Peshawar is the capital of the North-West Frontier Provinceand the administrative centre for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. “Peshawar” literally means High Fort in Persian and is known as Pekhawar in Pashto. The area of the city has been ruled by numerous empires including the Afghan, Persian, Greek, Maurya, Scythian, Arab, Turk, Mongol, Mughal, Sikh and the British.
In ancient times a major settlement called Pushpapura was established in the general area of Peshawar by the Central Asian Kushans. It was during the Mughal period that the current city was established by Akbar in the 16th century and received its name Peshawar. During much of its history, the city was one of the main trading centres on the ancient Silk Road and was a major crossroads for various cultures between South and Central Asia and the Middle East. Located on the edge of the Khyber Pass near the Afghan border, Peshawar is the commercial, economic, political and cultural capital of the Pashtuns in Pakistan.
Peshawar is located in an area that was dominated by various tribes of Indo-Iranian origin. The region was affiliated with the ancient kingdom of Gandhara and had links to the Harappan civilization of the Indus River Valley and to Bactria and other ancient kingdoms based in Afghanistan. According to the historian Tertius Chandler, Peshawar had a population of 120,000 in the year 100 BCE, making it the seventh most populous city in the world.
Vedic mythology refers to an ancient settlement called Pushkalavati in the area, after Pushkal, the son of King Bharata in the epic Ramayana., but this settlement’s existence remains speculative and unverifiable. In recorded history, the earliest major city established in the general area of Peshawar was called Purushapura (Sanskrit for City of Men) was founded by the Kushans, a Central Asian tribe of Tocharian origin, over 2,000 years ago. Prior to this period the region was affiliated with Gandhara, an ancient Indo-Iranian kingdom and was annexed first by the Persian Achaemenid empire and then by the Hellenic empire of Alexander the Great. The city passed into the rule of Alexander’s successor, Seleucus I Nicator who ceded it to Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya empire in 305 BCE. Buddhism was introduced into the region at this time and may have claimed the majority of Peshawar’s inhabitants before the coming of Islam.
The area that Peshawar occupies was then seized by the Greco-Bactrian king, Eucratides (c. 170 – c. 159 BCE), and was controlled by a series of Greco-Bactrian and later Indo-Greek kings who ruled an empire that spanned from ancient Pakistan to North India. Later, the city came under the rule of several Parthian and Indo-Parthian kings, another group of Iranic invaders from Central Asia, the most famous of whom, Gondophares, ruled the city and its environs starting in circa 46 CE, and was briefly followed by two or three of his descendants before they were displaced by the first of the “Great Kushans”, Kujula Kadphises, around the middle of the 1st century.
Peshawar formed the eastern capital of the empire of Gandhara under the Kushan king Kanishka I who reigned from at least 127 CE and, perhaps, for a few years prior to this. Peshawar also became a great centre of Buddhist learning. Kanishka built what may have been the tallest building in the world at the time, a giant stupa, to house the Buddha’s relics, just outside the Ganj Gate of the old city of Peshawar.
Kanishka’s stupa was said to be an imposing structure as one travelled down from the mountains of Afghanistan onto the Gandharan plains. The earliest account of the famous building is by the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim monk, Faxian, who visited it in 400 and described it as being over 40 chang in height (probably about 120 m. or 394 ft) and adorned “with all precious substances”. “Of all the stûpas and temples seen by the travellers, none can compare with this for beauty of form and strength.” It was destroyed by lightning and repaired several times. It was still in existence at the time of Xuanzang’s visit in 634. From the ruined base of this giant stupa there existed a jewelled casket containing relics of the Buddha, and an inscription identifying Kanishka as the donor, and was excavated from a chamber under the very centre of the stupa’s base, by a team under Dr. D.B. Spooner in 1909. The stupa was roughly cruciform in shape with a diameter of 286 ft (87 m.) and heavily decorated around the sides with stucco scenes.
