Punjab

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History

Isolated remains of Homo Erectus in has been found indicating that Pakistan might have been inhabited since atleast the Middle Pleistocene era. The precise date of these remains is unclear, and archaeologists put it anywhere between 200,000 to 500,000 BCE. The fossils are the earliest human remains found in South Asia. More than 60% of Pakistanis have their mtDNA maternal roots in South Asian specific branches of haplogroup 'M'. Because of its great time depth and virtual absence in western Eurasians, it has been suggested that haplogroup M was brought to Asia after their evolution in Africa, along the southern route, by the earliest migration wave of anatomically modern humans, Homo Sapiens, nearly 60,000 years ago

The original inhabitants of Pakistan may have been the tribals speaking languages related to Munda family of languages. Pakistan was the site of the world's oldest 8,000 year old civilisation at Mehrgarh in the Balochistan province. The Mehrgarh declined about the same time as the Indus Valley Civilization only 200 Kilometers south east was developing. It has been surmised that the Mehrgarh residents moved to fertile Indus River valley as Balochistan became arid over time. The Dravidians invaded from the Iranian plateau and settled in the Indus valley around 4000 BCE. The Dravidian culture blossomed over the centuries and gave rise to the Indus Valley Civilization of Pakistan around 3000 BCE. The main site of the Indus Valley Civilization in Punjab was the city of Harappa. The Indus Valley Civilization spanned much of what is today Pakistan, but suddenly went into decline just prior to the invasion of Indo-European Aryan tribes from the Eastern Europe. A branch of these tribes called the Indo-Aryans are believed to have founded the Vedic Civilization that have existed between Sarasvati River and Ganges river around 1500 BCE and also infuenced the Indus Valley Civilization. This civilization helped shape subsequent cultures in South Asia. Due to its location, the Punjab region came under constant attack and influence from the west. Conquered by the Persians, Greeks, Mauryans, Kushans, Arabs, Turks, Afghans, and Sikhs, Pakistani Punjab developed a unique culture that combined that of significant Middle Eastern and Central Asian influences even prior to the coming of Islam.

The Punjabis were in ancient times were predominantly Buddhist and were in the process of coming under the influence of Hinduism when Umayyad Muslim Arab army led by Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Punjab, and the present Pakistan from Kashmir to the Arabian Sea, in 713. The predominant population of Punjab, and the rest of Pakistan, converted to Islam but there were significant non-Muslim populations including Hindus and later Sikhs. During the reign of Mahmud of Ghazni, the province became an important center and Lahore was made into a second capital of the Ghaznavid Empire. Various tribes such as the Gakhars would often dominate local affairs and would either act as vassals to the larger empires or lead local rebellions. Later, the Mughals took control of the region from 1524 until 1739 and would also lavish the province with building projects such as the Shalimar Gardens and the Badshahi Mosque. The Muslim technocrats, bureaucrats, soldiers, traders, scientists, architects, teachers, theologians and sufis flocked from the rest of the Muslim world to Islamic Sultanate in South Asia and many settled in the Punjab. Following the decline of the Mughals, Nadir Shah sacked the province in 1739 and then the Afghan conquerer Ahmad Shah Durrani annexed the province into his Durrani Empire from 1747 until 1799. During the Mughal period, the religion of Sikhism was born and emerged as a formidable military force as the Sikhs wrested control from the weakened descendents of Ahmad Shah Durrani. Led by Ranjit Singh the province came under the brutal Sikh occupation from 1799 to 1849 during which the Muslims were persecuted. After the British defeated the Sikhs in 1849, the Muslims of Punjab hailed them as liberaters from the barbaric Sikh rule. In 1947 the Punjab province was divided along religious lines as the western Punjabis voted to join the new state of Pakistan while the easterners joined India. The Hindu and Sikhs fanatics massacred over one million Muslims refugees fleeing from India. Since the independence, province has rapidly industrialized and is the breadbasket of the country as well as home to the largest ethnic group in Pakistan, the Punjabis.

