The Indus Valley – the watershed of “five waters,” or Punjab – has had ancient settlements since the Bronze Age Harappan civilization, one of the oldest on record, nearly 5,000 years ago. From the mighty peaks of the Karakoram and Himalayan ranges, across the fertile plains of Lahore to the deserts of Baluchistan and the filigreed delta around Karachi, Pakistan produces every mineral, wood variety and crop required to create artistic grandeur.

The upper Indus and Kabul River Valleys witnessed the great Gandharan Age, whose sculpture fused Buddhism with flowing Greco-Bactrian form. Peshawar and Lahore became capitals for Ghorid and Mughal emperors, and later Afghan and Sikh kings, whose splendour at court and on the battlefield was legendary. For over more than a century, the territories now comprising Pakistan were steadily incorporated into the British Raj until partition and independence in 1947, which made Pakistan a young state with an ancient birthright overnight.

It remains a country defined by its relations with India and Afghanistan, China and the US, Iran and Central Asia, birthplace of the Mughal dynasty. It is the world’s largest producer of textiles and carpets, and still its leader in miniature painting. Born an explicitly Muslim state, it has struggled to reconcile secular governance with Islam, its status as a modern homeland for South Asian Muslims with the span of its origins.

With conflicts fuelled by Kashmir and the Taliban, Pakistan today is wracked by violence, whose toll of misery was only compounded by a massive earthquake in 2005 and horrific flooding along the Indus in 2010. The population now surpasses 180 million; school enrollment has declined; contested rural areas and urban slums are often left to their own devices.

Yet the country has vast potential for agriculture, natural resources and industry. Its merchants and professionals are dynamic and enterprising. Trade and investment with the Persian Gulf remains robust. Pakistan’s contemporary art scene (together with that of Iran) is arguably the most important in the world today.

Pakistan is once again a hotbed for artisan entrepreneurs whose handicrafts are as varied as the ethnic, linguistic and regional backgrounds of the craftspeople themselves. From sophisticated work in wood, beaten brass and copperware to pottery, gold and silver, a wide variety of embroidered textiles and hand-woven carpets, these products have dash and an imposing lineage.

School girls in Hunza, Pakistan. Photo courtesy of Aly Mawji.


Man threshing in Hunza Valley, Pakistan. Photo courtesy of Aly Mawji.




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