Geography of Pakistan        




Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea, between India on the east and Iran and Afghanistan on the west and China in the north

Geographic coordinates:

30 00 N, 70 00 E


total: 803,940 sq km
land: 778,720 sq km
water: 25,220 sq km

Area - comparative:

slightly less than twice the size of California

Land boundaries:

total: 6,774 km
border countries: Afghanistan 2,430 km, China 523 km, India 2,912 km, Iran 909 km


1,046 km

Maritime claims:

contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM


mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north


flat Indus plain in east; mountains in north and northwest; Balochistan plateau in west

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: K2 (Mt. Godwin-Austen) 8,611 m

Natural resources:

land, extensive natural gas reserves, limited petroleum, poor quality coal, iron ore, copper, salt, limestone

Land use:

arable land: 27.81%
permanent crops: 0.79%
other: 71.4% (1998 est.)

Irrigated land:

180,000 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards:

frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe especially in north and west; flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August)

Environment - current issues:

water pollution from raw sewage, industrial wastes, and agricultural runoff; limited natural fresh water resources; a majority of the population does not have access to potable water; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban

Geography - note:

controls Khyber Pass and Bolan Pass, traditional invasion routes between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent




People of Pakistan




150,694,740 (July 2003 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 39.3% (male 30,463,958; female 28,726,776)
15-64 years: 56.5% (male 43,571,093; female 41,651,872)
65 years and over: 4.2% (male 3,051,674; female 3,229,367) (2003 est.)

Median age:

total: 19.8 years
male: 19.7 years
female: 20 years (2002)

Population growth rate:

2.01% (2003 est.)

Birth rate:

29.59 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)

Death rate:

8.79 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)

Net migration rate:

-0.75 migrant (s)/1,000 population (2003 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male (s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male (s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male (s)/female
65 years and over: 0.94 male (s)/female
total population: 1.05 male (s)/female (2003 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 76.53 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 76.09 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 76.95 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 62.2 years
male: 61.3 years
female: 63.14 years (2003 est.)

Total fertility rate:

4.1 children born/woman (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.1% (2001 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

78,000 (2001 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

4,500 (2001 est.)


noun: Pakistani (s)
adjective: Pakistani

Ethnic groups:

Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun (Pathan), Baloch, Muhajir (immigrants from India at the time of partition and their descendants)


Muslim 97% (Sunni 77%, Shi'a 20%), Christian, Hindu, and other 3%


Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Siraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashtu 8%, Urdu (official) 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English (official and lingua franca of Pakistani elite and most government ministries), Burushaski, and other 8%


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 45.7%
male: 59.8%
female: 30.6% (2003 est.)



Government of Pakistan



Country name:

conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Pakistan
conventional short form: Pakistan
former: West Pakistan

Government type:

federal republic



Administrative divisions:

4 provinces, 1 territory*, and 1 capital territory**; Balochistan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas*, Islamabad Capital Territory**, North-West Frontier Province, Punjab, Sindh
note: the Pakistani-administered portion of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region includes Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas


14 August 1947 (from UK)

National holiday:

Republic Day, 23 March (1956)


10 April 1973, suspended 5 July 1977, restored with amendments 30 December 1985; suspended 15 October 1999, restored on 31 December 2002
note: selected provisions of the Constitution pertaining to changes President MUSHARRAF made while the Constitution was suspended, remain contested by political opponents

Legal system:

based on English common law with provisions to accommodate Pakistan's status as an Islamic state; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations


18 years of age; universal; joint electorates and reserved parliamentary seats for women and non-Muslims

Executive branch:

note: following a military takeover on 12 October 1999, Chief of Army Staff and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Pervez MUSHARRAF, suspended Pakistan's constitution and assumed the additional title of Chief Executive; exercising the powers of the head of the government, he appointed an eight-member National Security Council to function as Pakistan's supreme governing body; on 12 May 2000, Pakistan's Supreme Court unanimously validated the October 1999 coup and granted MUSHARRAF executive and legislative authority for three years from the coup date; on 20 June 2001, MUSHARRAF named himself as president and was sworn in, replacing Mohammad Rafiq TARAR; in a referendum held on 30 April 2002, MUSHARRAF's presidency was extended by five more years
chief of state: President Pervez MUSHARRAF (since 20 June 2001)
head of government: Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan JAMALI (since 23 November 2002)
elections: the president is elected by Parliament for a five-year term; note - in a referendum held on 30 April 2002, MUSHARRAF's presidency was extended by five more years (next to be held NA 2007); the prime minister is selected by the National Assembly for a four-year term (next to be held NA 2006)
election results: results are for the 10 October 2002 election for prime minister - Mir Zafarullah Khan JAMALI elected prime minister
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the Prime Minister

