amb).
Yusufzai Pashtun tribes from the Kabul and Jalalabad valleys began migrating to the Valley of Peshawar beginning in the 15th century, and displaced the Dilazak Pashtun tribes across the Indus River.
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, and determined to hold Peshawar and Kabul at all cost against any threats from the Uzbek Shaybanids.
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, though the region was never considered to be fully subjugated to the Mughals.
Under the reign of Babar’s son, Humayun, 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.
Yusufzai tribes rose against Mughals during the Yusufzai Revolt of 1667, and engaged in pitched-battles with Mughal battalions in Peshawar and Attock. Afridi tribes resisted Aurangzeb rule during the Afridi Revolt of the 1670s. The Afridis massacred a Mughal battalion in the Khyber Pass in 1672 and shut the pass to lucrative trade routes. Following another massacre in the winter of 1673, Mughal armies led by Emperor Aurangzeb himself regained control of the entire area in 1674, and enticed tribal leaders with various awards in order to end the rebellion.
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.
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.
The area fell subsequently under the rule of Ahmed Shah Durrani, founder of the Afghan Durrani Empire, following a grand nine-day long assembly of leaders, known as the loya jirga. Their rule was interrupted by a brief invasion of the Hindu Marathas, ruled over the region following the 1758 Battle of Peshawar for eleven months till early 1759 when the Durrani rule was re-established.
Under the reign of Timur Shah, the Mughal practice of using Kabul as a summer capital and Peshawar as a winter capital was reintroduced, 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. 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. 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. 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, which lasted under 1818.
Ranjit Singh invaded Peshawar in 1818 and captured it from the Afghan Empire. 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. In 1823, Ranjit Singh returned to capture Peshawar, and was met by the armies of Azim Khan at Nowshera. Following the Sikh victory at the Battle of Nowshera, Ranjit Singh re-captured Peshawar. Rather than re-appointing Jehandad Khan of Khattak, Ranjit Singh selected Yar Muhammad Khan to once again rule the region.
The Sikh Empire annexed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region following advances from the armies of Hari Singh Nalwa. An 1835 attempt by Dost Muhammad Khan to re-occupy Peshawar failed when his army declined to engage in combat with the Dal Khalsa. 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 named 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 Sikhs, who also rebuilt the Bala Hissar fort during their occupation of Peshawar.
Main article: British Raj
See also: Indian Rebellion of 1857 and Military history of the North-West Frontier
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, 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. 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, 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 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.
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. 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 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. 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 religious leader by declaring a Jihad against the British. This move also helped rally support from Pashtun tribesman across the border.
Such controversies stirred up anti-Hindu sentiments amongst the province’s Muslim population. By 1947 the majority of the ulama in the province began supporting the Muslim League’s idea of Pakistan.
Main article: Bannu Resolution
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.
July 1947 referendum
Immediately prior to the creation of Pakistan 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. However, 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. Intimidation against Hindu and Sikh voters in the province was also reported. 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. He was subsequently arrested by Pakistan several times for his opposition to strong centralized rule.
On the other hand, Mirzali Khan and his followers refused to recognise Pakistan, and launched a campaign against Pakistan. They continued their guerilla warfare against the new nation’s government. In 1950, they announced the creation of Pashtunistan as an independent nation. A Pashtun tribal jirga, held in Razmak, Waziristan, appointed Mirzali Khan as the President of the National Assembly for Pashtunistan. He didn’t surrender to the government of Pakistan throughout his life. However, his popularity among the people of Waziristan declined over the years. He died a natural death in 1960 in Gurwek, Waziristan.
As the region came under British control, 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 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. All the princely states within the boundaries of the NWFP were allowed to maintain certain autonomy, but in the 1970s most of the princely states were merged completely into Pakistan.
Folk music and culture
Hindko and Pashto folk music are popular in Pakhtunkhwa and have 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.