A Crossroads Of Civilizations
By Liz Goldner
a visit to his native Pakistan in July, 2006, Kalim Farooki
graciously collected soil for Common Ground 191. After arriving
in that country, he traveled 100 kilometers (60 miles) from
Karachi to Thatta, now a tourist destination.
Thatta is just west of the Indus River and
near the Arabian Sea coast. The city has a rich, cultural
history going back more than 2,000 years, as historians believe
that Alexander the Great visited the town before the Christian
era. Much later, in the 16th and 17th centuries, Thatta was
a center for Islamic arts.
During its many centuries of cultural life,
citizens of the town built numerous tombs, mausoleums and
mosques. Many of these are in good condition and are tourist
Makli Hill near Thatta is the world largest graveyard spread
over 15.5 square kilometer. Buried here are kings, queens,
scholars, philosophers and soldiers, leaders of a city that
was once known for its culture and learning.
The surrounding region includes the barren
and rocky Kohistan area where the chief crop is sugarcane
and camel breeding is an important industry.
In Thatta, centuries of deterioration from
environmental factors have caused decay of the still-standing
monuments. Kalim explains that the soil he collected comes
from an area that is rich with these artifacts. He adds that
it is likely that the soil he collected for Common Ground
contains particles from these monuments.
is the sixth most populous country in the world and the second
most largest with a Muslim majority. Persians and Greeks conquered
most of the country in the 1st millennium BCE. Later arrivals
included the Arabs, Afghans, Turks, Baloch and Mongols. The
territory was incorporated into the British Raj in the nineteenth
century. Since its independence, the country has experienced
significant military and economic growth, along with periods
of instability, particularly the secession in 1971 of East
Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh). Pakistan is a declared
nuclear weapons state.
The name "Pakistan" means "Land
of the Pure" in Urdu, Sindhi, and Persian. It was coined
in 1934 as "Pakstan" by Choudhary Rahmat Ali.
was formed on August 14,1947, with two Muslim-majority wings
in the eastern and northwestern regions. Following this formation,
there were riots across India and Pakistan with millions of
Muslims moving to Pakistan and millions of Hindus and Sikhs
moving to India. Disputes arose over several states including
Jammu and Kashmir. Economic and political dissent in East
Pakistan led to violent political repression and tensions,
escalating into civil war.
Civilian rule resumed from 1972 to 1977 under
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, until he was deposed and later sentenced
to death. In 1988, Benazir Bhutto was elected as the first
female Prime Minister of Pakistan. Over the next decade, she
alternated power with Nawaz Sharif, as the country's political
and economic situation worsened. Pakistan sent 5,000 troops
to the 1991 Gulf War as part of a US led coalition. Military
tensions in the Kargil conflict with India were followed by
a Pakistani military coup d'état in 1999 in which General
Pervez Musharraf assumed executive powers. In 2001, Musharraf
named himself President after the forced resignation of Rafiq
Tarar. After the 2002 parliamentary elections, Musharraf transferred
executive powers to newly elected Prime Minister Zafarullah
Khan Jamali, who was succeeded in the 2004 Prime-Ministerial
election by a professional banker Shaukat Aziz, followed by
a brief stint in the seat by Chaudhy Shuja'at Hussain.
is a rapidly developing country, having faced many challenges
on political and economic fronts. Despite being a very poor
country in 1947, its economic growth rate has been better
than the global average during the subsequent four decades,
Recently, wide-ranging economic reforms have resulted in a
stronger economic outlook and accelerated growth especially
in the manufacturing and financial services sectors. There
has been great improvement in the foreign exchange position
and rapid growth in hard currency reserves. The 2005 estimate
of foreign debt was close to US$40 billion. However, this
has decreased in recent years with assistance from the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and significant debt-relief from the United
States. Pakistan's GDP growth rates have steadily increased
over the last five years.
Stock Exchange has soared, along with most of the world's
emerging markets. Large amounts of foreign investments have
been made into several industries. The top industries in Pakistan
are telecom, software, automotives, textiles, cement, fertilizer,
steel, ship building, and aerospace.
has accomplished many engineering feats such as construction
of the world’s largest earth filled dam Tarbela, the
world's twelfth largest dam Mangla, as well as the world’s
highest international road: the Karakoram Highway. There are
also half a dozen additional dams planned such as Kalabagh
In its June 2006 Economic Survey, global finance giant Morgan
Stanley listed Pakistan on its list of major emerging markets
in the world economy, placing it on a list of 25 countries
displaying continued moderate to strong growth over a sustained
period of time. The report noted, "its economy has been
growing quickly in recent periods and corporate direct investors
have taken notice.”
In late March 2007, the Asian Development Bank "Outlook
2007" report predicted that strong growth would continue
in 2007 and 2008 with growth rates of 6.5 to 7 percent, with
manufacturing, exports and consumer expenditure leading the
Beaches to Icy Peaks
covers 803,940 square kilometers, approximately the size of
France and the United Kingdom combined. Its land ranges from
sandy beaches, lagoons, and mangrove swamps of the southern
coast to moist temperate forests and the icy peaks of the
Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountains in the north.
There are an estimated 108 peaks above 7,000 metres (23,000
ft) high, covered in snow and glaciers.
To the west of the Indus are the dry, hilly
deserts of Balochistan; to the east are the rolling sand dunes
of the Thar Desert. The Tharparkar desert in the southern
province of Sindh, is the only fertile desert in the world.
Most areas of Punjab and parts of Sindh are fertile plains
where agriculture is of great importance.
The climate varies as much as the scenery,
with cold winters and hot summers in the north and a mild
climate in the south, moderated by the influence of the ocean.
The central parts have extremely hot summers with temperatures
rising to 113 °F, followed by very cold winters.
The national dress, called Shalwar Qamiz,
of Central Asian origin, is today worn in all parts of Pakistan.
The sari is worn by some women in Sindh and other parts of
Pakistan. Women wear brightly colored shalwar qamiz, while
men often wear solid-colored ones. In cities, western dress
is also popular among the young and business people.
Pakistani music ranges from diverse, provincial
folk music and traditional styles such as Qawwali and Ghazal
Gayaki to modern forms fusing traditional and western music.
The county is also home to many famous folk singers such as
the late Alam Lohar, who is also well known in the Indian
Punjab. Hip-Hop is also becoming popular.
The arrival of Afghan refugees in the western
provinces has rekindled Pashto and Persian music and established
Peshawar as a hub for Afghan musicians and a distribution
centre for Afghan music abroad.
Tourism is a growing industry in Pakistan,
based on its diverse cultures, peoples and landscapes. The
variety of attractions range from the ruins of ancient civilizations
such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa and Taxila, to the Himalayan
hill stations, which attract those interested in field and
winter sports. The northern parts of Pakistan have many old
fortresses and towers.