Pakistan traces its history back to 2,500 years B.C., when a highly developed civilization settled 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.
Around 1,500 B.C. the Aryans overwhelmed this region and influenced the Hindu civilization whose center moved to Ganges Valley further east. Later the Persians occupied the northern region in the 5th century B.C. up to the 2nd century A.D. The Greeks came in 327 B.C. under Alexander of Macedonia and passed through like a hot knife through butter. In 712 AD the Arabs, led by Muhammad Bin Qasim, landed somewhere near modern Karachi and ruled the lower half of Pakistan for 200 years. During this time Islam took roots in the soil and influenced the life, culture and traditions of the people.
In the 10th century A.D. began the systematic conquest of South Asia by the Muslims from Central Asia who ruled here up to the 18th century. Then the British became the masters of the land and ruled it for nearly 200 years. Only 100 years they ruled over what is Pakistan now. The Muslim revival began towards the end of the last century when Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, a renowned Muslim leader and educationalist, launched a movement for intellectual renaissance of the Muslims of South Asia. In 1930 the well known poet/philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal conceived the idea of a separate state for the Muslims of the South Asia. In 1940 a resolution was adopted by the All India Muslim League demanding a separate independent homeland for the Muslims of South Asia. After seven years of un-tiring struggle under the brilliant leadership of Quaid-e-Azam (The Great Leader) Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan emerged on the world map as a sovereign state on 14th of August, 1947.
Pakistan is an Islamic republic the capital is Islamabad. It has four provinces: Balochistan, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Punjab and Sind. Their respective capitals are Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi. In addition to provinces are the Federally Administered Northern Areas (F.A.N.A) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (F.A.T.A). Pakistan has a federal structure. The Parliament consists of a National Assembly and the Senate. Members of the National Assembly are directly elected on an adult franchise base and their term of office is five years. The National Assembly determines the major policy issue and passes annual budget and legislation. It elects the Prime Minister from among its members. The Prime Minister forms his/her cabinet from amongst the members of the Assembly and the Senate. Provinces have their own elected legislative Assemblies and Chief Ministers. Majority of the members, of the upper house are elected by the Provincial Assemblies.
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY:
Pakistan is situated between latitudes 24 and 37 degrees north and longitudes 62 and 75 degrees east. The country borders Iran on the west, India in 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, Karakoram and Hindukush form Pakistan’s northern highlands of the North West Frontier province and the Northern Areas. 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.
POPULATION (1998 Census):
Total population : 193 million, Growth Rate : 2.61% per annum.
Density : 164 person / sq. kms
Sex Ratio : 108 males to 100 females
803,940 Sq.km (including FATA and FANA).
Pakistan has well defined seasons. Winter (December – February), Spring (March – April), Summer (May – September) and Autumn (October – November).
During the summer season in central and southern parts of the country the temperature may go as high as 45 degrees Celsius. However, the northern regions have very pleasant weather during summer. Between July and August, the season brings an average of 38-51cm of rain to plains and 152-203cm in lower Himalayan valleys of Murree, Kaghan, Swat and Azad Kashmir.
Muslim (97%), Hindu (1.5%), Christian (1%) and several other minorities.
National language : URDU
Official language : ENGLISH
Main Regional Languages : Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi and Pashto.
Basic unit of currency is Rupee which divides into 100 paisa.
Currency notes of 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000 rupees are in use.
American Express is the most widely accepted card. Master card and Visa are also used regularly.
Dinner club and other cards have more limited use.
Generally accepted at most banks, four & five star hotels and major shops. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take Travelers Checks in US Dollars or Pound Sterling.
220 V, 50 Hz AC.
Pakistan Standard Time is GMT plus 5 hours. It gets dark at about 05:00pm in winter and at 07:30pm in summer.
All traffic in Pakistan runs on the left side. International or own national drivinglicenses are valid. Cars must be insured and registered. Minimum age for driving is 18 years. Speed limit is 65 km/h at most roads and 120 km/h on motorways.
