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Here is why Pakistan is more diverse than you thought

Updated Dec 23, 2016 10:05am

Up North

Our journey to explore the genius of Pakistan’s diversity begins in the country’s northernmost area, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) which borders Afghanistan in the north and China in the east.

Main industries: Agriculture and tourism.

Literacy rate: 72%.

Main languages: Shina; Balti; Burushaski; Khowar; Wakhi.

Main faiths: Islam (largely Shia and Ismaili).

Main ethnic groups: Shins, Yashkuns, Kashmiris, Kashgaris, Pamiris, Pathans, and Kohistanis.

Political disposition: Progressive.

Social outlook: Moderate to liberal.

Aerial view of Gilgit City (Pic: GB Colors Network).
Aerial view of Gilgit City (Pic: GB Colors Network).

Domial Lake near GB’s second largest town, Skardu (Pic: Native Pakistan).
Domial Lake near GB’s second largest town, Skardu (Pic: Native Pakistan).

A heart-shaped lake at a tourist resort near Skardu. (Pic: Travel Pakistan).
A heart-shaped lake at a tourist resort near Skardu. (Pic: Travel Pakistan).

School children in Gilgit City (Pic: Nasir Ullah Baig).
School children in Gilgit City (Pic: Nasir Ullah Baig).

Gilgit Airport (Pic: Hamari Web).
Gilgit Airport (Pic: Hamari Web).

Wines made in the GB region of Hunza are popular with tourists. But visitors are advised to not go frolicking in their rented vehicles when under the influence.
Wines made in the GB region of Hunza are popular with tourists. But visitors are advised to not go frolicking in their rented vehicles when under the influence.

A snow leopard and her cub on a mountain at the foot of a village in Gilgit. (Pic: Wildlife of Pakistan)
A snow leopard and her cub on a mountain at the foot of a village in Gilgit. (Pic: Wildlife of Pakistan)

Mirpur in Azad Kashmir. Azad Kashmir is a self-governing administrative division of Pakistan.
Mirpur in Azad Kashmir. Azad Kashmir is a self-governing administrative division of Pakistan.

A protest rally in Gilgit City.
A protest rally in Gilgit City.

In the northeast of GB is the country’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. It shares an international border with Afghanistan.

Main industries: Agriculture, marble, forestry, small arms and tourism.

Literacy rate: 62%.

Main languages: Pushtu; Hindko; Punjabi.

Main faiths: Muslim (largely Sunni). Also has a small Sikh community.

Main ethnic groups: Pakhtun and Hindko-speaking Punjabi.

Political disposition: Mixed.

Social outlook: Conservative.

The historic Khyber Pass in KP connects Pakistan with Afghanistan. (Pic: Dost Pakistan)
The historic Khyber Pass in KP connects Pakistan with Afghanistan. (Pic: Dost Pakistan)

A mosque in Chitral which is one of the most scenic (and tourist-friendly) regions of KP. (Pic: Native Pakistan)
A mosque in Chitral which is one of the most scenic (and tourist-friendly) regions of KP. (Pic: Native Pakistan)

The ancient Qissa Khwani Bazar in KP’s capital city of Peshawar.
The ancient Qissa Khwani Bazar in KP’s capital city of Peshawar.

University of Peshawar (Pic: UoP).
University of Peshawar (Pic: UoP).

Fruit-sellers in KP’s Mardan city. (Pic: Dawn)
Fruit-sellers in KP’s Mardan city. (Pic: Dawn)

KP’s Abbotabad city at night. (Pic: Native Pakistan)
KP’s Abbotabad city at night. (Pic: Native Pakistan)

Aerial view of KP’s Swat region. An enchanting location, it was hit by religious militancy in the early 2000s. The Pakistan government and military pushed out the militants in 2009. The famous human rights activist Malala Yousafzai is from Swat. (Pic: Pakistan Tour Guide)
Aerial view of KP’s Swat region. An enchanting location, it was hit by religious militancy in the early 2000s. The Pakistan government and military pushed out the militants in 2009. The famous human rights activist Malala Yousafzai is from Swat. (Pic: Pakistan Tour Guide)

Soldiers of the Pakistan Army guarding a base in Pakistan’s volatile tribal area. The rugged beauty of this area has been tainted by years of extremist militancy. The government and armed forces of Pakistan finally conducted an intensive operation here to rid it of militant groups. (Pic: ISPR)
Soldiers of the Pakistan Army guarding a base in Pakistan’s volatile tribal area. The rugged beauty of this area has been tainted by years of extremist militancy. The government and armed forces of Pakistan finally conducted an intensive operation here to rid it of militant groups. (Pic: ISPR)

A markhor in Chitral. (Wildlife of Pakistan)
A markhor in Chitral. (Wildlife of Pakistan)

PTI chairman, Imran Khan, holding a rally in KP. His populist centre-right party, the PTI, swept the provincial polls in KP in 2013.
PTI chairman, Imran Khan, holding a rally in KP. His populist centre-right party, the PTI, swept the provincial polls in KP in 2013.

