Location: Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea, between
India on the east and Iran and Afghanistan on the west and China
in the north
Geographic coordinates: 30 00 N, 70 00 E
Map references: Asia
total: 803,940 sq km
land: 778,720 sq km
water: 25,220 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly less than twice the size of
total: 6,774 km
border countries: Afghanistan 2,430 km, China 523 km, India
2,912 km, Iran 909 km
Coastline: 1,046 km
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest;
arctic in north
Terrain: flat Indus plain in east; mountains in north and
northwest; Balochistan plateau in west
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: K2 (Mt. Godwin-Austen) 8,611 m
Natural resources: land, extensive natural gas reserves,
limited petroleum, poor quality coal, iron ore, copper, salt, limestone
arable land: 27%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 6%
forests and woodland: 5%
other: 61% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 171,100 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe
especially in north and west; flooding along the Indus after heavy
rains (July and August)
Environment - current issues: water pollution from raw sewage,
industrial wastes, and agricultural runoff; limited natural fresh
water resources; a majority of the population does not have access
to potable water; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification,
Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes,
Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection,
Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note: controls Khyber Pass and Bolan Pass, traditional
invasion routes between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent
Pakistan, officially Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is bounded on
the north and northwest by Afghanistan, on the northeast by Jammu
and Kashmir, on the east and southeast by India, on the south by
the Arabian Sea, and on the west by Iran.
The status of Jammu and Kashmir is a matter of dispute between India
and Pakistan. Until December 1971 Pakistan included the province
of East Pakistan; at that time, however, East Pakistan seceded from
Pakistan and assumed the name Bangladesh.
The capital of Pakistan is Islamabad, the largest city of the country
Pakistan has three seasons: winter (November-March) is warm and
cooled by sea breezes on the coast; summer (April-July) has extreme
temperatures and the monsoon season (July-September) has the highest
rainfall on the hills. Karachi has little rain.
The best time to visit southern Pakistan is between
November and March, when the days are cool and clear. The best time
to visit northern Pakistan is from April to October.
Pakistan is a Muslim nation in southern Asia. The country's official
name is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. About 97 per cent of its
people practise Islam, the Muslim religion.
the chief reason for the establishment of Pakistan as an independent
The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of
Pakistan (with two sections West and East) and largely Hindu India
was never satisfactorily resolved.
A third war between these countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan
seceding and becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh.
A dispute over the state of Kashmir is ongoing. In response to Indian
nuclear weapons testing, Pakistan conducted its own tests in 1998.
Size: Total land area estimated to be 796,095
Topography: Three major geographic areas: northern
highlands, Indus River plain, and Balochistan Plateau.
Climate: Generally arid; hot summers, cool or
cold winters; wide variations of temperature in given locale and
between coastal area on Arabian Sea and glacial regions of northern
areas; little rainfall.
Data as of April 1994
Located in the northwestern part of the South Asian subcontinent,
Pakistan became a state as a result of the partition of British
India on August 14, 1947. Pakistan annexed Azad (Free) Kashmir after
the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-48. Initially, Pakistan also included
the northeastern sector of the subcontinent, where Muslims are also
in the majority. The East Wing and West Wing of Pakistan were, however,
separated by 1,600 kilometers of hostile Indian territory. The country's
East Wing, or East Pakistan, became the independent state of Bangladesh
in December 1971 (see Yahya
Khan and Bangladesh , ch. 1).
Data as of April 1994
Pakistan occupies a position of great geostrategic importance,
bordered by Iran on the west, Afghanistan on the northwest, China
on the northeast, India on the east, and the Arabian Sea on the
south . The total land area is estimated at 803,940 square kilometers.
The boundary with Iran, some 800 kilometers in length, was first
delimited by a British commission in 1893, separating Iran from
what was then British Indian Balochistan. In 1957 Pakistan signed
a frontier agreement with Iran, and since then the border between
the two countries has not been a subject of serious dispute.
Pakistan's boundary with Afghanistan is about 2,250 kilometers
long. In the north, it runs along the ridges of the Hindu Kush (meaning
Hindu Killer) mountains and the Pamirs, where a narrow strip of
Afghan territory called the Wakhan Corridor extends between Pakistan
and Tajikistan. The Hindu Kush was traditionally regarded as the
last northwestern outpost where Hindus could venture in safety.
