The NWFP is largely located on the Iranian plateau along the peripheral junction between the Indian subcontinent and the Eurasian plate, and this has led to seismic activity in the past (see Kashmir Quake). The famous Khyber Pass links the province to Afghanistan, while the Kohalla Bridge in Circle Bakote is a major crossing point over the Jhelum river in the east. The province has an area of (28,773 square miles) or 74,521 km² of Pakistani territory and its districts include Hazara Division, home to the town of Havelian, the western starting point of the Karakoram Highway.
The capital and largest city of the province is Peshawar. Peshawar's is divided into various sections with the Old City being notable for its chai-khanas (or tea houses) and other ancient structures. Qissa Kahani Bazaar and other parts of Peshawar can remind visitors of an Arabian Nights tale with its myriad corridors and its multicultural vendors. The Afghan character of the city was enhanced by the refugees from Afghanistan and the burgeoning population of tribesmen who have flocked to the city from rural areas in search of employment.
Other main cities include Nowshera, Mardan, Mansehra, Charsadda, Ayubia, Nathia Gali and Abbottabad. The province's main districts include Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, Bannu, Peshawar, Abbottabad and Mansehra.
The region varies in topography from dry rocky areas in the south to forests and green plains in the north. The climate can be extreme with intensely hot summers to freezing cold winters. Despite these extremes in weather, agriculture remains important and viable in the area. The hilly terrain of Swat, Kalam, Upper Dir, Naran and Kaghan is renowned for its beauty and attracts a great many tourists from neighbouring regions and from around the world. Swat-Kalam is also termed 'a piece of Switzerland' as there are many landscape similarities between it and the mountainous terrain of Switzerland.
It covers an area of . According to the 1998 census, the total population of N.W.F.P. was approximately 17 million out of whom 52% are males and 48% females. The density of population is 187 per km² and the intercensal change of population is of about 30%. 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 scantly rainfall. Its climate varies from very cold (Chitral in the north) to very hot in places like D.I. Khan. The major rivers that criss cross the province are Kabul River, Swat River, Chitral River, Panjgora River, Bara River, Karam River, Gomal River and Zob River.
Its snow-capped peaks and lush green valleys of unusual beauty attract tourists from far and wide while its art and architecture no less known than the historic Khyber Pass. Once the cradle of Gandhara civilization, the area is now known for its devout Muslims who zealously guard their religion and culture and the way of life that they have been following for centuries.
The combination of a short but powerful (owing to orography) summer monsoon with frequent winter cloudbands gives a bimodal rainfall regime in central parts of NWFP. Dir and Hazara districts are some of the wettest places in Pakistan: annual rainfall at Dir averages 1475 mm (58 inches), of which 400 mm (15.75 inches) falls during the summer monsoon from July to September and twice that amount during the winter rainy season from December to April. At Abbottabad further east, the annual rainfall averages about 1195 mm (47 inches), but as much as 635 mm (25 inches) falls during the south-west monsoon. In Swat, rather more sheltered, the annual rainfall averages around 840 mm (33 inches), with about 430 mm (17 inches) expected between June and September. A similar climate to that of Dir, though drier, prevails in a small area around Parachinar in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
In all areas October and November are the driest months with rainfalls generally under 30 mm (1.2 inches) per month except in the most exposed areas.
Temperatures in this region are somewhat warmer than in Chitral, and even at in Abbottabad the heat and humidity can be oppressive during the monsoon season. In winter, most of Swat receives significant snowfall, but in Hazara temperatures usually are around 5 °C (41 °F).
Southern NWFP experiences little (and very erratic) monsoonal rain, with Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan both averaging around 115 mm (4.5 inches) of rain in July and August and almost nothing in June or September. Moreover, in many years no summer rain of significance occurs. In winter, rainfall usually peaks in March but Peshawar averages less than 250mm (10 inches) between December and May and Dera Ismail Khan less than 115 mm (4.5 inches). On certain mountain slopes such as around Kohat, winter rainfall may predominate, though this is unpredictable.
Pashto is the most pervasive language while Hindko is the second most commonly spoken indigenous language. Pashto is predominant in western and southern NWFP and is main language in most cities and towns including Peshawar. Hindkowans are most common in eastern NWFP, the Hazara Division, and especially in the cities of Abbottabad, Mansehra, and Haripur. Saraiki and Balochi-speakers live in the southeast of the province mainly in Dera Ismail Khan District. Bilingualism and trilingualism is common with Pashto and Urdu being the primary other languages spoken.
In most rural areas of the centre and south various Pashtun tribes can be found including the Yusufzai, Khattak, Marwat, Afridi, Shinwari, Orakzai, Bangash, Mahsud, Mohmand, Wazir, and Gandapur as well as numerous other smaller tribes. Further north, the prominent Pashtun tribes are, Swati, Tareen, Jadoon and Mashwani. There are various non-Pashtun tribes including Awan, Gujjar and Swati. The Awan are believed to be of Arabic origin and are recognisably different from the rest of Pashtun and non-Pushtun majority.
In addition, Afghan refugees, although predominantly Pashtun (including the Ghilzai and Durrani tribes), include hundreds of thousands of Persian-speaking Tajiks and Hazaras as well as other smaller groups found throughout the province.
Nearly all of the inhabitants of the NWFP are Muslim with a Sunni majority and significant minority of Shias and Ismailis. Many of the Kalasha of Southern Chitral still retain their ancient Animist/Shamanist religion.
The Vale of Peshawar was home to the Kingdom of Gandhara from around the 6th century BC and later ancient Peshawar became a capital of the Kushan Empire. The region was visited by such notable historical figures as Darius II, Alexander the Great, Hiuen Tsang, Fa Hien, Marco Polo, Mountstuart Elphinstone, and Winston Churchill, among others.
