Pakistan is located in Southern Asia bordering the Arabian Sea, between India to the east and Iran and Afghanistan to the west and China to the north. Pakistan covers an area of 803,943 sq. km., nearly twice the size of the U.S. state of California. The majority of Pakistan's population (176,243,000 July 2009, est.) lives along the Indus River valley and along an arc formed by the cities of Faisalabad, Peshawar, Lahore, and Rawalpindi/Islamabad. Pakistan controls Khyber Pass and Bolan Pass, the traditional invasion routes between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent.
Pakistan's climate is mostly hot, dry desert with a temperate northwest and an arctic north. Its terrain is flat in the east along the Indus plain; mountains in north and northwest; and the Balochistan plateau lies in the west. The natural resources of Pakistan include: land, extensive natural gas reserves, limited petroleum, poor quality coal, iron ore, copper, salt, and limestone. Its natural hazards include: frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe especially in north and west, with flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August).
The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world and dating back at least 5,000 years, spread over much of what is presently Pakistan. During the second millennium B.C., remnants of this culture fused with the migrating Indo-Aryan peoples. The area underwent successive invasions in subsequent centuries from the Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Arabs (who brought Islam), Afghans, and Turks. The Mughal Empire flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries; the British came to dominate the region in the 18th century. The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan (with West and East sections) and largely Hindu India was never satisfactorily resolved; India and Pakistan fought two wars - in 1947-48 and 1965 - over the disputed Kashmir territory. A third war between these countries in 1971 - in which India capitalized on Islamabad's marginalization of Bengalis in Pakistani politics - resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh.
U.S. State Department Background Notes; CIA World Factbook, 7/2010; 6/2010