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GILGIT-BALTISTAN ( Urdu
Urdu
: گلگت بلتستان‎, Balti : གིལྒིཏ་སྦལ་ཏི་སྟཱན or རྒྱལ་སྐྱིད་ སྦལ་ཏི་ཡུལ། _rgyal skyid sbal ti yul_), formerly known as the NORTHERN AREAS, is the northernmost administrative territory in Pakistan
Pakistan
. It borders Azad Kashmir to the south, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
to the west, the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan
Afghanistan
to the north, the Xinjiang region of China
China
, to the east and northeast, and the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir
to the southeast. Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is part of the Kashmir
Kashmir
region that is disputed by India
India
and Pakistan, along with Azad Kashmir , Aksai Chin , the Shaksgam Valley , and Jammu
Jammu
, Ladakh
Ladakh
, and the Valley of Kashmir
Kashmir
.

The territory of present-day Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
became a separate administrative unit in 1970 under the name "Northern Areas". It was formed by the amalgamation of the former Gilgit
Gilgit
Agency , the Baltistan district and several small former princely states , the larger of which being Hunza and Nagar . In 2009, it was granted limited autonomy and renamed to Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
via the Self-Governance Order signed by Pakistan
Pakistan
president Asif Ali Zardari
Asif Ali Zardari
, which also aimed to empower the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. However, scholars state that the real power rests with the governor and not with chief minister or elected assembly. The population of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
wants to be merged into Pakistan
Pakistan
as a separate fifth province and opposes integration with Kashmir. The Pakistani government has rejected Gilgit-Baltistani calls for integration with Pakistan
Pakistan
on the grounds that it would jeopardise its demands for the whole Kashmir
Kashmir
issue to be resolved according to UN resolutions.

Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
covers an area of over 72,971 km² (28,174 sq mi) and is highly mountainous. It had an estimated population of 1,800,000 in 2015. Its capital city is Gilgit
Gilgit
(population 216,760 est). Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is home to five of the "eight-thousanders " and to more than fifty peaks above 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). Three of the world's longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan. Tourism is mostly in trekking and mountaineering , and this industry is growing in importance.

CONTENTS

* 1 History

* 1.1 Early history * 1.2 Medieval history * 1.3 Modern history * 1.4 Inside Pakistan
Pakistan

* 2 Government

* 2.1 Regions

* 3 Geography and climate

* 3.1 Rock art and petroglyphs * 3.2 Climate

* 4 Economy and resources

* 4.1 Mountaineering
Mountaineering

* 5 Transport

* 6 Population

* 6.1 Demographics * 6.2 Languages * 6.3 Religion

* 7 Culture

* 7.1 Sports

* 8 See also * 9 Notes * 10 References * 11 Bibliography * 12 External links

HISTORY

Main article: History of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan

EARLY HISTORY

Rock carvings _ Manthal Buddha Rock in outskirts of Skardu
Skardu
city Photograph of Kargah Buddha "The ancient Stupa – rock carvings of Buddha, everywhere in the region is a pointer to the firm hold of the Buddhist rules for such a long time."_

The rock carvings found in various places in Gilgit-Baltistan, especially those found in the Passu village of Hunza , suggest a human presence since 2000 BC. Within the next few centuries after human settlement in the Tibetan plateau , this region became inhabited by Tibetans, who preceded the Balti people of Baltistan
Baltistan
. Today Baltistan bears similarity to Ladakh
Ladakh
physically and culturally (although not religiously). Dards are found mainly in the western areas. These people are the Shina-speaking peoples of Gilgit, Chilas, Astore and Diamir while in Hunza and in the upper regions Burushaski and Khowar speakers dominate. The Dards find mention in the works of Herodotus
Herodotus
, Nearchus , Megasthenes , Pliny , Ptolemy
Ptolemy
, and the geographical lists of the Puranas . In the 1st century the people of these regions were followers of the Bon religion while in the 2nd century they followed Buddhism. Map of Tibetan Empire
Tibetan Empire
citing the areas of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
as part of its kingdom in 780–790 CE

