Pakistan has one of the world’s hottest climates, with a high of 53.5 degrees Celsius recorded in 2010. Its size and location mean that it also has a highly variable climate, with wide temperature extremes. Particularly in the interior of the country, temperatures are high, with an average 38 degrees Celsius in the summer, and highs up to 47 degrees. Winter temperatures drop sharply, with an average of around 4 degrees Celsius in the south and sub-zero temperatures in the north.
Pakistan is home to the world’s second-largest Muslim population, second only to Indonesia; as such it’s not surprising that one of the world’s largest mosques is located in Pakistan. Shah Faisal Mosque is located in Islamabad, and is a truly stunning work of art. Its octagonal prayer hall is so large it can hold 10,000 people, and nearly 300,000 can fit in the complex as a whole.
Pakistan is also the site of the world’s second-largest mountain, K2, which is on the border the country shares with China.
The land of present-day Pakistan was in ancient times home to some of South Asia’s earliest civilizations. Over thousands of years the region was colonised by several different cultures, including the Persian Empire, and the empire of Alexander the Great.
During the Medieval period Islam spread within Pakistan. For centuries the country was under Muslim rule, but by the 18th century the Muslim Mughal Empire was in decline as European culture gained in influence. The establishment of the British East India Company on the coast of Pakistan eventually ushered a colonial period in which Pakistan’s independence was overshadowed by the company’s increasing encroachment into the country’s culture.
Independent Pakistan was established in 1947, and after periods of monarchy and martial law the country held its first democratic elections in 1970; however, the elections triggered civil war and conflict with India. The 1980s were a period of political instability and economic decline, continuing into the 1990s as Pakistan began to test its first nuclear devices. Relations between Pakistan and India improved in the new millennium, and in 2004 Pakistan became a member of the Commonwealth for the second time. However, Pakistan has remained politically labile, in part due to ongoing conflict with the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban.
Pakistan is a large country with diverse landscapes and climatic zones, and as such it is home to a wide variety of plants and animals. Alpine forest of spruce and pine; subtropical acacia, eucalyptus, and mulberry; tropical coconut and date palms; and tamarisk and juniper all grow in specific parts of the country.
The country’s fauna is also incredibly diverse with hundreds of species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. The mountains of northern Pakistan are home to the Marco Polo sheep, ibex and markhor goats, the Himalayan brown bear and the Asian black bear. In the southern plains are animals such as the Asiatic jackal, jungle cat and desert cat, and the Indian pangolin, while in the central region there are leopards, hyenas, jackals, and wildcats.
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