The Southeast Asian country of Pakistan lies between the gigantic mountain ranges of Hindukush and Karakoram — which comprise four of the 14 highest peaks of world, including the peak K-2 — in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south.
It covers almost 340,509 square miles, about twice the size of California, and is the sixth most populous country in the world. Pakistan first appeared on the world’s map on Aug. 14, 1947, when the British Empire left the region that was called Hindustan (Indo-Pak sub-continent). Pakistan was formed to protect the rights of minorities, primarily the Muslim minority, at that time in Hindu-majority India. The subsequent realignment of the populations resulted in one of the world’s largest migrations. Almost 15 million people migrated from India to Pakistan, and 10 million went from Pakistan to India.
There are number of regional languages that are spoken across the country, but the national language is Urdu.
Urdu, an official language of six states of India as well, was propagated by the British when they came to the sub-continent to replace Persian (Farsi), the official language all of the Indian sub-continent used.
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Pakistan is strategically one of the most important countries for the U.S. and its western allies because of its location. Pakistan shares a border with India to the east; in the northwest, it edges Afghanistan; Iran lies to the west; and to the north, Pakistan shares its border with China. The Pak-Afghan border is 4,209.2 miles and highly porous, which made Pakistan an important operating point for the U.S. during the Cold War against the USSR and this recent war against terrorism.
Pakistan is the seventh nuclear power of the world with the seventh largest standing army. Almost half of the Pakistani population lives below the poverty line. The literacy rate is 60 percent, which is increasing.
From its beginning, Pakistan had a confused ideology. Protecting the rights of minorities, primarily the Muslims in Hindu-majority India, was a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s dream of providing equal rights to all the oppressed communities, the idea of religious freedom and the amalgamation of all the ethnicities under the flag of one country never came to fruition.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, said, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
However, soon after independence and Jinnah’s death, the secular touch that Pakistan had was hijacked by the religious leaders and politicians. It sparked a war of ideology, whether Pakistan should be a liberal democratic state or a religious state. That struggle has not ended yet.
Still, Pakistan is the one of the most beautiful countries of the world to visit. People of Pakistan, though monetarily poor, are humble, simple and known for their hospitality. Guests are considered blessings of God and are served in the best possible ways. Pakistan was ranked 16 out of 151 countries of on the Happy Planet Index in 2012, beating the U.S., which ranked 105. If the ultimate success or goal in life is happiness, then the people of Pakistan — although behind in riches, technology and infrastructure — are happy and hence, perhaps, successful in their lives.
OLLI at Penn State — open to adults who love to learn — is offering more than 100 courses this spring semester. Abbis Haider Jaffri will lead a course on his native Pakistan. To receive a free spring semester catalog, call OLLI at Penn State at 867-4278 or visit olli.psu.edu.
Abbis Haider is a Fulbright Scholar from Pakistan studying at Penn State.
OLLI spring semester
To order a free course catalog, call 867-4278 or visit olli.psu.edu.