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Islamabad is the capital city of Pakistan but Karachi is the largest city. Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Faisalabad are the other major cities of Pakistan.
The modern nation of Pakistan evolved in the Indus Valley region, the seat of one of the most ancient civilizations of the world. Coming down from a rich cultural past, the foundations of the state were laid on the basis of the religious demographics of the region. Pakistan shares its land boundaries with Afghanistan Iran, India, and China. Despite a history of political instability and a six-decade long territorial dispute with India, Pakistan has emerged as a dominant political and nuclear force in Asia.
The earliest settlements in Pakistan date back to about 7000 BC. The Vedic Civilization and the Persian Empire gave way to the Greek settlement by about 327 BC. The rise of Islam in around 650 AD was a significant influence in the land. In 711 AD Muhammad bin Qasim, the Umayyad general prompted a number of successive Muslim dynasties to build their empires on the land. Soon, in about 1526 AD, the region became a part of Mughal territory. With the fall of the Mughal regency, parts of Pakistan were invaded by the Afghans, and later by the Sikhs. With the fall of the Sikh Empire, much of the land was made over to the British colonizers. Pakistan, as part of the Indian subcontinent participated actively in the protest against British colonization and sought independence.
In 1947 the withdrawal of British dominion gave way to the establishment of Pakistan on 14 August 1947. Sindh, West Punjab, Balochistan, the North-West Frontier Province, and East Bengal were officially integrated into Pakistan. This also brought the dispute with India over Kashmir. The first Indo-Pakistan war was fought between 1947 and 1948.
In 1956, Pakistan became a parliamentary republic but the civilian rule was soon replaced by a military rule following a coup by General Ayub Khan. In 1970, democratic elections were held in the country but civil unrest broke out in East Pakistan the following year. With support from India, East Pakistan gained independence and Bangladesh was established.
Civilian rule in the country lasted between 1927 and 1977. General Zia ul Haq took over and the subsequent military government lasted till 1988. Following the general's death, Pakistan has remained a stable democracy and gathered significant political clout in South Asia.
The economy of Pakistan, with a GDP- PPP of US $488 billion is ranked twenty-eighth in the world. Foreign exchange and gold reserves amount to US $17.8 billion but foreign investments are low, primarily due to security and stability concerns. Corruption and bureaucracy problems have slowed down the economic growth of Pakistan in recent years. With a labor force of 57.89 billion, the country still faces a substantial unemployment problem (5.7%). While textiles, agricultural produce, and leather products form the core of the country's exports, major imports include machinery, petroleum products, and iron and steel. Cotton, rice, wheat, and sugarcane are the primary crops grown in Pakistan.
Taxila, Lahore, The Karakoram Highway, Karimabad, and Lake Siful Muluk were deemed the top five tourist destinations of Pakistan, by The Guardian in 2006. Pakistan is home to some of the most stunning natural beauties including the desert region, the K-2 peak, and the Indus Valley region. Besides these the Swat region, Khyber Pass, and the cities of Rawalpindi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Islamabad are among the preferred tourist destinations of Pakistan.
Among the notable attractions of Pakistan, the ancient sites of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa attract those interested in the history of human civilization; The Lal Suhanra National Park, The Kirthar National Park, the Hingol National Park, and the Hazarganji-Chiltan National Park are the preferred destinations for nature lovers.
Terrorism and political instability have been the chief factors affecting travel and tourism in Pakistan. A lack of robust infrastructure has also been a definitive cause for the plunging tourist figures. The World Economic Forum's Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2008 ranked Pakistan at 103 of the 124 nations as travel destinations. But in 2009 Pakistan was ranked among the top twenty-five percent travel destinations of the world. In August 2011, the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation pledged to double up efforts to promote the country as an attractive tourist destination.
The Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization flourished in the fertile Indus Valley region that is now part of Pakistan. The country boasts of a rich educational legacy with Taxila, the renowned center of Buddhist and Hindu learning being one of the country's best-known tourist attractions. Through history, Pakistan has assimilated the best cultural practices of the Hindus, the Persians, the Greeks, the Sikhs, and the Mughals who reigned over the land.
Pakistani cuisine is well-loved the world over. The subtle use of spices, the bold tastes, the complex cooking styles, the use of a variety of vegetables, and the traditional recipes - Pakistani cuisine has truly come of age. Sport is a second religion in Pakistan. The Pakistani national cricket team won the Cricket World Cup in 1992 and reached the finals in 1999. The national sport is hockey and the national team is an exceptional strong one. Squash is another popular sport.
Pakistan is home to some of the best Islamic, Mughal, Persian, Greek, and Buddhist architectural marvels. The Shalimar Gardens and the Alamgiri Gate of Lahore, the tomb of Shah Rukn-i-Alam in Multan, the Takht-i-Bahi are samples of very advanced architecture. Much can be said about the rich legacy of music and literature in the country. Urdu, Punjabi, and Persian poetry have thrived here across the centuries.
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