Between 399 and 414, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Faxian (Fa-hsien) visited Gilgit-Baltistan, while in the 6th century Somana Palola (greater Gilgit-Chilas) was ruled by an unknown king. Between 627 and 645, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang) travelled through this region. From 644 to 655, _Navasurendrādityanandi_ was King of Palola ( Gilgit
Gilgit
). In 706/707, Jayamaṅgalavikramādityanandi became king of Palola. It is said that in the year 717, a delegation of a ruler of great Palola, named Su-fu-she-li-ji-li-ni according to the transcription of Chinese characters, reached the Chinese imperial court. In 719, Su-fu-she-li-ji-li-ni, King of Palola, sent a second delegation to the Chinese Imperial court. By at least 719/720, Ladakh (Mard) was part of the Tibetan Empire
Tibetan Empire
. By that time, Buddhism
Buddhism
was practiced in Baltistan
Baltistan
, and Sanskrit
Sanskrit
was the written language. It is unknown if Baltistan
Baltistan
temporarily was ruled under Palola at that time. In 720, the delegation of Sou-lin-t'o i che (= Surendrāditya), King of Palola, went to the Chinese imperial court. The Emperor gave the ruler of Cashmere, "Tchen-fo-lo-pi-li (Chandrāpīḍa)", the title of "King of Cashmere". By 721/722, Baltistan
Baltistan
had become part of the Tibetan Empire.

During 721-722 the conquest of Little Palola or Bru-zha (Yasin) by the Tibetan army failed. Mo-ching-mang (Mo-kin-mang) had become the King of Palola by this time which was visited by the Korean Buddhist pilgrim Hyecho (Huichao) between 723-728. In 737/738, Tibetan troops under the leadership of Minister sKyes-bzang ldong-tsab conquered Little Palola. By 747 the Chinese army under the leadership of the ethnic-Korean commander Gao Xianzhi (Kao Hsien-chih) reconquered Palola. In 753 Great Palola was conquered by a Chinese army under the military Governor Feng Changqing but by 755, due to the An Lushan rebellion , the Chinese lost supremacy in Central Asia
Central Asia
and in the regions around Gilgit-Baltistan.

Turkic tribes practicing Zoroastrianism arrived in Gilgit
Gilgit
during the 7th century, and founded the Trakhan dynasty in Gilgit. During the 8th century, Tibetans were known to live in Baltistan
Baltistan
. Rulers of Gilgit formed an alliance with the Chinese T'ang Dynasty and forced the Arabs back with their help.

MEDIEVAL HISTORY

In the 14th century Sufi Muslim
Muslim
preachers from Persia and Central Asia introduced Islam in Baltistan. Famous amongst them was Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani who came via Kashmir
Kashmir
while in the Gilgit
Gilgit
region Islam entered in the same century through Turkic Tarkhan rulers. Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
was ruled by many local rulers, amongst whom the Maqpon dynasty of Skardu
Skardu
and the Rajas of Hunza were famous. The Maqpons of Skardu
Skardu
unfied Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
with Chitral and Ladakh
Ladakh
, especially in the era of Ali Sher Khan Anchan who had friendly relations with the Mughal court. Anchan reign brought prosperity and entertained art, sport, and variety in architecture. He introduced polo to the Gilgit
Gilgit
region and from Chitral he sent a group of musicians to Delhi
Delhi
to learn Indian music
Indian music
; the Mughal architecture influenced the architecture of the region as well. Later Anchan in his successors Abdal Khan had great influence though in the popular literature of Baltistan
Baltistan
he is still alive as dark figure by the nickname "Mizos" "man-eater". The last Maqpons Raja, Ahmed Shah, ruled all of Baltistan
Baltistan
between 1811–1840. The areas of Gilgit, Chitral and Hunza had already become independent of the Maqpons.

Before the demise of Shribadat, a group of Shin people migrated from Gilgit
Gilgit
Dardistan and settled in the Dras and Kharmang areas. The descendants of those Dardic people can be still found today, and are believed to have maintained their Dardic culture and Shina language up to the present time.

MODERN HISTORY

The last Maqpon Raja Ahmed Shah (died in prison in Lhasa
Lhasa
around 1845)

In November 1839, Dogra commander Zorawar Singh , whose allegiance was to Gulab Singh, started his campaign against Baltistan. By 1840 he conquered Skardu
Skardu
and captured its ruler, Ahmad Shah. Ahmad Shah was then forced to accompany Zorawar Singh on his raid into Western Tibet. Meanwhile, Baghwan Singh was appointed as administrator (Thanadar) in Skardu. But in the following year, Ali Khan of Rondu, Haidar Khan of Shigar
Shigar
and Daulat Ali Khan from Khaplu led a successful uprising against the Dogras in Baltistan
Baltistan
and captured the Dogra commander Baghwan Singh in Skardu.

In 1842, Dogra Commander Wasir Lakhpat, with the active support of Ali Sher Khan (III) from lKartaksho , conquered Baltistan
Baltistan
for the second time. There was a violent capture of the fortress of Kharphocho. Haidar Khan from Shigar, one of the leaders of the uprising against the Dogras, was imprisoned and died in captivity. Gosaun was appointed as administrator (Thanadar) of Baltistan
Baltistan
and till 1860, the entire region of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
was under the Sikhs
Sikhs
and then the Dogras .

