About Pakistan

Pakistan is bounded in the south by the Arabian Sea, by Iran and Afghanistan in the west, the Soviet Union to the north, China to the northeast and India in the east. It lies between 23-35 to 37- 05 north latitude and 60-50 to 77- 50 east longitude touching the Hindukush Mountains in the north and extending from the Pamirs to the Arabian Sea.

Pakistan is linked with China through land by Karakoram Highway along the great Silk Route while it is linked with India by air and rail. Afghanistan and Iran are linked with Pakistan by air and road.

Pakistan is a unique land! Situated in heart of south Asian sub-continent, it is a country with rich history and cultural heritage; fascinating in its own right. Pakistan was the home to one of the world’s earliest human settlements, the great prehistoric Indus Valley Civilization, the crucible of ancient empires, religions and cultures. Strategically situated at the historical cross roads, it links Southeast Asia with Middle East and Iran in the West, and provides an access to the landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asian states. This land is a witness to vicissitudes of history and civilization with profound effects on its people, their language and culture.

Pakistan came into being as an independent sovereign state on 14th August 1947, as a result of the division of former British India. Pakistan’s geophysical monuments, great mountains, rivers & deserts are as staggering in natural concept as its legacy of art and architecture is in human terms. From blazing deserts to Polar ice, from rich forests to fertile plains, from great rivers and lakes to coastal lagoons, Pakistan is a land of scintillating contrasts and diverse cultures. Covering an area of more than 300,000 square miles (796,095 sq.km.) with a population of 132.35 million according to population census 1998.

Pakistan is an Islamic country with its capital at Islamabad. Pakistan has four provinces; Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh.

Four Provinces of Pakistan:
The Government of Punjab, a provincial government in the federal structure of Pakistan, is based in Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province.

The Punjab province of Pakistan is the country's most populous region and is home to the Punjabis and various other groups. Neighbouring areas are Sindh to the south, Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas to the west, the North West Frontier Province, Azad Kashmir, Indian controlled Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and Islamabad to the north, and Indian Punjab and Rajasthan to the east. The main languages are Punjabi and Urdu and the provincial capital is Lahore. The name Punjab literally translates from Persian into the words 'Panj' five, and 'Aab'  water respectively, which can be translated as "five water" (hence the poetic name land of the five rivers), referring to the Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Chenab and Jhelum rivers. Part of the Indus river also lies in Punjab, but it is not considered one of the "five" rivers.

Punjab is Pakistan's second largest province (area wise) at 205,344 km² (79,284 square miles) and is located at the northwestern edge of the geologic Indian plate in South Asia. The provincial level-capital and main city of the Punjab is Lahore, which has been the historical capital of the region. Other important cities include Multan, Faisalabad, Sialkot, and Rawalpindi. The province is home to six rivers: the Indus, Beas, Sutlej, Chenab, Jhelum, Ravi. Nearly 60% of Pakistan's population lives in the Pakistani Punjab, it is the nation's only province that touches Balochistan, North-West Frontier Province, Sindh and Azad Kashmir, and contains the federal enclave of the national capital city at Islamabad. This geographical position and a large multi-ethnic population strongly influence Punjab's outlook on National affairs and induces in Punjab a keen awareness of the problems of the Pakistan's other important provinces and territories. In the acronym P-A-K-I-S-T-A-N, the P is for PUNJAB.

The province is a mainly a fertile region along the river valleys, while sparse deserts can be found near the border with India and Balochistan. The region contains the Thar and Cholistan deserts. The Indus River and its many tributaries traverse the Punjab from north to south. The landscape is amongst the most heavily irrigated on earth and canals can be found throughout the province. Weather extremes are notable from the hot and barren south to the cool hills of the north. The foothills of the Himalayas are found in the extreme north as well.

Pakistan’s second largest province (population wise) is known as Sindh with its capital in Karachi, which is not only the most populous metropolis of the country, but also, a commercial hub .The province of Sindh has two gigantic seaports and both are located in Karachi. The biggest international airport of Pakistan is also situated in Karachi and is widely known as Quaid-e-Azam International airport.

Sindh is located on the western corner of South Asia, bordering the Iranian plateau in the west. Geographically it is the third largest province of Pakistan, stretching about 579 km from north to south and 442 km (extreme) or 281 km (average) from east to west, with an area of 54,407 square miles or 140,915 km² of Pakistani territory. Sindh is bounded by the Thar Desert to the east, the Kirthar Mountains to the west, and the Arabian Sea in the south. In the centre is a fertile plain around the Indus river. The devastating floods of the river Indus are now controlled by irrigation techniques.

