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History of Pakistan. Part 2


Few nations have as rich or complex a history as the Islamic Republic
of Pakistan. Its destiny has been shaped fi rst by its geography. The
violent collision of continents that formed this land threw up great
mountains that made this corner of the subcontinent a place apart. The
sequestered, fertile environment of the Indus Valley nurtured one of the
world’s fi rst great civilizations. Yet the passes that breached the guard￾ing massifs served as funnels through which invaders both hostile and
friendly have poured for millennia. These outsiders have been the sec￾ond great ingredient in Pakistan’s destiny. They brought their traditions,
ideas, and ways of life, all of which have become part of the nation’s
identity. This chapter surveys the nation’s physical landscape, its fi rst
civilizations, and the provinces that today refl ect the historical divisions
that have made Pakistan’s past and present so vibrant, dynamic, and
tumultuous. The chapter also introduces the Aryans, the fi rst of the
interloping groups that would shape the history and heritage of what
is today Pakistan. The Aryans’ experiences here would give rise to the
Hindu religion, which continues to be a force with a powerful effect on
the region today.
Geology and Geography
Before the continents as we know them came to be, the land that is
now Pakistan and India were part of Gondwanaland, an ancient super￾continent. Some 200 million years ago Gondwanaland began to break
apart, torn by tectonic forces. Over time the supercontinent’s rem￾nants formed landmasses including Africa, South America, Antarctica,
Australia, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Deccan Plateau, or the
Indian subcontinent. At the time the Eurasian landmass was separated
from the disintegrating supercontinent by a long, shallow sea. The

streams and rivers that drained what we know now as Asia deposited
sandy runoff into this basin while the calcifi ed remains of sea creatures
likewise accreted. Over time these deposits became sandstone and
limestone. After Gondwanaland splintered, the future Deccan Plateau
moved north, toward Eurasia. As the two landmasses drove toward
each other, the sandstone and limestone that had carpeted the sea
fl oor between them was thrust upward. At least 45 million years ago
the landmasses met.
The submarine deposits ultimately became the fold mountains that
now form a ridge across southern Asia from the Mediterranean to the
Pacifi c. The contorted, visible bowing of the sedimentary rocks from
which the mountains formed bears evidence of the compression caused
by the slow tectonic collision. The peaks reach their highest point at
the north end of the subcontinent. These are the Himalayan Mountains.
Marine fossils found on Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, attest
to its undersea ancestry. The Himalayas and its offshoots, which fl ank
southward on the east and west sides of the subcontinent, have served
as a natural barrier to both the elements and humanity, separating
the lands that became Pakistan and India from the rest of Asia. By 11
million B.C.E. migration of animals from and to the subcontinent had
To its south, west, north, and northeast, natural barriers of mountain
and sea have sheltered Pakistan. But to the southeast, the land spills
out into the Deccan, the vast peninsular homeland of India. The Indus
River, historically the lifeblood of what would become Pakistan, and its
tributaries drain the plateau. Though its terrain is varied throughout the
country, Pakistan can be divided into three basic geographic areas: the
northern highlands, the Baluchistan Plateau, and the Indus River plain.
These areas can be further segmented into the Salt Mountains and the
Potwar Plateau, north of the Indus Plain; the Western Mountain region
(composed of the mountains in western Baluchistan); and the Upper
and Lower Indus River Plain (roughly corresponding with the present￾day provinces of Punjab and Sind, respectively).
The Arabian Sea forms Pakistan’s southern border. Its western border
is shared with Iran in the south and Afghanistan in the north. Along
Pakistan’s northern border the slim arm of Afghanistan’s Wakhan region
separates Pakistan from Tajikistan. China’s territories of Xinjiang and
Tibet lie on Kashmir’s border to the north and east. To Pakistan’s eas

By Muddasir Hussain

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