After the defeat of the Sikhs
Sikhs
in the First Anglo-Sikh War , the region became a part of the princely state called Jammu
Jammu
and Kashmir which since 1846 remained under the rule of the Dogras. The population in Gilgit
Gilgit
perceived itself to be ethnically different from Kashmiris and disliked being ruled by the Kashmir
Kashmir
state. The region remained with the princely state, with temporary leases of some areas assigned to the British, till a rebellion, organized by commander Major William Brown of the Gilgit
Gilgit
Scouts mutiny, overthrew Ghansara Singh, the Governor administering the region on behalf of the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir, on 1 November 1947.

After Pakistan's independence, Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir
initially remained an independent state. Later on 22 October 1947, tribal militias backed by Pakistan
Pakistan
crossed the border into Jammu
Jammu
and Kashmir. Local tribal militias and the Pakistani armed forces moved to take Srinagar
Srinagar
but on reaching Uri they encountered defensive forces. Hari Singh
Hari Singh
made a plea to India
India
for assistance and signed the Instrument of Accession .

Gilgit's population did not favour the State's accession to India. The Muslims of the Frontier Districts Province (modern day Gilgit-Baltistan) had wanted to join Pakistan
Pakistan
. Sensing their discontent, Major William Brown, the Maharaja's commander of the Gilgit
Gilgit
Scouts , mutinied on 1 November 1947, overthrowing the Governor Ghansara Singh. The bloodless _coup d'etat_ was planned by Brown to the last detail under the code name "Datta Khel", which was also joined by a rebellious section of the Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir
6th Infantry under Mirza Hassan Khan . Brown ensured that the treasury was secured and minorities were protected. A provisional government (_Aburi Hakoomat_) was established by the Gilgit
Gilgit
locals with Raja Shah Rais Khan as the president and Mirza Hassan Khan as the commander-in-chief. However, Major Brown had already telegraphed Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan asking Pakistan
Pakistan
to take over. The Pakistani political agent, Khan Mohammad Alam Khan, arrived on 16 November and took over the administration of Gilgit. According to Brown,

Alam replied , "you are a crowd of fools led astray by a madman. I shall not tolerate this nonsense for one instance... And when the Indian Army starts invading you there will be no use screaming to Pakistan
Pakistan
for help, because you won't get it."... The provisional government faded away after this encounter with Alam Khan, clearly reflecting the flimsy and opportunistic nature of its basis and support.

The provisional government lasted 16 days. The provisional government lacked sway over the population. The Gilgit
Gilgit
rebellion did not have civilian involvement and was solely the work of military leaders, not all of whom had been in favor of joining Pakistan, at least in the short term. Dani mentions that although there was lack of public participation in the rebellion, pro- Pakistan
Pakistan
sentiments were intense in the civilian population and their anti-Kashmiri sentiments were also clear. Scholar Yaqoob Khan Bangash states that the people of Gilgit
Gilgit
as well as those of Chilas, Koh Ghizr, Ishkoman, Yasin, Punial, Hunza and Nagar joined Pakistan
Pakistan
by choice.

After taking control of Gilgit, the Gilgit
Gilgit
Scouts along with Azad irregulars moved towards Baltistan
Baltistan
and Ladakh
Ladakh
and captured Skardu
Skardu
by May 1948. They successfully blocked the Indian reinforcements and subsequently captured Dras and Kargill as well, cutting off the Indian communications to Leh
Leh
in Ladakh. The Indian forces mounted an offensive in Autumn 1948 and recaptured all of Kargil district . Baltistan
Baltistan
region, however, came under Gilgit
Gilgit
control.

On 1 January 1948, India
India
took the issue of Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir
to the United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
. In April 1948, the Council passed a resolution calling for Pakistan
Pakistan
to withdraw from all of Jammu
Jammu
and Kashmir
Kashmir
and India
India
to reduce its forces to the minimum level, following which a plebiscite would be held to ascertain the people's wishes. However, no withdrawal was ever carried out, India
India
insisting that Pakistan
Pakistan
had to withdraw first and Pakistan
Pakistan
contending that there was no guarantee that India
India
would withdraw afterwards. Gilgit-Baltistan and a western portion of the state called Azad Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir
have remained under the control of Pakistan
Pakistan
since then.

