PAKISTAN’S LAND AND PEOPLE: The modern nation of Pakistan came into being in December 1971, after the separation of Bangladesh following a bitterly fought civil war From 1947 to 1971, Pakistan was made up of two “wings,” East and West Pakistan, separated by 1,600 kilometers of Indian territory West Pakistan became today’s Pakistan in 1971, following India’s intervention in the conflict between the two wings of the country founded in 1947 as a homeland for the Muslims of British IndiaModern Pakistan has four neighbors, Afghanistan in the north, Iran in the northwest, India in the south, and China in the east It has an area of 796,000 square kilometers, roughly the size of Texas It has a land border of 6,159 kilometers of which the longest is with Afghanistan (2,430 km), followed by that with India (2,240 km), Iran (909 km), and China (580 km) The country has a coastline of 1,046 kmPakistan can be divided into four major geographical zones that run from east to west In the east are the high mountains of the Himalayas, the Karakoram and Hindukush ranges, with several peaks reaching above 5,000 meters A number of rivers, including the Indus, originate in this mountainous terrain and flow into the plains of the Punjab, the next geographical area In these plains live more than 80 percent of the country’s population
They are fertile, and have access to the waters of the Indus River System for year-round irrigation There are several large cities in the plains including Lahore, Multan, and Faisalabad While the winters are bitterly cold in the mountainous region, there can be scorching heat in the plains of Punjab during the summer months The plains gradually turn into arid land and then into an extensive desert that makes up most of the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh There is little agriculture in this geographic zone They are also sparsely populated The fourth zone is a narrow sea belt with marshlands through which the Indus joins the Arabian Sea Karachi, the country’s largest city, is located at the southern part of the coastal beltThe Indus is Pakistan’s main river; it has six tributaries, each of them a major river in itself From north to south the tributaries are the Kabul, which joins the river on its right bank, the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas, and the Sutlej, all flowing into the river from the left side The five southern tributaries give the name of Punjab (pun means five in Sanskrit, ab means water in Persian) to the country’s largest province
Pakistan sits on the northern edge of the Indian tectonic plate that has been slowly moving north at the speed of five centimeters a year This forward move is hitting against the Eurasian plate producing pressures that often result in severe earthquakes One such tremor occurred on 8October 2005 that resulted in the deaths of 85,000 people while another 150,000 were seriously injured Some three to four million people were rendered homeless The clash between the Indian and Eurasian plates also produced the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the Karakoram, and the HindukushIn 2005 Pakistan had a population of 155 million people, which was increasing at an annual rate of 2 percent, one of the highest rates of growth in the world If this rate of increase is maintained, Pakistan could become the world’s fourth most populous country in 2050, after India, China, and the United States The population is divided into six major ethnic groups The Punjabis, with about 60 percent of the population, are the largest They speak Punjabi or several of its many dialects, including Seraiki The second largest group are the Pashtuns, who account for 17 percent of the population, and are concentrated in the provinces of Northwest Frontier Province, Balochistan, Karachi, and the western part of Punjab
They speak Pushto About 13 percent of the population are Sindhis, living in the province of Sindh, and speaking Sindhi, an ancient language The Balochis, living in the province of Balochistan, constitute about 6 percent of the population, and speak Balochi The Muhajir constitute the fifth ethnic group, about 3 percent of the total They are concentrated in the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad The Muhajir (refugees), as the name implies, migrated from India to Pakistan in 1947 They speak Urdu, which is also the country’s national language Some 95 percent of the population is Muslim, of this 75 percent are Sunnis and 25 percent are Shias Minorities constitute 5 percent of the population, made up of Christians and Hindus Since 1977 the Ahmadiya community, a break-away sect of Sunni Islam, has been declared a minorityAlthough Urdu is spoken by a small proportion of the population, it is the country’s national language because of its association with the Muslim rule in British India
The language is the principal medium of instruction in schools However, provincial languages are also taught in the schools located in the various provinces English is widely used as a medium of instruction in colleges and the universities The business of the government, as well as that in the modern sectors of the economy is conducted in EnglishIn 2005 almost two fifths of the population lived in urban areas Karachi, with 13 million people, is the largest city in the country, while Greater Lahore, the capital of Punjab, with a population of 10 million people, is the country’s most dynamic urban center. Karachi has the country’s two main ports, most of its large industry, and is also the center of finance. That notwithstanding, the city has suffered because of violence among its many ethnic groups, which has stunted its growth. Lahore, which is the educational and cultural center of the country, has now begun to attract industry as well as finance and is catching up with Karachi as the center of urban activities. Another dozen cities have populations of more than a million people and are scattered throughout the country. Islamabad, the current capital, is a new city which began to be constructed in 1962 in the foothills of the Himalayas, 16 kilometers northeast of Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the army. In 2005 it had a population of more than a million people.