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History & Geography

With a population of more than 180 000000 (hundered and eighty million), Pakistan is placed as the second most populated Muslim country in the world. Having aquired the nuclear techonology, our country is considered as the leader of Muslim community in the world. Pakistan stretches from the Arabian Sea to the high mountains of central Asia, and covers an area of 805,000 square kilometres, or three times that of the United Kingdom or about a twelfth of the United States. The distance from southwest to northeast is 1,800 kilometres, and the southern coastline along the Arabian Sea is nearly 1,000 kilometres long. We have borders with our neighbouring countries:
South and South East: Arabian Ocean
South West: Iran
West to North West: Afghanistan
North East: China
East: India
Our frontier with Afghanistan is almost 2500 km long

Today the country is divided into four provinces: Sind, Baluchistan, Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw (previously known as NWFP). Two other regions, the Northern Areas (Gilgit, Hunza, Chilas and Skardu) and Azad Kashmir and Jammu (the upper Jhelum valley), were officially assigned to India at Partition in 1947 but were soon ‘liberated’ by Pakistan; these areas are administered by Pakistan, but the people there do not have full voting rights.

Geographically Pakistan falls into three main regions: the mountains in the north where the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Himalayan ranges meet; the vast but sparsely populated plateau of Baluchistan: and the Punjab and Sind plains of the Indus River and its five main tributaries.

The Indus River is Pakistan’s lifeline and, with its tributaries, provides water for the largest irrigation system in the world; there are some 64,000 kilometres of irrigation canals, almost all in the Indus plain. The dam at Tarbela in northern Punjab used to be the largest earth-filled dam in the world.

The Indus itself is 3,200 kilometres long, the third longest river in Asia after the Yangzi and Yellow Rivers. The Indus separates the Himalaya and the Karakoram ranges, plunging through some of the world’s deepest gorges as it twists between the mountains until it finally finds an exit south to the plains of the Punjab and Sind.

Pakistan’s economy is heavily dependent upon agriculture. Wheat is the main food crop, followed by rice, millet, maize, barley and pulses. Cotton is by far the most important cash crop and accounts for five percent of world production. Our natural salt mines are largest in the world. An important quantity of minerals and semi precious stones is produced in northern Pakistan as well. Textile manufacture is Pakistan’s most important industry, followed by light engineering, food processing, cement, pharmaceuticals, leather and rubber. Hydroelectric power is the largest source of energy in the country. There is also oil in the Potohar Plateau, and there have been some new finds in southern Sind. We are self sufficient in the production of natural gas.

The tourism industry remains almost totally undeveloped, although its great potential is recognized. Apart from our rich cultural heritage, Pakistan is also a well known destination for trekking and alpinism.


Islam: There are few countries where religion plays such an important role in the life of its people as it does in Pakistan. Islam is the binding force of the nation. The muezzin’s call to prayer from the minarets of the mosques; the men bowed in prayer in the fields, shops and airports; the qibbla (direction of Mecca) marked in every hotel room: the veiled women in the streets-all are constant reminders of the devotion and religious fervour of the Pakistanis.

The word Islam means ‘submission to the will of God and peace among His creation’, Muslims believe that the teaching of Islam was first given to man at the time of creation and that prophets have been sent time to time to convey the divine instructions.

Sufism: Sufism is the name given to Islamic mysticism, and Sufis are Muslim holy men who develop their spiritual lives through prayer, self-denial and meditation. The word ‘Sufi’ is derived from Safe, meaning purity.  

The most famous Sufi saints in Pakistan, each with hundreds of thousands of devotees, are Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, whose shrine is in Sehwan Sharif; Data Ganj Bakhsh of Lahore, Baba Farid Shakar Gunj of Pakpatan; Shah Latif of Bhit Shah near Hala; Pir Baba of Buner; Bari Imam of Nurpur, near Islamabad; and Shah Shams Tabrez of Multan. There are hundreds of other shrines all over the country, each with its followers who visit the shrine to pray and make offerings. Each shrine has a festival, or urs, once a year at the anniversary of the saint’s death. It is a matter of fact that Sufis played an important role in spreading Islam in the sub continent.

