Swat District

(Redirected from Swat (Pakistan))

Swat District (Urdu: ضلع سوات, Pashto: سوات ولسوالۍ, pronounced [ˈswaːt̪]), also known as the Swat Valley, is a district in the Malakand Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Known for its stunning natural beauty, the district is a popular tourist destination. With a population of 2,309,570 per the 2017 national census, Swat is the 15th-largest district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Swat District
ضلع سوات
سوات ولسوالۍ
Switzerland of Pakistan[1]
Swat District (red) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Swat District (red) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Coordinates: 35°12′N 72°29′E / 35.200°N 72.483°E / 35.200; 72.483
Country Pakistan
Province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
CapitalSaidu Sharif
Largest cityMingora
Number of Tehsils7
 • TypeDistrict Administration
 • Deputy CommissionerN/A
 • District Police OfficerN/A
 • District Health OfficerN/A
 • Total5,337 km2 (2,061 sq mi)
 • Total2,308,624
 • Density430/km2 (1,100/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Rural
Time zoneUTC+5 (PKT)
Area codeArea code 0946
Languages (2017)[3]

Swat District is centred on the Valley of Swat, usually referred to simply as Swat, which is a natural geographic region surrounding the Swat River. The valley was a major centre of early Buddhism of the ancient civilisation of Gandhara, mainly Gandharan Buddhism, with pockets of Buddhism persisting in the valley until the 17th century, after which the area became largely Muslim.[4][5][6] Swat was the centre of Hindu Shahis and the Sultanate of Swat. In the early 19th century, Swat emerged as an independent state under Saidu Baba. State of Swat became a Princely state under British suzerainty as part of the British Raj in 1918.

In 1947, following the Partition of British India and subsequent independence of Pakistan, Swat acceded to the Dominion of Pakistan continuing as a self-governing princely state until it was officially annexed and merged into West Pakistan and later became a part of North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) in 1969. The region was seized by the Tehrik-i-Taliban in late-2007 until Pakistani control was re-established in mid-2009.[7][8]

The average elevation of Swat is 980 m (3,220 ft),[5] resulting in a considerably cooler and wetter climate compared to the rest of Pakistan. With lush forests, verdant alpine meadows, and snow-capped mountains, Swat is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations.[9][10]



The name "Swat" is derived from the Swat River. The Swat River referred to as the Suvāstu in the Rig Veda, with a literal meaning "of fair dwellings". Some have suggested the Sanskrit name may mean "clear blue water."[11] Another theory derives the word Swat from the Sanskrit word shveta (lit.'white'), also used to describe the clear water of the Swat River.[12] To the ancient Greeks, the river was known as the Soastus.[13][14][15][12] The Chinese pilgrim Faxian referred to Swat as the Su-ho-to.[16] Some legend says that it is derived from the name of Swati tribe who once ruled this region.


Upper Swat is enclosed by tall mountains.

Swat's total area is 5,337 square kilometres (2,061 sq mi). In terms of administrative divisions, Swat is surrounded by Chitral, Upper Dir and Lower Dir to the west, Gilgit-Baltistan to the north, and Kohistan, Buner and Shangla to the east and southeast, respectively. The former tehsil of Buner was granted the status of a separate district in 1991.[17]

The Swat Valley is enclosed by mountains that forms a natural geographic boundary for it. The Swat River whose headwaters arise in the 5,500-to-5,800-metre-tall (18,000–19,000 ft) Hindu Kush mountain range runs through the length of the region. The main area consists of many sub valleys such as Kalam, Bahrain, Matiltan, Utror, and Gabral.



