The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is one of the most legendary places on earth. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as it is and was popularly known, of all Pakistan’s Provinces, is arguably the most diverse ethnically; the most varied in terrain and sports a vigorous cultural spectrum.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa conjures up a world of valour and war, of rugged men and mountains, of tribesmen shaped in a heroic, hospitable mould. Gateway to the Subcontinent, since times immemorial, it has witnessed migration-waves of peoples, campaigns of conquerors, flow of innumerable caravans of commerce, influx of intellectuals, artists, poets and saints from the north into its fertile valleys and onwards to the plains of the Punjab, Sindh and beyond the Indus to South Asia.
The routes which figured as corridors of invasion and arteries of international traffic brought not only men and material but also ideas which fertilized all of India. Over the centuries this area was instrumental in the spread of many concepts and intellectual thought. Buddhism found its finest expression here in the Gandhara civilization. And from here it spread northwards to pollinate Central Asia, north-east to China, Japan and the Far East. Then came Islam with its unique transforming sweep.
Throughout the ages, Pukhtun tribes, the Afridi, the Bangash, the Durrani, the Khattak, the Mahsud, the Orakzai, the Toori, the Wazir and the Yusufzai, have left their indelible imprints on the pages of history. Other tribes are the Marwat, Mohmand, Gandapur, Swati, Tareen, Tanoli, Jadoon and Mashwani. The Afghan, the Pashtun and the Pathan are three names of the same people despite shifting political boundaries. In this terrain many civilizations have mixed and mingled, risen and were razed. Its inhabitants have excelled in countless fields of endeavor.
Perhaps this area has seen more invasions during the course of history than any other region in the world. In the more recent past Sikh and British invaders from the south met their toughest adversaries in the Khyber Pakhutnkhwa. The unsure hold of Sikha Shahi “Sikh Rule”, and the uneasy control of the British Raj speak volumes for these intrepid and freedom loving people. It was a contentious extension of the Kingdom of Lahore under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Then for almost five decades it remained a part of the Punjab Province during the Raj. In 1902 it was finally accorded separate status. This was the one Province in which the imperial enterprise seemed to falter and fray. The Pathans have been conquered by many an imperial authority but never truly vanquished.
And yet these valiant men and women of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa gave their all to the Independence Movement and a sovereign Pakistan.
Apart from the Pathan tribes, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is home to diverse ethnic groups and languages. In the northern highlands such languages as Khowar, Hindko, Kohistani, Shina, Torwali, Kashmiri, Kalasha and Kaghani are spoken. The influx of Afghan refugees has brought Ghilzai and Durrani tribes and hundreds and thousands of Farsi speaking Tajiks and Hazaras who have settled here. Nearly all the inhabitants of the Province are Muslim with a Sunni majority, a minority of Shias and Ismailis and a sprinkling of Animists or Shamanists.
Today Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, spread over 74,521 sq km, has a population of over 22 million. It comprises of three major administrative parts. One part, composed of settled areas, consists of the districts of Abbottabad, Bannu, Battagram, Charsadda, Dera Ismail Khan, Hangu, Haripur, Kohistan, Kohat, Karak, Lakki Marwat, Mansehra, Mardan, Nowshera, Swabi, Peshawar and Tank. The second known as PATA (Provincially Administered Tribal Areas) has a population of 831 ,000 and consists of Malakand Agency and the districts of Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Chitral, Swat, Buner, Shangla, and the pocket of Kala Dhaka / “Black Mountains”, Kohistan (previously part of Swat State) and the State of Amb, now submerged in the Tarbela Dam reservoir
The third part, FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), is spread over 27,220 sq. km and has a population of 3,764,000. It comprises of seven Tribal Agencies and six Frontier Regions. The Tribal Agencies are Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan. The Frontier Regions include F.R. Bannu, Central Kurram, F.R. Dera Ismail Khan, F.R. Kohat, F.R. Lakki, F.R. Peshawar and F.R. Tank. These are directly controlled by the Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.