Pakistan traces its history back to 2,500 years B.C., when a highly developed civilization 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 away like a meteor. In 712 AD, the Arabs, led by Muhammad Bin Qasim, Landed somewhere near modern Karachi and ruled the lower half of Pakistan for two hundred years. During this time, Islam took roots in the soil and influenced the life, culture and traditions of the people.
In the 10th century AD, 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 for nearly 200 years and for only 100 years 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 educationist, 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 dependent 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 August, 1947.
Pakistan is an Islamic republic with its capital at 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 Federal Administered Northern Areas (F.A.N.A) and Federal Administered Tribal Areas (F.A.T.A). Pakistan has a federal structure. Parliament consists of National Assembly and the Senate. Members of the National Assembly are directly elected on the adult franchise base and there term of office is five years. The National Assembly determine 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 among members of the Assembly and 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 latitude 24 and 37 degrees north and longitude 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 Arabian sea on the south. The great mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the Karakorams and the Hindukush form Pakistan's northern highlands of the 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; Sind 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 : 130.58 million, Growth Rate : 2.61% per annum.
Density : 164 person / Sq.kms
Sex Ratio : 108 males to 100 females
8,03,940 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 summer in central and southern parts of the country, the temperature may go as high as 45oC. However, the northern regions have very pleasant weather during summers. Between July and August, the season brings an average 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 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, 100,. 500 and 1000 rupees are in use.
American Express is the most widely accepted card. Master card and Visa are also good.
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, travelers are advised to take travelers check in US Dollars or Pounds 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 license is 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 take insurance against accidents, thefts etc. from the country of origin. There are many insurance companies in Pakistan's major cities who also offer such services.
Bank, car rental, tourist information (at Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and at Saidu Sharif), duty free shop, restaurant, hotels, reception booths, post office and public call office.
Pakistan Television (PTV) entertainment programs of music, plays/dramas and stage shows are telecast from 05 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 04 major cities of Pakistan. All urban areas have cinema houses which run daily 03 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 3,81,000 tourist from overseas and earned US$111 million as foreign exchange receipts. The number of foreign tourist arrivals in the south Asia 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 visiting friends and relatives followed by business travelers 18.3%, holidays and recreational travelers 13.4% and religious tourists to the tune of 2.5%. Most of the tourists from overseas had 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 Xinjiang Airlines fly direct to the twin cities of Rawalpindi/Islamabad. PIA, Indian airlines, Saudia and Thai Airways fly direct to Lahore. Pakistan International (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 :
From China, the Khunjerab Pass is open from 1st May to 31st October for groups and to 15th November for individual tourists. Customs, immigration post shall remain open daily from 08:30 to 11:00 for outgoing travelers and upto 16:00 for incoming tourists. Travel time from Sost to Taxkurgan is 05hrs (220 kms). The Chinese border post, Taxkurgan is open 12:00 noon to 14:00 for outgoing tourists and upto 19:00 for incoming travelers.
From India :
Wagha is the only Land border open between Pakistan and India. The Wagha border post open daily for foreigners; summer (18 April to 15 October) 08:30 to 14:30 hrs and winter (16th October to 15th April) 09:00 to 15:00 hrs. Minibus No. 12 leaves from outside Lahore Railway Station for Wagha every fifteen minutes, cost approximately US $ 0.20 per person. Taxi shall charge around US $ 8 for this half an hour journey.
No passenger boats or ships for the general public sail to or from Pakistan at present. A few pilgrim ships/boats, do ply between Pakistan and the Gulf states. There are some plans of starting a ferry Service between Karachi and Dubai in near future.
TRAVEL WITHIN PAKISTAN:
PIA serves 38 domestic airports with scheduled connections, including multiple daily flights between 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, and 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) will be completed in near future.
You will find all types of public transport in Pakistan. Taxis, auto rickshaws, vans, tongas (horse & carriage) and mini-buses are used for traveling 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 line runs from Karachi to Peshawar connecting important tourist places like Moenjodaro, Sukkur, Bahawalpur, Multan, Lahore, Rawalpindi / Islamabad, Taxila and Peshawar. Another main line link 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 travelers.
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 a people who grew up 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 become 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 Asian 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 sites 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 north in winter. Men wear suits for business meetings, 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 a great 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 02 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 up north or other fast flowing mountains streams.