The Valley of Swat is delineated by natural geographic boundaries, and is centered on the Swat River. The valley is enclosed on all sides by mountains, and is intersected by glens and ravines.[18] Above mountains ridges to the west is the valley of the Panjkora River, to the north the Gilgit Valley, and Indus River gorges to the east. To the south, across a series of low mountains, lies the wide Peshawar valley.[19]

The northernmost area of Swat district are the high valleys and alpine meadows of Swat Kohistan (Swat Mountains), a region where numerous glaciers feed the Usho, and Gabral rivers (also known as the Utrar River), which form a confluence at Kalam, and thereafter forms the Swat river - which forms the spine of the Swat Valley and district. Swat then is characterized by thick forests along the narrow gorges of the Kalam Valley until the city of Madyan. From there, the river courses gently for 160 km through the wider Yousufzai Plains of the lower Swat Valley until Chakdara.



Climate in Swat is a function of altitude, with mountains in the Kohistan region snow-clad year round. The upper areas of the region are relatively colder and often get snowfall in the winter. Drier, warmer temperatures in the lower portions in the Yousafzai Plains where summer temperatures can reach 105 °F (41 °C), although the lower plains experience occasional snow.[18] Both regions are subject to two monsoon seasons - one in winter and the other in summer. Swat's lower reaches have vegetation characterized by dry bush and deciduous trees, while the upper areas mostly have thick pine forests.[19]



The Saidu Sharif Airport at Kanju is a stone throw from Mingora, adding much to the tourism in the past. The runway is situated between Swat River and the Sham Baba mountainous range, with lush green gardens and large trees being added as "charm" to the climate in the area. More than 20 km² has been covered strategically, as was proposed during the last Wali's rule and constructed later-on by the Pakistani government. The Kanju village has seen an influx of academics in the region and is considered a hub for the Matta and Kabal Tehsils of Swat Valley.





The Gandhara grave culture that emerged c. 1400 BCE and lasted until 800 BCE,[20] and named for their distinct funerary practices, was found along the Middle Swat River course.[21]



In 327 BCE, Alexander the Great fought his way to Odigram and Barikot and stormed their battlements; in Greek accounts, these towns are identified as Ora and Bazira. After the Alexandrian invasion of Swat, and adjacent regions of Buner, control of the wider Gandhara region was handed to Seleucus I Nicator.

Gandhara civilisation

1896 photo of a Buddha statue seated on a lotus throne in Swat

In 305 BCE, the Mauryan Emperor conquered the wider region from the Greeks, and probably established control of Swat, until their control of the region ceased around 187 BCE.[22] It was during the rule of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka that Buddhism was introduced into Swat,[23] and some of the earliest stupas built in the region.

Following collapse of Mauryan rule, Swat came under control of the Greco-Bactrians, and briefly the Scythians of the Central Asian Steppe.[24]

The region of Gandhara (based in the Peshawar valley and the adjacent hilly regions of Swat, Buner, Dir, and Bajaur), broke away from Greco-Bactrian rule to establish their own independence as the Indo-Greek Kingdom.[25] Following the death of the most famous Indo-Greek king, Menander I around 140 BCE, the region was overrun by the Indo-Scythians, and then the Persian Parthian Empire around 50 CE. The arrival of the Parthians began the long tradition of Greco-Buddhist art, which was a syncretic form of art combining Buddhist imagery with heavy Hellenistic-Greek influences. This art form is credited with having the first representations of the Buddha in human form, rather than symbolically.[citation needed]

The Parthians were ousted from Swat by the Kushans, based in the Peshawar valley. Kushan rule began what is considered by many to be the golden age of Gandhara. Under the greatest Kushan king, Kanishka, Swat became an important region for the production of Buddhist art, and numerous Buddhists shrines were built in the area. As a patron of Mahayana Buddhism, new Buddhists stupas were built and old ones were enlarged. The Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hsien, who visited the valley around 403 CE, mentions 500 monasteries.[26]

Alchon Huns

The Hephthalite bowl from Swat (5th century AD) features two Kidarite royal hunters as well as two Alchon hunters, suggesting a period of peaceful coexistence between the two entities.[28]