East of KP lies Pakistan’s capital city, Islamabad. The region was a hilly and forested area with a few villages until it was built from scratch as the capital city of Pakistan in the 1960s. It is an entirely new city and is federally administrated.

Main industries: Information & Technology; service sector.

Literacy rate: 88%.

Main languages: Punjabi, Pashtu, Sindhi, Urdu and English.

Main faiths: Islam (largely Sunni). A majority of foreign expats following a variety of faiths are also stationed here.

Main ethnic groups: Punjabi, Pakhtun, Sindhi and Mohajir.

Political disposition: Moderate to progressive.

Social outlook: Liberal.

Monsoon in Islamabad (Pic: M. Toori).
Monsoon in Islamabad (Pic: M. Toori).

The popular Pir Sohawa area of Islamabad has dozens of eateries situated upon a hill.
The popular Pir Sohawa area of Islamabad has dozens of eateries situated upon a hill.

The Prime Minister’s Secretariat.
The Prime Minister’s Secretariat.

The Parliament House/National Assembly building.
The Parliament House/National Assembly building.

A main commercial road in Islamabad.
A main commercial road in Islamabad.

A sprawling hotel in Islamabad.
A sprawling hotel in Islamabad.

A wild boar in the hills of Islamabad.
A wild boar in the hills of Islamabad.

Deep Centre

Bordering Islamabad in the south is Pakistan’s largest and most populated province, the Punjab. It shares a long border with India.

Main industries: Agriculture, heavy machinery, sports goods, motor and aircraft parts, metals, cement and tourism. Punjab is Pakistan’s most industrialised province.

Literacy rate: 61%.

Main languages: Punjabi, Sariki, Pashtu, Urdu, English.

Main faiths: Islam (largely Sunni). There are also significant Christian and Sikh minority communities here as well.

Main ethnic groups: Punjabi, Sariki, Pakhtun and Mohajir.

Political disposition: Moderate.

Social outlook: Moderate.

Aerial view of Punjab’s capital city, Lahore. (Pic: J. Zakriyah).
Aerial view of Punjab’s capital city, Lahore. (Pic: J. Zakriyah).

Balcony of a café behind which is Lahore’s historic Badshahi Mosque. (Pic: I. Hussain)
Balcony of a café behind which is Lahore’s historic Badshahi Mosque. (Pic: I. Hussain)

The University of Punjab, Lahore.
The University of Punjab, Lahore.

People at a literary festival in Lahore. (Pic: Dawn Images).
People at a literary festival in Lahore. (Pic: Dawn Images).

Section of a crowd at Lahore’s Gaddafi Cricket Stadium. (Pic: The News)
Section of a crowd at Lahore’s Gaddafi Cricket Stadium. (Pic: The News)

Lahore’s Anarkali Bazaar. (Pic: Khurram A.)
Lahore’s Anarkali Bazaar. (Pic: Khurram A.)

The famous Clock Tower of Faisalabad. Faisalabad is one of the oldest industrial hubs of Punjab.
The famous Clock Tower of Faisalabad. Faisalabad is one of the oldest industrial hubs of Punjab.

A man cycles through a field in rural Punjab. (Pic: S. Zaheer Abbas)
A man cycles through a field in rural Punjab. (Pic: S. Zaheer Abbas)

A young woman in rural Punjab. (Pic: Shirkatgah)
A young woman in rural Punjab. (Pic: Shirkatgah)

The Pakistan-India border near the Punjab city of Sialkot.
The Pakistan-India border near the Punjab city of Sialkot.

Multan: Punjab’s ‘city of Sufi saints and shrines’. (Pic: Junaid Shahid)
Multan: Punjab’s ‘city of Sufi saints and shrines’. (Pic: Junaid Shahid)

An ancient fort in Punjab’s Cholistan Desert. (Pic: Quratullah)
An ancient fort in Punjab’s Cholistan Desert. (Pic: Quratullah)

Punjab’s cool hilly town of Murree. (Pic: Nauman Hameed)
Punjab’s cool hilly town of Murree. (Pic: Nauman Hameed)

Punjab’s Jhang city. It has witnessed sectarian clashes and tensions ever since the late 1980s.
Punjab’s Jhang city. It has witnessed sectarian clashes and tensions ever since the late 1980s.

A flock of houbara bustards in South Punjab.
A flock of houbara bustards in South Punjab.

The current Pakistan PM and chief of the centrist PML-N, Nawaz Sharif, speaking at a rally in the Punjab city of Gujranwala. The PML-N has been Punjab’s largest political party ever since the 1990s.
The current Pakistan PM and chief of the centrist PML-N, Nawaz Sharif, speaking at a rally in the Punjab city of Gujranwala. The PML-N has been Punjab’s largest political party ever since the 1990s.

Down South

In the southeast of the country lies the Sindh province. Like Punjab, Sindh too shares a long border with India.

Main industries: Finance; manufacturing; service sector; fisheries; natural gas; agriculture.

Literacy rate: 70%.

Main languages: Sindhi; Urdu; Punjabi; Pashtu; Sariki; Balochi; Guajarati; English.

