Pakistan - The Land Of Pure
Situated in the heart of the South Asian sub-continent, it is a country with its own fascinating history and cultural heritage. Pakistan was the site for one of the world's earliest human settlements, the great prehistoric Indus Valley Civilization, the crucible of ancient empires, religions and cultures. Pakistan traces its history back to 2,500 years B.C. when a highly developed civilization flourished in the Indus Valley. Excavations at Harappa, Moenjodaro, Kot Diji and Mehr Garh have brought to light, the evidence of an advanced civilization existing even in more ancient times.
The landscape of Pakistan ranges from lofty mountains in the north, the Karakoram and the Himalayas, through dissected plateaus to the rich alluvial plains of the Punjab. Then follows desolate barrenness of Balochistan and the hot dry deserts of Sindh blending into miles and miles of golden beaches of Mekran coast.
Pakistan is an Islamic Republic with its capital at Islamabad. It has four provinces: Balochistan, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Punjab and Sindh. Their respective capitals are: Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi. In addition to provinces, are the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Pakistan has a federal structure of government.
Location And Geography
Pakistan is situated between latitude 24 and 37 degrees North and longitude 62 and 75 degrees East. The country borders Iran on the West, India on the East, Afghanistan in the North-West, China in the North and the Arabian Sea in the South. The great mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the Karakoram and the Hindukush form Pakistan's northern highlands of North West Frontier Province and the Northern Area; Punjab province is a flat, alluvial plain with five major rivers dominating the upper region eventually joining the Indus River flowing south to the Arabian Sea; Sindh is bounded on the east by the Thar Desert and the Rann of Kutch and on the west by the Kirthar range; the Balochistan Plateau is an arid tableland, encircled by dry mountains. Its total area is 803,940 Sq.Km and total land area is 778,720 Sq.Km. (including FATA and FANA).
Population (1998 Census)
Total Population: 130.58 million. Growth Rate: 2.61% per annum.
Density: 164 person per Sq. Km. Sex Ratio: 108 males to 100 females
Pakistan has well defined seasons; Winter (December - February), Spring (March - April), Summer (May - September) and Autumn (October - November). During summer in central and southern parts of the country, the temperature may go as high as 45C. However, the Northern regions have very pleasant weather during summers. Between July and August, the monsoon brings an average 38 to 51 cm of rain to plains and 152 to 203 cm in lower Himalayan valleys of Murree, Kaghan, Swat and Azad Kashmir.
Religions And Languages
Muslim (97%),Christian (2%) and several other minorities.
National Language: Urdu
Official Language: English
Main Regional Languages: Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi and Pashto
Pakistan as a Tourist Destination
Pakistan is a special interest destination. Its main attractions include adventure tourism in the Northern Areas, cultural and archaeological tourism as found in Taxila, Moenjodaro, Harrappa, and early Muslim and Mughal heritage of Multan, Lahore, Thatta, Mardan,Peshawar, Swat. Besides this, birds watching Jeep safaris, desert safaris, trekking and mountaineering are readily available tourist specialized products.
For centuries, the ancient Silk Road remained the main trading route between the South and the Central Asia. After the construction of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) along the same alignment, which joins Pakistan with the Chinese Muslim autonomous region of Xinjang, the ancient trade link has been revived. The KKH has provided a great opportunity for international travelers to explore the unspoiled natural beauty, unique culture and traditions of the Northern Pakistan together with other Silk Route destinations like China, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
a) Unique Mountains, Valleys and Glaciers
Northern areas of Pakistan, spread over 72,496 sq.Km. are fascinating as its southern region. Amidst towering snow-clad peaks with heights varying from 1000 m to over 8000 meter, the valleys of Gilgit, Hunza and Skardu recall Shangri-La. The cultural patterns in this region are as interesting as its topography. The people with typical costumes, folk dances, music and sports like polo and buzkashi provide the traveler an unforgettable experience. Nowhere in the world there is such a great concentration of high mountains, peaks, glaciers and passes except Pakistan. Of the 14 over 8000 peaks on earth, 4 occupy an amphitheater at the head of Baltoro glacier in the Karakoram range. These are: K-2 (8611 m, world second highest), Broad Peak (8047m), Gasherbrum I (8068m) and Gasherbrum II (8035m). There is yet another which is equally great, that is, Nanga Parbat (8126m) at the western most end of the Himalayas. In addition to that, there are 68 peaks over 7000 m and hundreds which are over 6000 m. The Northern Pakistan has some of the longest glaciers outside Polar region; Siachen (72 km), Hispar (61 km.), Biafo (60 km.), Baltoro (60 km.), Batura (64 km.), Yenguta (35 km.), Chiantar (34 km.), Trich (29 km.) and Atrak (28 km.). The lower Himalayan valleys of Swat, Kaghan and Chitral in the Hindukush range equally share the beauty and diverse culture of the Northern Pakistan.