INSIDE PAKISTAN

For a short period after joining Pakistan, Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
was governed by Azad Kashmir if only "theoretically, but not practically" through its claim of being an alternative government for Jammu
Jammu
and Kashmir
Kashmir
. However, on 29 April 1949, Azad Kashmir was made to sign the Karachi
Karachi
Agreement , through which it ceded all control over Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
(then called "Northern Areas") to Pakistan's Ministry of Kashmir
Kashmir
Affairs . This is seen as an effort by Pakistan
Pakistan
to legitimize its rule over Gilgit-Baltistan. The Karachi
Karachi
Agreement is highly unpopular in Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
because Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
was not a party to it even while its fate was being decided upon.

From then until 1990s, Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
was governed through the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations , which treated tribal people as "barbaric and uncivilised," levying collective fines and punishments. People had no right to legal representation or a right to appeal. Members of tribes had to obtain prior permission from the police to travel to any location and had to keep the police informed about their movements.

There was no democratic set-up for Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
during this period. All political and judicial powers remained in the hands of the Ministry of Kashmir
Kashmir
Affairs and Northern Areas (KANA). The people of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
had no rights and privileges as citizens of either Pakistan
Pakistan
or Azad Kashmir.

In 1970 the two parts of the territory, viz., the Gilgit
Gilgit
Agency and Baltistan
Baltistan
, were merged into a single administrative unit, and given the name "Northern Areas". The Shaksgam tract was ceded by Pakistan to China
China
following the signing of the Sino-Pakistani Frontier Agreement in 1963.

In 1969, a Northern Areas Advisory Council (NAAC) was created, later renamed to Northern Areas Council (NAC) in 1974 and Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) in 1994. But it was devoid of legislative powers. All law-making was concentrated in the KANA Ministry of Pakistan. In 1994, a Legal Framework Order (LFO) was created by the KANA Ministry to serve as the _de facto_ constitution for the region.

In late 1990s, the President of Al-Jihad Trust filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan
Pakistan
to determine the legal status of Gilgit-Baltistan. In its judgement of 28 May 1999, the Court directed the Government of Pakistan
Pakistan
to ensure the provision of equal rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, and gave it six months to do so. This introduced a flurry of reforms, but largely cosmetic. A position of 'Deputy Chief Executive' was created to act the local administrator, but the real powers still rested with the 'Chief Executive', who was the Federal Minister of KANA. "The secretaries were more powerful than the concerned advisors," in the words of one commentator. In spite of various reforms packages over the years, the situation is essentially unchanged.

Meanwhile, public rage in Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is "growing alarmingly." Prominent "antagonist groups" have mushroomed protesting the absence of civic rights and democracy. Pakistan
Pakistan
government has been debating the grant of a provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan. According to Antia Mato Bouzas, the PPP-led Pakistani government has attempted a compromise through its 2009 reforms between its traditional stand on the Kashmir
Kashmir
dispute and the demands of locals, most of whom may have pro- Pakistan
Pakistan
sentiments. While the 2009 reforms have added to the self-identification of the region, they have not resolved the constitutional status of the region within Pakistan.

The people of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
want to be merged into Pakistan
Pakistan
as a separate fifth province, however, leaders of Azad Kashmir are opposed to any step to integrate Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
into Pakistan
Pakistan
. The people of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
oppose any integration with Kashmir
Kashmir
and instead want Pakistani citizenship and constitutional status for their region.

GOVERNMENT

Main article: Government of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan

The territory of present-day Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
became a separate administrative unit in 1970 under the name "Northern Areas". It was formed by the amalgamation of the former Gilgit
Gilgit
Agency , the Baltistan District of the Ladakh
Ladakh
Wazarat and the hill states of Hunza and Nagar . It presently consists of ten districts, has a population approaching one million, an area of approximately 28,000 square miles (73,000 km2), and shares borders with Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, and India. In 1993, an attempt was made by the High Court of Azad Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir
to annex Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
but was quashed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan
Pakistan
after protests by the locals of Gilgit-Baltistan, who feared domination by the Kashmiris.

Government of Pakistan
Pakistan
abolished State Subject Rule in Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
in 1974, which resulted in demographic changes in the territory. While administratively controlled by Pakistan
Pakistan
since the First Kashmir
Kashmir
War , Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
has never been formally integrated into the Pakistani state and does not participate in Pakistan's constitutional political affairs. On 29 August 2009, the Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009, was passed by the Pakistani cabinet and later signed by the then President of Pakistan
Pakistan
Asif Ali Zardari
Asif Ali Zardari
. The order granted self-rule to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, by creating, among other things, an elected Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly and Gilgit-Baltistan Council . Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
thus gained a _de facto_ province-like status without constitutionally becoming part of Pakistan. Currently Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is neither a province nor a state. It has a semi-provincial status. Officially, the Pakistan
Pakistan
government has rejected Gilgit-Baltistani calls for integration with Pakistan
Pakistan
on the grounds that it would jeopardise its demands for the whole Kashmir issue to be resolved according to UN resolutions. Some Kashmiri nationalist groups, such as the Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir
Liberation Front , claim Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
as part of a future independent state to match what existed in 1947. India, on the other hand, maintains that Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is a part of the former princely state of Jammu
Jammu
and Kashmir
Kashmir
that is "an integral part of the country ."

