The People of Pakistan, Political Regions
historical settlement, Pashtuns, Sindhis, largest province, NWFP
The ethnic groups of Pakistan are distributed according to their historical settlement in the region. The current political regions of Pakistan roughly correspond to the settlement patterns established long before the partition of British India in 1947, when Pakistan was created as a homeland for Indian Muslims. The four provinces are Punjab, the Muslim portion of the historic Punjab region; Sind, the traditional homeland of the Sindhis; the North-West Frontier Province, a small portion of the Pashtun tribal lands; and Baluchistan, a portion of the Baluchi tribal lands. The traditional homelands of the Pashtuns and Baluchis extend beyond the modern political borders, both provincial and national.
Punjab is the most populated province of Pakistan, with 72.6 million people (1998). Most of the people are Punjabis. The province contains most of the country’s largest cities, but the rural agricultural areas are also densely settled. The province is the second largest in area.
Sind is the second most populated province in Pakistan, with about 30 million people (1998). Its population is the most urbanized in Pakistan. Sindhis make up about 60 percent of the population of Sind, living mostly in rural areas. Mohajirs constitute the remaining 40 percent and live mostly in the province’s large cities. Sind is the third largest province in area.
The North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) has a population of 17.6 million (1998). The majority of the people are Pashtuns. The province is part of the historic Pashtun tribal lands, which extend throughout southern and southeastern Afghanistan and well into western Pakistan, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and northern Baluchistan. The NWFP is Pakistan’s smallest province in area. In the 1980s refugees from war-torn Afghanistan began to settle in the province. Refugee camps and rudimentary villages were set up in the border areas. A large number of refugees also established communities in cities such as Peshawar. Many became semipermanent residents of Pakistan because Afghanistan remained in a state of war through the mid-1990s. The majority of refugees were Pashtuns, facilitating their assimilation into the province’s population, in many cases through intermarriage.
Baluchistan is the most sparsely populated and least developed province of Pakistan. A majority of the 6.5 million (1998) people who live in Baluchistan are Baluchis. Pashtuns are the second largest ethnic group in the province. In recent years a large number of Afghan refugees have settled in Baluchistan. In area, Baluchistan is the largest province of Pakistan, covering nearly 40 percent of the country’s total territory. However, the province is an arid and inhospitable hinterland.
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