Sometime in the 1st millennium BCE, the group that now dominates Peshawar began to arrive from the Suleiman Mountains of southern Afghanistan to the southwest, the Pashtuns. Whether or not the Pashtuns existed in the region even earlier is debatable, as evidence is difficult to attain. Some writers such as Sir Olaf Caroe write that a group that may have been the Pakhtuns existed in the area and were called the Pactycians by Herodotus and the Greeks, which would place the Pakhtuns in the area of Peshawar much earlier along with other Aryan tribes. Ancient Hindu scriptures such as the Rig-Veda, speak of an Aryan tribe called the Pakht, living in the region. Regardless, over the centuries the Pakhtuns would come to dominate the region and Peshawar has emerged as an important center of Pakhtun culture along with Kandahar and Kabul as well as Quetta in more recent times. Muslim Arab and Turkic arrived and annexed the region before the beginning of the 2nd millennium. The Pakhtuns began to convert to Islam following early annexation by Arab empire from Khurasan (in what is today western Afghanistan and northeastern Iran).
Peshawar was taken by Turkic Muslims in 988 and was incorporated into the larger Pakhtun domains by the 16th century. The founder of the Mughul dynasty that would conquer South Asia, Babur who hailed from what is today Uzbekistan, came to Peshawar and found a city called Begram and rebuilt the fort there, in 1530. His grandson, Akbar, formally named the city Peshawar which means “The Place at the Frontier” in Persian and expanded the bazaars and fortifications. The Muslim technocrats, bureaucrats, soldiers, traders, scientists, architects, teachers, theologians and Sufis flocked from the rest of the Muslim world to Islamic Sultanate in South Asia and many settled in the Pashawar region.
The city has been known both as the “City of Flowers” and the “City of Grain”. In the days of the Kushan King, it was called the “Lotus Land”.
The Pakhtun conqueror Sher Shah Suri, turned Peshawar’s renaissance into a boom when he ran his Delhi-to-Kabul Shahi Road through the Khyber Pass and Peshawar. Thus the Mughals turned Peshawar into a “City of Flowers” by planting trees and laying out gardens similar to those found to the west in Persia. Khushal Khan Khattak, the Pakhtun/Afghan warrior poet, was born near Peshawar and his life was intimately tied to the city. He was also an implacable foe of the Mughal rulers, especially Aurangzeb. Khattak was an early Pakhtun nationalist, who agitated for an independent Afghanistan including Peshawar. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the city came under Persian control during the reign of Nadir Shah by the 18th century.
Peshawar would also join, following a loya jirga as a Pakhtun region, the Afghan/Pakhtun empire of Ahmad Shah Durrani by 1747. Pakhtuns from Peshawar took part in incursions of South Asia during the rule of Ahmad Shah Durrani and his successors. The Sikhs, who were oppressed under the Mughal rule then invaded and conquered Peshawar in 1834 after wresting it from Afghanistan. In the wars between to two nations, Peshawar’s own Shalimar Gardens were destroyed, not to mention the dwindling of the city’s population by almost half.
With the rapid collapse of the Sikh Empire caused by internal fighting after the Kings death and its defeat in the second Anglo-Sikh War, the British eventually occupied the city. They continued to rule from 1849 to 1947, when the city became part of the new nation of Pakistan.
Being among the most ancient cities of the region between Central, South, and West Asia, Peshawar has for centuries been a centre of trade between Afghanistan, South Asia, and Central Asia as well as the Middle East. Its famed markets such as the Qissa Khawani Bazaar (market of story tellers) are emblematic of this mixture of cultures.
Peshawar emerged as a centre of both Hindko and Pakhtun intellectuals. Its dominant culture for much of British rule was that of the hindko speakers, also referred to as “Khaarian” (‘city dwellers’ in Pashto).
Its unique culture, distinct from the surrounding Pashtun areas, led to the city being romanticized by Pashto singers, with songs like larsha Pekhwar tha (let us go to Peshawar) and more recently Pekhawar kho pekhawar dhay kana.
This culture has gradually disappeared with the massive influx of Afghan refugees and the increasing migration of Pashtuns into the city, its demographics have now changed and Pashto is now the dominant language of the city.
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 Peshawar served as a political centre for anti-Soviet Mujahideen, and was surrounded by huge camps of Afghan refugees. Many of the refugees remained there through the civil war which broke out after the Soviets were defeated in 1989, antecedent to the rule of the Taliban, and the invasion by American and allied forces in late 2001. Peshawar would replace Kabul and Qandahar as the centre of Pakhtun cultural development during this tumultuous period. Additionally, Peshawar managed to assimilate many of the Pakhtun Afghan refugees with relative ease, while many other Afghan refugees remained in camps awaiting a possible return to Afghanistan.
