(Brian Ringland ORT)
Pakistan is a country that is in the news - a lot. We hear stories about Taliban fighters in the North as well as bombings and assassinations in the South. The average North American and European hears only the stories that seem to concern the war in Afghanistan and how that war involves Pakistan. Make no mistake. Our fortunes as well as our influence in that part of the world rely heavily on maintaining a relationship with Pakistan. They will continue to do so even after the war in Afghanistan concludes, and we will look at that aspect in this article as well.
Pakistan is a mystery to most people. They know very little of the country or it's place in the world. It is a country that is strategically located in history as well as geography. The following article is a three part series on Pakistan. The article will introduce the countries culture, it's history and it's people.
At least six different civilizations have flourished where Pakistan is today and those civilizations left their imprints. Historically, Pakistan is one of the most ancient lands known to man.It had
large efficient cities even before Babylon was built. Historical records and artifacts found in present day Pakistan can be traced back to at least 2500 BC, when a highly developed civilization flourished in the Indus Valley Area. Archeological excavations have brought to light evidence of an advanced civilization existing in ancient times. Pakistan's culture has been influenced by the countless visitors to the region. Around 1500 BC, the Aryans came and influenced the Hindu civilization. Later on the Persians occupied the Northern regions from the 6th century BC up to the 2nd century AD. The Greeks were also here, arriving in 327 BC with Alexander the Great of Macedonia. In 712 AD, the Arabs set foot in what is now Pakistan somewhere near modern Karachi and ruled the lower half of Pakistan for two centuries. It was during this time that Islam took roots in the soil and influenced the life, culture and traditions of the people. 300 years later the Muslims from Central Asia arrived and ruled almost the whole Subcontinent up to the 18th century AD before the British arrived to take control.
Pakistan was added to the map on 14th August 1947. A result of the partition of the Indian sub-continent into two sovereign countries, namely Pakistan and India. Pakistan shares borders with China, Afghanistan, Iran,and with India. As for it's size, Pakistan is approximately twice the size of the state of California. The total area of Pakistan is 796,096 square km.It has a 1,046-kilometer (650 mi) coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south. The northern and western highlands have towering mountain ranges that include the Karakorum and Pamir mountain ranges, which have some of the world's highest peaks: K2 (28,250 ft; 8,611 m) and Nanga Parbat (26,660 ft; 8,126 m). The Baluchistan Plateau lies to the west, and the Thar Desert and an expanse of alluvial plains, the Punjab and Sind, lie to the east.
The 1,000-mile-long (1,609 km) Indus River and its tributaries flow through the country from the Kashmir region to the Arabian Sea. India and Pakistan have both laid claim to the Kashmir region; this territorial dispute led to war in 1949, 1965, 1971, 1999, and remains unresolved today. There are still armed exchanges taking place in the Kashmir region there at the time of this story.
Maj. Gen. Iskander Mirza was the first president. Military rule prevailed for two decades. It must be remembered that this was a divided region from the start. Separatist tendencies grew amongst those in the east.Tensions between East and West Pakistan which had existed from the outset continued to grow. The two regions shared few if any cultural and social traditions other than religion. To the growing resentment of East Pakistan, West Pakistan monopolized the country's political and economic power. In 1970, East Pakistan's Awami League, led by the Bengali leader Sheik Mujibur Rahman, secured a majority of the seats in the national assembly. President Yahya Khan postponed the opening of the national assembly to skirt East Pakistan's demand for greater autonomy, provoking civil war. The independent state of Bangladesh, was proclaimed on March 26, 1971. Indian troops entered the war in its final stages, fighting on the side of Bangladesh. Pakistan was defeated on Dec. 16, 1971, and President Yahya Khan stepped down. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over Pakistan and accepted Bangladesh as an independent entity. In 1976, formal relations between India and Pakistan resumed.
The 1990's saw a succession of governments. Benazir Bhutto was prime minister twice and deposed twice and Nawaz Sharif three times, until he was deposed in a coup on Oct. 12, 1999, by Gen. Pervez Musharraf. In an announcement that surprised the world, two new nuclear powers emerged in May 1998 when India, followed by Pakistan just weeks later, conducted nuclear tests. Fighting with India again broke out in the disputed territory of Kashmir in May 1999. The fighting has continued in fits and starts ever since. Skirmishes frequently break out and along Kashmir's Line of Control some more broke out over the summer of 2008, after more than four years of relative calm. Problems arose after authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir transferred 99 acres of land to a trust that runs a Hindu shrine, called Amarnath. Muslims launched a series of protests. The government rescinded the order, which outraged Hindus. About 40 people were killed in the protests and counter demonstrations, which involved several hundred thousand people. Despite the hostilities, a trade route between India and Pakistan across the line of control opened in October for the first time in 60 years.
Pakistan has a very diverse culture due to the fact, at least in part, that what is now Pakistan has in the past been invaded and occupied by Huns, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and various Eurasian groups. There are differences in culture among the different ethnic groups in matters such as dress, food, and religion, especially where indigenous pre-Islamic customs differ from Islamic practices. Like every other country on the planet globalization has increased the influence of Western culture in Pakistan, especially among the affluent, who have easy access to Western products, television, media, and food. Many Western food chains have established themselves in Pakistan, and are found in the major cities. At the same time, there is also a reactionary movement within Pakistan that wants to turn away from Western influences, and this has manifested itself in a return to more traditional roots Many of the population would like to see a reform or return to a more strict form of Islam. This attitude has manifested itself more and more over the last decade. The war in Afghanistan must be taken into consideration here as it has no doubt had an influence on the populations attitude towards the west. Northern Pakistan is an especially sore spot for governments in Europe and the west. This lawless region of Pakistan is home to most of the Taliban and is also an area that produces extreme view points that do not favour the west or globalization.
A Few Facts:
Pakistan is divided into five geographic regions: The Thar Desert and Lower Indus Valley in the south with arid valleys and rocky hills; The Baluchistan Plateau toward the west with elevation between 1,000 and 3,000 feet (300-900 meters) and covering nearly half the nation's territory; The Indus Basin, an irrigated agricultural area in the northeast; The Northwest Frontier, an area of barren mountains and irrigated valleys bordering Afghanistan; and The Far North with snowcapped mountains reaching high elevations. Temperatures vary in these five regions. With the exception of the Far North, summers are hot throughout the country with temperatures ranging to 90-120°F (32-49°C) and little relief in the evening hours. Altitude governs climate in the Far North, with pleasant summers in the lower regions and perpetual snow in the higher mountains. The average annual rainfall varies from 6 inches (40 cm) in Karachi, 15 (38 cm) in Peshawar, 18 (46 cm) in Lahore, to about 30 (76 cm) in Islamabad. Most rain falls during the summer monsoon from July to September.
Population (2010 est.): 177,276,594
Population growth rate: 1.5%
Birth rate: 25.0/1000
Infant mortality rate: 65.3/1000;
Life expectancy: 65.3;
Population density per sq mi: 215
Next Week: Part Two - Pakistan's Future - After The Taliban