Sikhism: Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, was born near Lahore in 1469 and died in 1538. Unlike the Hindus, the Sikhs did not adhere to a caste system. The Sikh shrines in Pakistan are maintained by the government and are visited by Sikh pilgrims during their annual festivals. Many members of Sikh community live in Punjab province.

Hinduism: Pakistan played an important role in the historical development of Buddhism and Hinduism. About four million Hindus left Pakistan at Partition in 1947, and fewer remain in the country today. Hindus living in today’s Pakistan are found in the province of Sindh as well as in the Cholistan desert.

Buddhism: Buddhism arrived in the Indus Valley from the Ganges Valley in the third century BC, about 230 years after the death of Lord Buddha. During the great age of Gandhara (second to fifth centuries AD), northern Pakistan was the centre of Buddhism, and it was from here that the religion spread to China and Tibet.

Lord Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama Sakiamuni, was born in Lumbini in Nepal in 624 BC. The son of a rich prince, he became increasingly troubled by the suffering in the world and at the age of 29 decided to renounce all worldly pleasures. He left his wife and a young son, and surrendered himself to the search of inner peace. Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the way of righteousness and truth, and died aged 80 in Gorakpur, India.

Buddhist does not believe in a supreme god. They look to Buddha to guide them to perfection. Essentially, Buddhists try to follow the middle path between worldliness and asceticism, believing that suffering can be avoided only after suppressing the sensual passions.

After his death, Buddha was cremated and his ashes buried under various Stupas across northern India. Though Buddha never visited Pakistan, the Jataka legends relate that he went there in previous incarnations. Though there are no Buddhists in Pakistan today, the country’s museums are full of Buddhist art from the first to seventh centuries, mostly statues of Buddha and scenes from his various lives, carved in stone or modelled in plaster.


The ancient Empires
The Indus Valley Civilization was a well-organized urban society that united the Indus Valley under a strong central government and developed a system of pictograms. The two major excavated sites of this civilization are at Moenjodaro in Sind and Harappa in the Punjab.

In about 1700 BC, Aryans swept down from Central Asia. Though culturally less advanced than the Indus Valley Civilization, they were the forerunners of the Hindus and authors of the Rigveda, the oldest religious text in the world, which describes battles against people living in the cities. In the sixth century BC, Pakistan became the easternmost province of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia, which was then at its height under Darius the Great. Gandhara, which covered most of northern Pakistan, was a semi-independent kingdom with capitals at both Pushkalavati (now Charsadda) and Taxila. In the fourth century BC, Taxila was the site of one of the greatest universities in the ancient world.

Alexander the Great conquered the Gandhara region between 327 and 325 BC. He visited Taxila and crossed the Salt Range before reaching the Beas River, then sailed down the Indus to the sea and marched west across the Makran Desert in Baluchistan. His empire, however, was short-lived. In 321 BC, Chandragupta founded the Mauryan Empire, controlling Gandhara from his capital at Patna on the Ganges. His grandson, Ashoka, promoted Buddhism and built Buddhist shrines, known as “Ashoka Pillars” all over the empire.

The Bactrian Greeks arrived in Gandhara in 185 BC, about 50 years after the death of Ashoka. The descendants of Alexander the Great’s armies from Bactria (now Balkh, in northern Afghanistan) built new Greek cities at Taxila and Pushkalavati.

In about 455 the White Huns (Hephthalites) invaded Gandhara from the northwest. They worshipped Shiva and the sun god Surya, and under their sway Buddhism began to go into decline, although it continued in Tantric form, which integrated elaborate rituals, and did not finally die out until the 16th century in Swat. The White Huns were converted to Hinduism and were possibly absorbed into the Rajput warrior caste.

The Sassanians and the Turks overthrew the Huns, but by the late sixth and seventh centuries the Turki Shahis, the Hindu rulers of Kapisa in Afghanistan, controlled the area west of the Indus, including Gandhara. The raja of Kashmir ruled east of the Indus and the northern Punjab, and there were numerous smaller kingdoms, all Hindu, throughout the country. Brahmanical Hinduism, a sect which performed elaborate ceremonies and animal sacrifice and had a dominant priestly class, overtook Buddhism.

