Pakistan is located partly on the northwestern corner of the Indo-Australian Continent Plate, partly on the Eurasian Plate. At the meeting between the two, which began for approximately 50 million years ago, the huge mountain ranges that surround the country were folded up, and the continued displacements result in regular earthquakes. Geographically, the country can be divided into six regions: to the north the high mountain ranges of Karakorum and the Himalayas, to the south the lower mountains, the great river plains around the Indus system, the western border mountains with Hindu Kush as the highest, the Baluchistan plateau to the west and the desert stretching towards east to India.
Pakistan has a very young population and population growth is high, albeit declining (2% in 2006). The state has long had family planning programs, but traditionally, having many children is highly valued. The age of marriage is low, and arranged marriages are still commonplace. Among other things. Due to the requirements of the bride’s dowry, cousin marriages are widespread, especially among poorer families, and there is a relatively high frequency of congenital defects. The dowry rules are one among several factors that make girl children less desirable, and like India, but unlike almost all other countries, Pakistan has more men than women. The human rights situation in Pakistan is the subject of massive international criticism – not least the situation of women.
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The population density is high, but there are significant differences, which are mainly due to the cultivation opportunities. Thus, the Indus Land is extremely densely populated, while the dry Baluchistan and the desert areas to the east are very sparsely populated. A fairly small but rapidly growing part of the population lives in a few large cities, such as Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi-Islamabad.
Immigration. Islam was the background for the formation of Pakistan, and in 1947-49 several million immigrants. Muslims from India, especially to the Karachi region. These immigrants, mohajirs, were usually better educated than the local Sindhis, who were predominantly peasants; they were culturally oppressed and came in the minority in Sindh. Since then, there have been frequent and often violent conflicts between the two groups. During the Afghanistan War, more than 4 million people arrived. refugees to Pakistan, and refugee camps characterized large areas of northern Pakistan. Many returned home, but in 2006 there were still approximately 900,000 left; many of them have established themselves in the fields of transport, trade and construction in particular and are unlikely to return to Afghanistan. The earthquake disaster in Kashmir in 2005 has created a new refugee problem with large temporary camps.
Half of the workforce is employed in agriculture, which contributes approximately 25% of GDP (2005). approximately 22 mio. ha is under plow, of which over 80% is artificial water. Pakistan is one of the countries where the green revolution has been of great importance and the country is self-sufficient in the main foods, wheat, rice and sugar. Rice is grown mainly in the fertile Punjab, and an increasing proportion is made up of high quality basmati rice, much of which is exported. Other important sales crops are cotton, sugar and tobacco. Corn, dates, potatoes and vegetables are grown for local consumption.
The majority of farms are small self-sufficient farms; 1/4 is less than 1 ha. The large farms with commercial breeding are found especially on the irrigated plains, and here there are still forms of farming with feudal features. To change these conditions, a maximum use limit of 40 ha of irrigated water or 80 ha of non-irrigated land was introduced in 1977, and in 1995 small farms were exempted from tax.
Pets play a big role in many places. In the mountains there is pasture farming with especially goats and sheep. In the lowlands cattle and buffaloes are kept, and in the dry own dromedaries. In total, meat, dairy and leather products contribute approximately 8% of GDP. Fishing on the coast of Baluchistan is of local importance. In general, dependence on agriculture in recent years has become somewhat less due to the growth of industry.
Energy. Pakistan has extensive coal reserves, which, however, are only to a very small extent utilized due to lack of investment. Along the Indus there are several natural gas fields, and production from here is increasing, for use in passenger cars. Only a few per cent. of the country is forested and wood is a marginal supplement to the energy supply; In most places, dried livestock manure is a more important contribution to household fuel needs. Electricity production from hydropower plants was introduced early with the large irrigation dams on the Indus system, and some of the world’s largest dams are located on the upper courses of the tributaries. Hydropower is being expanded, decentrally and privately, but the electricity supply is inadequate and unstable.
