Gilgit-Baltistan is administratively divided into two divisions which, in turn, are divided into seven districts, including the two Baltistan districts of Skardu and Ghanche, and the five Gilgit districts of Gilgit, Ghizer, Diamer, Astore, and Hunza-Nagar. The main political centres are the towns of Gilgit and Skardu.
Geography and climate
Gilgit-Baltistan borders the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the northwest, China’s Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang to the northeast, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir to the south and southeast, the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the south, and Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province to the west.
Gilgit-Baltistan is home to five of the “eight-thousanders” and to more than fifty peaks above 7000 meters. Gilgit and Skardu are the two main hubs for expeditions to those mountains. The region is home to some of the world’s highest mountain ranges—the main ranges are the Karakoram and the western Himalayas. The Pamir Mountains are to the north, and the Hindu Kush lies to the west. Amongst the highest mountains are K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen) and Nanga Parbat, the latter being one of the most feared mountains in the world.
Three of the world’s longest glaciers outside the Polar Regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan — the Biafo Glacier, the Baltoro Glacier, and the Batura Glacier. There are, in addition, several high-altitude lakes in Gilgit-Baltistan:
- SHEOSAR LAKE IN DEOSAI PLAINS – ASTORE REGION
- SATPARA TSO LAKE IN SKARDU – BALTISTAN
- KATZURA TSO LAKE IN SKARDU – BALTISTAN
- ZHARBA TSO LAKE IN SHIGAR – BALTISTAN
- PHOROQ TSO LAKE IN SKARDU – BALTISTAN
- BARA TSO LAKE IN GANGCHE – BALTISTAN
- BYARSA TSO LAKE IN GULTARI – BALTISTAN
- BORITH LAKE IN GOJAL UPPER HUNZA – GILGIT
- RAMA LAKE NEAR ASTORE
- RUSH LAKE NEAR NAGAR – GILGIT
- KROMBER LAKE IN KROMBER PASS – ISHKOMAN VALLEY, GHIZER DISTRICT
- BARODAROKSH LAKE IN BAR VALLEY NAGAR
The Deosai Plains, are located above the tree line, and constitute the second-highest plateau in the world at 4,115 meters (14,500 feet) after Tibet. The plateau lies east of Astore, south of Skardu and west of Ladakh. The area was declared as a national park in 1993. The Deosai Plains cover an area of almost 5,000 square kilometres. For over half the year (between September and May), Deosai is snow-bound and cut off from rest of Astore & Baltistan in winters. The village of Deosai lies close to Chilum chokki and is connected with the Kargil district of Ladakh through an all-weather road.
The climate of Gilgit-Baltistan varies from region to region, surrounding mountain ranges creates sharp variations in weather. The eastern part has the moist zone of the western Himalayas, but going toward Karakoram and Hindu Kush the climate dries considerably.
There are towns like Gilgit and Chilas that are very hot during the day in summer, yet cold at night, and valleys like Astore, Khaplu, Yasin, Hunza, and Nagar where the temperatures are cold even in summer.
Economy and resources
The economy of region is basically based on traditional route of trade through Silk Road. China Trade organization was the leading economic forum through which most of barter trade activity made a phenomenal change in the general economical outlook of the area which being the remotest region of Pakistan was neglected for over quarter of century. This forum led the people of the area to actively invest and learn the modern trade know how from its neighbor Xingkiang. The participation of the all ethnic groups and active force behind this activity, legendary economist of the area Ashraf Khan brought a great change in the region. Later the establishment of Chamber of commerce and SOst dry port (in Gojal Hunza) is milestones. Rest of the economy is shouldered by mainly agriculture and tourism. Agriculture such as: wheat, corn (maize), barley, fruits; Tourism is mostly in trekking and mountaineering and this industry is ‘growing in importance.
Polo is the favorite game of the people of Gilgit, Chilas, Astore, Hunza, Nagar and the surrounding areas. Every year, many tourists visit to enjoy polo in Gilgit-Baltistan. Other games such as cricket, Tuksori of Nagar, Gulli Danda, Kabbadi, and Volleyball are also played.
The population consists of many diverse linguistic, ethnic, and religious groups, due in part to the many isolated valleys separated by some of the world’s highest mountains. The population of this area is a mixture of many ethnic groups such as Shins, Yashkuns, Kashmiris, Kashgaris, Pathans,and Kohistanis. Ismailism is present here, unlike in the rest of Pakistan. Urdu is the lingua franca of the region, understood by most of the inhabitants. The Shina language (with several dialects like Asturjaa, Kharuchaa, chilasi) is the language of 60% of the population, spoken mainly in Gilgit, Astore throughout Diamer, and in some parts of Ghizer. The Balti dialect, a sub-dialect of Ladakhi and part of the Tibetan languages group, is spoken by the entire population of Baltistan. Minor languages spoken in the region include Wakhi, spoken in upper Hunza, and in some villages in Ghizer, while Khowar is the language of Ghizer. Burushaski is an isolated language spoken in Hunza, Nagar, Yasin (where Khowar is also spoken), in some parts of Gilgit and in some villages of Punyal. Another interesting language is Domaaki, spoken by the musician clans in the region. A small minority of people also speak Pashto.
Despite being referred to as part of Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan has few remnants of Kashmiri. At the last census (1998), the population of Gilgit and Baltistan was 870,347.Approximately 14% of the population was urban.