The boundary line with Afghanistan was drawn in 1893 by Sir Mortimer
Durand, then foreign secretary in British India, and was acceded
to by the amir of Afghanistan that same year. This boundary, called
the Durand Line, was not in doubt when Pakistan became independent
in 1947, although its legitimacy was in later years disputed periodically
by the Afghan government as well as by Pakhtun tribes straddling
the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. On the one hand, Afghanistan claimed
that the Durand Line had been imposed by a stronger power upon a
weaker one, and it favored the establishment of still another state
to be called Pashtunistan or Pakhtunistan . On the other hand, Pakistan,
as the legatee of the British in the region, insisted on the legality
and permanence of the boundary. The Durand Line remained in effect
In the northeastern tip of the country, Pakistan controls about
84,159 square kilometers of the former princely state of Jammu and
Kashmir. This area, consisting of Azad Kashmir (11,639 square kilometers)
and most of the Northern Areas (72,520 square kilometers), which
includes Gilgit and Baltistan, is the most visually stunning of
Pakistan. The Northern Areas has five of the world's seventeen highest
mountains. It also has such extensive glaciers that it has sometimes
been called the "third pole." The boundary line has been a matter
of pivotal dispute between Pakistan and India since 1947, and the
Siachen Glacier in northern Kashmir has been an important arena
for fighting between the two sides since 1984, although far more
soldiers have died of exposure to the cold than from any skirmishes
in the conflict.
From the eastern end of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a boundary
of about 520 kilometers runs generally southeast between China and
Pakistan, ending near the Karakoram Pass. This line was determined
from 1961 to 1965 in a series of agreements between China and Pakistan.
By mutual agreement, a new boundary treaty is to be negotiated between
China and Pakistan when the dispute over Kashmir is finally resolved
between India and Pakistan.
The Pakistan-India cease-fire line runs from the Karakoram Pass
west-southwest to a point about 130 kilometers northeast of Lahore.
This line, about 770 kilometers long, was arranged with United Nations
(UN) assistance at the end of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-48.
The cease-fire line came into effect on January 1, 1949, after eighteen
months of fighting and was last adjusted and agreed upon by the
two countries in the Simla Agreement of July 1972. Since then, it
has been generally known as the Line of Control.
The Pakistan-India boundary continues irregularly southward for
about 1,280 kilometers, following the line of the 1947 Radcliffe
Award, named for Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the head of the British boundary
commission on the partition of Punjab and Bengal in 1947. Although
this boundary with India is not formally disputed, passions still
run high on both sides of the border. Many Indians had expected
the original boundary line to run farther to the west, thereby ceding
Lahore to India; Pakistanis had expected the line to run much farther
east, possibly granting them control of Delhi, the imperial capital
of the Mughal Empire.
The southern borders are far less contentious than those in the
north. The Thar Desert in the province of Sindh is separated in
the south from the salt flats of the Rann of Kutch by a boundary
that was first delineated in 1923-24. After partition, Pakistan
contested the southern boundary of Sindh, and a succession of border
incidents resulted. They were less dangerous and less widespread,
however, than the conflict that erupted in Kashmir in the Indo-Pakistani
War of August 1965. These southern hostilities were ended by British
mediation, and both sides accepted the award of the Indo-Pakistan
Western Boundary Case Tribunal designated by the UN secretary general.
The tribunal made its award on February 19, 1968, delimiting a line
of 403 kilometers that was later demarcated by joint survey teams.
Of its original claim of some 9,100 square kilometers, Pakistan
was awarded only about 780 square kilometers. Beyond the western
terminus of the tribunal's award, the final stretch of Pakistan's
border with India is about 80 kilometers long, running west and
southwest to an inlet of the Arabian Sea.
Data as of April 1994
Topography and Drainage
Pakistan is divided into three major geographic areas: the northern
highlands; the Indus River plain, with two major subdivisions corresponding
roughly to the provinces of Punjab and Sindh; and the Balochistan
Plateau. Some geographers designate additional major regions. For
example, the mountain ranges along the western border with Afghanistan
are sometimes described separately from the Balochistan Plateau,
and on the eastern border with India, south of the Sutlej River,
the Thar Desert may be considered separately from the Indus Plain.
