The history of Pakistan traces back to the beginnings of human life in South Asia. Pakistan is home to the Indus Valley civilization, which is amongst the oldest in the world. The earliest archaeological traces of ancient Pakistanis are from 7000 BC in Mehrgarh, which grew to be the “Indus Valley Civilization”. By 3300 BC, this civilization had well-planned towns and well-laid roads, but gave no evidence of weapons or fortifications. This declined and disintegrated around 1900 BC, possibly due to drought and geological disturbances. Most historians say that the Vedic people, or Aryans, were later migrants, who encountered a civilization in decline and perhaps hastened that decline. According to this view, the Vedic people eventually occupied most of North India, while the descendants of the Indus Valley cultures moved south and gave rise to the Dravidian culture. The minority view challenges this Aryan Migration theory, claiming that the Indus Valley people were in fact the ones who compiled the Vedas.
Prior to the 1900s the area of Pakistan was the area from which the Muslims ruled over Central and Southern Asia for over 300 years. Because Pakistan used to be part of India, both the countries share the same history especially in the Indic provinces of Punjab and Sindh. The provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa share more affinities with neighboring Iran and Afghanistan, and thus share less an Indic influence.
The official name of Pakistan was used after the partition of (British) India into the two nation-states of India and Pakistan in 1947. However, the word Pakistan was first used by Ch. Rehmat Ali back in 1933 in his declaration, Now or Never – calling for its separation from the Empire. Afterwards, British-ruled India was divided into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (with two sections West and East) and India. 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 Jammu and Kashmir is ongoing between India and Pakistan.
The current issues facing modern Pakistan are conflict with India, corruption and a negative view of democracy.
The population of Pakistan has been growing rapidly. In fact, within the last few years, their population has increased by about 10% each year. The Pakistani community is a mixture of ethnicities and races. The country’s cultural diversity is a result of many people who traveled all the way from India before settling permanently within Pakistan’s boundaries.
The Pakistan population is dominated by males, and the ratio is decisively skewed. There are several groups of people living in Pakistan, one of which is the Pathans, who live on the northwest part of Pakistan. This group has long sought for an autonomous government separate from Pakistan. Another prominent group is the Baluchis, who have mainly settled in the Southwest of Pakistan. About 97% of Pakistan’s population is Muslim, and this dominant religion is readily visible in the country’s beliefs and cultures.
Pakistan’s geography is a combination of plains, forests, deserts, plateaus, and hills which are located in the coastal areas of the country. The Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates overlap at two of Pakistan’s major regions, the Sindh and Punjab. Pakistan is also in close proximity to China, Afghanistan, India and Iran.
The climate is arid for most of the year. There are, however, cool or cold winters and very hot summers—these temperature extremes are frequent and not too difficult to deal with for the average Pakistani. Pakistan experiences very little rainfall.
To a certain degree, one can say that typical Pakistan cuisine is similar to other cuisines of the Indian region. But even within Pakistan, influences on food vary due to topographical location. For instance, those who live in Punjab and Sindh share similar cuisines to the people of the northwest Indian continent, while the Western portions of Pakistan have similar cuisines to those of Iran and Afghanistan. In fact, there is diversity throughout the country’s culture and cuisine. Generally speaking, Pakistani foods are spicier than those eaten in the Middle East, but not as spicy as those in India.
Pakistan’s culture is infused with a certain type of rigidity as a result of its religious structure. Tourists and locals alike are given plenty of social cues that help them understand religious customs and traditions. During no time of year is this more evident than during the period of Ramadan, when drinking and eating during daylight is prohibited—if absolutely necessarily, the acts should be discreet. There are other norms that the foreign tourist will need to adjust to. For example, it is considered rude and offensive to use the left hand when giving and receiving. Public display of affection between opposite sexes is not tolerated. Dress codes for Pakistani men and women also conform to strict codes.
Urdu is the official language, but English is widely spoken and understood. There are also several regional languages and local dialects.
