Pakistan emerged on the world map as an independent sovereign state in August 1947, as a result of the division of the British Indian Empire. With a land area of 796,095 sq. km. [including FATA (Federal Administered Tribal Areas) and FANA (Federal Administered Northern Areas)], its population stands at nearly 172.80 million, according to the 2008 Census. Historically, this is one of the most ancient lands known to man. Its cities flourished before Babylon was built; its people practiced the art of good living and citizenship before the celebrated ancient Greeks.
The region traces its history back to at least 2,500 years before Christ, when a highly developed civilization flourished in the Indus Valley. Excavations at Harappa, Mohenjodaro and Kot Diji have brought to light evidence of an advanced civilization flourishing here even in most ancient times. Around 1,500 B.C. the Aryans conquered this region and slowly pushed the Hindu inhabitants further east, towards the Ganges Valley. Later, the Persians occupied the northern regions in 5th century B.C. The Greeks came in 327 B.C., under Alexander of Macedonia, and ran through the region like a meteor. In 712 A.D. the Arabs, led by Mohammed Bin Qasim, landed somewhere near what is now Karachi, and ruled the lower half of Pakistan for two hundred years. During this time Islam took root and influenced the life, culture and traditions of the inhabitants of the region.
From 10th century A.D. onwards, a systematic conquest of Indo-Pakistan by the Muslims from Central Asia began and lasted up to 18th century A.D., when the British colonized the Sub-continent and ruled for nearly 200 years (for 100 years over what is now Pakistan). The Muslim revival began towards the end of the last century when Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, a renowned leader and educationist, launched a movement for intellectual renaissance of the Indian Muslims. In 1930, the well-known poet/philosopher, Dr. Mohammed Iqbal conceived the idea of a separate state for the Muslims of the Sub-continent, and in 1940, the All-India Muslim League adopted the famous Pakistan Resolution.
Predominantly Muslims, the people of Pakistan are culturally homogeneous. Other religious groups include the Christians, Buddhist, Hindus and Parsees. All belong to a composite racial stock although the majority belongs to an Aryan extraction. While Urdu, the national language, is spoken throughout Pakistan, English is extensively used in official and commercial circles, and in the cities. The regional languages are Sindhi in Sindh, Balochi in Balochistan, Punjabi in Punjab and Pushto in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP).
Pakistan has a total area of 803,940 square kilometers, slightly greater than France and the United Kingdom put together.
Pakistan is located in South Asia. To the south is the Arabian Sea, with 1,046 km of Pakistani coastline. To Pakistan's east is India, which has a 2,912 km border with Pakistan. To its west is Iran, which has a 909 km border with Pakistan. To Pakistan's northwest lies Afghanistan, with a shared border of 2,430 km. China is towards the northeast and has a 523 km border with Pakistan.
The main waterway of Pakistan is the Indus River that begins in China, and runs nearly the entire length of Pakistan, flowing through all of Pakistan's provinces except Balochistan, is fed by the combined waters of three of the five rivers of Punjab the Chenab, Jhelum, and Ravi. The waters of the other two rivers, the Beas and the Sutlej, are largely withdrawn for irrigation in India. Along the Indus and its tributaries are found most of Pakistan's population, its chief agricultural areas, and its major hydroelectric power stations, interconnected by the world's largest system of agricultural canals, join the Indus before it discharges into the Arabian Sea.
The northern and western areas of Pakistan are mountainous. Pakistani administered areas of Kashmir contain some of the highest mountains in the world, including the second tallest, K-2. Northern Pakistan tends to receive more rainfall than the southern parts of the country, and has some areas of preserved moist temperate forest. In the southeast, Pakistan's border with India passes through a flat desert, called the Cholistan or Thal Desert. West-central Balochistan has a high desert plateau, bordered by low mountain ranges. Most of the Punjab, and parts of Sindh, are fertile plains where agriculture is of great importance.
Pakistan is important for many religions of the world. The Indus Valley gave rise to one of the first great civilizations. Mahayana Buddhism also developed here as did the Sikh religion under Guru Nanak. Pakistan was created in the Indus Valley specifically to provide the Muslims of South Asia with a state of their own, and there are very few countries where religion plays such an important role in the lives of people.
Muslims make up over 98% of the population of Pakistan, of which roughly 80% are Sunni and 20% are Sh'iah. About 1% of the population is Christian with slightly more protestants than Catholics. The Hindus, mostly nomads living in the South account for less than 1%. In Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Quetta there are small communities of Buddhists and there are a tiny group of animist Kalash living in Chitral on the Afghan border.
Pakistan has every reason to be proud of the thousands of years old and rich tradition of its arts and crafts. In the post-independence period, the successive governments have been providing substantial state help and initiative for the uplift of arts and crafts in the country. A wider recognition of the accomplishments of crafts-people has been facilitated by the activities of the National Crafts Council and promotional plans of organizations such as the Export Promotion Bureau and Small Industries Corporations. Pakistani craftsmen are well reputed in producing quality products in clay, stone, fabrics, carpets, wood, metal, jewelry and leather.
Pakistan has been the cradle of a civilization that dates back more than five millennia. Over the centuries, through successive waves of migrations from the north-west, as well as by internal migrations across the subcontinent, Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Arabs, and Mughals came and settled in this region. However, it was Islam and Islamic traditions that finally took roots and formed the mainspring of Pakistan's cultural heritage.
Muslims from the earliest days, built cities, forts, palaces, mosques, madrassas (religious schools), tombs and mausoleums which are marked by simplicity and grandeur, with open spaces and abundance of light in accordance with the Islamic concept of man's direct and open relationship with the Creator. Pakistan inherits immense treasure of culture, and the government is trying its best to preserve and promote this cultural treasure. There are several government agencies such as Pakistan National Council of Arts, Lok Virsa (Folk Heritage), National Film Development Corporation, Authority for Preservation of Moenjodaro and National Archives of Pakistan, each to perform a given set of functions in this area.