Karachi became capital of Sindh in 1936, in place of the traditional capitals of Hyderabad and Thatta. Other important cities include Sanghar, Sukkur, Shahdadkot, Kamber Khan, Sehwan, Mirpukhas, Larkano,Nawabshah, Shikarpur, Khairpur, Nawabshah, Kashmor, Dadu, Umerkot, Thar, Jacobabad, Ghotki, Ranipur, Gambat, Sobhodero, Hingorja, Noshairo Feroz, Moro, Qazi Ahmed and Sehtharja.

Khayber Pakhtoon Khwah (KPK):
Khayber Pakhtoon Khwah is a province of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, located on both banks of the river Indus and stretches from the Himalayas in the north to the deserts in the south where it is bordered by the Baluchistan and Punjab provinces. On its western flank is the rugged terrain of neighboring country Afghanistan, which is accessed via the historic Khyber Pass through the mountains of the Suleiman Range. Its borders touch or are close to those of China, the Tajikistan and the disputed territory of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the north. The capital of the province is the city of Peshawar.

It covers an area of 74,521 sq. km. According to the 1998 census, the total population of K.P.K. was approximately 14 million out of whom 52% are males and 48% females. The density of population is 187 per sq. km and the intercensal change of population is of about 30 percent. Geographically the province could be divided into two zones: the northern one extending from the ranges of the Hindukush to the borders of Peshawar basin; and the southern one extending from Peshawar to the Derajat basin. The northern zone is cold and snowy in winters with heavy rainfall and pleasant summers with the exception of Peshawar basin which is hot in summer and cold in winter. It has moderate rainfall. The southern zone is raid with hot summers and relatively cold winters and scantly rainfall. Its climate varies from very cold (Chitral in the north) to very hot in places like D.I. Khan.

Its snow-capped peaks and lush green valleys of unusual beauty attract tourists and mountaineers from far and wide while its art and architecture no less known than the historic Khyber Pass. Once the cradle of Gandhara civilization, the area is now known for its devout Muslims who jealously guard their religion and culture and the way of life which they have been following for centuries. The warlike Pukhtoons, who live in NWFP and the adjoining areas of Afghanistan, making them a race apart, a chosen people, and no one, has ever managed to subdue them. The Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, British and Russians have suffered defeat at their hands. The Pukhtoons are divided into numerous sub-tribes and clans, each defending its territory and honor. In addition, the Pukhtoons serve as Pakistan's first line of defense along the Durand Line, the border drawn in 1893 by Sir Mortimer Durand, then foreign secretary of British India.

Balochistan is a province in Pakistan, the largest in the country by geographical area. It contains most of the historical region of Balochistan and is named after the Baloch. Its neighbouring regions are Iranian Balochistan to the west, Afghanistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to the north and Punjab and Sindh to the east. To the south is the Arabian Sea. The principal languages in the province are Baluchi, Pashto, Brahui, and Persian. The capital and largest city is Quetta. Balochistan is believed to be rich in mineral resources. It is also a major supplier of natural gas to the country.

Balochistan is located at the eastern edge of the Iranian plateau and in the border region between Southwest, Central, and South Asia. It is geographically the largest of the four provinces at 347,190 km² or (134,051 square miles) of Pakistani territory; and composes 42% of the total land area of Pakistan. The population density is very low due to the mountainous terrain and scarcity of water. The southern region is known as Makran. The central region is known as Kalat. The Sulaiman Mountains dominate the northeast corner and the Bolan Pass is a natural route into Afghanistan towards Kandahar. Much of the province south of the Quetta region is sparse desert terrain with pockets of inhabitable towns mostly near rivers and streams.

The capital city is Quetta, located in the most densely populated district in the northeast of the province. Quetta is situated in a river valley near the border with Afghanistan, with a road to Kandahar in the northwest. At Gwadar on the coast the Pakistani government is currently undertaking a large project with Chinese help to build a large port. This is being done partially to provide the Pakistan Navy with another base, and to reduce Pakistan's reliance on Karachi and Port Qasim, which are currently the only major ports.

In addition to the provinces are the Federally Administered Northern Areas which comprises districts of Diamer, Gaunche, Ghizer, Gilgit and Skardu. In addition there are seven Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The total area of Pakistan is 796,095 sq.km, whereas its population is 135.28 million (1996 estimate). Major cities are, the seaport Karachi (10 million), Lahore (5.5 million), Faisalabad (2 million), Rawalpindi (0.928 million), Hyderabad (0.8 million) and Islamabad (0.340 million). The population growth rate is estimated at 2.8% per annum. Main population is Muslims (97%). Other population is Hindu (1.5%) and Christian (1%) besides several other minorities. The national language is Urdu, whereas English is used as the official language. Other main regional languages are Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi and Pushto.