Until the mid-fifties Peshawar was enclosed within a city wall and sixteen gates. Of the old city gates the most famous was the Kabuli Gate but only the name remains now. Peshawar has not grown as much in size or capacity as the population has. As a result it has become a polluted and overcrowded city. However, despite turmoil in Pakistan and intense turmoil in Afghanistan, Peshawar has remained a relatively quiet and peaceful city, compared to the violence in Karachi or Balochistan, and the civil war in Afghanistan.
Peshawar continues to be a city that links Pakistan to Afghanistan as well as Central Asia and has emerged as an important regional city in Pakistan and remains a focal point for Pakhtun culture. The Bakhshali Manuscript used in the Bakhshali approximation was found here, and the book Peshawar Nights uses the city as its setting.
Geography and climate
Peshawar is situated near the eastern end of the Khyber Pass and sits mainly on the Iranian plateau along with the rest of the NWFP. Peshawar is literally a frontier city of South-Central Asia and was historically part of the Silk Road.
The Peshawar valley is covered with consolidated deposits of silt, sands and gravel of recent geological times. The flood Plains/Zones are the areas between Kabul River and Budni Nala. The meander flood plain extends from Warsak in the Northwest towards Southeast in the upper Northern half of the district. The Kabul river enters the district in the Northwest. On entering the Peshawar Plain, the Kabul River is divided into several channels. Its two main channels are the Adizai River Eastward flows along the boundary with Charsadda District. Another channel branching from the right bank of the Naguman River is the Shah Alam, which again merges with Naguman River further in the East. In general the sub-soil strata is composed of gravels, boulders, and sands overlain by silts and clays. Sand, gravel and boulders are important aquifer extends to a depth of about 200 feet. As further confined water bearing aquifer occurs at depths greater than 400 feet.
Winter in Peshawar starts from mid November to the end of March. Summer months are May to September. The mean maximum temperature in summer is over 40 °C and the mean minimum temperature is 25 °C. The mean minimum temperature during winter is 4°C and maximum is 18.35 °C.
Rainfall is received both in winter and in the summer. The winter rainfall due to western disturbances shows a higher record during the months of February and April. The highest winter rainfall has been recorded in March, while the highest summer rainfall in the month of August. The average winter rainfall is higher than that of the summer. Based on a 30-year record, the average 30-year annual precipitation has been recorded as 400 millimetres. Wind speeds vary during the year from 5 knots in December to 24 knots in June. The relative humidity varies from 46% in June to 76% in August.
Peshawar’s environment has suffered tremendously due to an ever increasing population, Afghan influx, unplanned growth and a poor regulatory framework. Air and noise pollution is a significant issue in several parts of the city, and water quality, once considered to be exceptionally good, is also fast deteriorating.
In addition the city has lost 2700 acres of agriculture land during the two decades (1965-85). This in the addition to 400 of acres of vacant land that has been also eaten up by expending urban functions. In the same period, the land under parks and green space has shrunk from 163 to 75 acres.
Peshawar is a rapidly growing city with a population of 2,982,816 in 1998. The current population growth rate is 3.29% per year, which is higher than the average of many other Pakistani cities.
Peshawar’s inhabitants consist mainly of two groups, namely; the majority Pashtuns and Peshawaris (Hindkowans who are also referred to as “Khaarian” or ‘city dwellers’). In addition, thousands of Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Persians, Panjabis, Chitralis and Gypsies can be found in the city.
” Urban Population: 48.68% (983,000 persons)
” Rural Population: 51.32% (1,036,000 persons)
” Male/Female ratio: 1.1:1
” Average annual growth rate 3.56%
In 2002, on the growth rate of 3.56% population doubled in 20 years from 1.1 million in 1981 to 2.242 million in 2002. Peshawar District covers a large area extending over 50 km from north to south and over 30 km from east to west. It is situated at an altitude of 347 m (1138 ft) above sea level. The Peshawar valley is nearly circular, extending from the Indus to the Khyber Hills. It is bounded on the North and North East by hills, which separate it from the Valley of Swat. In the Northwest are the rugged mountains of Khyber and to the South is the continuation of spur which branches off from Safed Koh (the famous white mountain on the Afghan border) and runs to Indus. The lower portion of this branch separates the district of Peshawar and Kohat.
