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Paktia Province is located in eastern Afghanistan and occupies an area of 3,860 square miles. Its population is about 514,816, although the majority of the people are still refugees in Pakistan (with whom it shares a border) due to insecurity in the area, especially around Gardez. Paktia borders with Pakistani-ruled tribal areas of North Waziristan and Kurram. The size of the province was reduced during the rule of President Mohammad Daud Khan (1973–1978) when it lost territory to Paktika and Ghazni Provinces. The economy is based on agriculture: the area is well watered and supports cereal and rice crops, together with some animal husbandry. The province also has timber, but the forest area has been decimated by illegal felling and smuggling into Pakistan because of the higher market price offered there.

The people of Paktia are largely Pashtuns from the Zazi, Zadran, Ghilzai, Mangal and Wazir tribes. Zadran tribe is found in the south and west of the province, and the Mangal, Wazir, and Zazi tribes are in the east. The province has strategic importance because of its shared border with Pakistan and its location on the route to Kabul. It was the scene of bitter fighting during the civil war (1989 to 2001) due to its importance to the mujahideen, but resistance was strong, as many of the leaders of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) came from Paktia. The area fell under mujahideen control in March 1991 with the capture of Khost, and many of the PDPA supporters fled to Pakistan because of fears over their security. The province fell to the Taliban after the collapse of mujahideen rule in Kabul. Because of all the conflict experienced in this area, Paktia has more of its population living as refugees than any other province in the country.

The most important town in the province is the capital, Gardez, which has a largely Ahmadzai, Totakhel and small minority of ethnic Tajik population and all other major tribes from the province have their influence as well. It is at the heart of an agricultural area and previously had a thriving commercial center, supplying grain and ghi (clarified butter) to Kabul markets, as well as flocks of sheep. Horse breeding is also carried out in the area, using Waziri stock.

Paktia is located in the rugged mountains which is partially covered by forest trees and is in the highest elevations in the Hindukush mountain range which leads up to the Himalayan Mountains in northeastern Afghanistan. Paktia is well covered with trees and roads are being built, and power lines are being restored. The region is fortunate to lie far enough east to benefit from precipitation from the fringes of the Indian summer monsoon. Winter months, these mountains are impassable. [1] The major natural resources like forest trees, mine of cromet in Dandpatan, Sayed Karam Districts, ancient monuments of Mirzaka and Tsamkani Districts, natural gas of Zurmat District and range areas are very important. Possibility of water saving Canal in Machlagho, Ahmad Abad, Kalkeen, Mirzaka, Nari Kotal and Ahmadkhel district. During past 20-30 years most of forest areas were damaged by illegal and cruelly cutting of trees also due to the sever drought 80 % range land area was damaged. It should be mentioned that the ancient monuments of Mirzaka District illegally exploited by people during past 20-30 years.



  • Ahmad Abad
  • Dando Patan
  • Gardez
  • Jani Khel
  • Laje Mangal
  • Sayed Karam
  • Shawak Zadran
  • Tsamkani (Chamkani)
  • Waza Zadran
  • Zazi
  • Zurmat


Paktia has a total population of 514816 there are approximately 71317 house holds in the province, and house hold on average have eight members. The following table shows the population by district.

Almost all (96%) of population of Paktia lives in rural districts while 4% lives in urban areas. Around 51% of the population is male and 49% is female. : Pashto is spoken by 97% of the population and Dari is spoken by 21000 individuals in twenty villages. And around 1000 individuals speak other languages. Paktia province also has a population of Kuchis or nomads whose numbers vary in different seasons. In winter 9588 and in spring 4226 individuals of Kuchi population stay in Paktia.

Districts Male population Female population Total population
Ahmad Abad 13400 13300 26700
Dando Patan 13000 12300 25300
Gardez 40600 39000 79600
Jani Khel 17200 16200 33400
Sayed Karam 31600 29900 61500
Shawak 2700 2600 5300
Laja Ahmad Khel 11200 10600 21800
Tsamkani 24100 23700 47800
Waza Zadran 17500 16400 33900
Zazi 30900 29300 60200
Zurmat 52600 50200 102800
Total 263900 252400 516300

Source: Afghanistan CSO population data 1390


Paktians understand the need for education to compete in today’s marketplace. In addition to basic education for children, vocational training is in demand. The overall literacy rate for Pashto and Dari is estimated at 25%. However, while nearly one-third of men are literate (31%), this is true for only around one-fifth of women (19%). The male population is aged between 15 and 24 is less literate than that of general male population, with 25% literacy rate. For women in the same age group the figures show an even greater decrease in the literacy rate to just 9%. The Pashtun population in the province has particularly low levels of literacy with 4.2% of men and no women able to read and write. [2]


Paktia has significant oil and gas reserves. Unknown whether any efforts underway to tap these reserves. [3]


The USAID infrastructure program for Paktia Province focuses on the construction of water and sanitation facilities while building the capacity of local workers and supporting the local economy through the use of locally available materials. Constructed or refurbished water and sanitation facilities, installed latrines, and provided hygiene education. These activities increased access to a safe water supply, improving the health of people, livestock, and crops.