Legislative branch:

bicameral Parliament or Majlis-e-Shoora consists of the Senate (100 seats - formerly 87; members indirectly elected by provincial assemblies to serve four-year terms; and the National Assembly (342 seats - formerly 217; 60 seats represent women; 10 seats represent minorities; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
election results: Senate results - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PML/Q 40, PPPP 11, MMA 21, MQM/A 6, PML/N 4, NA 3, PML/F 1, PkMAP 2, ANP 2, PPP/S 2, JWP 1, BNP-Awami 1, BNP-Mengal 1, BNM/H 1, independents 4; National Assembly results - percent of votes by party - NA%; seats by party - PML/Q 126, PPPP 81, MMA 63, PML/N 19, MQM/A 17, NA 16, PML/F 5, PML/J 3, PPP/S 2, BNP 1, JWP 1, PAT 1, PML/Z 1, PTI 1, MQM/H 1, PkMAP 1, independents 3
elections: Senate - last held 24 and 27 February 2003 (next to be held by February 2007); National Assembly - last held 10 October 2002 (next to be held by October 2006)

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court (justices appointed by the president); Federal Islamic or Shari'a Court

Political parties and leaders:

Awami National Party or ANP [Wali KHAN]; Balochistan National Movement/Hayee Group or BNM/H [Dr. Hayee BALUCH]; Baluch National Party or BNP [Sardar Akhtar MENGAL]; Baluch National Party/Awami or BNP/Awami [Moheem Kahn BALOCH]; Jamhoori Watan Party or JWP [Akbar Khan BUGTI]; Jamiat-al-Hadith or JAH [Sajid MIR]; Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Fazlur Rehman faction or JUI/F [Fazlur REHMAN]; Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Sami-ul-HAQ faction or JUI/S [Sami ul-HAQ]; Jamiat-i-Islami or JI [Qazi Hussain AHMED]; Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, Noorani faction or JUP/NO [Shah Ahmad NOORANI]; Millat Party or MP [Farooq LEGHARI]; Mutahida Qaumi Movement, Altaf faction or MQM/A [Altaf HUSSAIN]; Muhajir Quami Movement, Haqiqi faction or MQM/H [Afaq AHMAD]; Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan or MMA [leader NA]; National Alliance or NA [Farooq Ahmad Khan LEGHARI]; National People's Party or NPP [Ghulam Mustapha JATOI]; Pakhtun Khwa Milli Awami Party or PkMAP [Mahmood Khan ACHAKZAI]; Pakhtun Quami Party or PQP [Mohammed Afzal KHAN]; Pakistan Awami Tehrik or PAT [Tahir ul QADRI]; Pakistan Democratic Party or PDP [Nawabadzada KHAN]; Pakistan Muslim League, Functional Group or PML/F [Pir PAGARO]; Pakistan Muslim League, Junejo faction or PML/J [Hamid Nasir CHATTHA]; Pakistan Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif faction or PML/N [Nawaz SHARIF]; Pakistan Muslim League, Quaid-l-Azam faction or PML/Q [Chaudhry Shujjat HUSSEIN]; Pakistan Muslim League, Zia-ul-HAQ or PML/Z [Ejaz ul-Haq]; Pakistan National Party or PNP [Hasil BIZENJO]; Pakistan People's Party or PPP [Benazir BHUTTO]; Pakistan People's Party/Sherpao or PPP/S [Aftab Ahmed Khan SHERPAO]; Pakistan People's Party/Shaheed Bhutto or PPP/SB [Ghinva BHUTTO]; Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians or PPPP [Amin FAHIM]; Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf or PTI [Imran KHAN]; Tehrik-i-Islami [Allama Sajid NAQVI]; Tehrik-i-Insaaf or PTI [Imran KHAN]
note: political alliances in Pakistan can shift frequently

Political pressure groups and leaders:

military remains most important political force; ulema (clergy), landowners, industrialists, and small merchants also influential

International organization participation:


Diplomatic representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir QAZI
chancery: 2315 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
FAX: [1] (202) 387-0484
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles, New York, and Sunnyvale (California)
telephone: [1] (202) 939-6205