Over 99% of the Peshawar population is Muslim. Despite the overwhelmingly Islamic nature of modern Peshawar, the city was previously home to other smaller communities such as Afghan Jews, Zorastrian, Bahá’ís, Hindus and Sikhs. The Partition of British India and the creation of Israel resulted in the virtual elimination of some of these groups, particularly Sikhs and Hindus from Peshawar, but there are still small Christian, Zorastrian, Bahá’í and Sikh communities that remain in the city.
Peshawar is the centre of Pashtun culture and arts as well as a major centre of Hindko culture. With the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the influx of millions Afghan Refugees into Pakistan, Peshawar became the home for Afghan musicians and artists as well. The city has become the centre for Pashto music and cinema as well Dari music from neighbouring Afghanistan. However, the election of the MMA Islamic coalition in 2002 has resulted in restrictions on public musical performances, as well as a ban on playing recorded music on public transports. Despite these restrictions, Peshawar has become host to a thriving underground scene.
There is also a thriving book publishing activity in Persian language in Peshawar, concentrated in Qissa Khawani Bazaar.
Peshawar’s local government is comprised of 25 Union Councils.
City Development & Municipal Department (CD&MD)
City Development & Municipal Department (CD&MD) previously known as Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) is the department in charge of construction in Peshawar. This includes roads, parks, and plant life. The director of Raigilalma, Hafiz Hidayatullah Khan, was awarded the certificate of “best construction engineer” in 1997 by the Japanese delegation for the consturction of the Dalazak road and flyover. The department (CD&MD) was renewed because of the immense corruption which had taken place before.Its first Director General was Malik Saad.The then governor Lt. Gen Iftikhar Hussain Shah specifically requested Malik Saad to help tackle the corruption and bring the department back up to its former success again.This decision proved successful, because not only was the corruption tackled, but also the city`s development was in full gear and the city`s only fully functional flyover,also named after Malik Saad, was built along with many other projects and developments in the city.
With the level of higher education on the rise, there has been a surge of educational institutions numbers in Peshawar.
” University of Peshawar
” Khyber Medical College
” Agriculture University of Peshawar
” University of engineering and technology (U.E.T.)
” IM Sciences
” National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences (FAST-NU), Islamabad (Peshawar Campus)
” Islamia College Peshawar (1913)
” Gandhara University
” Jinnah College for Women
” Edwardes College Peshawar (1900)
” Government College Peshawar
” Superior Science College Wazirbagh Peshawar.
” Fazaia Degree College (PAF Degree College)
” University Public School (1964)
” University Model School
” Peshawar Model School
” Collegiate School Islamia College
” Peshawar Grammar School
” The Convent High School
” Army Public School
Peshawar, as a traditional city with a rich history, offers everything from goldsmiths and silversmiths, traditional carpets (one of the big exports of Pakistan today), pottery, and clothing to artwork in wood, brass or semi-precious stones. The old walled city, was known for its 16 gates – Bijouri, Kabuli, Aasamai, Kutcheri, Rampura, Hasht Nagri, Toot, Kohati, Sirki, Thandi Khoi, Barzaqan, Ganj, Ramdas, Dabgari and Lahore Gate. The names given to these gates are significant. It was Sikh General Avitabile, who built a mud wall surrounding the city. Under the British nearly the whole of the enclosure wall had been built of pucca brick.
There are many bazaars with different goods and souvenirs for travellers. The main ones include the historic Qissa Khawani Bazaar, the Copper market, Chowk Yadgar and Andarsheher Bazaar. In addition because of its access to the Khyber pass, the Khyber train safari starts from here.
o Governor’s House
o Dean Center
o Peshawar Garrison Club
o Aviator’s Station – The site where freedom fighters of the 1857 independence movement were blown from guns.
o Danish Abad and Board Bazaar
o Kotla Mohsin Khan – The residence of Mazullah Khan, seventeenth century Pashtu poet.
o Durrani Graveyard
o Para Training School
o Sethi Mohallah
o Bala Hisar Fort
o Burj Hari Singh – Sikh fort founded by Sikh General Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa (no longer exists)
” Colonial Monuments
o Bara Bridge built by Mughal rulers in 1629.