REGIONS

Map of Gilgit-Baltistan, showing the boundaries of six of theten present districts and their tehsils. The boundary between the recently created Hunza andNagar Districts and the now smaller Gilgit
Gilgit
District is the same line as the northern boundary of the former Gilgit
Gilgit
Tehsil. That tehsil appears as the southernmost division of the area shown above in light blue. Aliabad, the administrative center of the new Hunza and Nagar Districts, is not yet shown on this map. Note: An up-to-date map showing the boundaries of all nine of the present districts is sorely needed.

Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is administratively divided into three divisions which, in turn, are divided into ten districts, consisting of the four Baltistan
Baltistan
districts of Skardu
Skardu
, Shigar
Shigar
, Kharmang , and Ghanche , and the six Gilgit
Gilgit
districts of Gilgit
Gilgit
, Ghizer , Diamer , Astore , Hunza and Nagar , of which Astore and Diamer are part of Diamer Division. The principal administrative centers are the towns of Gilgit
Gilgit
and Skardu
Skardu
.

DIVISION DISTRICT AREA (KM²) CAPITAL POPULATION (2013) DIVISIONAL CAPITAL

BALTISTAN Ghanche 4,052 Khaplu 108,000 SKARDU

Shigar
Shigar
8,500 Shigar
Shigar
-

Kharmang 5,500 Kharmang -

Skardu
Skardu
8,700 Skardu
Skardu
305,000*

GILGIT Gilgit
Gilgit
14,672 Gilgit
Gilgit
222,000 GILGIT

Ghizer 9,635 Gahkuch 190,000

Hunza 7,900 Aliabad 70,000 (2015)

Nagar 5,000 Nagar 51,387 (1998)

DIAMER Diamer 10,936 Chilas 214,000 ----

Astore 5,092 Eidghah 114,000

* Combined population of Skardu, Shigar
Shigar
and Kharmang Districts. Shigar
Shigar
and Kharmang Districts were carved out of Skardu
Skardu
District after 1998. The estimated population of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
was about 1.8 million in 2015 and the overall population growth rate between 1998 and 2011 was 63.1% making it 4.85% annually.

GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE

Main article: Geography of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
Map of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
showing its position relative to Azad Kashmir Naltar Lakes Naltar Lake or Bashkiri Lake-I Naltar Lake or Bashkiri Lake-II Azure colored water of Naltar Lake III SURFACE ELEVATION = 3050–3150 m

Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
borders Pakistan's Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province to the west, a small portion of the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan
Afghanistan
to the north, China's Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Uyghur Autonomous Region to the northeast, the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir
to the southeast, and the Pakistani-administered state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir
to the south.

Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is home to five of the "eight-thousanders " and to more than fifty peaks above 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). Gilgit
Gilgit
and Skardu
Skardu
are the two main hubs for expeditions to those mountains. The region is home to some of the world's highest mountain ranges. The main ranges are the Karakoram
Karakoram
and the western Himalayas
Himalayas
. The Pamir Mountains are to the north, and the Hindu Kush lies to the west. Amongst the highest mountains are K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen) and Nanga Parbat , the latter being one of the most feared mountains in the world. Manthokha Waterfall .

Three of the world's longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan: the Biafo Glacier
Glacier
, the Baltoro Glacier
Glacier
, and the Batura Glacier
Glacier
. There are, in addition, several high-altitude lakes in Gilgit-Baltistan:

* Sheosar Lake
Sheosar Lake
in the Deosai Plains , skardu * Naltar lakes in the Naltar Valley , Gilgit
Gilgit
* Satpara Tso Lake in Skardu
Skardu
, Baltistan * Katzura Tso Lake in Skardu
Skardu
, Baltistan * Zharba Tso Lake in Shigar
Shigar
, Baltistan * Phoroq Tso Lake in Skardu, Baltistan * Lake Kharfak in Gangche, Baltistan * Byarsa Tso Lake in Gultari, Astore * Borith Lake
Borith Lake
in Gojal, upper Hunza , Gilgit * Rama Lake near Astore * Rush Lake near Nagar , Gilgit * Kromber Lake at Kromber Pass Ishkoman Valley, Ghizer District * Barodaroksh Lake in Bar Valley, Nagar * Ghorashi Lake in Ghandus Valley, Kharmang

The Deosai Plains , are located above the tree line and constitute the second-highest plateau in the world at 4,115 metres (14,500 feet) after Tibet
Tibet
. The plateau lies east of Astore, south of Skardu
Skardu
and west of Ladakh
Ladakh
. The area was declared as a national park in 1993. The Deosai Plains cover an area of almost 5,000 square kilometres (1,900 sq mi). For over half the year (between September and May), Deosai is snow-bound and cut off from rest of Astore and Baltistan
Baltistan
in winters. The village of Deosai lies close to Chilum chokki and is connected with the Kargil district of Ladakh
Ladakh
through an all-weather road.