Diplomatic representation from the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Nancy J. POWELL
embassy: Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5, Islamabad
mailing address: P. O. Box 1048, Unit 62200, APO AE 09812-2200
telephone: [92] (51) 2080-0000
FAX: [92] (51) 2276427
consulate(s): Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar

Flag description:

green with a vertical white band (symbolizing the role of religious minorities) on the hoist side; a large white crescent and star are centered in the green field; the crescent, star, and color green are traditional symbols of Islam



Economy of Pakistan 



Economy - overview:

Pakistan, an impoverished and underdeveloped country, suffers from internal political disputes, low levels of foreign investment, and a costly, ongoing confrontation with neighboring India. Pakistan's economic prospects, although still marred by poor human development indicators, continued to improve in 2002 following unprecedented inflows of foreign assistance beginning in 2001. Foreign exchange reserves have grown to record levels, supported largely by fast growth in recorded worker remittances. Trade levels rebounded after a sharp decline in late 2001. The government has made significant inroads in macroeconomic reform since 2000, but progress is beginning to slow. Although it is in the second year of its $1.3 billion IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, Islamabad continues to require waivers for politically difficult reforms. Long-term prospects remain uncertain as development spending remains low, regional tensions remain high, and political tensions weaken Pakistan's commitment to lender-recommended economic reforms. GDP growth will continue to hinge on crop performance; dependence on foreign oil leaves the import bill vulnerable to fluctuating oil prices; and efforts to open and modernize the economy remain uneven.


purchasing power parity - $295.3 billion (2002 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

4.4% (FY01/02 est.)

GDP - per capita:

purchasing power parity - $2,000 (FY01/02 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 24%
industry: 25%
services: 51% (FY01/02 est.)

Population below poverty line:

35% (2001 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 4.1%
highest 10%: 27.6% (1996-97)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

41 (FY98/99)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

3.9% (2002 est.)

Labor force:

40.4 million
note: extensive export of labor, mostly to the Middle East, and use of child labor (2000)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture 44%, industry 17%, services 39% (1999 est.)

Unemployment rate:

7.8% plus substantial underemployment (2002 est.)


revenues: $12.6 billion
expenditures: $14.8 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY02/03 est.)


textiles, and apparel, food processing, beverages, construction materials, paper products, fertilizer, shrimp

Industrial production growth rate:

2.4% (FY01/02 est.)

Electricity - production:

66.96 billion kWh (2001)

Electricity - production by source:

fossil fuel: 68.8%
hydro: 28.2%
other: 0% (2001)
nuclear: 3%

Electricity - consumption:

62.27 billion kWh (2001)

Electricity - exports:

0 kWh (2001)

Electricity - imports:

0 kWh (2001)

Oil - production:

62,870 bbl/day (2001 est.)

Oil - consumption:

365,000 bbl/day (2001 est.)

Oil - exports:

NA (2001)

Oil - imports:

NA (2001)

Oil - proved reserves:

297.1 million bbl (37257)

Natural gas - production:

23.4 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

23.4 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - exports:

0 cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - imports:

0 cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

695.6 billion cu m (37257)

Agriculture - products:

cotton, wheat, rice, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; milk, beef, mutton, eggs


$9.8 billion f.o.b. (FY02/03 est.)

Exports - commodities:

textiles (garments, cotton cloth, and yarn), rice, leather, sports goods, and carpets and rugs

Exports - partners:

US 24.5%, UAE 8.5%, UK 7.2%, Germany 4.9%, Hong Kong 4.8% (2002)


$11.1 billion f.o.b. (FY02/03 est.)

Imports - commodities:

petroleum, petroleum products, machinery, chemicals, transportation equipment, edible oils, pulses, iron an steel, tea

Imports - partners:

UAE 11.7%, Saudi Arabia 11.7%, Kuwait 6.7%, US 6.4%, China 6.2%, Japan 6%, Malaysia 4.5%, Germany 4.4% (2002)

Debt - external:

$32.3 billion (2002 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$2.4 billion (FY01/02)


Pakistani rupee (PKR)

Currency code:


Exchange rates:

Pakistani rupees per US dollar - 59.72 (2002), 61.93 (2001), 53.65 (2000), 49.12 (1999), 44.94 (1998)

Fiscal year:

1 July - 30 June

 Communication of Pakistan 

Telephones - main lines in use:

2.861 million (March 1999)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

158,000 (1998)