o Chowk Yadgar – Formerly Hastings memorial
o Cunningham clock tower built in 1900. Called Ghanta Ghar
o Avitabile’s Pavilion
o Edwardes School – The residence of Yar Mohammad Khan, the last Durrani Governor of Peshawar
o Gor Khuttree – An ancient site of Buddha’s alms or begging bowl. Headquarter of Syed Ahmad Shaheed, Governor Avitabile
o Pakhtu Academy – The site of an ancient Buddhist University
o Shah Ji Ki Dheri – The site of Kanishka’s famous Buddhist monastery.
o Panch Tirath – An ancient Hindu site now converted into a park
o Sikh Gurudwara at Jogan Shah
o Tomb of Sheikh Imamuddin (d.1650) at Palosi Piran.
o Tomb of Rahman Baba (d.1706)
o Tomb of Akhund Darweza (d.1638)
o Tomb of Sheikh Sultan Baba
o Mausoleum of Nawab Sayed Khan
o Ziarat of Ashab Baba
o Wazir Bagh – Laid in 1802, by Fatteh Khan, Prime Minister of Shah Mahmud Khan.
o Ali Mardan Khan Gardens – Formerly Company Bagh now Khalid bin Waleed Park.
o Shahi Bagh – A small portion of which constitutes the current site of Arbab Niaz Stadium.
o Garrison Park – Located at Prime Location of Shami Road under Army Control.
o Tatara Park – Located in Hayatabad for children and families.
o Mohabbat Khan Mosque
o Ganj Ali Khan Mosque
o Qasim Ali Khan Mosque
o Sonehri Masjid
o Zarghooni MOsque
o Bilal Masjid Shami Road
o Peshawar Museum (Victoria Memorial Hall)
o Qissa Khawani Bazaar
o Karkhano Market
o Deans Trade Centre
o Jans Arcade
o Imperial Stores
o City Towers
o Jawad Towers
o Town Towers
o Saddar Bazar
o Mall Towers
o University road
o Town Towers
o Green Hotel
o Khan Klub
o Pearl Continental
o Grand Hotel
o Marhaba Hotel
o Hidayat Hotel
o North West Heritage Hotel
” Coffee Bars, Cafe’s And Resturants
o Masooms Cafe
o [[Cafe De’Viento]
o Cafe De’Milan
o SS Club
o Cheif Pizza and Burger
o Pizza Hutt
o Four seasons
” Fasi Zaka – Writer,Poet,Journalist,Academic,Rhodes Scholar, Radio Host and TV Personality.
” Jahangir Khan – Squash player and several times world champion
” Jansher Khan – Squash player and several times world champion
” Dr. Naseem Ashraf – Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board
” Sajid & Zeeshan – Famous Pakistani English Band and video director.
” Ghulam Ishaq Khan – Former President of Pakistan
” Syed Ahmed Shah Patras Bokhari – Urdu scholar
” Rahimullah Yousufzai- Journalist
” Raheem Shah – Pakistani singer
” Raj Kapoor – Indian film actor
” Dilip Kumar (aka Yusuf Khan) – Indian film actor
” Vinod Khanna – Indian film actor/producer
” Jayant – Indian film actor/ Father of Amjad Khan
” Rangeela – Pakistani film Actor
” Umer Gul – Cricket player
” Yasir Hamid – Cricket player
” Ismail Gulgee – Pakistani artist
” Badshah Munir Bukhari – Linguist
” Sharbat Gula – Refugee in a camp near Peshawar from 1985 to 2002 and who was made famous by photographer Steve McCurry
” Rahman Baba – Pushto poet
” Khushal Khan Khattak – Pushto poet
” Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan – Pakistani politician/political leader
” Khan Abdul Ghani Khan – Pakistani poet & philosopher
” Abdur Rab Nishtar – Muslim religious leader
The Peshawar International Airport serves the city and the province of the North-West Frontier as the main international airport in the region. It is served by all airlines of Pakistan as well as many major airlines including Emirates and Qatar Airways who have regular flights to the Gulf and forward connections to Europe. The city is linked to the main motorway as well as the Karakorum Highway from which it is connected to all of the major cities of Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Multan. The roads are also linked to Afghanistan and China. Afghanistan is linked through the Khyber Pass, which the main gateway for most cargo and passenger travel. There is also a central railway station run by Pakistan Railways, the largest operator of rail companies in Pakistan, with connections to all parts of Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. In the city, there are all sorts of methods to travel around the city, from coaches, buses, rickshaws (Auto rickshaws), yellow and black taxis as well as traditional methods such as horse and carts.