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Economy, Transportation

Makran Coast, Khunjerab Pass, Karakoram Highway, Gwadar, Kashgar

The lack of modern transportation facilities is a major hindrance to the development of Pakistan. Its terrain, laced with rivers and mountains, presents formidable obstacles to internal overland transportation. The country has 254,410 km (158,083 mi) of roads. The railroad network totals 8,775 km (5,453 mi).

Karachi is the principal port of Pakistan. The coastline is underdeveloped because of the rugged topography, but it has promise for development. In recent years successive governments of Pakistan have made efforts to build infrastructure along the Makran Coast. Toward this end, the government of Pakistan signed an agreement with China in the late 1990s to develop an international shipping port at Gwadar as an alternative to Karachi. Gwadar is located on a peninsula that is accessible to large ships traveling from the Gulf of Oman, which leads to the Persian Gulf.

The Karakoram Highway was constructed between China and Pakistan in 1978 and opened to regular traffic in 1982. This all-weather road is 1,300 km (800 mi) long and passes through the Himalayas, reaching an elevation of 5,000 m (16,000 ft) at Khunjerab Pass. It is of strategic significance for Pakistan and China, connecting Islamabad with Kashgar, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the national airline, is in large part government owned. PIA offers flights within Pakistan and to a number of other countries. Many privately owned international airlines also serve Pakistan. In the early 1990s the government ended the airline’s monopoly on domestic service, and a number of private carriers have since begun domestic operations. The country’s main international airports serve Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, and Rawalpindi.

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