The history of Pakistani Airlines started with the merging of Orient Airways with international airlines cooperation of Pakistan. At that time Pakistan International Airlines was the only operator that provided travelling facilities to passengers. Meanwhile private airlines emerged and started their services in Pakistan. However, currently there exist only three main Pakistani airlines which include PIA, Air Blue and Shaheen Air.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), only airline owned by the Government of Pakistan, provides its travelling facilities to 42 international destinations and 27 domestic flights are operated by it. It has an employment rate of 18,043 according to the survey (2008). The main bases of PIA lay in three big cities of Pakistan namely Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.
Air blue is the privately owned Pakistani airline which is the second largest domestic airline of Pakistan. It provides its services to five international destinations and four domestic places. Besides, another main Pakistani airline is Shaheen Air that is the private-based cooperation. Like Air Blue, it operates among main cities of Pakistan and schedules international flights to five or six destinations. The main base of both of these privately owned airlines exist at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi.
In addition to the currently serving airlines described above, there were few others that do not serve anymore due to some reasons. They include Aero Asia International, Pearl Air, Pakistan Airways and some others. Some of them closed their services long time ago and some had been suspended prior to poor management issues.
The isolated district of Chitral lies in the extreme north of NWFP Pakistan. It is a land of breathtaking beauty. The lofty rugged mountains, lush green valleys, huge glaciers and long winding river make a mesmerizing landscape. Surrounded by the majestic Hindu Kush mountain range, it is situated at a height of 1128 meters above sea level. Tirich Mir (7705 meters) the highest peak of the Hindu Kush also lies in Chitral. The average height of the mountains here is 4000 feet or more and is a heaven for mountain climbers, trekkers and hikers. With plentiful fish available, angling and fishing are other popular activities thus making Chitral an ideal tourist spot.
Chitral is bordered by Afghanistan on three sides (north, west and south west) and has Dir valley in the south and Gilgit agency in the east. Geographically it is isolated as the steep harsh mountains make it practically inaccessible. It can be reached by air through Peshawar city and by road through a number of mountain passes. The Lowari Pass from Peshawar and the Shandur Pass from Gilgit are the 2 practical land routes. Journey in a jeep is recommended as it is safe and you can also enjoy nature at its best. The best time to visit Chitral is from June to September.
Besides its scenic beauty, Chitral is also proud of its rich cultural history. It was a gateway from where many conquerors have entered south-east Asia. The Kafir-Kalash tribe, inhabitants of the Kalash Valley are said to be the descendents of the Greek army led Alexander the Great. They have maintained their customs and culture and by not marrying outside their tribe, their resemblance to their forefathers. The Kalash people are very fond of music and dancing and feasting is a part of their festivals. Some Gandhran relics have also been found in Chitral valley.
Another feature associated with Chitral is the game of Polo. Polo is played here almost in its original form. The game is rather rough and often results in injuries to the players. The Shandur Polo Festival played on the roof of the world is a major tourist attraction. Football is also a popular game in Chitral.
Music in the Chitral Valley is also unique. In the evenings the bazaars echo with the soul stirring sound of Tumba a stringed instrument very similar to sitar.
So if you are planning to go on a vacation next summer keep Chitral on the top of your list.
The Northern areas of Pakistan are by far the most visited places of the country. The tourists both foreign and local prefer the Northern areas because of the scenic beauty of the place. The lush green valleys, lofty mountains, bubbling springs, sparkling waterfalls and the pleasant climate of the place are some features which draw the tourists to the northern areas. The valleys of Swat, Naran, Kaghan, Kalam, Chitral, Hunza, and Skardu are crowded with tourists in the summer. Mountaineers usually flock to Hunza, Chitral and Skardu because they are situated nearer to the mountain ranges. Some other spots in various cities which draw crowds are:
The mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah is situated in Karachi and it is visited by people throughout the year. On weekends and public holidays it’s simply crowded with visitors. The mausoleum is surrounded by a big beautiful garden.
2. Data Darbaar The Data Durbar is in Lahore. It is the shrine of the saint Hazrat Data Ganj Bakash. Every day hundreds of people come here to pay their homage to the reverend saint. It is the most visited shrine in Pakistan. Other popular places among visitors in Lahore are the gardens and other buildings of the Mughal era. The archaeological sites of the Buddhist Civilization in Taxila and its adjoining areas attract a lot of tourists. The sites are well preserved.
Islamabad is the Federal Capital of Pakistan. It is situated in the North of the country on Potowar Plateau. Islamabad is a well planned city established to replace Karachi as the state capital. Established against the backdrop of the tree clad Margalla Hills, it is truly a beautiful city. As all the official residence of the Prime Minister and The President are located here, it is the cleanest city of Pakistan. When visiting Islamabad do go to the following places:
1. Margalla Hills Margalla Hills are a range of small hills spread over an area of 12,605 hectares. The hills are extremely pretty with a wide variety of flora and fauna. Hiking and trekking are the main activities. Some private clubs also provide facilities for Hand gliding and Para gliding. The best spot of Margalla Hills is Daman e Koh. It is the central point of Margalla Hills and gives a fantastic view of Islamabad. It is a well developed picnic point.