The industry is characterized by further processing of agricultural products with the textile industry as the dominant one; products from this constitute a significant part of the exports. In addition, the cement, fertilizer and steel industries. The clothing and textile industry in particular has experienced very strong growth in recent years and accounts for more than 60% of total exports. Industry contributes a total of 24% to GDP. Growth has also been high in the financial and telecommunications sectors. Transfers from Pakistanis working in Europe, the United States and the Middle East are a major factor in the economy. Measured in export value, the transfers are estimated to amount to approximately 20% of total exports.
Tourism. The state seeks to promote tourism, and Pakistan, with its diverse nature and culture, should be able to attract visitors, but the industry is sensitive to both the conflict with India and to problems in the Muslim world. However, the tourism sector is of great importance in several places; this applies trekking areas in the northern mountains.
Pakistan’s natural conditions are very varied, but most places are characterized by a dry climate. The western half is dominated by the barren mountains of Baluchistan, while the Indus system dominates the eastern part; to the south are the large irrigated agricultural areas, to the north Punjab, the land of the five rivers, and to the far north and west the source rivers of the great mountain ranges.
The climate is tropical in the coastal regions and on the Indus Plain and then gets colder with increasing altitude. Inland, there are continental conditions with large differences between summer and winter. In the mountains, many valleys in winter are isolated from the outside world behind snow-covered mountain passes. In summer, the monsoon rains reach the eastern half of July, where it soothes the violent summer heat on the plains. In the highest mountains, precipitation falls mostly as snow, which here forms some of the world’s most active glaciers, whose meltwater constitutes the Indus’ source rivers.
The border with India is in Kashmir a de facto line of control, which is disputed in several places. Two wars have been fought here, and Indian and Pakistani troops have regularly had shootings across the border, including at the Siachen Glacier furthest north.
Pakistan – people
The majority of the population (60%) in Pakistan is made up of Punjabis, who are predominantly farmers in the fertile province of Punjab. In the southern parts of the country, Sindhis dominate; the majority of them are farmers, while the rest live in the cities.
The country’s educated elite are the Urdu-speaking people, who make up a small group. The Urdu culture originated around the administration of the Mughal Empire in the mid-1500’s. with center in the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh; at the division of the Punjab between India and Pakistan in 1947, the majority of the Urdu people fled to Pakistan.
The Pashtuns , which are organized into tribal communities, dominate the western parts of the country, along the border with Afghanistan. In Baluchistan, in addition to Pashtuns, there are Baluchis and the Dravidian- speaking Brahuis; these three groups live off agriculture and semi-nomadic cattle breeding.
In the inaccessible mountain areas to the north live mountain farmers, who belong to different ethnic groups (Baltics, Burushos, Shinas, Kohistans, Khoers and Kalashas); together they make up approximately 1% of the population.
Pakistan – language
Official language is Urdu, which is the everyday spoken language of 7.5% of the population (2005) and is understood by virtually everyone; however, English is still the language of administration. The border between Iranian and Indo-Aryan languages follows the western side of the Indus Valley and thus runs across Pakistan. The most important Iranian languages are pakhto (15%, 2005) and baluchi (3.5%, 2005), the most important Indo- Sindhi (14%, 2005) as well as panjabi incl. lahnda and siraiki, which together are spoken by well over half of the population. Of smaller groups, the Dravidian language is spoken in the southwestBrahui and North Dardarian languages, eg kalasha, while the isolate burushaski is spoken near the border with China. For culture and traditions of Pakistan, please check animalerts.
The absolute majority (97%) of Pakistan’s population are Muslims, while the rest are Christians, Hindus or Persians. Of the country’s Muslim population, 10-15% are Shia Muslims, and the majority of them are members of the 12-Imam line (see Imam), while a minority follows the 7-imam line. The majority of the country’s Sunni Muslim population is Hanafitter, but the Hanbalit law school also has followers. A small group of adherents of Ahmadiyya have been oppressed throughout the country’s history because their interpretation of Islam in some respects is contrary to the classical Sunni Islamic tradition. Pakistan is the only country in the Islamic world that owes its establishment to Islam, and Islam has an extremely central position in the country’s political life. In 1998, the Pakistani parliament decided that Islamic law, sharia, should be the country’s legal foundation.