*

Satpara Lake , Skardu
Skardu
, in 2002 *

Upper Kachura Lake *

A boat in AttaAbad lake *

Shangrila Lake, Skardu
Skardu

ROCK ART AND PETROGLYPHS

There are more than 50,000 pieces of rock art (petroglyphs ) and inscriptions all along the Karakoram
Karakoram
Highway in Gilgit-Baltistan, concentrated at ten major sites between Hunza and Shatial . The carvings were left by invaders, traders, and pilgrims who passed along the trade route, as well as by locals. The earliest date back to between 5000 and 1000 BCE , showing single animals, triangular men and hunting scenes in which the animals are larger than the hunters. These carvings were pecked into the rock with stone tools and are covered with a thick patina that proves their age.

The ethnologist Karl Jettmar has pieced together the history of the area from inscriptions and recorded his findings in _Rock Carvings and Inscriptions in the Northern Areas of Pakistan_ and the later-released _Between Gandhara and the Silk Roads — Rock Carvings Along the Karakoram
Karakoram
Highway_. Many of these carvings and inscriptions will be inundated and/or destroyed when the planned Basha-Diamir dam is built and the Karakoram
Karakoram
Highway is widened.

CLIMATE

The climate of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
varies from region to region, surrounding mountain ranges creates sharp variations in weather. The eastern part has the moist zone of the western Himalayas, but going toward Karakoram
Karakoram
and Hindu Kush , the climate dries considerably.

There are towns like Gilgit
Gilgit
and Chilas that are very hot during the day in summer yet cold at night and valleys like Astore , Khaplu , Yasin , Hunza , and Nagar , where the temperatures are cold even in summer.

ECONOMY AND RESOURCES

Montage of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
See also: Education in Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan

The economy of the region is primarily based on a traditional route of trade, the historic Silk Road . The China
China
Trade Organization forum led the people of the area to actively invest and learn modern trade know-how from its Chinese neighbor Xinjiang. Later, the establishment of a chamber of commerce and the Sust
Sust
dry port (in Gojal Hunza) are milestones. The rest of the economy is shouldered by mainly agriculture and tourism. Agricultural products are wheat, corn (maize), barley, and fruits. Tourism is mostly in trekking and mountaineering , and this industry is growing in importance.

In early September 2009, Pakistan
Pakistan
signed an agreement with the People\'s Republic of China
China
for a major energy project in Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
which includes the construction of a 7,000-megawatt dam at Bunji in the Astore District .

MOUNTAINEERING

View of Laila Peak , which is located near Hushe Valley (a town in Khaplu ) The Trango Towers offer some of the largest cliffs and most challenging rock climbing in the world, and every year a number of expeditions from all corners of the globe visit Karakoram
Karakoram
to climb the challenging granite.

Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is home to more than 20 peaks of over 20,000 feet (6,100 m), including K-2 the second highest mountain on Earth. Other well known peaks include Masherbrum
Masherbrum
(also known as K1), Broad Peak , Hidden Peak , Gasherbrum II , Gasherbrum IV , and Chogolisa
Chogolisa
, situated in Khaplu Valley . The following peaks have so far been scaled by various expeditions:

NAME OF PEAK PHOTOS HEIGHT DATE OF CONQUEST LOCATION

1.K-2

(28,250Ft) 31 Jul 1954 Karakoram
Karakoram

2. Nanga Parbat

(26,660 Ft) 3 Jul 1953 Himalaya
Himalaya

3. Gasherbrum I

(26,360Ft) 7 Jul 1956 Karakoram
Karakoram

4. Broad Peak

(26,550Ft) 9 Jun 1957 Karakoram
Karakoram

5. Muztagh Tower

(23,800Ft) 6 Aug 1956 Karakoram
Karakoram

6. Gasherbrum II

(26,120Ft) 4 Jul 1958 Karakoram
Karakoram

7. Hidden Peak

(26,470Ft) 4 Jul 1957 Karakoram
Karakoram

8. Khunyang Chhish

(25,761 Ft) 4 July 1971 Karakoram
Karakoram

9. Masherbrum
Masherbrum

(25,659 Ft) 4 Aug 1960 Karakoram
Karakoram

10. Saltoro Kangri
Saltoro Kangri

(25,400Ft) 4 June 1962 Karakoram
Karakoram

11. Chogolisa
Chogolisa

(25,148 Ft) 4 Aug 1963 Karakoram
Karakoram

TRANSPORT

Before 1978, Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
was cut off from the rest of the Pakistan
Pakistan
and the world due to the harsh terrain and the lack of accessible roads. All of the roads to the south opened toward the Pakistan-administered state of Azad Kashmir and to the southeast toward the present-day Indian-administered Jammu
Jammu
and Kashmir. During the summer, people could walk across the mountain passes to travel to Rawalpindi
Rawalpindi
. The fastest way to travel was by air, but air travel was accessible only to a few privileged local people and to Pakistani military and civilian officials. Then, with the assistance of the Chinese government, Pakistan
Pakistan
began construction of the Karakoram Highway (KKH), which was completed in 1978.

The Karakoram
Karakoram
Highway connects Islamabad
Islamabad
to Gilgit
Gilgit
and Skardu
Skardu
, which are the two major hubs for mountaineering expeditions in Gilgit-Baltistan. The journey from Rawalpindi
Rawalpindi
/ Islamabad
Islamabad
to Gilgit takes approximately 20 to 24 hours. Landslides on the Karakoram Highway are very common. The Karakoram
Karakoram
Highway connects Gilgit
Gilgit
to Tashkurgan Town
Town
, Kashgar, China
China
via Sust
Sust
, the customs and health-inspection post on the Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
side, and the Khunjerab Pass , the highest paved international border crossing in the world at 4,693 metres (15,397 ft).

Northern Areas Transport Corporation (NATCO) offers bus and jeep transport service to the two hubs and several other popular destinations, lakes, and glaciers in the area. The Karakoram Highway

In March 2006, the respective governments announced that, commencing on 1 June 2006, a thrice-weekly bus service would begin across the boundary from Gilgit
Gilgit
to Kashgar and road-widening work would begin on 600 kilometres (370 mi) of the Karakoram
Karakoram
Highway. There would also be one daily bus in each direction between the Sust
Sust
and Taxkorgan border areas of the two political entities.

Pakistan
Pakistan
International Airlines used to fly a Fokker F27 Friendship daily between Gilgit
Gilgit
Airport and Benazir Bhutto International Airport . The flying time was approximately 50 minutes, and the flight was one of the most scenic in the world, as its route passed over Nanga Parbat , a mountain whose peak is higher than the aircraft's cruising altitude. However, the Fokker F27 was retired after a crash at Multan in 2006. Currently, flights are being operated by PIA to Gilgit
Gilgit
on the brand-new ATR 42-500 , which was purchased in 2006. With the new plane, the cancellation of flights is much less frequent. Pakistan International Airlines also offers regular flights of a Boeing 737 between Skardu
Skardu
and Islamabad. All flights are subject to weather clearance; in winter, flights are often delayed by several days.

A railway through the region has been proposed; see Khunjerab Railway for details.

POPULATION

DEMOGRAPHICS

At the last census (1998), the population of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
was 870,347. Approximately 14% of the population was urban. The estimated population of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
in 2013 was over 2 million. The population of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
consists of many diverse linguistic, ethnic, and religious sects, due in part to the many isolated valleys separated by some of the world's highest mountains. The ethnic groups include Shins , Yashkuns , Kashmiris, Kashgaris, Pamiris, Pathans, and Kohistanis. A significant number of people from Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
are residing in other parts of Pakistan, mainly in Punjab and Karachi
Karachi
. The literacy rate of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is approximately 72%.

LANGUAGES

Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is a multilingual region where Urdu
Urdu
being a national and official language serves as the lingua franca for inter ethnic communications. English is co-official and also used in education, while Arabic is used for religious purposes. The table below shows a break up of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
first language speakers.

RANK LANGUAGE DETAIL

1 SHINA It is a Dardic language spoken by the majority in six Tehsils (Gilgit, Diamir/Chilas, Darel/Tangir, Astore, Puniyal/ Gahkuch and Rondu).

2 BALTI It is spoken by majority in five Tehsils (Skardu/Shigar, Kharmang, Gultari, Khaplu and Mashabrum). It is from the Tibetan language family and has Urdu
Urdu
borrowings.

3 BURUSHASKI It is spoken by majority in four Tehsils (Nagar 1, Hunza/Aliabad, Nagar II, and Yasin). It is a language isolate that has borrowed considerable Urdu
Urdu
vocabulary.