Tourists are advised to make insurance arrangements in case of accidents, thefts etc. from their country of origin. There are many insurance companies in Pakistan’s major cities which also offer services.
Pakistan Television (PTV) entertainment programs of music, plays/dramas and stage shows are telecasted from 5 TV stations: Karachi, Quetta, Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad. PTV has also started PTV World Channel which can be viewed in the Middle East and South Asia. The private Channel, Shalimar Television Network (STN), besides telecast of similar programs, also re-telecast programs of BBC, CNN, TNT movies.
Pakistan, Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) has 22 radio stations throughout Pakistan which offer music, plays, news and talks in national and local languages. A PBC World Service from Islamabad presents programs in a number of international languages. A private music channel, “FM -100” has 24 hours music service from 4 major cities of Pakistan. All urban areas have cinema houses which run daily 3 shows of feature films in Urdu and other local languages. Some cinema houses in major cities run English movies also.
More than 200 daily newspapers and 1700 magazines and periodicals are published throughout the country in English, Urdu and other regional languages.
In the year 1998, Pakistan attracted around 3 million tourists from overseas and earned US$111 million as foreign exchange receipts. The number of foreign tourist arrivals in the South Asian region was 5 million. In 1998 the share of Pakistan in tourist arrivals in this region was 7.6%. More than half of foreign tourist arrivals in 1998 were for visit to friends and relatives followed by business travellers 18.3%, holidays and recreational travellers 13.4% and religious tourists to the tune of 2.5%. Most of the tourists from overseas visited main cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad mainly due to the nature of foreign tourism which is dominated by visiting friends and relatives.
HOW TO COME TO PAKISTAN:
By Air :
More than 25 airlines fly to Pakistan from over 40 countries. Most of the flights arrive at Karachi, but PIA, British Airways, Emirates, Saudia and China Xingjian Airlines fly direct to the twin cities of Rawalpindi/Islamabad. PIA, Indian Airlines, Saudia and Thai Airways fly direct to Lahore. PIA has direct flights from the main Mediterranean and European cities, as well as from New York, Toronto and Nairobi. It also runs a Far East Network from Tokyo, Beijing, Jakarta, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. PIA has also flights to Tashkent from Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi while another Pakistani Airline, Aero Asia has a weekly flight between Karachi, Bishkek and Dubai.
By Land :
Coming from China, the Khunjerab Pass is open from 1st May to 31st October for groups and to 15th November for individual tourists. Customs and Immigration posts remain open daily from 08:30AM to 11:00AM for outgoing travellers and up to 4:00PM for incoming tourists. Travel time from Sost to Taxkurgan is approximately 5hrs (220 kms). The Chinese border post, Taxkurgan is open from 12:00PM to 2:00PM for outgoing tourists and up to 7:00PM for incoming travellers.
From India :
Wahga is the only open land border between Pakistan and India. The Wahga border post opens daily for foreigners. During the summer season, (18th April to 15th October) from 8:30AM to 2:30PM and in the winter season, (16th October to 15th April) from 9:00AM to 3:00PM. Minibus No.12 leaves from outside Lahore Railway Station for Wahga every fifteen minutes. The cost is approximately US$ 0.20 per person. Taxi cabs usually charge around US$ 8 for this half an hour journey.
There are no passenger boats or ships for the general public to or from Pakistan at present. A few pilgrim ships/boats do ply between Pakistan and the Gulf States. There are future plans of starting a ferry service between Karachi and Dubai in the near future.
TRAVEL WITHIN PAKISTAN:
PIA serves 38 domestic airports with scheduled connections, including multiple daily flights between the major cities of Karachi, Quetta, Multan, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar. Two private airlines, Aero Asia and Bhoja Air, also serve Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Islamabad. PIA has daily flights linking the northern tourist towns of Gilgit, Skardu and Saidu Sharif with Islamabad, as well as Chitral with Peshawar. All flights to the northern region are subject to good weather.