Nevertheless, the country may conveniently be visualized in general
terms as divided in three by an imaginary line drawn eastward from
the Khyber Pass and another drawn southwest from Islamabad down
the middle of the country. Roughly, then, the northern highlands
are north of the imaginary east-west line; the Balochistan Plateau
is to the west of the imaginary southwest line; and the Indus Plain
lies to the east of that line .
The northern highlands include parts of the Hindu Kush, the Karakoram
Range, and the Himalayas. This area includes such famous peaks as
K2 (Mount Godwin Austen, at 8,611 meters the second highest peak
in the world), and Nanga Parbat (8,126 meters), the twelfth highest.
More than one-half of the summits are over 4,500 meters, and more
than fifty peaks reach above 6,500 meters. Travel through the area
is difficult and dangerous, although the government is attempting
to develop certain areas into tourist and trekking sites. Because
of their rugged topography and the rigors of the climate, the northern
highlands and the Himalayas to the east have been formidable barriers
to movement into Pakistan throughout history.
South of the northern highlands and west of the Indus River plain
are the Safed Koh Range along the Afghanistan border and the Sulaiman
Range and Kirthar Range, which define the western extent of the
province of Sindh and reach almost to the southern coast. The lower
reaches are far more arid than those in the north, and they branch
into ranges that run generally to the southwest across the province
Balochistan. North-south valleys in Balochistan and Sindh have restricted
the migration of peoples along the Makran Coast on the Arabian Sea
east toward the plains.
Several large passes cut the ranges along the border with Afghanistan.
Among them are the Khojak Pass, about eighty kilometers northwest
of Quetta in Balochistan; the Khyber Pass, forty kilometers west
of Peshawar and leading to Kabul; and the Baroghil Pass in the far
north, providing access to the Wakhan Corridor.
Less than a one-fifth of Pakistan's land area has the potential
for intensive agricultural use. Nearly all of the arable land is
actively cultivated, but outputs are low by world standards . Cultivation
is sparse in the northern mountains, the southern deserts, and the
western plateaus, but the Indus River basin in Punjab and northern
Sindh has fertile soil that enables Pakistan to feed its population
under usual climatic conditions.
The name Indus comes from the Sanskrit word sindhu,
meaning ocean, from which also come the words Sindh, Hindu,
and India. The Indus, one of the great rivers of the world,
rises in southwestern Tibet only about 160 kilometers west of the
source of the Sutlej River, which joins the Indus in Punjab, and
the Brahmaputra, which runs eastward before turning southwest and
flowing through Bangladesh. The catchment area of the Indus is estimated
at almost 1 million square kilometers, and all of Pakistan's major
rivers--the Kabul, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, and Sutlej--flow into it.
The Indus River basin is a large, fertile alluvial plain formed
by silt from the Indus. This area has been inhabited by agricultural
civilizations for at least 5,000 years .
The upper Indus Basin includes Punjab; the lower Indus Basin begins
at the Panjnad River (the confluence of the eastern tributaries
of the Indus) and extends south to the coast. In Punjab (meaning
the "land of five waters") are the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi,
and Sutlej rivers. The Sutlej, however, is mostly on the Indian
side of the border. In the southern part of the province of Punjab,
the British attempted to harness the irrigation power of the water
over 100 years ago when they established what came to be known as
the Canal Colonies. The irrigation project, which facilitated the
emergence of intensive cultivation despite arid conditions, resulted
in important social and political transformations .
Pakistan has two great river dams: the Tarbela Dam on the Indus,
near the early Buddhist site at Taxila, and the Mangla Dam on the
Jhelum, where Punjab borders Azad Kashmir. The Warsak Dam on the
Kabul River near Peshawar is smaller. These dams, along with a series
of headworks and barrages built by the British and expanded since
independence, are of vital importance to the national economy and
played an important role in calming the raging floodwaters of 1992,
which devastated large areas in the northern highlands and the Punjab
Pakistan is subject to frequent seismic disturbances because the
tectonic plate under the subcontinent hits the plate under Asia
as it continues to move northward and to push the Himalayas ever
higher. The region surrounding Quetta is highly prone to earthquakes.
A severe quake in 1931 was followed by one of more destructive force
in 1935. The small city of Quetta was almost completely destroyed,
and the adjacent military cantonment was heavily damaged. At least
20,000 people were killed. Tremors continue in the vicinity of Quetta;
the most recent major quake occurred in January 1991. Far fewer
people were killed in the 1991 quake than died in 1935, although
entire villages in the North-West Frontier Province were destroyed.
