From the astounding architecture to the majestic landscapes to having the world’s largest deep sea port and best trained air force pilots, Pakistan has plenty to boast about. The 182 million people who call this nation home are a mix of different ethnicities, languages and dialects and religions. This month of March, as Pakistan celebrates their National Day, is the ideal time to review some of the contributions, characteristics and special elements that make Pakistan such a prized OIC member state.
The flag was designed by Ali Jinnah, the man acclaimed as the founder of Pakistan. The green background of the flag represents prosperity, Islam and the Muslim majority in Pakistan. The white stripe represents peace and religious minorities and the nation’s commitment to protect the rights of minorities. The crescent symbolises progress and the star light, guidance and knowledge. The flag symbolizes Pakistan’s commitment to Islam while respecting religious minorities. It is based on the original flag of the Muslim League, which was inspired by the flag of the Sultanate of Delhi, the flag of Ottoman Empire and the flag of the Mughal Empire.
Pakistan also has a national emblem. In the middle of a circled wreath of jasmine flowers is a shield that has four sections, each of which shows a major product of the country from when the country was created. One section shows cotton, another shows wheat, one tea, and one jute. Above the four sections are the crescent and star, as on the national flag. On a scroll beneath the wreath is written in Urdu “Faith, Unity, Discipline.”
|Area||796,095 sq km (307,374 sq miles), excluding Kashmir|
|Major Language (s)||Urdu, English, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi|
|Major Religion (s)||Islam|
|Life Expectancy||Male:65 years ; Female:67 years|
|GDP Per Capita||USD 1,275.30|
Culture and People
Pakistanis are a people of an ancient and modern nation all at once. Influenced by many other people groups over the centuries, including Alexander the Great and the Moghuls, the history is rich which is also evident in the many interesting heritage sites including places like Chaukhandi Tombs and Lahore Fort. Evidence of ancient civilizations at Mohenjodaro and at Harappa support the idea of an advanced urban civilization that flourished in what is now present day Pakistan in the second half of the third millennium BC. At this same period the civilizations in Mesopotamia and Persia were flourishing.Their language, Urdu, is a combination of Turkish, Arabic and Persian. English is also widely spoken. Punjabi is spoken by about 48% of the population; Sindhi by 12%; Siraiki (a Punjabi variant) by 10%; Pashtu by 8%; Urdu by 8%; Balochi by 3%; Hindko by 2%; Brahui by 1%; English, Burushaski, and other by 8%.
The current nation of Pakistan is a Muslim nation, approximately 95% of the population follows Islam. However, there are religious minorities of Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus as well. The majority of the population is Punjabi (an estimated two-thirds). Other major ethnic groups include the Sindhi, Pathan, Baloch, and Muhajirs, who are immigrates from India or their descendants.
There is no caste system in Pakistan. Rather, social stratification follows low, middle and high-income levels. Social and family activities and habits follow those of Islamic tradition for the majority. In general, most women are work in the home while the men take jobs that bring in the majority of the income. Both men and women hold the right to vote, women have inheritance rights and are allowed to hold government positions.
When a child is born it is common for the grandfather to hold the honour of naming a new baby and the baby naming process usually takes up to 40 days. Additionally, the baby’s first garmet should be made of material from the grandfather’s shirt. Typical dress for Pakistani men and women in all provinces is the salwar kameez, loose pants and a knee-length, longsleeved shirt. For women it is also worn with a head scarf that is either worn around the neck or the head. The outfits are generally brightly coloured and patterned for women.
Ramadan is the most important holiday for Muslims. For Christians it is Christmas which happens to also fall on the birthday of Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, so all people celebrate this day for one reason or another. For Buddhists, their biggest festival is on Baisakhi Purnima, the day of Buddha’s birth. The Hindus have a number of celebrations including Diwali and Holi. An especially mezmerising festival takes place in North-West Frontier Province in spring. Events include the Khattak famous dance of the Pathans and musical concerts that display a vibrant mix of colorful costumes.
Staple foods in Pakistan include bread, rice, lentils and meat. Muslims do not eat pork, most Hindus do not eat beef and some Buddhist and Christians follow religious dietary restrictions as well. The dishes are normally heavily spiced and many dishes are eaten with yogurt or cooked in yogurt. Curries are also very widely consumed. The use of chutneys, preserves and sauces with the main dishes give Pakistani food its special flavour. Green tea is typically served with all meals. Special dishes are prepared during the religious holidays. For Ramadan, a sweet vermincelli dish called sheer kharma which cooked milk with dried dates, raisins, almonds, and other nuts is eaten for breakfast on Eid.