In 870 Hindu Shahis from central Asia overthrew the Turki Shahis and established their capital at Hund on the Indus. They ruled the area from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to Multan, including Kashmir, until 1008.

The arrival of Islam
Islam arrived in Pakistan from two directions, south and north. In 711, an Arab expedition under Muhammad bin Qasim arrived by sea to suppress piracy on Arab shipping and established control of the Indus Valley as far as Multan.

In the 11th century, the Turkish rulers of Afghanistan began the Islamic conquest of India from the northwest. Mahmud of Ghazni (970-1030) led a series of raids against the Rajput kingdoms and the wealthy Hindu temples. Gandhara, the Punjab, Sind and Baluchistan all became part of the Ghaznavid Empire, which had its capital at Ghazni, in Afghanistan. The Ghaznavids developed Lahore as a centre of Islamic culture in the Punjab; mass conversions to Islam began at this time.

The Ghaznavid Kingdom was destroyed by the Ghorids, the Turkish Muslim rulers of Ghor in Afghanistan. Muhammad of Ghor swept down the Indus into India, defeating the Rajput confederacy in 1192 and capturing Delhi in 1193. This marked the beginning of the sultanate period, which lasted for over 300 years and saw five dynasties of Muslim sultans succeeding one another in Delhi. The Mongol Genghis Khan harried the Delhi sultans during the 13th century but never succeeded in overthrowing them. The sultan’s defensive border, which stretched from Lahore to Multan, was penetrated by the great Turkish conqueror Tamerlane between 1398 and 1399, when he succeeded in sacking Delhi.

The Moghal period
Early in the 16th century, Babur, the first Moghul emperor and a descendant of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan, raided the Punjab from Afghanistan and in 1526 defeated the last of the Delhi sultans, the Lodhis, at the battle of Panipat.

Babur was succeeded by Humayun in 1530. Humayun was more of an intellectual than a statesman, and was ousted by the Pathan Sher Shah Suri, who ruled the empire until his death in 1545. Humayun returned from exile in Persia and regained the throne in 1554 but died two years later after falling down his library stairs. He was succeeded by his son Akbar.

Akbar was greatest of the Moghal emperors. He improved the centralized administrative system established by Sher Shah Suri and was a great patron of Moghul art and literature. By the time of his death in 1605, his empire stretched from central India to Kashmir, and included Sind and Rajasthan.

Moghul art and architecture reached its height under Akbar’s son Jahangir, and later under his grandson Shah Jahan. Together they left a legacy of magnificent mosques, palaces, forts and gardens embellished with luxurious but delicate decorations.

Aurangzeb, who ruled from 1658 to 1707, was a pious man and an efficient administrator, but within a few decades of his death the empire disintegrated into several independent regions, and Muslim power declined.

In 1793, Nadir Shah of Persia invaded the subcontinent and sacked Delhi, taking the territories west of the Indus. After his death, Ahmed Shah Durrani founded the Kingdom of Afghanistan and acquired the Punjab and Kashmir.

In the early 19th century, the Sikhs, a militant religious group derived from Hinduism in the early 16th century, began to rise to power in the Punjab, and by the 1830s they had pushed the Afghans back across the Indus to the Khyber Pass. Ranjit Singh, their greatest leader, consolidated Sikh power in the Punjab and ruled from his capital at Lahore from 1799 to 1839.

The British period
The British were in the subcontinent for over the centuries. Arriving as merchants with the British East India Company at the beginning of the 17th century, they sought concessions first from local rulers and later from the Moghul emperors.

