Pakistan offers both sandy beaches and mangrove swamps in the south, to icy mountains to the north and west, with the fertile Indus valley running the length of the country. The Tharparkar desert in the southern province of Sindh is the only fertile desert in the world.
There are currently around 170 million people in Pakistan. Uncontrolled population growth and a massive refugee problem as a result of long-term war, together with the large-scale earthquake centred in the north of the country in October 2005, has hugely impoverished this nation.
The capital city is Islamabad, with 1.1 million people. The official language is Urdu, with 69 other local languages.
Pakistan achieved independence from the British in 1947, followed by a number of military dictatorships. Pakistan is an Islamic republic, but there is a surprising degree of religious freedom, under the law.