Cleaved into two parts in 1947 by the British the western half of India's 'Bread Basket' is known today as the Punjab province of Pakistan. Founded in its current form in May 1972, it is by far the country's most populous and prosperous region. It is home to the Punjabis as well as various other groups. Neighbouring areas are Sindh to the South, Balochistan and the North West Frontier Province to the west, Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir and Islamabad to the North. The Indian half of the Punjab and the Indian part of Jammu and Kashmir are to the East and North-East.
- The main languages are Punjabi, Urdu (the official language), Saraiki, Potowari and Pashto. English is still taught in Government schools.
- The provincial capital is Lahore.
The name Punjab literally translates from the Persian words Pañj (پنج) , meaning Five, and Āb (آب) meaning Water. Thus Punjab can be translated as (the) Five Waters - and hence the Land of the Five Rivers, referring to the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, which are all tributaries to the Indus River. The Indus River, along with its many tributaries, traverses the Punjab from north to south.
After Balochistan, Punjab is Pakistan's second largest province at 205,344 km² (79,284 Square miles). It is located at the north-western edge of the Geologic Indian Plate of South Asia. Lahore is the provincial level-capital and main city of the Punjab. Before the Partition Lahore had long been the historical capital of Punjab. Other important cities include Multan, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Rawalpindi.
The nation's only province that borders Balochistan, the North-West Frontier Province, Sindh and Azad ('Free') Kashmir, it contains the federal enclave of the newly established national capital city of Islamabad.
This geographical position and a large multi-ethnic population strongly influence Punjab's outlook on National affairs and induces in Punjab a keen awareness of the problems of the Pakistan's other important provinces and territories. In the acronym P-A-K-I-S-T-A-N, the P is for PUNJAB.
The province is mainly a fertile region along the river valleys, while sparse deserts can be found near the border with India and Balochistan. The region contains the Thar and Cholistan deserts.
The landscape is amongst the most heavily irrigated 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 a Perso-Arabic script in Pakistan). Punjabis comprise the largest ethnic group of Punjab.
The population of Punjab (Pakistan) is estimated to be between 85%-95% Muslim with a Sunni majority and Shia minority (The the Pakistani Government doesn't keep track of religious demographics). The largest non-Muslim minority is estimated to be Christians, who are thought to make up 3-5% of the population; other minorities include Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Bah'ai, Ismalis and the Ahmadis.
Pakistan has a poor educational record. According to a recent survey its literacy rate is 34.8%. The Ahmadiyas who were declared to be non-Muslim by the National Parliament claim a 99% literacy rate. Unlike many of Pakistan's 'Orthodox' Muslims who still advocate teaching of the Qur'an in Arabic as the only education needed in Pakistan and shun what they call Western style education. The Ahmadiyas and many of Pakistan's more educated classes have a love of knowledge. They follow the saying of Muhammad the Prophet:
- In pursuit of education if you have to go China, go and pursue it.
The only Nobel prize winner in the whole Muslim world was an Ahmadi - Dr Abdus Salam who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Science (1979) for his theoretical unification of two fundamental forces of nature.
At the time Gen. Zia ul Haq embraced him as a shining example of Muslims. Later the General pushed through legislation prescribing a three year prison term for any Ahmadi who calls himself a Muslim.
Today the The Islamic Republic of Pakistan uses its Criminal Code to prohibit and punish blasphemy. The Criminal Code provides penalties for blasphemy up to death and a fine. An accusation of blasphemy commonly subjects the accused, police, lawyers, and judges to harassment, threats, and attacks. An accusation is sometimes the prelude to vigilantism and rioting. Recently fake charges of Blasphemy have resulted in Punjab's largest Christian Community being attacked with many Christian churches and homes being burned to the ground.
By its Constitution, the official name of Pakistan is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. More than ninety-six percent of Pakistan's one hundred and sixty-seven million citizens (2008) are Muslims.
- Among countries with a Muslim-majority, Pakistan has the strictest anti-blasphemy laws. The first purpose of those laws is to protect Islamic authority.
- By the Constitution (Article 2), Islam is the state religion.
- By the Constitution's Article 31, it is the country's duty to foster the Islamic way of life.
- By Article 33, it is the country's duty to discourage parochial, racial, tribal, sectarian, and provincial prejudices among the citizens.
Judges need not be Muslim but few are not. Mr. Alvin Robert Cornelius, a Christian, was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1960. After General Zia-ul-Haq took power in the late 1970s, non-Muslim judges were very rare. In March 2007, a Hindu judge, Mr. Rana Bhagwandas, became the acting Chief Justice of Pakistan. In 2009, Mr. Jamshaid Rehmatullah, a Christian, became a judge of the High Court.
Several sections of Pakistan’s Criminal Code comprise its blasphemy laws. Section 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object. Section 295-A, forbids outraging religious feelings. Section 295-B, forbids defiling the Quran. Section 295-C, forbids defaming Prophet Mohammed. Except for section 295-C, the provisions of section 295 require that an offence be a consequence of the accused's intent.
- Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life.
- Defaming Prophet Mohammed merits death with or without a fine.
Section 298 states: Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
Section 298-A prohibits the use of any derogatory remark or representation in respect of Muslim holy personages. Section 298-B and 298-C prohibit the Ahmadiyyas from behaving as Muslims behave, calling themselves Muslims, proselytizing, or "in any manner whatsoever" outraging the religious feelings of Muslims.
While India also has enacted similar laws, which are said to be equally applied to all its citizens (this unfortunately has not been the case in the past, most notably with the Sikhs in the 1980s), the laws in Pakistan are as the constitution of Pakistan states mostly concerned with the rights of Muslims.
At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the religion of Sikhism was born, and during the Mughal period gradually emerged as a formidable military force. After fighting the ruler of Afghanistan Ahmad Shah Durrani, the Sikhs wrested control of the Punjab from his descendants and ruled in a confederacy of Sikh Misls, which later became the Sikh Raj under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Born in the city of Gujranwala, Ranjit Singh was invited to take charge of Lahore, which he ruled as a strictly sectarian Kingdom. The Sikhs made many architectural contributions to the city and the Lahore Fort.
Punjab was, before the 'Partition' home to a large minority population of Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus until the blood letting of 1947, which ended with untold numbers of Sikhs and Hindus deaths. Thousands of Sikhs and Hindus fled to the safety of India. Vendettas led as well to many Muslims deaths on the Indian side of the Punjab. Families lost ancestral lands on both side of the man made border.
The benevolent rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was only a memory. The Historic Places of worship of the Sikhs, the Gurdwaras and sites associated with the Gurus were taken over with many even being used as homes. Today many are being restored and the Guru Granth Sahib has even returned to its place in many of the more famous Sites as the tourist trade of Sikh Pilgrims plays an important part in the faltering economy of Pakistan. Many of the Jagirs gifted to the Gurdwaras for their support under Ranjit Singh are still listed as the property of the Gurdwaras in western Panjab where many Muslims still revere Guru Nanak.
- See Wikipedia article on Punjab (Pakistan) for more information