A GEOGRAPHER IN PAKISTAN

The Arabian Sea near Karachi

All photos by Joe Hobbs

Perhaps some of the beautiful scenery in Tuesday's video will whet your appetite to study the Subcontinent of India. The subcontinent is truly one of the most physically beautiful regions on Earth. It's also among the most populated and culturally complex. The video is just a short introduction to one of the countries of the region, Pakistan. Many of the issues I raise will apply to India and the other countries of the region. I focus on the more traditional aspects of land and life in the country. But it's also useful to remember that these countries are modernizing quite rapidly; India for example has a thriving computer software industry, and is the leading global venue for call centers and other services that are "outsourced" from the United States. Calcutta boasts one of the cleanest and most efficient subway systems in the world. Like China, India is a booming behemoth. At the same time, huge proportions of the population are missing out on the process of modernization and some of the amenities that accompany it. So, traditional life continues... By the way, I filmed many of the mountain scenes in the Hunza region of Kashmir, the area which was the inspiration for James Hilton's fabled land of Shangri-La in his novel Lost Horizons. I hope you find it inspiring too...

Needless to say, Pakistan is one of the countries most critical to America's interests these days. By any standard, it is truly a "pivotal" country as far as we are concerned. I will have a few words about this at the beginning of lecture, and have written more in your assigned readings for today in the textbook.

The Karakoram Mountains, Kashmir

As I speak with the video, I intend to cover the following important points. However, I might miss some, so please be responsible for these:

Mountain ranges of Pakistan include the Karakoram, Himalaya and Hindu Kush. These are some of the youngest and highest mountains in the world. Mountainous areas are most often cultivated with the use of terraces. Providing and maintaining transportation systems in rugged Pakistan is a constant challenge. The train system built by the British is still in use.

There is some forest in Pakistan, but deforestation by people (for fuel) and animals, especially goats (for food), is a major problem in Pakistan. Animal dung is a leading source of fuel, especially where forest has been cut down and in desert areas.

There are glaciers in Pakistan. In the dry Hunza district of Kashmir, irrigation water is provided by melting waters from glaciers.

There are three distinct ways of living in the region: village/peasant; pastoral nomadic; and urban.

Truckin' across Pakistan

Villages are compact so as to preserve as much agricultural land as possible.

In remote regions of the country agricultural labor tends to be manual rather than mechanical.

Water buffalo, goats, sheep, and zebu cattle are the principal livestock. Cotton, rice and wheat are leading crops.

Major districts in the film are Sind, Northwest Frontier Province, Punjab and the Hunza region of Kashmir. Kashmir is a disputed province between Pakistan and India.

The Badshahi Mosque, Lahore

Major cities in the film are Karachi, Peshawar, and Lahore. In old cities like Lahore, the commercial district (bazaar) and traditional industries are often located near the city gates. Within the old city walls, streets are narrow, winding and not accessible to large motor vehicles. There is often a modern, Western-style city adjacent to the old city, with wide thoroughfares. Middle and upper class people of the cities tend to be more "liberal" and Western-oriented than people of the village.

Pakistan is predominantly a Muslim (Islamic) nation. The mosque is a center for prayer, social interaction and education.

The Indus River near its mouth, east of Karachi, at the spot where Alexander the Great and his troops crossed it

The Indus River is Pakistan's most important water source and its alluvial lower stretches provided one of the "hearths" where some of the world's earliest cities developed. Mohenjo Daro, dating from about 3200 B.C., is one of these cities.

There are Mogul, Arab, and Tibetan cultural influences in Pakistan; it is a crossroads.

Alexander the Great crossed the Indus in his imperial conquests.

The principal language of the country is Urdu, related to Hindi but written in the Arabic script.

Human population growth, although slowing down recently, certainly is a problem for Pakistan (159 million; growing 2.4% per year; doubling time 29 years)

In the Northwest Frontier Province around Peshawar, and especially in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) south of there, government presence has traditionally been weak or absent. This is a very unusual time in Pakistan's history, because for the first time Pakistani troops have major military assets into the FATA. In part this is in response to U.S. pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and his al-Qa'ida and Taliban colleagues

In the absence of strong central government, guess what the leading industries in this area have been?

Millions of Afghan refugees settled in camps there in the 1980s, when the war was going on to drive the Soviets from Afghanistan. Some have returned home since the Taliban were deposed, but most are still there. With the conflict still simmering in Afghanistan and millions of mines buried in the ground there, many expatriate civilians consider it unsafe to return to their homeland

Afghan mujahadiin fighters in a refugee camp outside Peshawar, Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan, in 1987. Some of the men in this photo may well have become Taliban or al-Qa'ida fighters in the ensuing years

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