Tourists will find plenty to occupy their time in Pakistan, especially during the night. There is so much going on that it’s impossible to see it all in one night. With all the restaurants, clubs and bars that Pakistan has, people have countless options to choose from. Types of entertainment might involve anything from quiet, relaxing cafes to lively karaoke bars.
Though small, Pakistan is a country packed with many beautiful places to visit. In fact, Pakistan means the “Land of the Pure” in Urdu language. Some of these scenic sites include:
The Marakan Coastline
This is where the famous Alexander the Great marched during the Greek war in 325 B.C. The 754 kilometers of coastline also saw another great leader, Muhammad Bin Qasim, leading his army.
The Silk Road
During the ancient days of commerce, this road was used by silk traders to trade silk and barter goods. Today, it is now a car-accessible road that passes through the Himalayan range and Indus River.
The Indus Valley Civilization
This valley served as home for the ancient civilization, which dates back to 3000 B.C. .
This was the capital of Pakistan before Islamabad. Karachi is considered to have some of the most breathtaking beaches in the whole world. It is also recognized as one of the best destinations for tourists eager to shop, as well as for those seeking excellent food and drink.
The current capital of Pakistan, its wide roads and gorgeous sights have awed many. This city is most famous for the unique architecture used for both public establishments and residential houses. The Shah Fasal Mosque, which can accommodate about 10,000 worshipers at a single time, is also located in Islamabad.
Pakistan is a strict Muslim state and religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Homosexuality is illegal. It is considered offensive to give, receive or eat with the left hand. Affection between opposite sexes is not shown in public. Women, in particular, are expected to dress and behave decorously in public; even in the large cities shoulders and legs should be covered, and men should not wear shorts. Westerners should expect to be stared at – this is not considered rude in Pakistan, and is purely because you are new and different. Do not take photographs at military establishments, airports or any infrastructure.
Warnings have been issued against non-essential travel to Pakistan in light of the threat of terrorist activity. There is a serious threat of terrorism in Pakistan, particularly in major cities where suicide bombings, kidnappings and murders have taken place, often injuring or killing innocent bystanders. Foreigners of Western origin are particularly likely to be targets for terrorists, including kidnapping. Women are not advised to go anywhere alone. Crime is also high, as are incidents of sectarian attacks and tribal killings. It is also recommended that visitors avoid places of worship during busy prayer times and festivals. Particular care should be taken if visiting Karachi, as well as Peshawar, due to recent bombings. Visitors of visibly Western origin are advised to avoid hanging around public places and to be particularly vigilant in areas frequented by foreigners. The departure of Musharraf from Pakistan’s presidency has led to further political upheavals, with parties fighting over the leadership of the country. Travellers should keep up to date with the latest travel advisories regarding Pakistan before and during a visit. Currently holiday visits are not advised, and only necessary business travel or visits to family should be contemplated. Kashmir in the north is regarded as particularly dangerous with a high incidence of lawlessness and militant activity. It is recommended that all travel to Waziristan, as well as to northern and western Baluchistan, be avoided, and all but essential travel to the Sui area, the Swat Valley in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas and Agencies (FATA), and to the border areas except for official crossing points, be undertaken. Travel by bus and train in Baluchistan should also be avoided due to repeated bomb plants. Visitors should also avoid the centre of Gilgit, as sectarian tension is high at present; access to Gilgit should be by air only. It is recommended that road travel along the Karakoram Highway to and from Islamabad should be undertaken only during daylight hours.
Passport and Visa
All foreign passport holders require a visa issued in their country of origin (or the nearest consulate if there is no diplomatic representation) to enter Pakistan. A return ticket and all documents needed for next destination are required. All visitors are advised to carry a photocopy of their passport, including the Pakistani visa, at all times. If stay exceeds 30 days, passengers must register within 30 days at the Immigration Head Office. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Temporary and emergency passports are not accepted. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.