Peshawar (pəshäˈwär, pəshôˈər) [key], city (1998 pop. 988,005), capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province), NW Pakistan. A road and rail center near the famed Khyber Pass, Peshawar is an important military and communications center, the historical terminus of the Grand Trunk Road of India, and the major depot for trade with Afghanistan. Local handicrafts and farm produce from the surrounding fertile agricultural valley are sold in the many bazaars of the city. Industries include food processing and the manufacture of steel, cigarettes, firearms, textiles, pharmaceuticals, furniture, and paper.
The city, once called Purushapura, was the capital of the ancient Greco-Buddhist center of Gandhara. The Kushan leader Kanishka (2d cent. A.D.) made it his capital. For centuries, it was the target of successive Afghan, Persian, and Mongol invaders. It was named Peshawar [frontier town] by the Mughal emperor Akbar. A favorite residence (18th cent.) of the Afghan Durrani rulers, it was taken by the Sikhs (early 19th cent.), from whom the British captured it in 1848. It became an important outpost of British India and was a base for British military operations against Pathan tribes. During the decade-long Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979–89) it was the center of relief operations for Afghan refugees and the command center of the coalition of guerrilla groups intent on expelling the Soviet forces from Afghanistan. More recently, Peshawar and the surrounding area have been the scene of Taliban activity and attacks.
Peshawar has a museum containing Buddhist relics and Gandhara sculpture, a 2d-century Buddhist stupa bearing an inscription by Kanishka, and a university (1950) with several affiliated colleges. The Bala Hisar fort, still used as military headquarters in the early 21st cent., dates to at least the 15th cent.