b) Nature and Adventure
From the mighty stretches of the Karakorams in the North to the vast alluvial delta of the Indus River in the South, Pakistan remains a land of high adventure and nature. Trekking, mountaineering, white water rafting, wild boar hunting, mountain and desert jeep safaris, camel and yak safaris, trout fishing and bird watching, are a few activities, which entice the adventure and nature lovers to Pakistan.
Pakistan is endowed with a rich and varied flora and fauna. High Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindukush ranges with their alpine meadows and permanent snow line, coniferous forests down the sub-mountain scrub, the vast Indus plain merging into the great desert, the coast line and wetlands, all offer a remarkably rich variety of vegetation and associated wildlife including avifauna, both endemic and migratory. Ten of 18 mammalian orders are represented in Pakistan with species ranging from the world's smallest surviving mammals, the Mediterranean Pigmy Shrew, to the largest mammal ever known; the blue whale.
c) Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley Civilization was at its peak from the 3rd till the middle of the 2nd millennium BC Discovered in 1922, Moenjodaro was once a metropolis of great importance, forming part of the Indus Valley Civilization together with Harrappa (discovered in 1923), Kot Diji and recently discovered in Mehr Garh (Balochistan). Moenjodaro is considered as one of the most spectacular ancient cities of the world. It had mud and baked bricks' buildings, an elaborate covered drainage system, a large state granary, a spacious pillared hall, a College of Priests, a palace and a citadel. Harrappa, another major city of the Indus Valley Civilization, was surrounded by a massive brick wall fortification. Other features and plan of the city were similar to that of Moenjodaro. The Kot Diji culture is marked by well-made pottery and houses built of mud-bricks on stone foundations.
d) Gandhara Heritage
Gandhara remains had once been the hallowed center of Buddhism, the cradle of the world famous Gandhara sculpture, culture and learning. The archaeological remains found in Taxila, Peshawar, Charsadda, Takht Bhai, Swat Valley, and rock carving &* inscriptions along the ancient Silk Route (Karakoram Highway) has well recorded the history of Gandhara. Lying in Haro River valley,. Taxila, the main center of Gandhara, is over 3,000 years old as it had attracted the attention of the great conqueror, Alexander in 327 BC, when it was a province of the powerful Achaemenian Empire. It later came under the Maurian dynasty and reached a remarkable matured level of development under the great Ashoka. Then appeared the Indo-Greek descendants of Alexander's warriors and finally came the most creative period of Gandhara. The Kushan dynasty was established in about 50 A.D. during the next 20 years, Taxila, Peshawar and Swat became a renowned center of learning, philosophy, art and trade. Pilgrims and travelers were attracted to Gandhara from as far as China and Greece. In 5th century AD, the White Huns snuffed out the last of the successive civilizations that held unbroken sway in this region for severa.
e) Mughal And Early Muslim Heritage
Pakistan is a treasure-house of Muslim architecture. Lahore, the cultural heart of Pakistan is situated along the bank of Ravi River. The city has witnessed rise and fall of many dynasties like Gaznavis (1021-1186), Ghoris (1186-1202) and Slaves (1206-1524) before arrival of the Mughals. The city was conquered by Babur of Ferghana (now in Uzbekistan), the founder of the Mughal dynasty (1524-1764). All the important monuments like the Royal Fort, Badshahi Mosque. Wazir Khan's Mosque, Tombs of Jehangir, Asaf Khan, Noor Jehan, Anarkali, the Shalimar Gardens and Hiran Minar etc., were constructed during this period. On the other hand, the shrines, mosques and forts located in and around Multan and Bahawalpur are master pieces of Muslim architecture. Some important buildings are; Forts at Multan and Derawar (Bahawalpur), shrines of Shaikh Bahauddin Zakaria, Shah Rukan-e-Alam, Hazrat Shams Tabrezi at Multan and Tomb of Bib Jiwandi at Uchh Sharif near Bahawalpur.