Government Structure:
Pakistan has a federal structure. Parliament consists of the Lower House (National Assembly) and the Upper House (Senate). Members of the National Assembly are directly elected on adult franchise basis and their term of office is 5 years. The National Assembly determines the major policy issues and passes annual budget and legislation. It elects the Prime Minister from among its members. The Prime Minister forms his/her cabinet from among members of the Assembly and the Senate. Provinces have their own elected legislative assemblies and Chief Ministers. Majority of the member of the Upper House are elected by the Provincial Assemblies.

The country consists of a vast area that was the great center of ancient civilizations of the world. Its historical sites beginning with stone-age to Twentieth Century A.D are a mirror of the life of its people who were, by nature, simple, hospitable and hard working. Ancient sites revealed in Taxila, Harappa, and Moenjodaro speak for Pakistan’s rich cultural background dating back to 3,000 B.C.

Pakistan has an agricultural economy with a world’s largest network of canals irrigating a major part of its cultivated land. Wheat, cotton, rice and sugar cane are the major crops.   Among fruits: mangos, oranges, bananas and apples are grown in abundance in different parts of the country. The main natural resources are natural gas, coal, salt and iron. The country has an expanding Cotton, Textiles, Sugar, Cement, and Chemicals industry, play an important role in its economy.

Climatically, Pakistan enjoys a considerable measure of variety. North and north western high mountainous ranges are extremely cold in winter while the summer months of April to September are very pleasant.

The vast plains of the Indus Valley are extremely hot in summer and have cold weather in winter. The coastal strip in the South has a temperate climate. There is general deficiency in the rainfall. In the plains the annual average ranges from 13 cm. In the northern parts of the lower Indus plains to 89 cm. In the Himalayan region. Rains are monsoonal in origin and fall late in summer.

Tourism is a growing industry in Pakistan, based on its varied cultures, peoples and landscapes. Himalayan hill stations attract those interested in field and winter sports. Pakistan is home to 108 mountain peaks over 7000 m, which attracts adventurers from around the world.

Nature has blessed Pakistan with unique landscape, the high mountains, plateau, plains, deserts and the luring sunny beaches are all found here. However, more than fifty percent of its area is mountainous, particularly its Northern and North Western regions which posses the most fascinating mountains on earth. Magnificent wreckage of continents in collision, fifty millions years ago, an immense island collided with mainland Asia to create the South Asian Sub-continent and push the Himalayas skyward.

Pakistan’s main river, 2896 kms. long mighty Indus emanates in Southern Tibet and flows North West. Cutting through the Karakoram and Himalayas, it passes through Ladakh and Skardu valleys. It turns Southward near Gilgit, separating Hindukush and Himalayas. It flows Southward from Kalabagh and after meandering through the plains of Punjab and Sindh disgorges its waters into the Arabian Sea, near Karachi. It’s four tributaries, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej Rivers drain the plains of Punjab from East to Southwest before joining the mighty Indus. There are number of small roaring rivers, especially in the mountainous areas, which also drain into the Indus River.

Pakistan offers the unique pleasure of its northern mountain ranges, the Himalayas, the Hindukush and the Karakorams, a mountain wonderland unrivalled in the entire world with such formidable peaks as the K-2, the Nanga Parbat, the Rakaposhi and Tirchmir.

The Karakoram and Hindukush, at the western end of the great mountain chain of South Asia and Central Asia, contain the greatest concentration of high peaks and the greatest expanse of glaciers of any mountain range outside the subpolar zones of our planet.

The mighty ranges, Karakoram, the Himalayas and the Hindukush make a rendezvous here. Found in these lofty ranges are the mountains of awesome heights, valleys of unsurpassable beauty, dotted with serene lakes of crystal clear blue water, through which flow murmuring streams and springs, and thundering rivers, above all the lion river-mighty Indus.

For those with an intrinsic love of mountains, Pakistan offers the unique pleasure of its northern mountain ranges, the Himalayas, the Hindukush and the Karakorams - with such formidable peaks as the K-2, the Nanga Parbat, the Rakaposhi, and the Trichmir. These ranges present an awesome challenge for those looking for trekking, mountaineering or jeep safaris.

These mountains are also home to a kaleidoscope of people, whose diversity and uniqueness offer a personal counterpoint to the immensity of the physical terrain and climate extremes.

Lake Saif-ul-Malook is the Heighest Lake on earth, is on 30-minute drive from Naran, this lake is just like heaven on earth. The depth of this heighest lake is still unknown. This beautiful lake is surrounded by the mountains which are all around it, and which add a lot to it`s beauty.

