Northern Areas

Pakistan infobox
region = Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA)

capital = Gilgit
latd = 35.35
longd = 75.9
pop_year = 2008
population = 1,800,000 (Estimate)
density_km2 = 20.7
area_km2 = 72496
languages =Urdu (national)
English (official)
Balti Tibetan
status = non-self-governing territory under Pakistani control
districts = 6
towns = 7
unions =
established = 1st July 1970
governor = Imran Ali
minister = Irfan Ali and Shahid Hussain (dual role)
legislature = Northern Areas Legislative Assembly
seats = 29
website =
website_title = Development Gateway
footnotes =

The Northern Areas (Urdu: nastaliq|شمالی علاقہ جات, "transl|ur|Shumālī Ilāqe Jāt") is officially referred to by the government of Pakistan as the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA). The Northern Areas is the northernmost political entity within the Pakistani-controlled part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. It borders Afghanistan to the north, China to the northeast, the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) to the south, and the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir to the southeast. The Northern Areas, which became a single administrative unit in 1970, was formed from the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar. With its administrative center at the town of Gilgit, the Northern Areas covers an area of 72,971 km² (28,174 mi²) and has an estimated population approaching 1,000,000. According to Pakistan's constitution, the Northern Areas is not part of Pakistan, and its inhabitants have never had any representation in Pakistan's parliament. As far as the United Nations is concerned, the entire area of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, including the Northern Areas, remains a disputed territory still awaiting resolution of the long-standing dispute between India and Pakistan. In 1950, the government of India, ignoring a United Nations resolution on Kashmir, abandoned its pledge to hold a plebiscite and, in 1956, unilaterally annexed that portion of the former state that was under its control, thereby making that portion an integral part of India. The government of Pakistan, on the other hand, continues to this day to regard the entire area of the former state as "territory in dispute" to be resolved by a plebiscite to be held at some future date, in order to determine the entire area's accession to either India or Pakistan. While continuing to call for that plebiscite, however, the government of Pakistan has, so far, been unwilling to entertain the idea of a third option for the plebiscite, i.e., a choice of independence for the entire former state. Today, the Northern Areas is still referred to by India as part of "Pakistan-occupied Kashmir" (POK) and, conversely, the present Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir is referred to by Pakistan as "Indian-occupied Kashmir."


Before partition Maharaja Hari Singh expanded his rule to the Northern areas which suggests that it was not originally part of Kashmir. After the partition of India in 1947, Jammu and Kashmir, in its entirety, remained an independent state, as a result of Maharaja Hari Singh's decision to refrain from joining either India or Pakistan. The Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir to the north and west of the cease-fire line, or the Line of Control as it later came to be called, were divided into the Northern Areas (72,971 km²) in the north and the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Kashmir (13,297 km²) in the south. The name "Northern Areas" was first used by the United Nations, to refer to the northern areas of Kashmir. The United Nations never intended the name to refer to the northern areas of Pakistan. As far as the United Nations is concerned, the entire area of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, including the Northern Areas, remains a disputed territory, still awaiting resolution of the long-standing dispute between India and Pakistan. A small part of the Northern Areas, the trans-Karakoram tract, was provisionally ceded by Pakistan to the People's Republic of China in 1963. Presently in the Northern Areas, there are at least two political movements—the Balawaristan National Front (BNF) and the Gilgit Baltistan United Movement (GBUM)—that are calling for the establishment of a fully autonomous state.


The Northern Areas is administratively divided into two divisions which, in turn, are divided into seven districtscite web |url= |title=Wrangling over new Astore district headquarters |accessdate=2006-11-17 |format=HTML |work=Dawn Newspaper Internet Edition] --the two Baltistan districts of Skardu and Ghanche, and the five Gilgit districts of Gilgit, Ghizer, Diamer, Astore, and Hunza-Nagar. The main political centres are the towns of Gilgit and Skardu.


The Northern Areas borders the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the northwest, China's Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang to the northeast, the Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir to the south and southeast, the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the south, and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province to the west.

The Northern Areas is a major destination for foreign tourists, especially serious mountaineers, because it is home to five of the "eight-thousanders" and to more than fifty peaks above 7000 meters. Gilgit and Skardu are the two main hubs for all expeditions to those mountains. The region is home to some of the world's highest mountain ranges—the main ranges are the Karakoram and the western 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.

Three of the world's longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in the Northern Areas—the Biafo Glacier, the Baltoro Glacier, and the Batura Glacier. There are, in addition, several high-altitude lakes in the Northern Areas:
* Sheotsar Tso Lake in Byarsa Thang/Deosai Plains - Baltistan
* Satpar Tso Lake in Skardu - Baltistan
* Katzura Tso Lake in Skardu - Baltistan
* Zharba Tso Lake in Shigar - Baltistan
* Phoroq Tso Lake in Skardu - Baltistan
* Bara Tso Lake in Gangche - Baltistan
* Byarsa Tso Lake in Gultari - Baltistan
* Borith Lake in upper Hunza - Gilgit
* Rama Lake near Astore - Gilgit
* Rush Lake near Nagar - Gilgit
* Kromber Lake In Kromber Pass - Gilgit

The Deosai Plains, called Byarsa in Baltistan, are located above the tree line, and constitute the second-highest plateau in the world at 4,115 meters (14,500 feet). The plateau lies south of Skardu and west of Ladakh. The area was declared to be a national park in 1993. The Deosai Plains cover an area of almost 5,000 square kilometres. For over half the year (between September and May), Deosai is snow-bound and cut off from rest of Baltistan. The villages of Byarsa/Deosai are connected with the Kargil district of Ladakh through an all-weather road, but due to the closure of the border with the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, the people of Byarsa and Gultari are stranded for the winter months and are, therefore, not able to take advantage of the economic resources of Ladakh during that time.