Swat and the wider region of Gandhara were overrun by the Alchon Huns around about 465 CE.[29] Under the rule of Mihirakula, Buddhism was suppressed as he himself became virulently anti-Buddhist after a perceived slight against him by a Buddhist monk.[30] Under his rule, Buddhist monks were reportedly killed, and Buddhist shrines attacked.[30] He himself appears to have been inclined towards the Shaivism sect of Hinduism.[30]

In around 520 CE, the Chinese monk Song Yun visited the area, and recorded that area had been in ruin and ruled by a leader that did not practice the laws of the Buddha.[31] The Tang-era Chinese monk Xuanzang recorded the decline of Buddhism in the region, and ascendance of Hinduism in the region. According to him, of the 1400 monasteries that had supposedly been there, most were in ruins or had been abandoned.[32]

Hindu Shahis

Raja Gira was the site of a fortress from which the Hindu Shahis ruled Swat.

Following the collapse of Buddhism in Swat following the Alchon Hun invasion, Swat was ruled by the Hindu Shahi dynasty beginning in the 8th century,[33] who made their capital at Udigram in lower Swat.[33] The Hindu Shahis are believed to belong to the Uḍi/Oḍi tribe, namely the people of Oddiyana, present-day Swat.[34][35]

The Shahis built an extensive array of temples and other architectural buildings, of which ruins remain today. Under their rule, Hinduism ascended, and Sanskrit is believed to have been the lingua franca of the locals during this time.[36] By the time of the Muslim conquests (c. 1000 CE), the population in the region was predominantly Hindu,[37]: 19  though Buddhism persisting in the valley until the 10th century, after which the area became largely Muslim.[4][5] Hindu Shahi rulers built fortresses to guard and tax the commerce through this area,[38] and ruins dating back to their rule can be seen on the hills at the southern entrance of Swat, at the Malakand Pass.[39]

Muslim rule

The Mahmud Ghaznavi Mosque was built in the former Hindu Shahi capital of Odigram shortly after their defeat, and dates to 1048–49 CE.

Around 1001 CE, the last Hindu Shahi king, Jayapala was decisively defeated at the Battle of Peshawar (1001) by Mahmud of Ghazni, thereby ending 2 centuries of Hindu rule over Gandhara.

Sultanate of Swat


Sultanate of Swat was a major Gibari Swati state that existed in the Swat valley between 12th and 16th centuries, before being defeated by Yousafzai migrants from west. Sultan Pakhal Gibari was the first ruler of this kingdom. Sultan Awes Jahangiri was the last ruler until 1519 who was married to Shahida Bibi (making her Malika e Swat - the Queen of Swat), a sister of Yousafzai chief Malak Ahmed Khan.

Princely State of Swat


The princely state of Swat was a kingdom established in 1849 by the Muslim saint Akhund Abdul Gaffur, more commonly known as Saidu Baba,[40][37] that was ruled by chiefs known as Akhunds. It was then recognized as a princely state in alliance with the British Indian Empire between 1926 and 1947, after which the Akhwand acceded to the newly independent state of Pakistan. Swat continued to exist as an autonomous region until it was dissolved in 1969,[41] and incorporated into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (formerly called NWFP).

Tehrik-i-Taliban destruction of Buddhist relics

The Buddhist rock carvings of Manglawar were damaged by the Tehreek-i-Taliban, but restored with Italian aid.

The region was seized by the Tehrik-i-Taliban in late-2007,[7] and its highly-popular tourist industry was subsequently decimated until Pakistani control was re-established in mid-2009 after a month-long campaign.[8] During their occupation, the group attacked Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai in 2012, who at the time was a young school-girl who wrote a blog for BBC Urdu detailing life under Tehreek-i-Taliban rule, and their curb on girls' education.