Hunza valley is rightly called the prettiest valley on earth, this valley is over-looking sky high peaks like K-2 and Rakaposhi.

People with in Pakistan as well as the foreigners go to trips during spring or end of the summer to Muree, Ayubia, Swat, Kaghan, Naran and Ziarat.

Flora and Fauna:
Pakistan is endowed with a rich and varied flora and fauna. The wide variety of landscapes and climates in Pakistan allows for a wide variety of wild animals and birds. 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.

The forests range from coniferous alpine and subalpine trees such as spruce, pine, and deodar cedar in the northern mountains to deciduous trees such as the mulberry-type Shisham in the Sulaiman range in the south. The western hills have juniper and tamarisk as well as coarse grasses and scrub plants. Along the coast are mangrove forests which form much of the coastal wetlands.

The northern parts of Pakistan have many old fortresses, towers and other architecture as well as the Hunza and Chitral valleys, the latter being home to the small pre-Islamic Animist Kalasha community who claim descent from the army of Alexander the Great. In the Punjab is the site of Alexander's battle on the Jhelum River and the historic city Lahore, Pakistan's cultural capital with many examples of Mughal architecture such as the Badshahi Masjid, Shalimar Gardens, Jahangir’s tomb and the Lahore Fort.

Wild Life:
Pakistan is a country with a rich heritage and culture. This section highlights the country's key factual information, and the top reasons why Pakistan is a great country to visit. The wide variety of landscapes and climates in Pakistan allows for a wide variety of wild animals and birds. The forests range from coniferous alpine and subalpine trees such as spruce, pine, and deodar cedar in the northern mountains to deciduous trees such as the mulberry-type Shisham in the Sulaiman range in the south.

In the south, there are crocodiles in the murky waters at the mouth of the Indus River whilst on the banks of the river, there are boars, deer, porcupines, and small rodents. In the sandy scrublands of central Pakistan are found jackals, hyenas, wild cats, panthers, and leopards while the clear blue skies abound with hawks, falcons, and eagles. In the southwestern deserts are rare Asiatic cheetahs. In the northern mountains are a variety of endangered animals including Marco Polo sheep, Urial sheep, Markhor and Ibex goats, black and brown Himalayan bears, and the rare Snow Leopard. Another rare species is the blind Indus River Dolphin of which there are believed to be about 1,000 remaining, protected in two major sanctuaries. In recent years the number of wild animals being killed for leather trading led to a new law banning the hunting of wild animals and birds and the establishment of several wildlife sanctuaries and game reserves.

Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation  (PTDC):
Pakistan has got a separate tourism department for the spread of tourism in Pakistan namely PTDC that is Pakistan tourism development corporation. PTDC provides suitable literature and information to foreign tourists as well as the locals. The basic motive of this corporation is to spread tourism in Pakistan. Pakistan tourism Development Corporation has got it’s offices in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Abbotabad.

A large number of tourists visit Pakistan all year round. Pakistan’s historical places and natural beauty attract the foreigners who know the art of making the best out of life.

Wetland of Pakistan:
The Convention on Wetlands came into force for Pakistan on 23 November 1976. Pakistan presently has 19 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites).  They are:

Astola (Haft Talar) Island, Balochistan
Chashma Barrage, Punjab
Deh Akro, Sindh
Drigh Lake, Sindh
Haleji Lake, Sindh
Hub Dam, Sindh, Balochistan
Indus Delta, Sindh
Indus Dolphin Reserve, Sindh
Jiwani Coastal Wetland, Balochistan
Jubho Lagoon, Sindh
Keenjhar Lake, Sindh
Miani Hor, Balochistan
Nurri Lagoon, Sindh.
Ormara Turtle Beaches, Balochistan
Rann of Kutch, Sindh
Tanda Dam, NWFP
Taunsa Barrage, Punjab
Thanedar Wala, NWFP
Uchhali Complex (including Khabbaki, Uchhali and Jahlar Lakes), Punjab

Most of these Pakistani wetlands have been declared 'Ramsar sites' through the work of IUCN in Pakistan, with 8 of them accepted in this category only in 2001. The wetlands of Pakistan include flood plain wetlands of major river systems and their extensive network of tributaries; saline and temporary wetlands of arid and semi arid expanses inland; coastal system such as lagoons, backwaters and estuaries; mangrove swamps; marine wetlands; and coral associated with Astola Island in Balochistan.

General Information:
Car Hires / Taxi Service:
There are car hire facilities at all International Airports. Agencies also function in major hotels. In the streets you can get yellow cabs or taxis. Metered taxis of different capacities are available everywhere in big cities. In case of difficulty, get the assistance of Police officials on duty. On some occasions you may also need to exercise some bargaining as well. Try asking a few taxi drivers located at different places to get a clear idea of the charges.