A major earthquake centered in the North-West Frontier Province's
Kohistan District in 1965 also caused heavy damage.
Data as of April 1994
Pakistan lies in the temperate zone. The climate is generally arid,
characterized by hot summers and cool or cold winters, and wide
variations between extremes of temperature at given locations. There
is little rainfall. These generalizations should not, however, obscure
the distinct differences existing among particular locations. For
example, the coastal area along the Arabian Sea is usually warm,
whereas the frozen snow-covered ridges of the Karakoram Range and
of other mountains of the far north are so cold year round that
they are only accessible by world-class climbers for a few weeks
in May and June of each year.
Pakistan has are four seasons: a cool, dry winter from December
through February; a hot, dry spring from March through May; the
summer rainy season, or southwest monsoon period, from June through
September; and the retreating monsoon period of October and November.
The onset and duration of these seasons vary somewhat according
The climate in the capital city of Islamabad varies from an average
daily low of 2° C in January to an average daily high of 40°
C in June. Half of the annual rainfall occurs in July and August,
averaging about 255 millimeters in each of those two months. The
remainder of the year has significantly less rain, amounting to
about fifty millimeters per month. Hailstorms are common in the
Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, which is also the country's industrial
center, is more humid than Islamabad but gets less rain. Only July
and August average more than twenty-five millimeters of rain in
the Karachi area; the remaining months are exceedingly dry. The
temperature is also more uniform in Karachi than in Islamabad, ranging
from an average daily low of 13° C during winter evenings to
an average daily high of 34° C on summer days. Although the
summer temperatures do not get as high as those in Punjab, the high
humidity causes the residents a great deal of discomfort.
Most areas in Punjab experience fairly cool winters, often accompanied
by rain. Woolen shawls are worn by women and men for warmth because
few homes are heated. By mid-February the temperature begins to
rise; springtime weather continues until mid-April, when the summer
heat sets in. The onset of the southwest monsoon is anticipated
to reach Punjab by May, but since the early 1970s the weather pattern
has been irregular. The spring monsoon has either skipped over the
area or has caused it to rain so hard that floods have resulted.
June and July are oppressively hot. Although official estimates
rarely place the temperature above 46° C, newspaper sources
claim that it reaches 51° C and regularly carry reports about
people who have succumbed to the heat. Heat records were broken
in Multan in June 1993, when the mercury was reported to have risen
to 54° C. In August the oppressive heat is punctuated by the
rainy season, referred to as barsat, which brings relief
in its wake. The hardest part of the summer is then over, but cooler
weather does not come until late October.
Data as of April 1994
Pollution and Environmental Issues
Little attention was paid to pollution and environmental issues
in Pakistan until the early 1990s. Related concerns, such as sanitation
and potable water, received earlier scrutiny. In 1987 only about
6 percent of rural residents and 51 percent of urban residents had
access to sanitary facilities; in 1990 a total of 97.6 million Pakistanis,
or approximately 80 percent of the population, had no access to
flush toilets. Greater success has been achieved in bringing potable
water within reach of the people; nearly half the population enjoyed
such access by 1990. However, researchers at the Pakistan Medical
Research Council, recognizing that a large proportion of diseases
in Pakistan are caused by the consumption of polluted water, have
been questioning the "safe" classification in use in the 1990s.
Even the 38 percent of the population that receives its water through
pipelines runs the risk of consuming seriously contaminated water,
although the problem varies by area. In Punjab, for example, as
much as 90 percent of drinking water comes from groundwater, as
compared with only 9 percent in Sindh.
The central government's Perspective Plan (1988-2003) and previous
five-year plans do not mention sustainable development strategies
. Further, there have been no overarching policies focused on sustainable
development and conservation. The state has focused on achieving
selfsufficiency in food production, meeting energy demands, and
containing the high rate of population growth, not on curtailing
pollution or other environmental hazards.