Main faiths: Islam (mainly Sunni, but Sindh also has the country’s largest Shia Muslim community). There are significant Christian, Hindu and Zoroastrian minority communities here as well.

Main ethnic groups: Sindhi; Mohajir; Punjabi; Pakhtun; Baloch; Sariki.

Political disposition: Progressive.

Social outlook: Moderate to liberal.

Sindhi’s gigantic capital city, Karachi. It is Pakistan’s largest city and main economic hub.
Sindhi’s gigantic capital city, Karachi. It is Pakistan’s largest city and main economic hub.

Karachi has a long coastline.
Karachi has a long coastline.

Girls playing street cricket in Karachi. (Pic: Fahim Siddiqui)
Girls playing street cricket in Karachi. (Pic: Fahim Siddiqui)

A licensed liquor store in Karachi. The government of Sindh earns revenues up to Rs 4 billion annually from these shops. These stores have also largely kept in check the proliferation of bootlegging mafias in Sindh who thrive in areas where there are no such shops.
A licensed liquor store in Karachi. The government of Sindh earns revenues up to Rs 4 billion annually from these shops. These stores have also largely kept in check the proliferation of bootlegging mafias in Sindh who thrive in areas where there are no such shops.

The marble mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi. Karachi was Jinnah’s birthplace.
The marble mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi. Karachi was Jinnah’s birthplace.

A church in Karachi.
A church in Karachi.

A Sufi shrine in Sindh’s second-largest city, Hyderabad.
A Sufi shrine in Sindh’s second-largest city, Hyderabad.

A ‘mango festival’ in the Sindh city of Mirpurkhas. (Pic: Kawish)
A ‘mango festival’ in the Sindh city of Mirpurkhas. (Pic: Kawish)

A Hindu temple in the Sindh city of Sukkar.
A Hindu temple in the Sindh city of Sukkar.

Dense forest near the Sindh cities of Dadu and Moro. These forests are often infested with highway bandits.
Dense forest near the Sindh cities of Dadu and Moro. These forests are often infested with highway bandits.

An oasis in Sindh’s Thar Desert. (Pic: PakWather)
An oasis in Sindh’s Thar Desert. (Pic: PakWather)

A village woman in Thar feeding a peacock. (Pic: Native Pakistan)
A village woman in Thar feeding a peacock. (Pic: Native Pakistan)

Devotees and pilgrims throng at the shrine of a famous Sufi saint in the Sindh city of Shewan.
Devotees and pilgrims throng at the shrine of a famous Sufi saint in the Sindh city of Shewan.

Women in traditional Sindhi dress.
Women in traditional Sindhi dress.

Chairperson of the left-liberal PPP, Bilawal Bhutto, at a party rally in the Sindh city of Larkana. The PPP has been Sindh’s largest political party since the 1970s.
Chairperson of the left-liberal PPP, Bilawal Bhutto, at a party rally in the Sindh city of Larkana. The PPP has been Sindh’s largest political party since the 1970s.

Bordering Iran and Afghanistan is the mountainous province of Balochistan.

Main industries: Coal; Natural Gas; Marble; Shipbreaking; Fisheries.

Literacy rate: 43%.

Main languages: Balochi; Pushtu; Barhui; Punjabi; Urdu.

Main faiths: Islam (mainly Sunni).

Main ethnic groups: Baloch; Pakhtun.

Political disposition: Moderate to progressive.

Social outlook: Conservative.

A mountain-top view of Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan. (Pic: Sadat Ali)
A mountain-top view of Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan. (Pic: Sadat Ali)

A train approaching the Quetta railway station. (Pic: Pakistan Affairs)
A train approaching the Quetta railway station. (Pic: Pakistan Affairs)

Balochistan’s Hingnol National Park. (Pic: Encyclopak)
Balochistan’s Hingnol National Park. (Pic: Encyclopak)

Children take a dip in a canal in the Balochistan city of Sibi. Sibi has the hottest summers in Pakistan. Temperatures can rise above 50c here.
Children take a dip in a canal in the Balochistan city of Sibi. Sibi has the hottest summers in Pakistan. Temperatures can rise above 50c here.

A mosque in Balochistan city of Turbat.
A mosque in Balochistan city of Turbat.

The Balochistan city of Ziarat.
The Balochistan city of Ziarat.

Balochistan’s port city Gwadar being developed with the help of China. (Pic: Husnain Amjad)
Balochistan’s port city Gwadar being developed with the help of China. (Pic: Husnain Amjad)

A Pakistani soldier stands on top of a hill in Gwadar. Parts of Balochistan have often been hit by a Baloch nationalist insurgency and also by violence from extremist groups. (Picture: The Guardian)
A Pakistani soldier stands on top of a hill in Gwadar. Parts of Balochistan have often been hit by a Baloch nationalist insurgency and also by violence from extremist groups. (Picture: The Guardian)

An ibex on a remote mountain of Balochistan.
An ibex on a remote mountain of Balochistan.

A rally of a Baloch nationalist party in Balochistan.
A rally of a Baloch nationalist party in Balochistan.


Stats from:

Pakistan Bureau of Statistics 1998 Census Report