The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a federal state with the following territories:
Baluchistan is the largest province with an area of 347,190 square kilometers followed by Punjab, Sindh, North-West Frontier, FATA and Federal Capital respectively.
- The provinces of Punjab, Sindh, North-West Frontier and Baluchistan
- The Federal Capital Territory of Islamabad
- The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) divided into ten administrative divisions known as Tribal Agencies.
As Pakistan is located on a great landmass north of Tropic of Cancer, between latitudes 24 and 37 N, it has a continental type of climate, characterized by extreme variations of temperature. The four well-marked seasons in Pakistan are:
Cold season is characterized by fine weather, bracing air, low humidity and large diurnal range of temperature. Average minimum and maximum temperatures are 4'C and 18'C. The winter sun is glorious.
- Cold Season (December to March)
- Hot Season (April to June)
- Monsoon Season (July to September)
- Post-Monsoon Season (October to November)
The hot season is usually dry. Relative humidity in May and June varies from 50 percent in the morning to 25 per cent or less in the afternoon. The temperature soars to 40'C and beyond. The temperature along the sea Coast Ranges between 25'C to 35'C, but the humidity persists around 70 to 80 per cent.
The southwest monsoon reaches Pakistan towards the beginning of July and establishes itself by the middle of the month. The monsoon remains steady, and starts retreating towards the end of August, though occasionally it continues to be active in September.
During the Post-Monsoon season the maximum temperature is of the order of 34'C to 37'C all over Pakistan, while the nights are fairly cool with minimum temperature around 16'C. In the month of November, both the maximum and minimum temperatures fall by about 6'C and weather becomes pleasant. October and November are by far the driest months all over the plains of Pakistan.
Pakistan experiences a general deficiency of rainfall. Although the country is in the monsoon region, it is arid, except for the southern slopes of the Himalayas and the sub-mountainous tracts, which have a rainfall from 76 to 127 cm. Baluchistan is the driest part of the country with an average rainfall of 21 cm.
Communication system is ensured via systems of line and satellite with station facilities of post, telephone, telegraph, Electronic mail, tele-and-radio communication. Long distance communication is based on cable whereas international communication is based on the satellite links. Mobile phone services are now available in most of the major cities of Pakistan. A network of different graded urban and rural roads (some mere earth tracks) across the country connects major areas of production and markets with distribution centers, and provides a link between the interior and the highways.
Pakistan is a treasure house of exquisite handicrafts, made by people who grew up to weave, to pot, to work metals, wood & stone, to decorate, to build things small and great. Pottery here is a living history, a traditional craft that became an art, with its origins going back to 3,000 years B.C. Today each region of Pakistan claims its own special jars and jugs, from sturdy terra cotta to paper-thin ceramics, in vivid colors of mustard yellow, deep green, brick red and sky blue. Once you are in Pakistan you will find yourself among various sort of handicrafts like hand-woven carpets, marble pieces, copper and brass items, woodwork, embroidered garments and local style shoes and countless objects d'art.
Having inherited the culinary traditions of the Moguls, The Turks, the Central Asians and the Iranians, food in Pakistan is a rich and unique experience. Meat, fish and vegetable dishes are seasoned with spices. Particularly palatable are grills and barbecues, Seekh-Kabab (minced meat grilled on skewer), Shami-Kabab (minced meat), Tikka (barbecued mutton, beef or chicken) and Saji (barbecued leg of lamb). Pakistani mutton and chicken curries and the oriental rice dish called, Pulao, are also popular with natives and foreigners alike and is used both as everyday and ceremonial food.
The everyday food also includes daal (lentils), subzi (vegetables) and dahi (yogurt), and scooped up with roti or chapattis or Nan (various type of breads usually made with wheat flour). Though spices are commonly used in Pakistani food yet it is not as hot with chilies as Indian dishes. Besides local food, Chinese and European dishes are also consumed in the major cities of Pakistan.
In Pakistan, through out the year, there are a wide variety of fruits ranging from grapes, pomegranates, apricots, oranges, apples, mangoes, and guavas to bananas & pears. In addition to these fruits, there are several others like plums, peaches, and leechis etc, which are very much seasonal but liked by the people. Black tea with milk & Green tea are the staple drinks of Pakistan and Chai-Khanas (tea-houses) can be found everywhere in Pakistan.