2. Faisal Mosque The Faisal Mosque is the largest mosque of Pakistan and the 6th largest in the world. The construction of the mosque was completed in 1986. Faisal Mosque covers an area of 5,000 sq meters. The interior hall is decorated with chandeliers and the walls are adorned with mosaic and calligraphy done by Sadequain the great Pakistani artist.
3. Rawal Lake Rawal Lake is the man made lake of the Rawal Dam. It has been developed as a tourist resort. Boating can be done here. It is also a bird watcher’s paradise. It is a very beautiful place with many things to entertain you. There are several places worth visiting in Islamabad like Pir Sohawa, The Zoo, Margalla Hills National Park, Japanese Garden, Rose and Jasmine Garden and The Pakistan Monument.
The Hingol National Park in Pakistan is the largest National Park of the country. It is situated at the Makran Coast in the province of Baluchistan. It covers an area of 619,043 hectares and is spread over three districts namely Lasbela, Gawadar and Owaran. It was declared a shelter for various species of wildlife in 1988. The park is unique in the sense that it provides refuge to land as well as marine creatures. The topography of the park varies from coast lines, beaches, sand dunes, barren mountains and a river. The area is mostly semi desert.
A large number of animals exist in this rocky and marshy area some of whom are close to extinction. The estuary of the Hingol River is the home to many species of fish. Marsh crocodiles are also found here. These are few in number only around 50. Olive Ridley Turtles and Green Marine Turtles are occasionally seen here. The river is a resting place of many migratory water fowls such as Dalmatian and Spot billed Pelican, Sociable Plover, Spoonbills, and Black Ibis etc.
Around 35 species of mammals including the Sindh Ibex, Afghan Urial and Chinkara Gazelle are found here. There are 65 species of reptiles and amphibians and 185 species of birds in the park. Besides animals, 250 species of plants are housed in the Park too.
Another claim to fame of the area is the Shrine of Devi Hingali commonly known as Nani Mandir. It is a sacred Hindu temple.
The hill station of Ayubia is situated between Murree and Nathia Gali at an altitude of 8000 feet above sea level. It comes under the Hazaara District administration. The cool climate and picturesque scenery has made it is a popular domestic tourist spot. People from all over Pakistan throng Ayubia to escape from the scorching summers.
Ayubia offers a lot of activities to the tourists. Apart from hiking and trekking, one can enjoy the chair lift rides. Chair lifts in Ayubia are the oldest in the country. The chair lifts were installed in 1969-70 and take you from Ayubia to Khanaspur near Murree Hills.
Another thing to keep the visitors busy is the Ayubia National Park. The park covers an area of 3128 hectare acres and is a safe haven not only for threatened animals and birds but also for the alpine forest. The park is a sanctuary of the endangered mammals such as the leopards and the black bear. The Koklass Pheasant and the Kalij Pheasant which were on the way of extinction are found here. Hopefully there number will increase in this park. The park is ideal for bird watching as a number of species of both resident and migratory birds are found here.
Another amusement is the riding trails or if you are fond of hiking, just follow the pipeline trek which passes through the Ayubia National Park and leads to Dunga Gali. The scenic beauty of the pine clad hills and the breath taking views of River Jhelum makes this 50 minute walk an unforgettable experience.
Ayubia National Park:
Ayubia National Park is situated in Ayubia, a small hill station in the NWFP province of Pakistan. It is spread over an area of 1685 acres. It was established to save the alpine forest of the region and the wildlife in it as well. Although the coniferous trees dominate the vegetation of the area but there are other plants as well. According to a survey, around 104 species of plants are found in the park. Due to the merciless cutting of trees in the region, some of the trees also face extinction. The purpose of the park was to save the trees as well.
The park is the home of 31 species of animals including the endangered leopard and black bear. Other animals found here are the Red Fox, Flying Squirrel, Masked civet, Rhesus Macaque (monkey) etc.
The Ayubia National Park lies in the route of migratory birds hence much to a bird watcher’s delight; a large variety of birds can be seen here. Some of the endangered birds in the park are the Koklass Pheasant and the Kalij Pheasant. The park is the home of the Golden eagle, Griffon Vulture, Honey buzzard, Hill pigeon, Kestrel, Peregrine falcon, Collared dove.
Some snakes existing in the Himalayan region can also be seen here. An estimate of 100,000 tourists, visit the Ayubia National Park and its surrounding places.
Cholistan Desert is situated 30 km from Bahawalpur City. It is spread over an area of 16,000 square kilometers. Its history can be traced back to 1200 BC. The Hakra Valley in Cholistan has 300 sites of Indus Valley Civilization. The Hakra River was the main source of life and signs of agriculture till 600 BC were found here. Most probably the river dried transforming the area into a desert. The locals of Cholistan are nomadic herders. They still live in huts made of mud and straw.
Cholistan is a land of forts. There are around 400 forts which actually guarded the routes of caravans. Some other forts are Derawar, Vingrot, Wilhar, Marcot and others.