Telephone system:

general assessment: the domestic system is mediocre, but improving; service is adequate for government and business use, in part because major businesses have established their own private systems; since 1988, the government has promoted investment in the national telecommunications system on a priority basis, significantly increasing network capacity; despite major improvements in trunk and urban systems, telecommunication services are still not readily available to the majority of the rural population
domestic: microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, fiber-optic cable, cellular, and satellite networks
international: satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean); 3 operational international gateway exchanges (1 at Karachi and 2 at Islamabad); microwave radio relay to neighboring countries (1999)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 27, FM 1, shortwave 21 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

22 (plus seven low-power repeaters) (1997)

Internet country code:


Internet Service Providers (ISPs):

30 (2000)

Internet users:

1.2 million (2000)



Transportation of Pakistan 




total: 8,163 km
broad gauge: 7,718 km 1.676-m gauge (293 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 445 km 1.000-m gauge (2002)


total: 254,410 km
paved: 109,396 km (including 339 km of expressways)
unpaved: 145,014 km (1999)




gas 9,945 km; oil 1,821 km (2003)

Ports and harbors:

Karachi, Port Muhammad bin Qasim

Merchant marine:

total: 18 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 247,675 GRT/375,435 DWT
ships by type: cargo 14, container 3, petroleum tanker 1 (2002 est.)


124 (2002)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 87
over 3,047 m: 14
2,438 to 3,047 m: 21
914 to 1,523 m: 17
under 914 m: 3 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 32

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 37
1,524 to 2,437 m: 9
914 to 1,523 m: 9
under 914 m: 19 (2002)


13 (2002)



Military of Pakistan 



Military branches:

Army, Navy, Air Force, Civil Armed Forces, National Guard

Military manpower - military age:

17 years of age (2003 est.)

Military manpower - availability:

males age 15-49: 38,133,733 (2003 est.)

Military manpower - fit for military service:

males age 15-49: 23,328,575 (2003 est.)

Military manpower - reaching military age annually:

males: 1,767,502 (2003 est.)

Military expenditures - dollar figure:

$2.964 billion (FY02)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP:

4.6% (FY02)

Natural Regions

Pakistan has great extremes of elevation, reaching the highest point at the Himalayan peak of K2 (also known as Mount Godwin Austen) in the north and the lowest point at the Arabian Sea coast in the south. The Indus River flows the length of Pakistan from north to south. The Indus and its tributaries form a wide river valley with fertile plains in Punjab and Sind (Sindh) provinces. Pakistan is mountainous in the north and west. Earthquakes are frequent, and occasionally severe, in the northern and western areas.

Much of Pakistan is a dry, sun-scorched region. To the west of the Indus are the rugged dry mountains of the Sulaiman Range, which merge with the treeless Kirthar Range in the south. Farther west are the arid regions of the Baluchistan Plateau and the Kharan Basin. A series of mostly barren low mountains and hills predominate in the western border areas. The Thar Desert straddles the border with India in the southeast.

The country also possesses a variety of wetlands, with the glacial lakes of the Himalayas, the mudflats of the Indus Valley plains, and the extensive coastal mangroves of the Indus River delta. The wetland areas cover an estimated area of 7.8 million hectares (19.3 million acres).

Pakistan has some of the world’s highest cold areas and numerous intermediate stages. Thus, within a relatively small area, it has the equivalent of many of the world’s most important climatic and vegetation zones or biomes. Moving from permanent snow and cold desert habitats, through alpine, mountain temperate forests and tropical deciduous forests to the alpine dry steppes, the arid subtropical/desert habitats, thorn forest, the reverain plains of the Indus and its tributaries and finally a rich mangrove and associated systems along the coast


The Indus River is the lifeline of Pakistan. Without the Indus and its tributaries, the land would have turned into a barren desert long ago. The Indus originates in Tibet from the glacial streams of the Himalayas and enters Pakistan in the northeast. It runs generally southwestward the entire length of Pakistan, about 2,900 km (1,800 mi), and empties into the Arabian Sea. The Indus and its tributaries provide water to two-thirds of Pakistan. The principal tributaries of the Indus are the Sutlej, Beas, Chenab, Ravi, and Jhelum rivers. In southwestern Punjab Province these rivers merge to form the Panjnad (“Five Rivers”), which then merges with the Indus to form a mighty river. As the Indus approaches the Arabian Sea, it spreads out to form a delta. Much of the delta is marshy and swampy. It includes 225,000 hectares (556,000 acres) of mangrove forests and swamps. To the west of the delta is the seaport of Karāchi; to the east the delta fans into the salt marshes known as the Rann of Kutch.