Pakistani Customs are very courteous to tourists and although the rules and regulations may vary from time to time, generally the free allowance includes all personal belongings. There is no restriction on the import of foreign currency into Pakistan and the amount declared on entry point may also be taken out. Local currency is the Pakistani Rupee, the import and export of which is allowed up to Rs.100.00 (one hundred) only per person.
The import of alcoholic beverages is not allowed into Pakistan. However, non-muslims and foreigners can buy alcohol from the permit shops & deluxe hotels in the major cities of Pakistan.
Like imports, you can export various items except for the antiques like Gandharan statues and other excavated objects. Similarly carpets and other items worth less than Rs. 75,000.00 and precious stones and jewellery up to Rs. 25,000.00 can be exported as personal baggage. For any extra luggage or items others than mentioned above, one needs export permit from Government of Pakistan.
All the passengers need to pay Airport tax on departure either leaving for some domestic or international destination. Airport tax for international departure is Rs. 400 for economy class, Rs. 600.00 for business class and Rs. 800.00 for first class. The airport tax for domestic sectors is Rs. 100.00 per person. On any international air ticket purchased from Pakistan, passengers are supposed to pay Rs. 1500.00 per person as Foreign Travel Tax but over & above the airport tax.
Pakistan is basically an agricultural country; therefore, it has an agro-based economy. Pakistan has one of the largest irrigation systems in the world and the major crops being grown are cotton, wheat, rice and sugarcane. The major exports of Pakistan are Cotton, Textile goods, rice, leather items, carpets, sports goods, fruits, handicrafts and Sea Food (Fisheries).
The modern as well as old techniques of agriculture are used in Pakistan but with the passage of time, new techniques, methods and instruments of agriculture are being introduced in the country with the help of IMF, the World Bank, the European Bank and Asian Bank. Locally the agriculture activities are supported and monitored by Agricultural Development Bank of Pakistan
The primary level (05 years) education is compulsory in Pakistan. Government is trying its best with the help of private sector to increase the education ratio. About 35 Universities (10 in private sector), 161 Professional colleges, 798 Arts and Science Colleges supported by 9,808 High Schools, 14,595 Middle Schools and 150,963 Primary schools are already working for the development of education.
The State Emblem of Pakistan, which was approved by the Central Government in 1954, symbolizes Pakistan's ideological foundation, its cultural heritage, the guiding principles and the basis of its economic strength.
The four ingredients of the Emblem are:
Unlike other heraldic devices which are emblazoned with symbols representing mythological, historical and geographical features, Pakistan's state emblem gives due recognition to the country's source of inspiration, strength and tradition.
- The crescent and star crest at the top is a traditional symbol of Islam
- The shield in the center, with four partitions, shows cotton, wheat, tea and jute. These are the crops of Pakistan and signifying the strong agriculture based economy.
- The wreath surrounding the shield is a reproduction of the floral designs used in traditional Mughal art. Its inclusion in the design reminds of the nation's cultural heritage.
- The scroll supporting the shield carries the Urdu version of Quaid-e-Azam's famous motto --- 'Faith', 'Unity', 'Discipline'. These three words articulate the guiding principles for the nation.
Pakistan National's flag is dark green with a white vertical bar, a white crescent and a five-pointed star in the middle. The flag symbolizes Pakistan's profound commitment to Islam and Islamic world with green color representing Muslim population whereas white strip representing other minorities.
Located in South Asia, Pakistan shares an eastern border with India and a northern-eastern border with China. Iran makes up the country's southwest border, and Afghanistan runs along its western and northern edge. The Arabian Sea is Pakistan's southern boundary with 1,064 km of coastline. The country has a total area of 796,100 sq. km and is nearly four times the size of United Kingdom. From Gwadar Bay in its southeastern corner, the country extends more than 1,800 km to the Khunjerab Pass on China's border. Nature has blessed Pakistan with mountains, rivers, steppes and deserts. Most of the land is barren mountains and arid plateaus whereas the Himalayan, Hindu-kush and Karakorum Ranges occupy the Northern part. Among the biggest rivers are the Indus (2,896 km long) & Sutlej (1,551 km long).