The provision of basic infrastructure such as water and sanitation, energy, transport and communications is one of the key elements necessary to provide the building blocks for private sector expansion, equitable economic growth, increased employment and accelerated agricultural productivity. In Paktika province, on average only 2% of households use safe drinking water. Around two-thirds (61%) of households have direct access to their main source of drinking water within their community.

Capabilities of industry and power

Many villages in Paktia have small hydro-electric plants. Reportedly, the electricity is mainly used for lighting and ironing. [4]


Paktia, located deep within the Hindu Kush. The mountainous landscape makes Nuristan’s land difficult to cultivate, and many villagers rely on livestock as their source of livelihood. Additionally, forests provide economic opportunities for woodworking and crafts. Women are responsible for crop production in Paktia, while men generally raise livestock. Traditionally, animal husbandry, subsistence agriculture and forestry have been the main sources of income. Other sources of income are opium, wage labor, food aid and remittances from male family members working outside Paktia, in addition to smuggling of consumer goods and precious stones, and illegal logging. Most Paktian subsist as farmers and herders but in this remote and difficult to access region where steep, narrow paths challenge even mules and transport is mostly on foot, some of the men are employed by logging or illicit gem mining enterprises. Some logging is legitimate, some not, but all gem extraction is illegal by government restriction. Both are transported beyond the central government’s control through Pakistan, funded by outside entrepreneurs who, as the suppliers of the necessary capital and machinery, reap huge profits that are not fairly shared with local laborers.

Gems such as rubies, emeralds, lapis lazuli and tourmalines of a superior quality known since 5000 BC to Silk Road traders and throughout the world today as well, are the region’s primary resource.

Isolation has proved two-edged: beneficial development has been hindered, leaving Paktia as one of Afghanistan’s most impoverished areas, yet a singular culture and its varying languages has been kept intact.

Today, like centuries ago, the main occupations of the Paktians are agriculture and sheep and cattle breeding. The majority of commercial activity in Paktia is related to trade in agricultural, timber, and gems.

Agriculture and livestock represent sources of income for 88% of households in Paktia province. Eighty percent of rural households own or manage agricultural land or garden plots in the province. One in seven households (14%) earn some income through nonfarm related labor. There is very little production of industrial commodities such as cotton, sugar, sesame, tobacco, olives and sharsham in Paktia. The sector of small industries is dominated by one commodity, honey. In 2005, 68% of households in Paktia reported taking out loans. Of these loans, a significant percentage was used to invest in economic activity such as agricultural inputs (21%). [5]


Paktya Province have both irrigated and rain fed agriculture lands. Since it a cold region except Tsamkani and Dand Patan Districts (which have two season growing condition) all districts have one season growing condition. People in this province have less land therefore, most of land owners cultivating their land themselves or giving to another person on rent or as share cropping system. [6]

The soil is rocky and, and cultivable land is scarce. Tiny fields are served by a complex system of carefully maintained irrigation canals. Most of the water comes from melting snow on the mountains. Crop rotation and manuring is practised. The growing season in the south is up to seven months, while in the north it may be as short as three months.

Women do most of the agricultural work. Wheat and millet are grown. In recent years, the cultivation of maize has been expanding at the cost of millet. Maize is easier to grow, and not so easily beaten down by rain. Other crops include pumpkins and squash, red beans, potatoes, lentils, tomatoes, hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, mulberries, grapes, pomegranates, apples and apricots. Men herd the livestock, mainly goats, but also sheep and dairy cattle. Large quantities of milk, ghee (a kind of butter) and cheese are produced. Chickens are raised in and around the homestead. Honey is produced mainly in the southern valleys (Cita, 1986). Both the calendar year and the agricultural year begin in spring, approximately at the vernal equinox when all livestock leave the winter stables and move into the first pastures.

Insufficient agricultural and fertile land, water, inability to expand cash crop production, no alternate sources of income, and poor access to health, education, and markets (especially in the winter) have prevented the majority of people from being able to improve their livelihoods.

The most significant farming constraints experienced by households in 2003 were lack of irrigation water, lack of oxen/traction power, lack of availability of farming land, lack of seeds, and lack of credit/cash. Overall, very few women were involved in agricultural activities, though there were distinct provincial exceptions, such as Nuristan where 72% of women reported to be engaged in agricultural work. [7]

Ghazni-Paktia road

In September 2010 work started Sunday on the final 54 kilometres of a 93-kilometre long road connecting Ghazni and Paktia provinces. The 54-kilometre stage will link Deh Yak district in Ghazni to Zormat district in Pakitia province. Work on the other 39 kilometres through Paktia had already started. Both parts of the highway, costing $95 million, were financed by the US government and would be finished within one year.