Mountain Ranges, Peaks and Passes

Pakistan has within its borders some of the world’s highest and most spectacular mountains. Some of the famous mountain ranges of Pakistan are Himalayas, Karakoram, Hindu Kush, Sulaiman, Toba Kakar, Kirthar and Salt range. 

The Northern and Western Highlands produced by the mountain building movement extended from the Makran Coast in the south to the Pamir Plateau in the extreme north. The Northern and Western Highlands cover most of Balochistan, NWFP, Northern Areas (Gilgit Agency) and parts of the Punjab. These can be further divided into five physiographic entities:

         Mountainous North

         Koh-e-Safaid and Waziristan Hills

         Sulaiman and Kirthar Mountains

         Balochistan Plateau

         Potowar Plateau and the Salt Ranges

Mountainous North
In the northern part of the country, the Hindu Kush mountains converge with the Karakoram Range, a part of the Himalayan mountain system. These ranges have a large number of peaks ranging from 6000 to 8611 meters above the sea level. Pakistan has the densest concentration of high mountains in the world: five peaks over 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) and 101 peaks over 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) above sea level within a radius of 180 kilometers (112 miles). Thirteen of the world’s 30 tallest peaks are in Pakistan. The tallest include K2 (also known as Mount Godwin Austen), the second highest peak in the world at 8,611 m (28,251 ft), in the Karakoram Range; Nanga Parbat (8,125 m/26,657 ft) in the Himalayas; and Tirich Mir (7,690 m/25,230 ft) in the Hindu Kush.

The Mountainous North covers the northern parts of Pakistan and comprises parallel mountain ranges intervened by narrow and deep river valleys. East of the Indus River, the mountain ranges in general run from east to west. To its west - from north to south - run the following important mountain ranges:

         The Himalayas

         The Karakorams

         The Hindu Kush

The western most parts of the Himalayas fall in Pakistan. The sub-Himalayas - the southern most ranges - do not rise to great heights (600 - 1200 masl). The Lesser Himalayas lie to the north of the sub-Himalayas and rise to 1,800 - 4,600 masl. The Great Himalayas are located north of the Lesser Himalayas. They attain snowy heights (of more than 4,600 m).

The Karakoram Ranges in the extreme north rise to an average height of 6,100 m. Mount Goodwin Austin (K-2) - the second highest peak in the world - is 8,610 m and located in the Karakorams.

The Hindu Kush Mountains take off the western side of the Pamir Plateau that is located to the west of the Karakorams. These mountains take a southerly turn and rise to snowy heights. Some of the peaks rise to great heights like Noshaq (7,369 m), and Tirich Mir (7,690 m).

Koh-e-Safaid and Waziristan Hills
The Koh-e-Safaid Ranges have an east-west trend and rise to an average height of 3,600m. They are commonly covered with snow. Sikeram, the highest peak in Koh-e-Safaid Ranges rises to 4,760 m. Similarly, the elevation of Waziristan Hills ranges from 1,500 and 3,000 m.

Sulaiman and Kirthar Mountains
The Sulaiman-Kirthar Mountain Ranges extending from south of Gomal River, lie between Balochistan Plateau and the Indus Plains. On reaching the Murre-Bugti Hills, they turn northward and extend up to Quetta. Further south, they meet the Kirthar Mountains, which merge in to the Kohistan area of Sindh. The Sulaiman Mountains rise to an average height of 600 m that decreases southward. Takht-e-Sulaiman (3,487 m) and Takatu (3,470m) are the highest peaks of the Sulaiman Ranges.

Balochistan Plateau
The Balochistan Plateau is located west of the Sulaiman-Kirthar Mountains. Its western part is dominated by a number of sub-parallel ranges: the Makran Coast Range (600 m), and the Central Makran Range (900 - 1200 m). The highest peak Ras Koh, attains a height of 3010 m.

Potowar Plateau and the Salt Ranges
The Potwar Plateau and the Salt Range region are located to the south of the mountainous north and lie between the Indus river on the west and the Jhelum river on the east. Its northern boundary is formed by the Kala Chitta Ranges and the Margalla Hills and the southern boundary by the Salt Ranges. The Kala Chitta Range rises to an average height of 450 - 900 m and extends for about 72 km. The main Potwar Plateau extends north of the Salt Range. It is an undulating area 300 - 600 m high. The Salt Ranges have a steep face towards the south and slope gently in to the Potwar Plateau in the north. They extend from Jhelum River up to Kalabagh where they cross the Indus river and enter the Bannu district and rise to an average height of 750 - 900 m. Sakesar Peak (1,527 m) is the highest point of the Salt Ranges.