Nature has also bestowed Pakistan with unlimited wealth. There are lots of minerals; fuel and energy resources like Oil, Coal and Natural Gas have been discovered. The flora and fauna in Pakistan are diverse. Pine, Oak, Poplar, Deodar, Maple and Mulberry are the famous trees whereas the fauna includes The Pheasant, Leopard, Deer, Ibex, Chin Kara, Black Buk, Neelgai, Markhor, Marco Polo Sheep, Green turtles, River & Sea fish, Crocodile and Water fowls.
There are more than 800 hospitals and more than 74,000 registered doctors in Pakistan assisted by 23,000 registered nurses and 3,000 registered dentists. Now a day, Government of Pakistan is trying to provide basic health facilities in every major and small town of Pakistan and in this regard basic health units and Mobile health units have been introduced. The major cities have modern hospitals with latest equipment and facilities and few of the cities have one of the finest specialized hospitals against various diseases.
Vaccination against Cholera and Yellow Fever is required for persons arriving from infected areas. However, as health regulations may change from time to time, passengers are advised to contact the nearest Pakistan Embassy/High Commission or Sitara's office for the latest rules.
The National holidays in Pakistan are as follows:
Pakistan Day Mar 23
Labour Day May 01
Independence Day Aug 14
Iqbal's Day Nov 09
Quaid's Birthday Dec 25
Besides National Holidays, there are various religious holidays but their dates are not fixed and changes every year in correspondence with Lunar Calendar. These holidays include Ashura Day (02 holidays), Eid-Milad-un-Nabi (01 holiday), Eid-ul-Fitr (03 holidays) and Eid-ul-Azha (03 holidays).
Urdu is the national language of the country and each province has a regional language of the country, which is widely spoken. These languages, Baluchi in Baluchistan, Pashtu in North West Frontier, Punjabi in Punjab and Sindhi in Sindh, are the mother tongues of 97% of the population. English is used extensively in official and commercial circles, Courts of Law and is the medium of instruction for higher education.
Pakistan's currency is called Pak Rupee (PKR). One Pak Rupee is divided into hundred paisas. Currency Notes are in denominations of Rupee 1000, 500, 100, 50, 10 & 5. Coins are in denominations of 2 & 1.
All tourists are obliged to pay for hotels, hotel services etc in US Dollars, if they are paying directly to hotel for these services. However, this rule is not applicable to those tourists traveling through any tour operator. Payments can be made either in hard currency or through travelers' cheques. Credit Cards (Visa, Master & American Express) are now widely accepted by all the major hotels and shops in tourist centers.
Old US Dollar bills (prior to 1990), and those in poor condition (with writing or stamps) may not be accepted. It is illegal to change money in the black market and penalties can be harsh. There are authorized banks and dealers from where money can be changed besides hotels and shops. However, it is advisable to change the money either from banks or authorized dealers as they offer attractive rates as compared to hotels and shops.
Monday to Thursday : 0900 - 1330 Hours
Friday & Saturday : 0900 - 1230 Hours
The authorized moneychangers remain open from 0900 to 1700 Hours (Monday to Saturday) but are closed on Sunday.
Under the constitution of 1973, Pakistan is an Islamic Republic. Political system of the Republic is parliamentary democracy with 02 Houses of parliament, the Senate (Upper House) and the National Assembly (Lower House). The Senate is a permanent legislative body and symbolizes a process of continuity in the national affairs. It consists of 87 members. The four Provincial Assemblies, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Federal Capital form its electoral college. The National Assembly has a total membership of 217 elected through adult suffrage (Muslim 207 & Minorities 10).
The 03 major political parties in Pakistan are People's Party, Pakistan Muslim League and Jamat-e-Islami besides various other provincial and regional parties. The head of the state is President, who is elected by National & Provincial Assemblies. However, the real head of executive power is Prime Minister, elected to a five-year term by the National Assembly and commonly he/she is the representative of political party who has more seats in the National Assembly. The Prime Minister appoints a Cabinet of Ministers and this Cabinet carries out the day-to-day running of the country. The Prime Minister initiates all the new bills and amendments in the legislation, which are then forwarded to President for final approval, after discussion and approval from both the houses of parliaments. However, the appointments of Judges in Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Provincial Governors and Heads of Armed Forces are made by President of Pakistan but under consultation with Prime Minister.
Since 1999, General Pervez Musharraf who took over the charge as Chief Executive of Pakistan by removing the democratic Government and President has suspended this form of Government. He has appointed his own Cabinet of Ministers but this form of Government is temporary and General Pervez Musharraf is supposed to conduct general election of the entire National and Provincial Assemblies by Oct 2002.