Kushan-era Buddhist stupas and statues in the Swat Valley were demolished by the Tehreek-i-Taliban,[42] and the Jehanabad Buddha's face was blown up using dynamite,[43][44] but was repaired by a group of Italian restorers in a nine-year-long process.[45] Looters subsequently destroyed many of Pakistan's Buddhist artifacts,[46] and deliberately targeted Gandhara Buddhist relics for destruction.[47] Gandhara artifacts remaining from the demolitions were thereafter plundered by thieves and smugglers.[48]



Approximately 38% of economy of Swat depends on tourism[49] and 31% depends on agriculture.[50]



Gwalerai, a village located near Mingora, is one of those few villages which produces 18 varieties of apples due to its agriculturally favourable temperate climate in summer. The apple produced here is consumed in Pakistan as well as exported to other countries. It is known as ‘the apple of Swat’.[51] Swat is also famous for peach production mostly grown in the valley bottom plains and accounts for about 80% of the peach production of the country - thus oft marketed in the national markets with a branded as "Swat Peaches". The supply starts in April and continues till September because of a diverse range of varieties grown. Salampur village, located near Saidu Sharif, is a principle region in Pakistan for the manufacture of sheets and shawls.


Photograph of Mingora, the largest city in Swat – May 2014
Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1951 283,720—    
1961 344,859+1.97%
1972 520,614+3.82%
1981 715,938+3.60%
1998 1,257,602+3.37%
2017 2,308,624+3.25%

At the time of the 2017 census the district had 270,974 households and a population of 2,308,624, of which 1,171,947 were males and 1,136,545 females. Swat had a sex ratio of and a literacy rate of 50.27% - 65.25% for males and 35.10% for females. 695,821 (30.14%) lived in urban areas. 31.45% of the population were under 10 years of age. 1,811 (0.08%) people in the district were from religious minorities.[2]

Languages of Swat district (2017)

  Pashto (90.78%)
  'Others' (mainly Kohistani) (7.35%)
  Others (1.87%)

Swat is mostly inhabited by Pashtuns who make up 90.78% of the population.[2] The dominant tribe is the Yusufzai tribe with minor settlements of Shinwari, Tarkani, Ghoryakhel and Sulaimankhel tribes.[5] The language spoken in the valley is Pashto (mainly the Yousafzai dialect). Other languages, mainly the Kohistani languages of Torwali and Kalami, are spoken by 7.35% of the population, and form the majority in the Swat Kohistan region of Upper Swat.[2]



According to the Alif Ailaan Pakistan Education Rankings for 2017, Swat with a score of 53.1, is ranked 86 out of 155 districts in terms of education. Furthermore, the Swat schools infrastructure scores 90.26 which ranks it on number 31 out of 155.[53]



A Christian-run missionary school was established in 1950s, the first ever private sector educational institution in Swat Valley.

A number of other private sector schools are in run since long, Tipu Model School and College, Kabal Swat (TMS established by Safdar Ali Aziz) and Swat Public School (SPS) are oldest among such schools.

Safdar Ali Aziz is also founder of Private Schools Management Association (PSMA) and got good reputation in imparting quality education in the region.

Administrative divisions


Swat is subdivided into 9 administrative divisions Tehsils:[54]

  1. Behrain
  2. Barikot
  3. Babuzai
  4. Charbagh
  5. Kabal
  6. Khwaza Khela
  7. Matta
    1. Matta Sebujni
    2. Matta Shamizai
  8. Kalam
  9. Mingora

Each tehsil comprises certain numbers of union councils. Swat has 65 union councils: 56 rural and 9 urban.

According to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act, 2013, a new local governments system was introduced, in which Swat is included. This system has 67 wards, in which the total amount of village councils are around 170, while neighbourhood councils number around 44.[55][56]



The region elects three male members of the National Assembly of Pakistan (MNAs), one female MNA, seven male members of the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (MPAs)[57] and two female MPAs. In the 2002 National and Provincial elections, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) , an alliance of religious political parties, won all the seats.