Pakistan has an extensive network of roads and highways, linking every big and small town. There are several highways like Grand Trunk Road between Lahore and Peshawar, Super Highway and National Highway linking Karachi with interior of Sindh and Punjab, Indus Highway linking Peshawar with the Southern Punjab, RCD Highway linking Karachi with Quetta and on to Taftan (Pak-Iran border) and the Karakoram Highway joining Islamabad with Kashgar (China) through Abbottabad, Gilgit, Hunza and Khunjerab Pass. A land mark has been achieved with the completion of Lahore – Islamabad motorway (M2) and Faisalabad – Pindi Bhatian Motorway (M3), which have opened some of the remote areas of Pakistan for visitors. Another project of motorway i.e. Islamabad-Peshawar (M1) has been completed.
You will find all types of public transport in Pakistan. Taxis, auto rickshaws, vans, tongas (horse & carriage) and mini-buses are used for travelling within the city/town/village limits, whereas air-conditioned, non air-conditioned and deluxe type of buses, vans and coaches regularly ply between major cities and tourists destinations.
Pakistan has over 12,700 kms of railways, including 8,500 kms inherited from the British. Main lines run from Karachi to Peshawar connecting important tourist places like Moenjodaro, Sukkur, Bahawalpur, Multan, Lahore, Rawalpindi/Islamabad, Taxila and Peshawar. Another main line links Quetta with the rest of the country. There are several daily trains running on these lines, however, the faster trains like Shalimar Express and Railcar have more comfortable air-conditioned compartments for travellers.
Pakistan Railways allow a 25% concession in all classes, to foreign tourists and 50% discount for foreign students. This concession is allowed on production of a recommendation certificate issued by any PTDC Tourist Information Centre and original passport, to the Divisional Superintendent of Pakistan Railways.
WHAT TO BUY?
Pakistan is a treasure house of exquisite handicrafts made by people who learned to weave, to pot, to work metals, wood and stone, to decorate, to build things small and great. Pottery here is a living history, a traditional craft that became an art with its origin of Pakistan claims its own special jars and jugs, from sturdy terra-cotta to paper-thin ceramics in vivid colors of mustard yellow, deep green, brick red and sky blue. For those keen on shopping, the prices are still quite reasonable. You will find yourself returning home with hand-woven carpets, marble pieces, copper and brass items, woodwork, embroidered “Kurtas” and “Khussas” and countless objects d’art.
WHAT TO EAT?
Having inherited the culinary traditions of the Mughals, the Turks, the Central Asians and the Iranians, eating out in Pakistan is a rich and unique experience. Most local restaurants serve authentic Pakistani dishes straight from the oven, with the sights and sounds of a bazaar in the background. Meat, fish and vegetable dishes are seasoned with spices. Pakistani mutton and chicken curries and the oriental rice dish called Pullao are also popular with natives and foreigners alike.
WHAT TO WEAR?
Lightweight cotton clothes suffice except in the north during winter. Men wear suits for business meetings and social events. Casual shalwar suits are worn by all women and the most men in public. Women should dress modestly.
FESTIVALS AND HOLIDAYS OF PAKISTAN:
Pakistan’s calendar features many Muslim religious festivals. Others are in memory of National Heroes or commemorate political events in the nation’s recent history. Muslim festivals are celebrated according to Muslim (Lunar) Calendar and may occur some 10 days earlier each successive Christian year. There are several folk festivals held regularly in every part of the country. Exact dates of such festivals are fixed annually by the District Administration of the respective area at least 2 months in advance.
Please don’t photograph military installations, bridges and airports. Taking photographs of women is prohibited but the girls in the Kalash Valleys can be photographed provided they agree. Don’t travel at night on mountain roads and don’t swim in the rivers in the or other fast flowing mountains streams unless an experienced guide advises you of safety issues.