Car Rental:
Apart from a valid driving licence for self-driven rented cars, firms insist on a minimum age of 21 and may refuse to rent a car to any one over 60. Pakistan observes, "Right Hand Drive".

Distances on the roads are indicated in Roman numerical and also mentioned in Urdu. Sometimes there may be confusion between kilometers and miles. Within the city, especially on busy roads, it is better to drive within 50 kilometers (31 miles) per hour.

The railroad network is extensive, but when travelling, go first class or in an air-conditioned coach for comfort. Ideally, rent a "Tourist Car" which can be attached to any train. Fares are cheap by Western Standards and bookings should be done in advance both for seats and sleepers. Pakistan Railways also offer special concessions to tourists and well maintained Rest Houses are also offered as and when available.

Post & Telegraph Services: Countrywide postal, telegraphic and telephone facilities are available. Fax and telex services are also available. There are numerous Cyber Clubs throughout major cities of Pakistan which can provide you with economical Internet facility as well.

Special services offered by Pakistan Post Office include:

Local Express Service (LES);
Urgent Mail Service (UMS);
Air Express & Int'l Speed Post (ISP);
Surface Air Lifted Mail (SAL).
Telephone & Exchanges

Tele Communication:
Telephone facility is available in almost all the cities. More than 100 cities are linked with nation wide direct dialing system. For codes consult any telephone directory. Cellular mobile telephones are also available in big cities. They can also be hired on daily basis. Pay card phone booths are also installed at important places in big cities.

Courier Services:
Courier services for sending your documents and letters are available in private sector as well. These services are more expensive and the delivery is taken from the sender's address to the addressee. These services are also available for international points.

Pakistan's main cities - the Federal Capital, Islamabad and its twin city Rawalpindi, as well as the Provincial capitals, except Quetta i.e. Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar have international standard 5 - Star accommodation for tourists. In Quetta, the Provincial capital of Balochistan, a 4-Star Serena Hotel is located. Serena Hotel is also located in Faisalabad, Gilgit and Hunza. In all these touristically important cities, good international standard accommodation is available. Main cities have hotels suitable for every pocket.

Tourists in search of cheaper accommodation should try the local Youth Hostels or YMCA's hostels which offer clean accommodation and wholesome atmosphere at cheaper fare then the 3 or 4-Star hotels.

The Rest Houses owned by the various Government Departments all over the country are also available for tourists after advance bookings. This is, however, a cumbersome process as one has to reach the right official who can only rent out the Rest House to a tourist if it is not required by a government official during that period. In the Northern Areas and Hill Stations, however, Rest Houses have been built by local authorities, especially for travellers and tourists. The accommodation at these places is good and at places watchmen-cum-chefs are available which reduces the expenses of board considerable.

PTDC operates Rest Houses or Motels in a number of beautiful places where tourists go. These include Ziarat near Quetta, Taxila. Moenjodaro and various hill towns in the Northern Areas.

Credit Cards:
Major credit cards such as American Express, Visa, Master Card, and others besides Rupee credit cards launched by National Bank of Pakistan & Habib Bank etc. can be used for your shopping and other transactions.

Laundry & Hair Dressing:
First class hotels offer 24-hour laundering and dry cleaning services as well as hair dressing facilities. Many Hair Dressing Establishments and Beauty Parlours are available in all cities. These are generally closed on Mondays.

Medical Facilities:
All the cities have modern hospitals and Medical Centers staffed by western-trained specialists. There are private clinics as well. The European standard medical facilities are pretty cheap. In the rural areas, however, you should be careful to carry your own drugs, which are easily available in all towns. Foreigners, especially from the developed countries are advised to be careful of their drinking water. Outside the 4 or 5 Star Hotels, the water may not have been boiled and they should make inquiries about it and ensure the standard of drinking water, which goes well with their health. They can however, get disposable mineral water bottles at economical rates. Tourists are also advised to vaccine themselves from their home country before coming to Pakistan for diseases like Hepatitis B.

Last Words:
The richness of history and cultural heritage, varied landscape ranging from the warm sea beaches to deserts and alluvial plains, and the natural endowment of the high mountain ranges in the world, makes Pakistan a natural destination for tourists with varied interests. You may be wanting to learn from the treasures of the archaeological sites, relax at the warm beaches, enjoy the local traditions and hospitality, or the folk lures and dances, trek in the solitude of high mountains or are compelled to climb them; all can be found in one country-Pakistan Welcome to your destination.