Geography

Punjab is Pakistan's second largest province at 205,344 km² (79,284 square miles) and is located at the northwestern edge of the geologic plate in South Asia. The capital and main city of Punjab is Lahore, which has been the historical capital of the region. Other important cities include Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, and Rawalpindi. The province is home to five rivers: the Indus, Sutlej, Chenab, Jhelum, Ravi.

The province is a mainly a fertile region along the rivers valleys, while spare deserts can be found near the border with India and Balochistan. The region contains the Thar and Cholistan deserts. In the north province borders Kashmir, in the west by Sarhad and in south by Sindh. The Indus River and its many tributaries traverse the Punjab from north to south. The landscape is amongst the most heavily irrigated land on earth and canals can be found throughout the province. Weather extremes are notable from the hot and barren south to the cool hills of the north. The foothills of the Himalayas are found in the extreme north as well.

Demographics and Society

The population of the province is estimated to be 86,084,000 in 2005 and is home to over half the population of Pakistan. The major language spoken in the Punjab is Punjabi (which is written in Perso-Arabic script, known as Shahmukhi, in Pakistan) and Punjabis comprise the largest ethnic group. Punjabis themselves are a heterogenous group comprising different tribes and communities, The most important tribes within Punjab include the Gakhars, Jats, the Arain, the Gujjars and the Rajputs. Other smaller tribes are the :Awans, and Maliks. In addition, there is a significant shift towards the usage of Urdu by the educated classes of the province as the Punjabis are the most ardent supporters of the nation-state of Pakistan and all of its national insitutions. There is also a nationalist movement amongst the somewhat related Seraikis in the south of Punjab and many wish to see a separate the region into a new province of Seraikistan. Other smaller groups in the province include Hindko, Pakhtuns, Balochs, Kashmiris, Muhajirs and others.

The population of Punjab is over 99% Muslim with a Sunni majority and Shia minority. There are small non-Muslims groups of Christians, Ahmadis and Sikhs.

Economy and Education

Punjab is one of the most industrialized provinces of Pakistan; its manufacturing industries produce textiles, sports goods, machinery, electrical appliances, surgical instruments, metals, bicycles and rickshas, floor coverings, and processed foods.

Despite its dry climate, extensive irrigation makes it a rich agricultural region. Its canal-irrigation system established by the British is the largest in the world. Wheat and cotton are the largest crops. Other crops include rice, sugarcane, millet, corn, oilseeds, pulses, fruits, and vegetables. Livestock and poultry production are also important.

The province's population is increasingly becoming literate as education has expanded in the province in recent years.

Social issues

The Punjab is the most stable province of Pakistan as Punjabis comprise the largest ethnic group in the country and thus dominate much of the nation by sheer numbers. Aside from some Sereiki unrest, the province has had few problems.

Punjabis are prominent in business, agriculture, industry, government, and the military to the point that there is resentment from other ethnic groups. The Punjabi upper classes tend to ally themselves with Urdu speaking Muhajirs and show respect towards Sindhis, Kashmiris, Pakhtuns and Balochis.

Punjabi women enjoy comparable rights to females in Karachi and Islamabad in Lahore and other cities, but conservative elements are present and dominate the countryside.

Districts

Attock
Bahawalnager
Bahawalpur
Bhakker
Chakwal
Dera Ghazi Khan
Faisalabad
Gujaranwala
Gujrat
Hafizabad
Jhang
Jhelum
Kasur
Khanewal
Khushab
Lahore
Layyah
Lodhran
Mandi Bahauddin
Mianwali
Multan
Muzaffargarh
Nankana
Narowal
Okara
Pakpattan
Rahim Yar khan
Rajanpur
Rawalpindi
Sahiwal
Sargodha
Shiekupura
Sialkot
Toba Tek Singh
Vehari

Important cities

Lahore
Faisalabad
Rawalpindi
Gujranwala
Multan
Sargodha
Sialkot
Bahwalpur
Jhang
Sheikhupura
Okara
Gujrat
Kasur
Taxila

 

 

Page last updated: Thursday, February 02, 2006 18:00:09 -0500