By the mid 18th century, the British were becoming increasingly involved in Indian politics and, after the battle of Plassey in 1757, began a systematic conquest of the subcontinent. As Moghul power weakened and the Sikhs rose to power in the Punjab and the north, the British rapidly extended their influence over the rest of the country. By 1843, Sind, the corridor to Afghanistan, was in their hands. British and Sikh territories met at the Sutlej River in eastern Punjab, and it was here that in 1845the British defeated the Sikhs in the First Anglo-Sikh War; they subsequently set up a British political resident at Lahore. In 1849, the British defeated the Sikhs in the Second Sikh War and annexed the Punjab and the North-West Frontier area.

After the First War of Independence in 1857, the British government took direct control of India. This marked the beginning of the British Rule, and in the name of Queen Victoria the British continued to expand their empire. Hunza on the Chinese border was the last area to fall into British hands, in 1891; only Afghanistan continued to elude their grasp.

The British have, in fact, had a strong influence on modern Pakistan. They not only introduced their administrative and legal systems, they also mapped the entire country, demarcated borders and built an impressive network of roads, railways and canals. The British brought with them their culture, language, art and architecture, some of which is still in evidence in Pakistan today. Examples of the British Architecture can be seen in all major cities of Pakistan.

Old Presidency in Rawalpindi, Rest House in Ziarat, Empress Market Karachi, Punjab University’s old Campus, Lahore Museum, Islamia College Peshawar, and Cathedrals in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar are just few examples of the British Heritage. The British Empire, however, ceased to exist in this part of the world after 14 August 1947.

The emergence of Pakistan
After the unsuccessful First War of Independence in 1857, the British determined to suppress and weaken the Muslims, whom they held mainly responsible for the uprising. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-98) made one of the first attempts to restore Muslim status by founding the Aligarh Movement, which later became the Muslim League. The latter was initially part of the Hindu-dominated Indian National Congress, founded in 1885 to promote political freedom for all the communities in the subcontinent, but the Muslims broke away because they felt their interests were being neglected.

In 1930, the great Muslim poet and a philosopher, Dr. Muhammad Iqbal proposed the creation of a separate Muslim state for those areas of the subcontinent with a Muslim majority. His proposal was adopted by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a British-trained lawyer and Pakistan’s first head of state. Once the British realized that they would have to relinquish their hold upon the subcontinent, they tried without success to keep the country intact by suggesting that there should be autonomous Muslim state under a united central government; their plans were rejected by both the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress. It was finally agreed that the subcontinent should be partitioned at Independence in 1947.

The division of the Subcontinent proved difficult, particularly as it had to be accomplished in less than four months. It was decided that Pakistan would comprise the eastern and western wings of the country, where there were Muslim majorities, while India would retain the predominantly Hindu central parts. The main area of the contention was the fertile Punjab, where Hindu, Muslim and Sikh populations were inextricably mixed. The result was that at Independence an estimated six million Muslim refugees, mainly from the Punjab, streamed across the border into Pakistan, and about 4.5 million Sikhs and Hindus crossed the India. This migration was accompanied by terrible violence and bloodshed: about 500,000 people lost their lives.

There were other problems. One concerned Kashmir, whose maharaja opted to join India upon Independence (under pressure from Nehru) although the Kashmiris are predominantly Muslims. This led to the division of Kashmir in 1948. Today both Pakistan and India still claim Kashmir, and the territory has been a central issue behind most of the disputes between the two countries since Independence.

Yet another problem of Partition was the division of water for irrigation, as all Pakistan’s great rivers pass first through India. A solution was not found until 1959, when a treaty was drawn up under the auspices of the World Bank.

Another issue concerned the status of the hundreds of princely states. Those absorbed into Pakistan were Khairpur in Sind; Bahawalpur in Punjab; Kalat and Las Bela in Baluchistan; Dir, Swat and Chitral in NWFP; and Gilgit, Hunza, Punial, Gupis and Yasin in the north.

