The following geographic survey was written by Dr.
W. B. Fisher Head of the Department of Geography, Durham Colleges,
University of Durham, and appeared in The British Commonwealth
1956 published by Europa Publications Limited, London (1956).
See the Synopsis of Subjects on the left for other
items on Pakistan from The British Commonwealth 1956.
territory of Pakistan consists of two entirely separate units: West
Pakistan, bounded by Iran, Afghanistan and India, and covering 310,000
sq. miles; and East Pakistan (formerly East Bengal) which, except
for a coastline on the Bay of Bengal and a 200-mile frontier with
Burma on the east, is virtually an enclave within India. The two
units are over 1,000 miles apart, so that communication between
them involves either crossing Indian territory or traveling 2,500
miles by sea round the tip of India.
West Pakistan consists mainly of the middle and lower
valley of the Indus river, together with an adjacent mountainous
zone on the west (Baluchistan). The northern frontier runs more
or less along the first foothills of the Himalaya, except in the
extreme north where it includes the main peaks of the Hindu Kush;
and the eastern boundary of Pakistan may be said to be the Thar
desert. Further north among the Himalaya lies the territory of Kashmir,
which is a subject of dispute with India.
East Pakistan comprises the eastern section of the
Ganges delta and is thus almost entirely an alluvial lowland, with
its eastern frontier at the beginning of the Assam hills. The actual
boundaries of both East and West Pakistan were drawn mainly on a
sectarian and religious basis, to separate Muslims and Hindus, and
so largely ignore topographical features and economic units; thus
the new boundaries have led to considerable difficulties, particularly
as regards communications and the use of river water for irrigation.
Climatically, the two regions of Pakistan are strikingly
dissimilar. East Pakistan experiences the full effects of the summer
monsoon (see India: Geography) with dramatic alternation of dry
and wet seasons. Lying close to the Bay of Bengal, summer rainfall
is intense, giving steamy oppressive conditions from June to October;
while later in the year dry, moderately warm conditions prevail.
Mean temperatures at Dacca range from 63° F. (January) to 87°
F. (May), and annual rainfall is between 50 in. and 125 in., all
but 10 in. falling between May and October (inclusive).
West Pakistan receives only an attenuated and partly
dried out monsoonal air current which has already deposited most
of its moisture in the lower Ganges valley, hence rainfall is everywhere
restricted. In addition to this summer monsoonal rainfall there
are also very slight winter rains in some areas, produced by small
depressions that work their way across Pakistan from as far west
as Europe and the Mediterranean. Even however with this extra rainfall,
most of West Pakistan is arid or sub-arid and depends, like Egypt
and Mesopotamia, on irrigation from its rivers and canals. Maximum
day temperatures can reach 125° to 135° during May and June,
the hottest months; but frost is also common during the winter in
the north and the hillier parts of the centre. Karachi, in the extreme
south, has mean temperatures ranging between 68° and 88°
with 8 inches of rain annually. Lahore has a temperature range of
61°- 96°, and 18 in. of rainfall.
Pakistan with 76 million inhabitants (1951 census)
is the sixth largest state in the world (in numbers) and the largest
Muslim country-though only 85 per cent of its inhabitants are Muslims.
Some 14 per cent of this total is regarded as literate. Lahore (pop.
1 1/2 million) is the largest city of Pakistan, and functions as
a market and administrative centre for the Punjab. Karachi (1,126,000)
is the capital and chief port, whilst Dacca (411,000) is the chief
town of East Pakistan.
Dr. W. B. Fisher
Head of the Department of Geography
Durham Colleges, University of Durham
Source: The British Commonwealth 1956
With a Foreword by the Earl of Swinton P.C., G.B.E., C.H., M.C.
Europa Publications Limited, London (1956)
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