Mountain Passes
Many mountain passes cross Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan and China. Passes crossing over the mountains bordering Afghanistan include the Khyber, Bolan, Khojak, Kurram, Tochi, Gomal and Karakoram passes. The most well-known and well-traveled is the 56 kilometer long Khyber Pass in the northwest. It links Peshawar in Pakistan with Jalalabad in Afghanistan, where it connects to a route leading to the Afghan capital of Kabul. It is the widest and lowest of all the mountain passes, reaching a maximum elevation of 1,072 m (3,517 ft). The route of the Bolan Pass links Quetta in Baluchistan Province with Kandahar in Afghanistan; it also serves as a vital link within Pakistan between Sind and Baluchistan provinces. Historically, the Khyber and Bolan passes were used as the primary routes for invaders to enter India from Central Asia, including the armies of Alexander the Great. The Tochi pass connects Ghazni in Afghanistan with Bannu in Pakistan and the Gomal pass provides an easy access from Afghanistan to Dera Ismail Khan in Pakistan and the Punjab. Also historically significant is Karakoram Pass, on the border with China. For centuries it was part of the trading routes known as the Silk Road, which linked China and other parts of Asia with Europe.  

Forests of Pakistan

The forests of Pakistan reflect great physiographic, climatic and edaphic contrasts in the country. Pakistan is an oblong stretch of land between the Arabian sea and Karakoram mountains, lying diagonally between 24 N and 37 N latitudes and 61 E and 75 E longitudes, and covering an area of 87.98 million hectares. Topographically, the country has a continuous massive mountainous tract in the north, the west and south-west and a large fertile plain, the Indus plain. The northern mountain system, comprising the Karakoram, the great Himalayas, and the Hindu-Kush, has enormous mass of snow and glaciers and 100 peaks of over 5,400 m. in elevation. K-2 (8,563 m.) is the second highest peak in the world. The mountain system occupies one third of this part of the country. The western mountain ranges, not so high as in the north, comprise the Sufed Koh and the Sulaiman while the south-western ranges forming a high, dry and cold Balochistan plateau. Characteristically, the mountain slopes are steep, even precipitous, making fragile watershed areas and associated forest vegetation extremely important from hydrological point of view. The valleys are narrow. The mountains are continuously undergoing natural process of erosion. The nature of climate with high intensity rainfall in summer and of soil in the northern regions render these mountains prone to landslides.

The Indus plain consists of two features; the alluvial plain and sand-dunal deserts. The country is drained by five rivers; namely, Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej. Of these Indus arising in snow covered northern mountain ranges flows towards south through the Punjab and Sindh plains into a wide delta before entering Arabian sea. Other rivers join it on the way, together feeding one of the largest irrigation systems in the world. The great river system of Indus in Pakistan derives a part of their water supply from sources which lie in the highlands beyond the Himalayas and the western mountains, and part from countless valleys which lie hidden within the mountain folds. Much of the silt of the alluvial plain is from natural geological erosion of mountains in the north brought down by rivers. Thal desert lies between the rivers Indus and Jhelum, while Cholistan and Thar deserts occur on the south-east of the country.

A great variety of parent rock types occur in Pakistan, which exert considerable influence on the properties of the soil. The rocks found in Pakistan can be classified into three major groups, viz. the igneous rocks, the sedimentary rocks and the metamorphic rocks. In the Himalayan regions, the common rock types are metamorphic which are gneisses, schists, slates and phyllites with some quartzite and marble. In the northern part of Indus plain, between Sargodha and Shahkot small outcrops of phyllites and quartzites occur. Granite, syenite, diorite, gabbro, dolerite and peridotite are more common types of igneous rocks, which occur in Dir, Swat, Chitral, Gilgit, Zhob, Chagai, Las Bela and Nagarpark.

Forest area of Pakistan reported in different official documents has varied over the years with administrative and political changes in country as well as with changes in methods of reporting data. Different government departments have been publishing different forest statistics since 1947 when Pakistan was created as an independent country. Most recently, data of land use including forest area have been reported by Forestry Sector Master Plan (FSMP) Project in 1993, with the help of Landsat Satellite Thematic Mapper Images at a scale of 1:250,000 covering the whole of Pakistan.