The climate of the Northern Areas varies from region to region. There are towns like 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.


Polo is the favourite game of the people of Gilgit, Chilas, Astore, Hunza, and the surrounding areas. People are very fond of that game. Every year, a great number of tourists come to enjoy polo in the Northern Areas. Other games such as cricket, gulli danda, kabadi, and volleyball are also played there.

Rock art and petroglyphs

There are more than 20,000 pieces of rock art and petroglyphs all along the Karakoram Highway in the Northern Areas, concentrated at ten major sites between Hunza and Shatial. The carvings were left by various 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 archaeologist Karl Jettmar has pieced together the history of the area from various inscriptions and recorded his findings in "Rock Carvings and Inscriptions in the Northern Areas of Pakistan" [ [ Rock Carvings and Inscriptions along the Karakorum Highway (Pakistan) - - a brief introduction] ] and the later released "Between Gandhara and the Silk Roads - Rock Carvings Along the Karakoram Highway" [ [ BETWEEN GANDHARA AND THE SILK ROADS] ] .


Prior to 1978, the Northern Areas was cut off from Pakistan due to the harsh terrain and the lack of accessible roads. All of the roads to the south opened towards the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AKJ) and to the southeast towards the present-day Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir. During the summer, people could walk across the mountain passes to travel to Rawalpindi. The fastest way to travel, however, 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 began construction of the Karakoram Highway (KKH), which was completed in 1978.The Karakoram Highway (KKH) connects Islamabad to Gilgit and Skardu, which are the two major hubs for mountaineering expeditions in the Northern Areas. The journey from Islamabad to Gilgit takes approximately 20 to 24 hours. Landslides on the Karakoram Highway are very common. The KKH connects Gilgit to Taxkorgan and Kaxgar in China via Sust (the customs and health inspection post on the Northern Areas side) and the Khunjerab Pass, the highest paved international border crossing in the world at 4,693 metres (15,397 feet).

NATCO (Northern Areas Transport Corporation) offers bus and jeep transport service to the two hubs and several other popular destinations, lakes, and glaciers in the area.In March 2006, the respective governments announced that, commencing on June 1, 2006, a thrice-weekly bus service would begin across the boundary from Gilgit, Northern Areas, to Kashgar, China, and road widening work would begin on 600 kilometres of the Karakoram Highway. There would also be one daily bus in each direction between the Sust and Taxkorgan border areas of the two political entities. cite web |url= |title=Kashgar-Gilgit bus service planned |accessdate=2006-11-17 |format=HTML |work=Dawn Newspaper Internet Edition]

Pakistan International Airlines used to fly a Fokker F27 aircraft daily between Gilgit Airport and Islamabad International Airport. The flying time was approximately 50 minutes, and the flight was one of the most scenic flights in the world, as its route passes over the mountain Nanga Parbat, the peak of which was higher than the aircraft's cruising altitude. PIA also offers regular flights of Boeing 737 between Skardu and Islamabad. However, the Fokker F27 aircraft was retired after a crash at Multan in 2006. Currently, flights are being operated by PIA to Gilgit on the brand-new ATR42-500 aircraft, which was purchased in 2006. With the new plane, the cancellation of flights is much less than it was the Fokker aircraft. All flights, however, are subject to weather clearance, and, in winter, flights are often delayed by several days.


The population consists of many diverse linguistic, ethnic, and religious groups, due in part to the many isolated valleys separated by some of the world's highest mountains. Urdu is the lingua franca of the region, understood by most male inhabitants. The Shina language (with several dialects) is the language of 40% of the population, spoken mainly in Gilgit, throughout Diamer, and in some parts of Ghizer. The Balti language, a sub-dialect of Ladakhi and part of Tibetan language group, is spoken by the entire population of Baltistan. Minor languages spoken in the region include Wakhi, spoken in upper Hunza, and in some villages in Ghizer, while Khowar is the major language of Ghizer. Burushaski is an isolated language spoken in Hunza, Nagar, Yasin (where Khowar is also spoken), in some parts of Gilgit and in some villages of Punyal. Another interesting language is Domaaki, spoken by the musician clans in the region. A small minority of people also speaks Pashto. People who live in the Northern Areas, despite that region's being referred to as part of Kashmir, do not speak Kashmiri or any of its dialects.

At the last census (1998), the population of the Northern Areas was 870,347. cite web |url= |title=Administrative Division and Population of the Northern Areas (1998) |accessdate=2006-11-17 |format=HTML |work=Northern Areas Management Information System] Approximately 14% of the population was urban.cite web |url= |title=Population, poverty and environment |accessdate=2006-11-17 |format=PDF |work=Northern Areas Strategy for Sustainable Development]

National honours

The Northern Light Infantry is the army unit that was primarily used in the Kargil War, and it suffered heavy losses in that fighting. "The Herald", a Pakistani newspaper, stated that more than 500 soldiers were killed and buried in the Northern Areas [ The Herald] Special Report on Kargil] . Lalak Jan, a soldier from Yasin, Northern Areas, was awarded Pakistan's most prestigious medal, the Nishan-e-Haider, for his courageous actions during the Kargil conflict.


Further reading

* "Pakistan Trekking Guide", by Isobel and Ben Shaw, 1993.

ee also

* Karakoram
* Karakoram Highway
* Indus River
* List of mountains in Pakistan
* Kargil War
* Gorikot
* Northern Light Infantry
* List of topics on the land and the people of “Jammu and Kashmir”
* Glacier growing

External links

* [ Northern Areas Government website]
* [ Northern Areas Development Gateway]
* [ Northern Areas tourism]
* [ A Pictorial Visit of Northern Areas of Pakistan by Pervez Ahmed]

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