Chitrāl, region of Pakistan, important for defense due to its location. Chitrāl is found in the northwest corner of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, and it borders Jammu and Kashmīr on the east and Afghanistan on the north and west. Lying just south of the Hindu Kush mountain range, Chitrāl commands the main passes of these mountains and is therefore of great strategic importance in the defense of southern Asia. Chitrāl has an area of about 11,700 sq km (about 4,500 sq mi) and is chiefly drained by the Chitrāl River, a tributary of the Kābul River. The region varies in elevation from about 1070 m (about 3500 ft) in the extreme south in Arandu to 7,690 m (25,230 ft) at the summit of Tirich Mīr in the Hindu Kush.
Although most of the region is undeveloped, Chitrāl has several extremely fertile valleys where a number of agricultural products are grown. Cattle are also raised in the region. Chitrāl is rich in mineral deposits; however, these resources remain largely unexploited.
Converted to Islam between the 14th and 16th centuries, the people of Chitrāl belong primarily to the Ismaili sect (see Ismailis) and acknowledge the Aga Khan as their spiritual leader. Little is known of Chitrāl’s history prior to the 16th century, although a Sanskrit inscription carved on a rock found in the area affords evidence of its having been a Buddhist center of some importance before the 10th century. Legends tell of attacks on Chitrāl by Genghis Khan and the Mongols. Chitrāl was located on an old trade route between China and western Asia and changed hands several times between the Chinese, the Iranians, and members of the Kushāna Dynasty from Peshāwar. For much of the time between the 16th century and the late 19th century Chitrāl was ruled by Turkmen (see Turkmenistan). In 1891 the United Kingdom controlled Chitrāl’s international affairs but not its domestic affairs, and in 1947 Chitrāl became part of Pakistan.
Within the region of Chitrāl is a town by the same name. The town of Chitrāl is the local administrative and trading center, and it is virtually the only town in the region. It is located in the lowland section of the region, on the Chitrāl River, about 200 km (about 120 mi) north of Peshāwar.