Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the word Pakhtunkhwa means “Land of the Pashtuns” often abbreviated as KPK or KP, is one of the four provinces of Pakistan. It is located in the northwestern region of the country, along the Afghanistan–Pakistan border and close to Tajikistan border.
It was previously known as the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) until 2010, when its 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 Pakistani province in terms of both its population and its economy, though it is geographically the smallest of Pakistan’s four provinces. 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 per cent 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 region 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.
Punjab has an amazing ancient cultural heritage and religious diversity. Beautiful Mughal art and craft along with majestic Sufi Shrines, Hinduism Temples, and Sacred Sikhism Sites are the historical and architectural beauty of this region. The Indus valley civilization and the Gandhara Civilization in the northern region of Punjab have their own dominance. Punjab is a unique mixture of Muslims, Sikhs, and Colonial Art.
During the period 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. From 1500 BCE, Indo-Iranian peoples started to enter in the region (of modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northwestern India) after having passed Khyber Pass.
The Gandharan civilization, which reached its zenith between the sixth and first centuries BCE, and which features prominently in the Hindu epic poem Mahabharata, 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.
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. 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.
The southern zone is arid with hot summers and relatively cold winters and scanty rainfall. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. This creates a unique situation characterized by a bimodal rainfall regime, which extends into the southern part of the province described below.
Since cold air from the Siberian High loses its chilling capacity upon crossing the vast Karakoram and Himalaya ranges, winters in central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are somewhat milder than in Chitral. Snow remains very frequent at high altitudes but rarely lasts long on the ground in the major towns and agricultural valleys. Outside of winter, temperatures in central Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are not so hot as in Chitral.
Significantly higher humidity when the monsoon is active means that heat discomfort can be greater. However, even during the most humid periods the high altitudes typically allow for some relief from the heat overnight.