GEOGRAPHY & DEMOGRAPHY OF GILGIT BALTISTAN
A land of immense geographic and strategic significance, Gilgit Baltistan (GB) is gifted with geo-corridors ever exploited by empires / powers of all times. Even today, great powers of the time like China, Russia, US (in Afghanistan) and India embrace it from all directions. Occupying an extraordinarily varied and attractive landscape, GB becomes a meeting point of world's three famous high altitude mountain ranges namely Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush. It borders Pakistan's KPK province to the West, Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor to the North, China to the Northeast, Azad Kashmir to the Southwest, and Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir to the East and Southeast. GB covers an area of 72,971 square kilometers (28,174 miles). It has an estimated population of 1.249 Million.
Its administrative center is the city of Gilgit with a population of 216,760. The area contains some of the largest glaciers out of polar regions which are Biafo, Baltoro and Hisper. This region is a notable supplier to the country as well as the world of many important minerals. In the Southern part of the region, it has major deposits of Nickle, Cobalt, Copper, Lead, Tin, Bismit, Mica, Quartz, Zircon, Coal and Actonolite that are famous for their exceptionally good quality. Silk Route is the major and only road link between this area and other parts of the country, utilized mainly for economic activities.
Recently named as Gilgit Baltistan, it was given full autonomy on 29 August 2009 rendering it constitutional status of an integrated part of Pakistan. Gilgit Baltistan comprises of two divisions, seven districts and 22x tehsils. Skardu and Ghanche are in Baltistan Division, while Diamer, Ghizar, Gilgit, Astore and Hunza Nagar are in Gilgit Division. The region in the opinion of geologists is the meeting ground of "Continents of Collision''.
Population / Sectarian Profile
District Population (Million) Sect-wise (%) Sunni Shia Ismaili N/Bakhshi Gilgit 0.196 35 45 19.5 0.5 Skardu 0.289 06 88 - 6 Diamer 0.177 100 - - - Ghizer 0.162 10 5 85 - Ghanche 0.199 23 2 - 75 Astore 0.096 70 30 - - Hunza-Nagar 0.130 - 55 45 - Total 1.249 28 41 20 11
Tribes. Yashkun and Sheen are the major tribes of the area whereas some Mughals, Rajas, Pathan, Kashmiris, Soniwal and Kashgari also reside here. The composition of various groups is as under.
Caste District-wise population in (%) Gilgit Skardu Diamer Ghizer Ghanche Astore Hunza-Nagar Yashkun 50 - 85 - 53 50 Sheen 30 15 40 - - 70 30 Moghals 10 - - - - 4 10 Wakhi 3 - - - - - 3 Gujar 2 - - - - - 2 Balti -- 75 - - 90 - - Kashmiri, Saadat - 10 - 3 - - - Others 5 - 45 12 10 - 5
Languages Following languages are spoken in Gilgit Baltistan:-
Shina. Shina is the main language in Gilgit. It is spoken in the Gilgit, Diamer, Ghizer and Astore. Shina speaking people are further found north in the Ishkoman valley and in Hunza, Nagar and further east in Baltistan.
Burushasky. Burushaski is the main language of Hunza valley. It is spoken by the people settled on either sides of the middle cause of the Hunza River, on its northern bank (Hunza) as well as on its southern bank (Nagar). There are also Hunza speaking settlements in Yasin and in Gilgit. Burushasky is still an unwritten language.
Khowar. It is the main language of Chitral, however Khowar speakers may be found in Yasin. Marriage ties make Khowar understood in Gilgit in some families.
Balti. Balti is the sector largest language in the Baltistan Division. It is mainly spoken in the two districts of Baltistan division. Balti peaking people are settled in Skardu, Rondu, Shigar, Khapolu, Kharmang, Gultari and Ganche.
Domaaki. Domaaki is the language of the Domas of Berichos who are also found in Gilgit and in the some Shina speaking villages of the lower Hunza valley. They are mainly musicians and smiths.
Wakhi. Wakhi is spoken in Ishkoman valley and in upper Hunza valley by more than 3,000 people. It belongs to the Pamirian branch of Iranian languages.
Gojri. Gojri is the language of Gojar family settled in Naltar valley, Karga and also in the surrounding areas of Gilgit.