Pakistan after independence
The greatest difficulty facing the new Pakistan was that it consisted of two parts separated by nearly 2,000 kilometres of hostile India, with populations that had nothing in common except religion. The western half was dominant in political and economic terms despite having a smaller population. It took nearly ten years to draft a new constitution. Almost immediately General Ayub Kahn took over the government; in 1969 he was succeeded by General Yahya Khan. During this time the eastern wing of the country became increasingly unhappy with its status, and in 1970, following a disastrous cyclone in the area, things came to a head. In December of that year elections were held which resulted in wins for the Pakistan People’s Party in the western half and for the Awami League in the eastern half.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto remained as Prime Minister of Pakistan and ruled until 1977, pursuing a policy popular with the urban masses and rural poor, especially in Sind. He nationalized basic industries, banks and insurance, began to democratize the civil service and started reforming the health and education systems. When Britain recognized Bangladesh, Bhutto pulled Pakistan out of the British Commonwealth and strengthened ties with China in an attempt to balance the threat from India. Bhutto’s downfall came after the general elections of 1977, which opposition parties alleged were rigged in the Punjab.

General Zia-ul-Haq took over the administration of Pakistan, and Bhutto was charged with the murder of the father of a political opponent; he was tried, found guilty and was hanged on 4 April 1979. Under Martial Law there was steady economic growth favouring the private sector, and some effort was made to Islamize the political, legal and economic structures. In 1985, ‘non-party’ elections were held and a civilian government was installed. Martial law was lifted in 1986, though President Zia remained in power.

Zia was killed in a plane crash in August 1988, free party elections were held in November, and the Pakistan People’s Party was returned to power with Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister. She was the first woman to head a modern Islamic State. A civil servant, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, was appointed President. In August 1990, he dismissed Bhutto’s government, charging misconduct, and declared a state of emergency. Bhutto and the PPP lost the October elections after she was arrested for corruption and abuse of power.

The new Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, head of the Islamic Democratic Alliance, introduced a programmme of privatizing state enterprises and encouraging foreign investment. Fulfilling Sharif’s elections promise to make Sharia (Islamic law) the supreme law of Pakistan, the national legislature passed an amended Shariat Bill in 1991. Sharif also promised to ease continuing tensions with India over Kashmir. The charges against Bhutto were resolved, and she returned to lead the opposition. In early 1993, Sharif was appointed the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League.

In April 1993, Ishaq Khan once again used his presidential power, this time to dismiss Sharif and to dissolve parliament. However, Sharif appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and in May, the Court stated that Khan’s actions were unconstitutional, and the court reinstated Sharif as Prime Minister. Sharif and Khan subsequently became embroiled in a power struggle that paralyzed the Pakistani government. Sharif and Khan resigned together in July 1993, and elections were held in October of that year. Bhutto’s PPP won a plurality in the parliamentary elections, and Bhutto was again named Prime Minister.

In 1996, Bhutto’s government was dismissed by President Farooq Leghari amid allegations of corruption. New elections in February 1997 brought Nawaz Sharif back to power in a clear victory for the Pakistan Muslim League.

Pakistan was beset by domestic unrest beginning in the mid-1990s. Violence between rival political, religious, and ethnic groups erupted frequently in Sind Province, particularly in Karachi. Federal rule was imposed on the province in late 1998 due to increasing violence.

In early 1999, Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signed the Lahore Declaration, which articulated a commitment to work toward improved relations.

The Pakistani military accused Sharif of giving in too easily to pressure from India and for pinning the blame for the Kargil attack on army chief Pervez Musharraf. In October 1999, Sharif tried to dismiss General Musharraf from his position.

Musharraf declared himself the Chief Executive of Pakistan, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the legislature. Sharif was arrested, and in April 2000, he was convicted of abuse of power and other charges and sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 2001, Musharraf named himself President after the resignation of Rafiq Tarar. In the 2002 Parliamentary elections, Musharraf transferred executive powers to newly elected Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who was succeeded in 2004 by Shaukat Aziz. On November 15, 2007, the National Assembly completed its term and a caretaker government was appointed with the former Chairman of The Senate, Muhammad Mian Soomro as Prime Minister. Following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, which shook to a large extent the political landscape, her husband Asif Ali Zardari was appointed as the new President in 2008.   

Adventure Tours, Treks, Fishing, Camel & Jeep Safaris in Pakistan 

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>  Vaccinations & recommendations before visiting Pakistan 

>  Visa formalities for Pakistan