Detailed mapping suggests a new scenario for the kinematic history of the Late Cretaceous Kohistan arc complex and for the cause of Cenozoic metamorphism and exhumation along the Indian continental margin in Pakistan. The earliest deformational phases resulted in early Cenozoic amphibolite-facies metamorphism, superposed tight to isoclinal F1/F2 folds, and development of strong penetrative rock fabric within the Indian plate in response to southwestward, and then southeastward, overthrusting of ophi-olitic mélange in the Indus suture zone and West Pakistan fold belt, respectively. This deformation included the development of the Banna and Malakand thrust faults. Prograde metamorphism ended following this deformational phase, and the early structures were deformed along N-trending, open, upright, F3 folds and domes. This was followed by ESE- to E-directed thrusting of the Kohistan arc complex onto the Indian continent along the dominantly brittle Kohistan fault. Thrusting ended in the late Oligocene–early Miocene when the Kohistan arc assumed its present position along the northern margin of India. South-verging structures began to form on the Indian plate for the first time in the late Oligocene–early Miocene. Deformation had expanded to the foreland by the middle to late Miocene with development of the Panjal-Khairabad thrust. Neogene structures in the metamorphic zone include N-trending, east-side-up, high-angle fault zones that deform or reactivate the Kohistan fault, and NW-trending, east-side-up reverse faults, both of which are seismically active.
In the tectonic scenario outlined here, shortening along the Kohistan fault occurred subsequent to metamorphism, and was directed toward the ESE-E throughout its history. The southern termination of the fault is considered to be a right-slip sidewall ramp such that the Kohistan arc never advanced much father south on the Indian plate than its present position. Broad flexure, folding, and erosion in front of and south of the actively advancing Kohistan arc complex contributed to exhumation of the Indian plate. This differs from interpretations that state that Kohistan was thrust in a southward direction; that underthrusting beneath Kohistan was the primary cause of early Cenozoic metamorphism on the Indian plate; and that top-side-north extensional reactivation of the Kohistan fault contributed to exhumation.