The total area of forests in Pakistan is 4.224 million ha which is 4.8% of the total land area. However, it may be mentioned here that the farmland trees and linear planting along roadsides, canalsides and railway sides covering an estimated area of 466,000 ha and 16,000 ha respectively do not constitute forests within the context of legal, ecological or silvicultural/management definition of forests. The situation is also similar, but to a lesser extent, in the case of miscellaneous plantations over an area of 155,000 ha. If the area of these three categories of plantations is excluded from total forest area of 4.224 million ha, then the latter is reduced to 3.587 million ha which is approximately 4.1 % of the total area.

Of the four forest cover percentage groups (> 70%, 40-69%, 10-39%, 0-9%), Pakistan lies in the last category: 0-9%. Between 1981 and 1990, there had been a 4.3% decrease in forest areas of the Tropical Asia and Oceania, which Pakistan is a part of. During the same period, a 0.6% deforestation had been occurring each year. This is an alarming situation and needs to be stalled and then reversed, if possible.

As recognition of the multiple values of forests has grown, so have concerns for their disappearance. In Pakistan, subtropical, temperate, riverain and mangrove forests are being lost because of questionable land use practices and the ever-increasing demand for timber and firewood. As a result, more responsible management approaches are being demanded that can accommodate complex economic and ecological needs. Designation of selected forestlands as national parks, area for agro-forestry practices and the development of plantations and afforestation practices are needs of the hour.

Total Forest Area under the control of the Forest Departments (including Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas) is 4.26 million hectares. The per capita forest area is only 0.037 ha compared to the world average of ONE ha. Main reason for this is that more than 70% land area of Pakistan is Arid and semi-Arid with annual rainfall of 250-500 mm: too low and erratic to sustain natural vegetation and to plan afforestation/regeneration programmes.

Forest Areas and Rangelands (in ha.)

Forest Type





Northern Areas

Azad Kashmir










Irr. Plantations








Riverain Forests








Scrub Forests








Coastal Forests








Mazri Lands








Linear Pltns.








Private Pltns.








Range Lands
















The following forest types are found in Pakistan:

         Littoral and Swamp forests

         Tropical dry deciduous forests

         Tropical thorn forests

         Sub-tropical broad-leaved evergreen forests

         Sub-tropical pine forests

         Himalayan moist temperate forests

         Himalayan dry temperate forests

         Sub-alpine forests

         Alpine scrub

Littoral and Swamp forests
These are more or less gregarious forests of low height which occur in the Arabian sea around the coast of Karachi and Pasni in Balochistan. The main species is Avicennia marina (99%). Other species like Rhizophora have disappeared over a period of time due to heavy cutting. According to latest estimates, these forest cover an area of 207,000 ha.

Tropical dry deciduous forests
These are forests of low or moderate height consisting almost entirely of deciduous species. Their canopy is typically light though it may appear fairly dense and complete during the short rainy season. This type does not occur extensively in Pakistan but there are limited areas in the Rawalpindi foothills carrying this vegetation type, all much adversely affected by close proximity to habitation or cultivation. It is closely similar both in floristic composition and in structure to that developed freely in the adjoining parts of North West India. The chief tree species are Lannea (Kamlai, Kembal) Bombax ceiba (Semal), Sterculia, Flacourtia (Kakoh, Kangu), Mallotus (Kamila, Raiuni) and Acacia catechu (Kath). Common shrubs are Adhatoda (Bankar, Basuti, Bansha), Gymnosporia (Putaki) and Indigofera (Kathi, Kainthi).

Tropical thorn forests
These are low, open and pronouncedly xerophytic forests in which thorny leguminous species predominate. This type occupies the whole of the Indus plain except the driest parts. The major tree species are Prosopis cineraria (Jhand), Capparis decidua (Karir, Karil), Zizyphus mauritiana (Ber), Tamarix aphylla (Farash) and Salvadora oleoides (Pilu, wan). Among them are a large number of shrubs of all sizes. The tree forest climax is very frequently degraded to a very open, low thorny scrub of Euphorbia (Thor), Zizyphus (Ber), etc. owing to the universally heavy incidence of grazing and other biotic factors. Edaphic variants, especially connected with degree of salinity, shallowness over rock, etc., often occur. A characteristic pioneer vegetation is developed on inland sand dunes and the semi-deserts of the areas of least rainfall.

