Isolated remains of Homo Erectus in has been found indicating that Pakistan might have been inhabited since at least the Middle Pleistocene era. The precise date of these remains is unclear, and archaeologists put it anywhere between 200,000 to 500,000 BCE. The fossils are the earliest human remains found in South Asia. The genetical studies have shown that more than 60% of Pakistanis have their Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) maternal roots in South Asian specific branches of haplogroup 'M'. Because of its great time depth and virtual absence in western Eurasians, it has been suggested that haplogroup M was brought to Asia after their evolution in Africa, along the southern route passing through Arabia and Iran, by the earliest migration wave of anatomically modern humans, Homo Sapiens, nearly 60,000 years ago.

The original inhabitants of Pakistan may have been the tribals speaking languages related to Munda family of languages. Pakistan was the site of the world's oldest 8,000 year old civilization at Mehrgarh in the Balochistan province. The Mehrgarh declined about the same time as the Indus Valley Civilization only 200 Kilometers south east was developing. It has been surmised that the Mehrgarh residents moved to fertile Indus River valley as Balochistan became arid over time. Sarhad was sparsely populated by various Elamo-Dravidian and Indo-Iranian tribes for centuries following the decline of the nearby Harappa and Mohenjo Daro of Indus Valley Civilization to the east. Since ancient times the Sarhad region has been invaded by numerous groups including the Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Kushans, Huns, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Mughals, Sikhs, and the British. It has been speculated that early pre-Aryan populations in the Sarhad were an Elamo-Dravidian group, but this remains unproven. Between 2000 and 1500 BCE Aryan invaders split off into an Iranian branch, represented by the Pakhtuns who dominated most of the region, and various Dardic peoples which came to populate much of the north.

The Vale of Peshawar was home to the Kingdom of Gandhara starting around the 6th century BCE 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, Marco Polo, Mountstuart Elphinstone, and Winston Churchill among others.

The region was, in ancient times, a major center of Buddhism as attested by recent archaeological and hermeneutic evidence. The Gandharan scrolls, written on birch-bark in the Ghandaran 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. Gandhara ha trade links with Central Asia and China along the Silk Road.

Buddhism remained prominent in the region until the Muslim Arabs and Turks conquered the area before the 2nd millennium CE. Umayyad Muslim Arab army led by Muhammad bin Qasim conquered annexed the region and conversion to Islam was coupled with the Pakhtun assimilation of Arab culture as well. Today, many Pakhtun believe that their origins are Semitic and not Iranian contrary to linguistic and historical evidence. Over the centuries local Pakhtun and Dardic tribes were converted to Islam, while retaining some local traditions such as Pakhtunwali or the Pakhtun code of honor. The Sarhad became part of larger Islamic empires including the Ghaznavid Empire and the empire of Muhammad of Ghaur and was nominally controlled by the Delhi Sultanate and Ilkhantate Empire of the Mongols. 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 including Sarhad. 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 Sarhad.

The Sarhad was an important borderland that was often contested by the Mughals and Safavids of Persia. During the reign of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, the Sarhad required formidable military forces to control and the emergence of Pakhtun nationalism through the voice of local warrior poet Khushal Khan Khattak united some of the tribes against the various empires around the region. The area, as a predominantly Pakhtun region, merged following a loya jirga with the Durrani Empire founded by Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747 and remained mainly under Afghan control until the coming of the British. The British conquered the area and named is as North West Frontier Province (NWFP). At the time of independence in 1947 the people of Sarhad voted to join Pakistan in a referendum. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are historical parts of Sarhad that are administrated separately. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas comprise seven Agencies: Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Mohmand, Orakzai, and North and South Waziristan. The main towns include Miran Shah, Razmak, Bajaur, and Wana.


The NWFP sits mainly on the Iranian plateau and lies primarily in Central Asia, while parts of it overlap onto South Asia as well and this has led to considerable seismic activity (see 2005 Kashmir earthquake) in the province. Sarhad province borders Kashmir in the north, Punjab in the east, Balochistan in the south and Afghanistan in the west. The famous Khyber Pass links the province to Afghanistan, while the Attock bridge is a major crossing point over the Indus river in the east. The province has an area of 74,521 km² 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 and other main cities include Nowshera, Mardan, Mansehra, Charsadda and Abbottabad. 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, Naran and Kaghan is renowned for its beauty and attracts a great many tourists from neighboring 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.

Demographics and Society

The Sarhad has an estimated population of over 25 million that does not include more than 3 million Afghan refugees and their descendents in the province. The major language spoken in the Sarhad is Pashto, and most of its residents are Pakhtuns, especially in the lowlands and the southern areas of the Sarhad. The main local tribes include the Marwat Afridi, Orakzai, Bangash, Khattak, Mahsud, Mohmand, Wazir, and Yusufzai and many other smaller tribes. Further north, live other tribes including the Swatis, Tareens, Jadoons and Mashwanis. The mountainous extreme northern regions of the province known as the Kohistan District is also home to diverse ethnic groups and languages, such as Khowar, Hindko, Kohistani, Shina, Torwali, Kashmiri and Kalami. In addition, Afghan refugees, although predominantly Pakhtun (including the Ghilzai and Durrani tribes), include hundreds of thousands of Persian-speaking Tajiks and Hazaras as well other smaller groups found throughout the province. Nearly all of the inhabitants of the Sarhad are Muslim with a Sunni majority and small minority of Shia and Ismaili.


Sarhad is on the way to economic recovery, largely due to stable political and law-and-order conditions. Agriculture remains important and the main cash crops include wheat, maize, rice, sugar beets, as well as various fruits are grown in the province. Some manufacturing and high tech investments in Peshawar has helped improve job prospects for many locals, while trade in the province involves nearly every product known to man as the bazaars in the province are renowned throughout Pakistan. Unemployment has been reduced due to establishment of industrial zones. Numerous workshops throughout the province support the manufacture of small arms and weapons of various types. Trade with Afghanistan remains important as well.


Dera Ismail Khan
Dir Bala
Dir Payan


North Waziristan
South Waziristan








Page last updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2006 12:57:11 -0500