Following the Mauryan conquest of the region, Buddhism became a major faith, at least in urban centers, as attested by recent archaeological and hermeneutic evidence. Kanishka, a prominent Kushan ruler was one of the prominent Buddhist kings.
The region of Gandhara has long been known as a major centre of Buddhist art and culture around the beginning of the Christian era. But until recently, the Buddhist literature of this region was almost entirely lost. Now, within the last decade, a large corpus of Gandharan manuscripts dating from as early as the 1st century A.D. has come to light and is being studied and published by scholars at the University of Washington. These scrolls, written on birch-bark in the Gandharan language and the Kharosthi script, are the oldest surviving Buddhist literature, which has hitherto been known to us only from later and modern Buddhist canons. They also institute a missing link between original South Asian Buddhism and the Buddhism of East Asia, which was exported primarily from Gandhara along the Silk Roads through Central Asia and thence to China.
Rural areas retained numerous Shamanistic faiths as evident with the Kalash and other groups. The roots of Pashtunwali or the traditional code of honour followed by the Pashtuns is also believed to have Pre-Islamic origins. Persian invasions left small pockets of Zoroastrians and, later, a ruling Hindu elite established itself briefly during the later Shahi period.
While the early Shahis were Central Asian and Turko-Tocharian in origin, the later Shahi kings of Kabul and Gandhara may have had links to some ruling families in neighbouring Kashmir and the Punjab. The Hindu Shahis are believed to have been a ruling elite of a predominantly Buddhist, Zoroastrian and Shamanistic population and were thus patrons of numerous faiths, and various artefacts and coins from their rule have been found that display their multicultural domain. The last Shahi rulers were eventually wiped out by their cousin tribes led by Mahmud of Ghaznavi who arrived from Afghanistan.
A series of conflicts known as the Anglo-Afghan wars during the imperialist Great Game between the United Kingdom and Russia, led to the eventual dismemberment of Afghanistan. The annexation of the region led to the demarcation of the Durand Line and administration as part of British South Asia. The Durand line is a term for the poorly marked border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. After fighting in two wars against Afghans, the British succeeded in 1893 in imposing the Durand line, dividing Afghanistan and what was then British India. Named for Sir Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of the British colonial government, it was agreed upon by representatives of both governments. While the Afghan side greatly resented the border and viewed it as a temporary development, the British viewed it as being a permanent settlement. One of the two representatives of the Afghan government was the revered Ahmadi Sahibzada Abdul Latif of Khost. The border was drawn intentionally to cut through the Pakhtun tribes.
The British, who had captured most of rest of South Asia without significant problems, faced a number of difficulties here. The first war with the Pashtuns resulted in a devastating defeat, with just one soldier coming back alive (out of a total of 14,800 people). Unable to enforce their writ in the region, they changed tactics and played a game of divide and rule, installing puppet Pashtun rulers and dividing the Pashtuns through artificially created regions and ruling indirectly so as to reduce the chance of confrontation. Despite this, occasional Pashtun attacks did take place, including the Siege of Malakand, well documented by Winston Churchill who was a war correspondent at the time.
The province was formed on November 9, 1901 as a Chief Commissioner province. The Chief Commissioner was the chief executive of the province. He ran the administration with the help of his principal advisers and civil servants better known as judicial and revenue commissioners.
The formal inauguration of the province took place five and half months later on April 26, 1902 on the occasion of the historical "Darbar" in Shahi Bagh in Peshawar held by Lord Curzon. The province of NWFP then comprised only five districts. They were Peshawar, Hazara District, Kohat, Bannu, and Dera Ismail Khan. The Malakand, which consisted of three princely states of Dir, Swat, Chitral was included in it. The NWFP also included the four tribal administered agencies, Khyber, Khurram, North Waziristan, and South Waziristan (now seven). The first chief commissioner of the NWFP was Harold Deane, a strong administrator, he was followed by Ross-Keppel in 1908, whose contribution as a political officer was widely known amongst the tribal/frontier people.
The NWFP was raised to a full-fledged Governor province in 1935. The decision was actually made in the Round Table Conference held in 1931. It was agreed upon in the conference that the NWFP would be raised to a governor province with its own Legislative Council. Therefore, on January 25, 1932, the Viceroy inaugurated NWFP Legislative Council. The first provincial elections were held in 1937 and independent candidate and noted landlord Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan was elected as the provinces first Chief Minister.
The Pashtunistan issue kept Pakistan and Afghanistan at odds for decades until the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Following the invasion over five million Afghan refugees poured into Pakistan, most residing in the NWFP (as of 2007 nearly 3 million remain). During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the NWFP served as a major base for supplying the Mujahideen who fought the Soviets during the 1980s.
The NWFP remained heavily influenced by events in Afghanistan and the civil war led to the rise of the Taliban, which had emerged in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan as a formidable political force that nearly took-over all of Afghanistan. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the NWFP became a frontline region again as part of the global War on Terror.
There are 24 districts in NWFP.
Numerous workshops throughout the province support the manufacture of small arms and weapons of various types. The province accounts for at least 78% of the marble production in Pakistan .
This is a chart of the education market of North-West Frontier Province estimated by the government in 1998. Also see
|BA, BSc… degrees||20,359||42,773||63,132||5.31|
|MA, MSc… degrees||183,237||353,989||537,226||4.95|
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 also played in the neighbouring Northern Areas.
Pashtuns within the NWFP have sought to rename the province Pakhtunkhwa, which translates to "Next to Pakhtuns" in Pashto. This has been opposed by the non-Pashtuns. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, who until the elections of 2008, had a majority in the NWFP government, proposed Afghania as a compromise name.