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Pakistan has within its borders some of the world’s highest and most spectacular mountains. Thirteen of the world’s 30 tallest peaks are in Pakistan. The tallest include K2 (also known as Mount Godwin Austen), the second highest peak in the world at 8,611 m (28,251 ft).
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Introduction to Pakistan Wildlife Biodiversity of Pakistan Ecological Zones of Pakistan

Section 6: Mountain Ranges, Peaks and Passes

Pakistan has within its borders some of the world’s highest and most spectacular mountains. Some of the famous mountain ranges of Pakistan are Himalayas, Karakoram, Hindu Kush, Sulaiman, Toba Kakar, Kirthar and Salt range. 

The Northern and Western Highlands produced by the mountain building movement extended from the Makran Coast in the south to the Pamir Plateau in the extreme north. The Northern and Western Highlands cover most of Balochistan, NWFP, Northern Areas (Gilgit Agency) and parts of the Punjab. These can be further divided into five physiographic entities:

  • Mountainous North

  • Koh-e-Safaid and Waziristan Hills

  • Sulaiman and Kirthar Mountains

  • Balochistan Plateau

  • Potowar Plateau and the Salt Ranges

Mountainous North
In the northern part of the country, the Hindu Kush mountains converge with the Karakoram Range, a part of the Himalayan mountain system. These ranges have a large number of peaks ranging from 6000 to 8611 meters above the sea level. Pakistan has the densest concentration of high mountains in the world: five peaks over 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) and 101 peaks over 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) above sea level within a radius of 180 kilometers (112 miles). Thirteen of the world’s 30 tallest peaks are in Pakistan. The tallest include K2 (also known as Mount Godwin Austen), the second highest peak in the world at 8,611 m (28,251 ft), in the Karakoram Range; Nanga Parbat (8,125 m/26,657 ft) in the Himalayas; and Tirich Mir (7,690 m/25,230 ft) in the Hindu Kush.

The Mountainous North covers the northern parts of Pakistan and comprises parallel mountain ranges intervened by narrow and deep river valleys. East of the Indus River, the mountain ranges in general run from east to west. To its west - from north to south - run the following important mountain ranges:

  • The Himalayas

  • The Karakorams

  • The Hindu Kush

The western most parts of the Himalayas fall in Pakistan. The sub-Himalayas - the southern most ranges - do not rise to great heights (600 - 1200 masl). The Lesser Himalayas lie to the north of the sub-Himalayas and rise to 1,800 - 4,600 masl. The Great Himalayas are located north of the Lesser Himalayas. They attain snowy heights (of more than 4,600 m).

The Karakoram Ranges in the extreme north rise to an average height of 6,100 m. Mount Goodwin Austin (K-2) - the second highest peak in the world - is 8,610 m and located in the Karakorams.

The Hindu Kush Mountains take off the western side of the Pamir Plateau that is located to the west of the Karakorams. These mountains take a southerly turn and rise to snowy heights. Some of the peaks rise to great heights like Noshaq (7,369 m), and Tirich Mir (7,690 m).

Koh-e-Safaid and Waziristan Hills
The Koh-e-Safaid Ranges have an east-west trend and rise to an average height of 3,600m. They are commonly covered with snow. Sikeram, the highest peak in Koh-e-Safaid Ranges rises to 4,760 m. Similarly, the elevation of Waziristan Hills ranges from 1,500 and 3,000 m.

Sulaiman and Kirthar Mountains
The Sulaiman-Kirthar Mountain Ranges extending from south of Gomal River, lie between Balochistan Plateau and the Indus Plains. On reaching the Murre-Bugti Hills, they turn northward and extend up to Quetta. Further south, they meet the Kirthar Mountains, which merge in to the Kohistan area of Sindh. The Sulaiman Mountains rise to an average height of 600 m that decreases southward. Takht-e-Sulaiman (3,487 m) and Takatu (3,470m) are the highest peaks of the Sulaiman Ranges.

Balochistan Plateau
The Balochistan Plateau is located west of the Sulaiman-Kirthar Mountains. Its western part is dominated by a number of sub-parallel ranges: the Makran Coast Range (600 m), and the Central Makran Range (900 - 1200 m). The highest peak Ras Koh, attains a height of 3010 m.

Potowar Plateau and the Salt Ranges
The Potwar Plateau and the Salt Range region are located to the south of the mountainous north and lie between the Indus river on the west and the Jhelum river on the east. Its northern boundary is formed by the Kala Chitta Ranges and the Margalla Hills and the southern boundary by the Salt Ranges. The Kala Chitta Range rises to an average height of 450 - 900 m and extends for about 72 km. The main Potwar Plateau extends north of the Salt Range. It is an undulating area 300 - 600 m high. The Salt Ranges have a steep face towards the south and slope gently in to the Potwar Plateau in the north. They extend from Jhelum River up to Kalabagh where they cross the Indus river and enter the Bannu district and rise to an average height of 750 - 900 m. Sakesar Peak (1,527 m) is the highest point of the Salt Ranges.

Mountain Passes
Many mountain passes cross Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan and China. Passes crossing over the mountains bordering Afghanistan include the Khyber, Bolan, Khojak, Kurram, Tochi, Gomal and Karakoram passes. The most well-known and well-traveled is the 56 kilometer long Khyber Pass in the northwest. It links Peshawar in Pakistan with Jalalabad in Afghanistan, where it connects to a route leading to the Afghan capital of Kabul. It is the widest and lowest of all the mountain passes, reaching a maximum elevation of 1,072 m (3,517 ft). The route of the Bolan Pass links Quetta in Baluchistan Province with Kandahar in Afghanistan; it also serves as a vital link within Pakistan between Sind and Baluchistan provinces. Historically, the Khyber and Bolan passes were used as the primary routes for invaders to enter India from Central Asia, including the armies of Alexander the Great. The Tochi pass connects Ghazni in Afghanistan with Bannu in Pakistan and the Gomal pass provides an easy access from Afghanistan to Dera Ismail Khan in Pakistan and the Punjab. Also historically significant is Karakoram Pass, on the border with China. For centuries it was part of the trading routes known as the Silk Road, which linked China and other parts of Asia with Europe.  

Map showing major mountain ranges of Pakistan 

Map Credit: UNEP Environment Assessment Programme for Asia and the Pacific (http://www.rrcap.unep.org)

 

References and Credits:

  • Pakistan," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2004
    http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

  • UNEP Environment Assessment Programme for Asia and the Pacific

  • Biodiversity Action Plan for Pakistan © 2000 by Government of Pakistan, World Wide Fund for Nature, Pakistan and International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Pakistan

  • First National Report on the Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, LEAD Pakistan, Ministry of Environment and Local Government Pakistan and UNEP

  • COUNTRY REPORT BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION IN PAKISTAN, Ejaz Ahmad Conservation Director, World Wide Fund For Nature - Pakistan

  • BIODIVERSTIY CONSERVATION IN PAKISTAN : AN OVERVIEW, Muhammad Ajmal Director (Industries & Ozone) Ministry of Environment, Urban Affairs, Forestry and Wildlife C/O Pakistan National, Commission for UNESCO

  • Atlas of Pakistan, Survey of Pakistan

  • United States Geological Survey

  • Pakistan at a Glance, The World Resource Institute

 

 

©1997-2004 Wildlife of Pakistan-All Rights Reserved.