In the year 1998, the population of Pakistan was 135.28 million with the growth rate of 2.7 percent but as per new statistics, a minor decrease has been noted in the growth rate as a result of strong campaign by international and domestic family planning organizations. The people are mainly Muslims, and are socially homogenous within a variety of cultures. Other religious groups within Pakistan include Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Parsees, all of composite racial stock although the majority is of Aryan descent. The other nations living in Pakistan are mainly Afghans as more than 3 millions Afghans migrated to Pakistan after the Russian Invasion into Afghanistan during 1979. Besides Afghans lot of Iranian, Uzbeks, and Tajeks are also living in Pakistan.
Predominantly the Pakistanis are Sunni Muslim (75% of total population), Shia Muslims are about 20% of total population whereas rest of 5% are Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsees & Buddhists. However, freedom of worship is practiced in Pakistan.
Handicrafts can be purchased at specialized art workshops, bazaars and small shops at museums in various cities of Pakistan. Some of the fine handicrafts like carpets, leather items, embroidered work; ceramics, marble, copper & brass items besides the wonderful woodwork are available in Pakistan. For those keen on shopping, the prices are still quite reasonable and you will find yourself returning home with countless objects d'art.
Pakistan is in the process of modernizing its transportation facilities. The various regions of the country are connected by air, rail and road.
Air More than 40 airlines from various parts of the world fly to Pakistan. Most of the flights arrive at Karachi but PIA, British Airways, Emirates, Gulf Air, Saudia and China Xinjiang Airlines fly directly to Islamabad. Some of the main carriers like Thai Airways and Singapore Airline besides PIA & Emirates fly directly to Lahore.
The National Airline is Pakistan International Airlines, which has direct flights from the main Mediterranean and European cities, as well as from New York, Toronto and Nairobi. Its also runs a Far East Network from Tokyo, Beijing, Jakarta, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. PIA has also flights to Tashkent, Almaty and Middle East.
Pakistan International Airlines covers 55 international and 38 domestic routes. There are six major airports; Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar and Gawadar. Besides PIA, there are 02 airlines being operated by private sector as well, Aero Asia and Shaheen International. Though their operation is limited yet they operate domestic flights within Pakistan as well as international flights to Middle East.
Rail There are 8,775 km of rail tracks & 781 Railway stations linking the main cities of Pakistan like Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Bahawalpur, Multan, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Quetta. There are several daily trains running on these lines, however, the faster trains like Shalimar Express (Lahore-Karachi) and Railcar (Lahore-Rawalpindi) are more comfortable and also have air-conditioned compartments for travelers. Pakistan Railways allow 25% concession in all classes to foreign tourists and 50% discount for foreign students. This concession is allowed on production of a recommendation certificate issued by any PTDC Tourist Information Center and original passports to the Divisional Superintendent or Station Masters at all the main and principal railway stations. There is a weekly train between Zahidan (Iran) and Quetta (Pakistan) whereas 02 weekly trains operate between Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan).
Road Pakistan has an extensive network of roads and highways (228,206 km) linking every big and small town. There are several highways like Grand Trunk Road (GT Road) between Lahore and Peshawar, Super Highway and National Highway linking Karachi with interior of Sindh and Punjab, Indus Highway linking Peshawar with Southern Punjab and Karachi, RCD Highway linking Karachi and Quetta on to Taftan (Pak-Iran border) and the Karakoram Highway joining Islamabad with Kashgar (China) through Abbottabad, Gilgit, Hunza and Khunjerab Pass. A landmark has been achieved with the completion of Lahore-Islamabad Motorway (M2), and Faisalabad-Pindi Bhattian Motorway (M3), which have opened some of the remote areas of Pakistan for visitors. Another project of Motorway i.e. Islamabad-Peshawar (M1) will be completed in near future.
Pakistan is also linked with India by road through Wagha Border and besides the train service; there is bus service between Lahore and Delhi. This bus service operates on every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Sea There are 05 seaports in Pakistan.
International : 02 (Karachi & Bin Qasim)
Domestic : 03 (Minora, Gwadar & Pasni)
However, no passenger boats or ships for the general public sail to and from Pakistan are present. These ports are only used for trade purpose.