Provincial Assembly

Member of Provincial Assembly Party Affiliation Constituency Year
Sharafat Ali Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-3 Swat-I 2024
Ali Shah Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-4 Swat-II 2024
Akhtar khan Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-5 Swat-III 2024
Fazal Hakeem Khan Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-6 Swat-IV 2024
Amjad Ali Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-7 Swat-V 2024
Hameed ur rahman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-8 Swat-VI 2024
Sultan e room Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-9 Swat-VII 2024
Muhammad Naeem Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PK-10 Swat-VIII 2024

Notable people


See also



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  4. ^ a b East and West, Volume 33. Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. 1983. p. 27. According to the 13th century Tibetan Buddhist Orgyan pa forms of magic and Tantra Buddhism and Hindu cults still survived in the Swāt area even though Islam had begun to uproot them (G. Tucci, 1971, p. 375) ... The Torwali of upper Swāt would have been converted to Islam during the course of the 17th century (Biddulph, p. 70).
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  23. ^ Khan, Makin (1997). Archaeological Museum Saidu Sharif, Swat: A Guide. M. Khan.
  24. ^ Ahmad, Makhdum Tasadduq (1962). Social Organization of Yusufzai Swat: A Study in Social Change. Panjab University Press. They ruled this area for nearly 150 years when they were replaced first by Bactrians and latter by the Scythians
  25. ^ Tarn, William Woodthorpe (24 June 2010). The Greeks in Bactria and India. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-108-00941-6.
  26. ^ Petrie, Cameron A. (28 December 2020). Resistance at the Edge of Empires: The Archaeology and History of the Bannu basin from 1000 BC to AD 1200. Oxbow Books. ISBN 978-1-78570-304-1.
  27. ^ Samad, Rafi U. (2011). The Grandeur of Gandhara: The Ancient Buddhist Civilization of the Swat, Peshawar, Kabul and Indus Valleys. Algora Publishing. ISBN 978-0-87586-860-8.
  28. ^ Alram 2014, pp. 274–275.
  29. ^ Atreyi Biswas (1971). The Political History of the Hūṇas in India. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. ISBN 9780883863015.
  30. ^ a b c Singh, Upinder (25 September 2017). Political Violence in Ancient India. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-97527-9.
  31. ^ Chattopadhyaya, Sudhakar (1958). Early History of North India, from the Fall of the Mauryas to the Death of Harsa, C. 200 B.C.-A.D. 650. Progressive Publishers.
  32. ^ Wriggins, Sally (11 June 2020). Xuanzang: A Buddhist Pilgrim On The Silk Road. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-000-01109-8.
  33. ^ a b Khaliq, Fazal (6 March 2016). "Castle of last Hindu king Raja Gira in Swat crumbling". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 23 April 2021.
  34. ^ Rahman, Abdul (2002). "New Light on the Khingal, Turk and the Hindu Sahis" (PDF). Ancient Pakistan. XV: 37–42. The Hindu Śāhis were therefore neither Bhattis, or Janjuas, nor Brahmans. They were simply Uḍis/Oḍis. It can now be seen that the term Hindu Śāhi is a misnomer and, based as it is merely upon religious discrimination, should be discarded and forgotten. The correct name is Uḍi or Oḍi Śāhi dynasty.
  35. ^ Meister, Michael W. (2005). "The Problem of Platform Extensions at Kafirkot North" (PDF). Ancient Pakistan. XVI: 41–48. Rehman (2002: 41) makes a good case for calling the Hindu Śāhis by a more accurate name, "Uḍi Śāhis".
  36. ^ Sorrow and Joy Among Muslim Women The Pushtuns of Northern Pakistan By Amineh Ahmed Published by Cambridge University Press, 2006 Page 21.
  37. ^ a b Fredrik Barth, Features of Person and Society in Swat: Collected Essays on Pathans, illustrated edition, Routledge, 1981
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  40. ^ S.G. Page 398 and 399, T and C of N.W.F.P by Ibbetson page 11 etc
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  57. ^ "Constituencies and MPAs – Website of the Provincial Assembly of the N-W.F.P". Archived from the original on 28 December 2007.


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