Geography and Environment
Pakistan is a collection of pleatues, plains, forests, mangroves and mountain ranges. The terrain is divided into the northern highlands, the Indus River plain in the central and east regions, and the Balochistan Plateau in the south and west. Approximatley 60% of the population lives in the Punjab plains and the towing peak of K–2 is the world’s second highest mountain. The monsoon arrives in June through September varying each year in severity but floods are not uncommon. The coastal regions are hot and dry but the climate cools toward the Northeast. The country has an abundance of animal species that includes the majestic Siberian ibex, wild sheep, buffalo, bear, wolf, jackal, fox, wildcat, musk cat, hyena, porcupine, gazelle, peacock, python, and boar. A decade ago there were 188 species of mammals, 237 species of birds and more than 4,950 species of plants throughout the country.
In 2013, Pakistan engaged in an economic reform program in coordination with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The reform has brought macroeconomic stability, an improved credit rating and boosted growth. The Pakistani rupee, after heavy depreciation, remained relatively stable against the US dollar in 2014–2015. Overseas remittances worth $1.5 billion a month, remain a strong source of revenue for Pakistan. Pakistan’s Extended Fund Facility program with the IMF was focused on reducing energy shortages, stabilising public finances, expanding revenue and improving the external balance. The IMF had acknowledged that Pakistan’s reforms programme helped the economy rebound, prevented a balance of payments crisis and rebuilt reserves. The programme also helped reduce the fiscal deficit and the government undertook comprehensive structural reforms to boost investment and growth. Programme compliance also facilitated the mobilisation of resources from other donors. In 2014, Pakistan and China agreed to carry out a number of energy sector and infrastructure projects. These USD 46 billion investment programme projects are known the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” and implementation is already underway.
Agriculture (25.2%), industry (19.2%) and services (55.6%) are the three primary sectors in Pakistan. Agriculture products are mainly cotton, wheat, rice, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; milk, beef, mutton and eggs. The top industries are textiles and apparel, food processing, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, paper products, fertilizer and shrimp. Agriculture takes up the largest portion of the 65 million labour force. Previously unusable land is now being farmed due to the development of a vast irrigation network covering two-thirds of the total cultivated land. The Indus Valley of Punjab is Pakistan’s agricultural hub. The two main growing seasons are the kharif season (begins between April and June and ends between October and December) and the rabi season (begins between October and December and ends during April or May).
Around 35 million people participate in the livestock industry. Camels, bullocks and donkeys are used as transport through difficult terrain. Sheep range widely over the grazing lands of middle and northern Pakistan and most of their wool is exported. Among local breeds of cattle, the Red Sindhi, the Tharparker, the Sahiwal are renowned for milk. Powdered milk, cheese, butter and ice cream is produced by several large dairy plants. Poultry has risen to become one of the top productions due to research in breeding, feeding and disease control. Additionally, with an 815km coastline Pakistan has a still underdeveloped but potentially lucrative fishery industry.
In 2016, Pakistan had 20 billion in exports of textiles (garments, bed linen, cotton cloth, yarn), rice, leather goods, sporting goods, chemicals, manufactures, carpets and rugs to the US 13.1%, UAE 9.1%, Afghanistan 9.1%, China 8.8%, UK 5.4%, and Germany 4.9%.
In 2015, Pakistan had 530,000 foreign visitors which contributed USD 308 million to the local economy. Tourist mainly came from the UK, the US, India and China. There are many things for tourists to do and see in terms of historical sites, nature and culture. From hiking through the vast and beautiful plains and mountains to attending the colourful religious festivals while enjoying mouth-watering local food. The most famous places are the Khyber Pass, Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi, Swat, Rawalpindi, the Karakoram Highway, Karimabad and Lake Saiful Muluk. Pakistan has six landmarks that classify as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Archaeological Ruins at Mohenjodaro, 1st Century Buddhist Ruins at Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol, the ruins of Taxila, the Lahore Fort and Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, Historic Monuments of the ancient city of Thatta, the ancient fort of Rohtas and the Kabule Gate.