4 KHOWAR It is spoken by majority in two Tehsils (Gupis and Ishkomen but also spoken in Yasin and Puniyal/ Gahkuch Tehsils). Like Shina, it is a Dardic language.

5 WAKHI It is spoken by majority of people in Gojal Tehsil of Hunza. But it is also spoken in Ishkomen and Yasin Tehsils of District Ghizer. It is classified as eastern Iranian/ Pamiri language.

OTHERS Pashto , Kashmiri , Domaaki (spoken by musician clans in the region) and Gojri languages are also spoken by a significant population of the region.

RELIGION

SECTARIAN DIVIDE OF GILGIT-BALTISTAN

SECTS

PERCENT

Shia   39.85%

Sunni   30.05%

Ismaili   24%

Noorbakhshis   6.1%

The population of Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is Muslim
Muslim
, with the Shia sect being predominant. Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is the only Shia majority area in Sunni majority Pakistan. People in the Skardu
Skardu
district are mostly Shia, while Diamir and Astore districts have Sunni majorities. Ghanche has a Noorbakhshi population and Ghizar has an Ismaili (Shia) majority. The populations in Gilgit, Hunza and Nagar districts are composed of a mix of all of these sects. In 1948, the Shias and Ismailis constituted about 85% of the population. The proportion was brought down by General Zia ul-Haq through a conscious policy of demographic change by encouraging the migration of Sunnis from other provinces and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas . The policy is said to have been motivated by a desire to counter the growing sectarian consciousness of the Shias after the Iranian Revolution
Iranian Revolution
in 1979.

CULTURE

Architecture _ Baltit fort
Baltit fort
, Hunza Khaplu Palace Chaqchan Mosque , Khaplu "Mostly the architecture have been influenced by Tibetan Architecture as the above images are testimonials of it."_ Dance of Swati Guests with traditional music at baltit fort 2014

Gilgit- Baltistan
Baltistan
is home to diversified cultures, ethnic groups, languages and backgrounds. Major cultural events include the Shandoor Polo
Polo
Festival, Babusar Polo
Polo
Festival and Jashn-e-Baharan or the Harvest Time Festival (Navroz). Traditional dances include: _Old Man Dance_ in which more than one person wears old-style dresses; _Cow Boy Dance_ (Payaloo) in which a person wears old style dress, long leather shoes and holds a stick in hand and the _Sword Dance_ in which the participants show taking one sword in right and shield in left. One to six participants can dance in pairs.

SPORTS

Polo
Polo
in progress with the shandur lake in background, Shandur Ghizer .

Many types of sports are in currency, throughout the region, but most popular of them is Polo
Polo
. Almost every bigger valley has a polo ground, polo matches in such grounds attract locals as well as foreigners visitors during summer season. One of such polo tournament is held in Shandur
Shandur
each year and polo teams of Glgit with Chitral participates. Though very internationally unlikely, but even For some local historians like Hassan Hasrat from skardu and for some national writers like Ahmed Hasan Dani it was originated in same region. for testimonies they present the Epic of King Gesar
Epic of King Gesar
of balti version where king gesar started polo by killing his step son and hit head of cadaver with a stick thus started the game they also held that the very simple rules of local polo game also testifies its primitiveness. The English word _Polo_ has balti origin, that is spoken in same region, dates back to the 19th century which means ball.

Other popular sports are Football
Football
, Cricket
Cricket
, Volleyball
Volleyball
(mostly play in winters) and other minor local sports. with growing facilities and particular local geography Climbing, trekking and other similar sports are also getting popularity. Samina Baig from Hunza valley is the only Pakistani woman and the third Pakistani to climb Mount Everest
Mount Everest
and also the youngest Muslim
Muslim
woman to climb Everest, having done so at the age of 21 while Hassan Sadpara from Skardu
Skardu
valley is the first Pakistani to have climbed six eight-thousanders including the world's highest peak Everest
Everest
(8848m) besides K2 (8611m), Gasherbrum I (8080m), Gasherbrum II (8034m), Nanga Parbat (8126 m), Broad Peak (8051m).

SEE ALSO

* Geography portal * Asia portal * South Asia portal * Pakistan
Pakistan
portal

* List of mountains in Pakistan
Pakistan
* Kashmir
Kashmir
conflict * Sart
Sart
* Balti language * Balti people

NOTES

* ^ He mentions twice a people called _Dadikai_, first along with the _Gandarioi_, and again in the catalogue of king Xerxes 's army invading Greece. Herodotus
Herodotus
also mentions the gold-digging ants of Central Asia. * ^ In the 1st century, Pliny repeats that the Dards were great producers of gold. * ^ Ptolemy
Ptolemy
situates the _Daradrai_ on the upper reaches of the Indus

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