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Sunday, December 21, 2014 ..:: Pakistan » Baltistan ::..
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Baltistan - North Pakistan

The Land

Baltistan is a remote and beautiful landspread over 10,119 square miles in the north of Pakistan, bordering Ladakh to the East, Kashmir to the South, and Sinkiang province of China to the North. It has the most spectacular landscape with breath taking scenes of the Karakorum Range high peaks including K2, the largest glaciers outside the poles and the highest plateau of Deosai. The climate is pleasant during the summers but extremely harsh during the long winters when the temperature remains below zero for long spells.

It has five valleys, namely Skardu, Khaplu, Shigar, Kharmang, and Rondu. It is rich in mineral wealth with the ideal climate for a variety of fruit trees. Despite its natural beauty, the potential of promoting tourism has remained untapped. Similarly mineral resources have not been exploited for economic development.

The people of Baltistan are by nature friendly and hospitable. Their relative isolation and value systems has insulated them from external negative influences and the area is practically free of any crime. They are exceptionally tolerant and are untouched by ethnic and sectarian prejudice, which plagues society in other parts of Pakistan.

 

The difficult terrain they live in, the harsh climatic conditions they brave, and their isolation till recent times have resulted in low levels of development and economic activity. In order to improve the quality of life of these neglected people, several non-governmental organizations alongside the Marafie Foundation have made a positive contribution in health, education and infrastructure development. The problems in these areas are so massive and complex due to a variety of reasons that there is a need for continued efforts by all concerned to sustain the improvement and development of these areas. The immediate necessity continues to be education and health and their improvement can be a catalyst for overall progress within the community.

History of Baltistan

It was in the 14th century that religious Muslim scholars from Iran and Kashmir penetrated Baltistan’s mountainous terrain to spread Islam amongst a people who were originally Buddhist. In 1845, the area came under the despotic rule of the Dogras.

At the time of the independence of India from the British, the people of the area saw an opportunity to get rid of the oppressive rule of the Dogras, and the people of Baltistan along with the people of Gilgit revolted. Despite being outgunned and outnumbered, they achieved independence and joined Pakistan in 1948. a

 

In the 1980s, another landmark development took place that was an important turning point in the history of Baltistan, the building of the Karakuram Highway.

This modern highway has linked this inaccessible region to the rest of Pakistan and China, finally opening it up to the outside world.

Through their extensive philanthropic work the Marafie family met a religious teacher from Baltistan, Sheikh Muhammad Hasan. Impressed by his piety and honesty, the Marafies acting on his advice, recruited many skilled and unskilled workers in Kuwait from Baltistan.

Through this initial contact, members of the Marafie family visited Baltistan in1986. Despite the natural beauty of the land, the sight that greeted them was far from pretty. Amidst the natural splendor of the land was a population living in adverse conditions with low levels of development.The Marafies donated funds for healthcare and education and various other uplift projects in the region, and the Marafie Foundation, Pakistan was established a year later in 1987 with its head office in Karachi.

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