Khyber Pakhtunkhwa


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) translates to ‘Khyber side of the land of the Pashtuns’, and is the north-western province of Pakistan. It shares borders with the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Afghanistan to the west, Gilgit-Baltistan to the northeast, Azad Kashmir, Islamabad and Punjab to the east and Southeast. .


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has a population of almost 27 million people, and only 53 per cent of it’s population is literate. The largest ethnic group in the province is the Pashtun, and the province is host to 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees. Pashto is the provincial language of the province and is spoken by over 73 per cent of the population, although the population speaks a total of 26 languages (when the Federally Administered Tribal areas are also taken into consideration). 99.68 per cent of the population is Muslim (Shia, Sunni and Ahmadi), while the remainder is comprised of  mostly Christians and Hindus.


Khyber Pakhtunkhwas share of Pakistan's GDP has comprised 10.5%, and the part of the economy that the province dominates is forestry. In the ten years leading up to 2011-12, KP’s economy grew at a rate of 4.2 per cent, slightly lower than the national growth rate of 4.6 per cent. The labor force partitipation in KP at 37 per cent is the lowest of all provinces (the national average is 46 per cent) and the unemployment rate is also the highest, at 9 per cent (the national average is 6 per cent). The province accounts for 78 per cent of the marble production in Pakistan.

While 83 per cent of the population of KP is defined as “rural”, over two thirds of the population lives within a one-hour travel time to a city.


Till the late 19th century, there was no formal border between Afghanistan and British India, and so in 1893 a border was drawn which was agreed upon by the British and Afghanistan. The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has had a troubled history since it was formed, when the British in 1901 carved out the northwest portions of Punjab to create the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). Upon the inception of Pakistan in 1947, Afghanistan held a Loya Jirga to claim the Pashtun territories on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line.  Afghanistan supported the Pushtunistan movement, which demanded a separate state for the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the coming decades, the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan has remained frosty, and the areas around the Durand Line have been the site of conflict. (Cohen, 2004)

The citizens of the province have experienced significant shocks, including fall-out from decades of a conflict in Afghanistan (which has included millions of refugees, many unregistered), spill-over from militancy in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, widespread devastation from the earthquake in 2005, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the conflicts in Swat and FATA. The province is also the major site for the Pakistani military operation against militants in the country, called Zarb-e-Azb. Polio is still prevalent in the province of KP, mainly due to parents refusing to vaccinate their children and militants targeting polio vaccination workers.

The major political parties in KP include the Awami National Party (ANP), a leftist, secular, Pashtun nationalist political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), a third-way communitarian party, and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), an Islamic political party and social conservative movement. The current chief minister of the province is Pervez Khattak (PTI), and his party has formed a coalition government with the Jamaat-e-Islami and Qoumi Wattan Party (QWP).


Further Reading

Stephen Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan, 2004
KPK Historical Overview

KP’s growth strategy
Reclaiming Prosperity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - A Medium Term Strategy for Inclusive Growth, IGC