On the basis of climax vegetation, the whole Indus basin plain with the exception of parts of the districts of Sialkot, Gujrat and Jehlum, consists of tropical thorn forests. Prior to development of irrigation, agriculture and urbanization, the area extended from the foothills of the Himalayas and low-hills in the south-west Punjab plains and Balochistan to the Arabian sea. The climax species of these forests are Salvadora oleoides, Capparis decidua, Tamarix aphylla and Prosopis cineraria, which grow on a wide range of soil textures, from flat deep alluvial soils to heavy clays, loams and sandy loams. The climate varies from semi-arid (250 to 750 mm rainfall) to arid (less than 250 mm rainfall). The summer temperature in this tract is as high as 50C.

Earlier, these forests merged with riverain forests along the river banks and with scrub forests in the low hills in the north and north-western regions of Pakistan. Together these forests provided an ideal habitat to the wildlife of the area which seasonally migrated according to their needs; during cold winter from the lower hills towards the plains in search of food and shelter, from the flood plains towards the dry areas during floods and towards the rivers during the summer drought. This is no longer the situation. Riverain forests now grow in the forms of disjunct patches over an area of 173,000 ha. Irrigated agriculture is carried over 18.668 million ha. and irrigated tree plantations over an area of 103,000 ha in this tract.

Sub-tropical broad-leaved evergreen forests
These are xerophtic forests of thorny and small-leafed evergreen species. This type occurs on the foothills and lower slopes of the Himalayas, the Salt Range, Kalachitta and the Sulaiman Range. The typical species are; Olea cuspidata (Kau) and Acacia modesta (Phulai), the two species occurring mixed or pure, and the shrub Dodonaea (Sanatta) which is particularly abundant in the most degraded areas. Total area of these forests is estimated to be 1,191,000 ha.

Sub-tropical pine forests
These are open inflammable pine forests sometimes with, but often without, a dry evergreen shrub layer and little or no underwood. This type consists of Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) forests found between 900 m and 1700 m elevation in the Western Himalayas within the range of the south-west summer monsoon. It is the only pine of these forests though there is a small overlap with Pinus wallichiana (Kail, Biar) at the upper limit.

Himalayan moist temperate forests
The evergreen forests of conifers, locally with some admixture of oak and deciduous broad-leaved trees fall in this category. Their undergrowth is rarely dense, and consists of both evergreen and deciduous species. These forests occur between 1500 m and 3000 m elevation in the Western Himalayas except where the rainfall falls below about 1000 mm in the inner ranges, especially in the extreme north-west.

These forests are divided into a lower and an upper zone, in each of which definite species of conifers and/or oaks dominate. In the lower zone, Cedrus deodara (Deodar, diar), Pinus wallichiana, Picea smithiana and Abies pindrow (Partal) are the main conifer species in order of increasing altitude, with Quercus incana (rin, rinj) at lower altitudes and Q. dilatata above 2130 m. In the upper zone Abies pindrow and Q. semecarpifolia are the dominant tree species. There may be pockets of deciduous broad-leaved trees, mainly edaphically conditioned, in both the zones. Alder (Alnus species) colonizes new gravels and sometimes kail does the same. Degradation forms take the shape of scrub growth and in the higher reaches, parklands and pastures are subjected to heavy grazing.

Himalayan dry temperate forests
These are open evergreen forest with open scrub undergrowth. Both coniferous and broad-leaved species are present. This type occurs on the inner ranges throughout their length and are mainly represented in the north-west. Dry zone deodar, Pinus gerardiana (Chalghoza) and/or Quercus ilex are the main species. Higher up, blue pine communities occur and in the driest inner tracts, forests of blue pine, Juniperus macropoda (Abhal, Shupa, Shur) and some Picea smithiana (e.g. in Gilgit) are found locally.

Sub-alpine forests
Evergreen conifers and mainly evergreen broad-leaved trees occur in relatively low open canopy, usually with a deciduous shrubby undergrowth of Viburnum (Guch), Salix (Willow, Bed), etc. The type occurs throughout the Himalayas from about 3,350 m to the timber limit. Abies spectabilis and Betula utilis (Birch, Bhuj) are the typical tree species. High level blue pine may occur on landslips and as a secondary sere on burnt areas or abandoned clearings. Rhododendrons (Bras, Chahan) occur in the understorey but do not form extensive communities as they do in the central and eastern Himalaya. Dwarf junipers are often abundant.

Alpine scrub
Under this type are included shrub formations 1 m to 2 m high extending 150 m or more above the sub-alpine forests. The characteristic genera are Salix, Lonicera (Phut), Berberis (Sumbul, Sumblue), Cotoneaster with Juniperus and occasionally Rhododendron or Ephedra (Asmania).