Peshawar is the centre of Ghandara (Hindko) culture and arts in Pakistan. With the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan, Peshawar became home for many Afghan musicians and artists. The city has become the centre for Pashto music and cinema as well Persian music for the Tajiks. There is also a thriving book publishing activity in the Persian language in Peshawar, concentrated primarily on Islamic Shia literature and located in the Qissa Khawani Bazaar.
However, the election of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Islamic coalition in 2002 resulted in restrictions on public musical performances, as well as a ban on playing recorded music on public transports. Peshawar has become host to a thriving underground scene. In 2008, the secular Awami National Party (ANP) swept elections and won power from the Islamic coalition. Since then, some restrictions have been lifted, but there has not been a full restoration of the liberties guaranteed before the MMA victory in 2002.
The historic old city of Peshawar was once a heavily guarded citadel with high walls. Today, not much remains of the walls, but the houses and havelis have an essence of days gone by. Most of the houses are made of unbaked bricks with wooden structures for protection against earthquakes. Many of them have beautifully carved wooden doors and latticed wooden balconies. Areas such as Sethi Mohallah still contain many fine examples of the old architecture of Peshawar. There are many historic monuments and bazaars in the Old city, including the Mohabbat Khan Mosque and Kotla Mohsin Khan, Chowk Yadgar and the Qissa Khawani Bazaar. This part of inner Peshawar has been damaged by rapid growth and development and is in need of urgent protection.
The walled city was surrounded by several main gates which served as the main entry points into the city, some of which still survive today. They include: Lahori Gate, Sarasia Gate, Ganj Gate, Sirki Gate, Sard Chah Gate, Kohati Gate Former Gates which were demolished during wars were Kabuli Gate, Berikian Gate, Bajori Gate, Yakatut Gate, Dabgari Gate, Kachahri Gate, and Hasht Nagri Gate.