The road is 13 metres in width with a 1.5 metre footpath at each side. Schools, health centres, mosques and micro power plants on both sides of the road are in the future plan, which will use about $200,000 from the fund. Security for the road work was being handled by a private firm which had set up checkpoints two kilometres apart. The price of travelling between the two provinces would be halved from 300 afghanis to 150 and the journey time shortened from four hours to one and half. Rasuli Allpha Wardak is the construction company carrying out the work. Its director, Engineer Zia, said that $3 million would be spent building the 54 kilometres of road. [8]

Paktia during the wars

Paktia is one of the provinces whose people were greatly damaged in the days of the Russian occupation when their homes and villages were destroyed by heavy bombing in the long battles which went on for more than ten years. Its people were forced to leave their homes and migrate to other areas because their districts - like Zadran, Zazi and Zurmat - were among the most important areas of Mujahideen influence and there the Russians sustained great losses.

When America attacked Afghanistan, Paktia was once again the province from which was launched the spark of resistance against the Americans face-to-face. American forces encountered their most fierce resistance in the mountains of Shahi Kowt in the Zurmat directorate. The Americans sustained great losses there and the American generals admitted that the American army had not encountered such resistance in forty years since its battles in Vietnam.

That momentous battle is considered the first opening in the path of the resistance against the American forces, vanishing from the minds of the people the terror planted there by the American propaganda war. After that violent resistance, Jihadist opposition spread in other areas of Paktia and it did not take a long time to pass before secret, scattered resistance transformed into open and organized opposition. In view of the strategic military importance of this province, US has established strong military bases and dispatched large forces there with the intent of weakening Jihadist resistance.

The US-led Coalition was not the first military force to mount combat operations in the Shahi Kowt Valley. Indeed, in the 1980s the Soviet Army launched numerous campaigns intothe region in attempts to destroy mujahideen control over the valley. The mujahideen forcesopposing the Red Army in southeast Afghanistan centered their defenses in Paktia province on the central mountain range. Their defenses were particularly well placed and strong along the highway between Gardez and Khos. The latter city was garrisoned by a sizable Sovietforce that relied on supplies coming in from Kabul through Gardez. Determined to deny use of that road as a supply route, in 1981 Afghan mujahideen successfully sealed it off and laid siege to Khost. As a result, the Soviets were forced to resupply the garrison through airlift.

During the 7 years that followed, the Soviet Army conducted numerous operations in the Gardez–Khost area seeking to bring the mujahideen to battle and to relieve Khost. On 20 March 1982 the mujahideen ambushed a reconnaissance platoon of a Soviet mechanized battalion at the village of Sher Khan Khel located in the Shahi Kowt Valley. In August 1983 the Soviets conducted their first major offensive in Paktia province followed by another in November the following year. In August and September 1985 the Russians conducted one of the largest offensives of the war to break the blockade of the Gardez–Khost road and resupply the garrison.They succeeded in breaking through to Khost, but the mujahideen reestablished the siege andagain blocked the road once the Soviet relief column pulled back to Gardez.

In November 1987 the Soviet Army launched Operation MAGISTRAL, the largest campaign of the war. The 40th Army, consisting of about five divisions and air support, again battled its way through the mountains from Gardez to Khost. After a signicant fight at Satu kandaw Pass, a key checkpoint on the road, the 40th Army successfully pushed through the mountains and relieved Khost. But as they had done repeatedly in the past, the mujahideen flowed back into the mountain defenses and cut off Khost as the Soviet relief column withdrew to Gardez. The difference this time was that Operation MAGISTRAL was used by the Soviets to set conditions for their departure from Afghanistan. The mujahideen had lost the battle, but won the war when Soviet troops began officially pulling out in 1988.

In Paktia province, the mujahideen had achieved success largely by holding the highground and making the enemy fight their way up to them. These guerrilla bands were exceptionally good at conducting hit-and-run ambushes with small arms against small detachments, especially convoys, and were generally successful in denying the use of roads to a largely road- bound mechanized army. Though the Soviets had the combat power to bull their way through whenever and wherever they chose, that combat power was not strong enough to conduct such operations anytime or anywhere in Afghanistan. Thus, when they conducted a large operation to clear an area of the enemy, the mujahideen would simply melt away in small elements and return after the Soviets had departed. Conversely, the Soviets, despite their generally overwhelming superiority in firepower, were loath to fight the mujahideen at close quarters. Instead, Soviet commanders preferred to engage the enemy with heavy weapons at distances of 300 meters or greater—out of rocket- propelled grenade (RPG) and AK-47 range—if the enemy could be detected early enough. These timid tactics almost guaranteed the guerrillas an opportunity to escape and fight another day if the battle went against them.


  • Conflict in Afghanistan Frank A. Clements
  • Adamec, Ludwig. 1972–1985. Historical and Political Gazetteer of Afghanistan. 6 vols. Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck-u Verlagsansalt.
  • Baldauf, Scott. 2003. “Once Powerful Warlord Is Shunted Aside.” (cited 22 January 2003).
  • Gall, Carlotta. 2003.“Holdout Afghan Warlord May Join Karzai Camp.” (cited 18 January 2003).
  • [1][2][3][4][5][7] Paktia Area Study by Daniel McKillop
  • [6] Paktia report by EGGI (USAID)
  • [8]
  • A Different Kind of War - The US Army in Operation Enduring Freedom, October 2001 – September 2005 By Dr. Donald P. Wright