In 1992 Pakistan's National Conservation Strategy Report
attempted to redress the previous inattention to the nation's mounting
environmental problem. Drawing on the expertise of more than 3,000
people from a wide array of political affiliations, the government
produced a document outlining the current state of environmental
health, its sustainable goals, and viable program options for the
Of special concern to environmentalists is the diminishing forest
cover in watershed regions of the northern highlands, which has
only recently come under close scrutiny. Forest areas have been
thoughtlessly denuded. Deforestation, which occurred at an annual
rate of 0.4 percent in 1989-90, has contributed directly to the
severity of the flooding problem faced by the nation in the early
As industry has expanded, factories have emitted more and more
toxic effluents into the air and water. The number of textile and
food processing mills in rural Punjab has grown greatly since the
mid-1970s, resulting in pollution of its rivers and irrigation canals.
Groundwater quality throughout the country has also suffered from
rapidly increasing use of pesticides and fertilizers aimed at promoting
more intensive cropping and facilitating self-sufficiency in food
The National Conservation Strategy Report has documented
how solid and liquid excreta are the major source of water pollution
in the country and the cause of widespread waterborne diseases.
Because only just over half of urban residents have access to sanitation,
the remaining urban excreta are deposited on roadsides, into waterways,
or incorporated into solid waste. Additionally, only three major
sewage treatment plants exist in the country; two of them operate
intermittently. Much of the untreated sewage goes into irrigation
systems, where the wastewater is reused, and into streams and rivers,
which become sewage carriers at low-flow periods. Consequently,
the vegetables grown from such wastewater have serious bacteriological
contamination. Gastroenteritis, widely considered in medical circles
to be the leading cause of death in Pakistan, is transmitted through
waterborne pollutants .
Low-lying land is generally used for solid waste disposal, without
the benefit of sanitary landfill methods. The National Conservation
Strategy has raised concerns about industrial toxic wastes also
being dumped in municipal disposal areas without any record of their
location, quantity, or toxic composition. Another important issue
is the contamination of shallow groundwater near urban industries
that discharge wastes directly into the ground.
Water in Karachi is so contaminated that almost all residents boil
it before consuming it. Because sewerage and water lines have been
laid side by side in most parts of the city, leakage is the main
cause of contamination. High levels of lead also have been found
in water in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Air pollution has also become a major problem in most cities. There
are no controls on vehicular emissions, which account for 90 percent
of pollutants. The National Conservation Strategy Report
claims that the average Pakistani vehicle emits twenty-five times
as much carbon monoxide, twenty times as many hydrocarbons, and
more than three and one-half times as much nitrous oxide in grams
per kilometer as the average vehicle in the United States.
Another major source of pollution, not mentioned in the National
Conservation Strategy Report, is noise. The hyperurbanization
experienced by Pakistan since the 1960s has resulted in loose controls
for heavy equipment operation in densely populated areas, as well
as in crowded streets filled with buses, trucks, automobiles, and
motorcycles, which often honk at each other and at the horse-drawn
tongas (used for transporting people) and the horse-drawn rehras
(used for transporting goods).
Data as of April 1994
National Conservation Goals
The National Conservation Strategy Report has three explicit
objectives: conservation of natural resources, promotion of sustainable
development, and improvement of efficiency in the use and management
of resources. It sees itself as a "call for action" addressed to
central and provincial governments, businesses, nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs), local communities, and individuals. The sustainable
development of Pakistan is viewed as a multigenerational enterprise.
In seeking to transform attitudes and practices, the National Conservation
Strategy recognizes that two key changes in values are needed: the
restoration of the conservation ethic derived from Islamic moral
values, called qanaat, and the revival of community spirit
and responsibility, haquq-ul-abad.
The National Conservation Strategy Report recommends fourteen
program areas for priority implementation: maintaining soils in
croplands, increasing efficiency of irrigation, protecting watersheds,
supporting forestry and plantations, restoring rangelands and improving
livestock, protecting water bodies and sustaining fisheries, conserving
biodiversity, increasing energy efficiency, developing and deploying
renewable resources, preventing or decreasing pollution, managing
urban wastes, supporting institutions to manage common resources,
integrating population and environmental programs, and preserving
the cultural heritage. It identifies sixty-eight specific programs
in these areas, each with a long-term goal and expected outputs
and physical investments required within ten years. Special attention
has been paid to the potential roles of environmental NGOs, women's
organizations, and international NGOs in working with the government
in its conservation efforts. Recommendations from the National
Conservation Strategy Report are incorporated in the Eighth
Five-Year Plan (1993- 98).
Data as of April 1994