Every year the Cholistan Jeep Rally is held in the Cholistan desert. Many adventurous drivers drive their four wheelers through the desert sands. The end of the rally is marked by a folk Mela, spectacular fire works wrestling competitions, Horse and Cattle Show and an exhibition of Cholistan Handicrafts.
The Cholistan Desert Safari is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Many tour operators arrange for safaris through Cholistan Deserts. They are real fun. Mounted on a camel you can have a tour of the ancient forts, nomadic villages, shrines of the saints and at night you can dance and sing along with the locals or rest by the camp fire under the starry sky. The best time to visit Cholistan is from March to October.
Forts in Cholistan Desert:
The Cholistan Desert is the home to around 400 forts. It is thus aptly named as the land of forts. The forts were built in rows of three each fort being 29 km apart from each other. The forts were actually watch towers for guarding the camel caravans. They were built from gypsum and mud and are now in a very poor condition. Some of these forts are said to be built in 1000 BC.
The Derawar Fort
The Derawar fort can be best described as “A grand structure in the middle of nowhere”. It is a masterpiece of human intelligence and skill. The actual Derawar Fort was built by a Hindu Raja and then completely rebuilt in 1733.
Derawar fort is square shaped and has forty circular towers 10 on each side. These towers are 30 meters high and 1.5 km in circumference. They can be seen miles away. They are decorated with geometric and floral patterns. The guards of the Amir of Bahawalpur guard this fort and permission has to be taken to enter this impressive place. Nearby is a mosque built with white marble in 1849. The ancestral graveyard of the Abassis the former rulers of Bahawalpur is situated close by.
Some of the forts in Cholistan are Islamgarh, Dingarh, Mao, Marcot, Vingrot, Wilhar, Banwar and Phura.
The princely state of Bahawalpur was founded by Nawab Mohammed Bahawal Khan Abassi 1 in 1748. It covered an area of 45,911 square km and was divided into 3 districts. Bahawalpur had a flourishing economy and a strong army. When Pakistan came into being in 1947, the state acceded to Pakistan. In 1955 it gave up its sovereignty and merged with West Pakistan.
Present day Pakistan occupies an area of 24,830 sq km. Agriculture is the mostly practiced and sugar cane, wheat, sunflower oilseeds are the main products. Bahawalpur City is the hub of trade and economy in the district. Bahawalpur City has many important buildings some of which are as follows:
1. Central Library Bahawalpur
The library comprises of 3 blocks each having a vast collection of books on various topics. Its foundation stone was laid by Sir Rufus Daniel in 1924 the then viceroy of India.
2. Sadiq Public School
The Sadiq Public School was built by Nawab Sadiq Khan Mohammed Abassi the fifth in 1953. It has been imparting quality education for more than half a century.
3. Bahawalpur Museum Although small the museum contains a rich collection of antique coins, medals and postage stamps of the former state as well as some manuscripts, wood carvings, camel skin paintings and stone carvings of the Islamic and Pre Islamic era. Rare copies of The Holy Quran are also displayed here.
4. Lal Sohanra National Park It is located 30 km from Bahawalpur and is the abode of many endangered species of animals and birds.
5. Noor Mahal It was built by Nawab Sadiq Khan Mohammed Abassi for his wife. After his death it was neglected by the heirs hence the army bought and has restored it to its formal glory.
The following Persian Couplet best describes Multan:
With four rare things Multan abounds
Heat, dust, saints and burial grounds.
Multan is also known as “Medina tul Auliya” or the city of saints. Sufism was introduced in the Sub Continent through the saints of Multan. The saints lived and preached here and chose Multan as their final abode. Even today thousands of devotees visit these shrines.
1. Mausoleum of Hazrat Bahauddin Zakariya
The mausoleum of Hazrat Baha ud Din Zakriya the reverend saint has a distinctive style of architecture. The 51 feet base is a square which is followed by an octagonal and then a semicircular dome. It was rebuilt in 1848 by the devotees.
2. Mausoleum of Shah Rukn-e-Alam
The mausoleum of Shah Rukn i Alam is a landmark of Multan. It stands 100 feet above the ground and its domes are visible from a distance. It is the 2nd largest mausoleum in the world and is the recipient of Aga Khan Award of best Muslim Architecture.
It is built with red bricks and adorned with blue and white tiles, calligraphy and colorful floral and geometric pattern.
3. Mausoleum of Yusuf Shah Gardezi
Yusuf Shah Gardezi came from Afghanistan in 1060 ad. His tomb is rectangular in shape and has no domes and is tastefully decorated with blue glazed tiles, a trend of that time. The interior has floral motifs on it.
4. Mausoleum of Shams Tabrez
The mausoleum of Shams Tabrez is situated on the old dry bed of River Ravi near the Aam Khas Garden. The mausoleum is square shaped around 30 feet high with a semi circular dome. Like other tombs of its time, the mausoleum is decorated with glazed tiles.
The Nuagaza Tombs (the nine yard graves) and the Mausoleums of Hazrat Hafiz Mohammed Jamal Multani and Musa Pak Shaheed also deserve a special mention.