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Overview: Pakistan’s transportation infrastructure has suffered from government neglect. Although there are some signs of improvement, foreign observers often contend that the poor transportation infrastructure inhibits economic growth potential. Both the quality and quantity of government-funded rail and bus service have declined, and in some cases operations have ceased altogether. As a result, private buses, taxis, autorickshaws, and horse-drawn tongas meet most urban transportation demand. These vehicles are unregulated, and safety issues abound. Various government programs have attempted to improve transportation through highway construction and automobile imports, but these endeavors have been costly, and highway capacity is substantially underutilized. Statistics show an increase in freight and passenger traffic on roads, but the increase is believed to be due to the declining quality of rail service rather than to the increasing affordability of automobiles. Studies cite significant, accompanying problems with vehicular pollution, increasing traffic density, and high numbers of traffic fatalities.

By contrast, Pakistan’s telecommunications infrastructure has fared somewhat better, although the government’s periodic control of communications industries is believed to have limited service improvements. Legislation in 1991 encouraged private-sector participation in communications services by privatizing state-run communications providers and licensing communications provision. However, 1995 legislation granted the publicly traded Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) a monopoly over telephone services. In 2003 the government announced that telecommunications would be deregulated, yet the results of this change were not yet apparent by early 2005.

Roads: Roads, road traffic, and motor vehicles all have increased substantially since the early 1990s. According to government statistics, from 1994 to 2003 total road length increased from 196,877 to 251,845 kilometers, and highways increased, from 104,001 to 151,028 kilometers. The total number of registered motor vehicles also increased from 3.5 million to 5.2 million, including 2.5 million motorcycles, 1.3 million automobiles, and 178,000 trucks. In the early 1990s, the government announced plans to shift passenger and freight traffic from roads to rail, but by 2004 the declining quality and quantity of rail service continued to prompt increases in private and commercial use of roads.

Railroads: The railroad system is publicly owned, but government funding has been insufficient to maintain the system. Government figures indicate that operating revenues exceeded operating expenses from FY 1994 to FY 2003, but the deterioration in the quantity and quality of service suggests that major problems persist. From 1994 to 2003, the quantity of track kilometers fell from 8,775 to 7,791 kilometers, and route kilometers dropped from 12,625 to 11,515 kilometers. Of the track kilometers, 7,346 kilometers were 1.676-millimeter gauge, and 445 kilometers were 1.000-millimeter gauge. Passenger journeys peaked at 85 million in FY 1989 and declined until FY 1999, after which they increased to 72.4 million in FY 2003. Freight tonnage fell from 8 million tons in FY 1994 to 6.2 million tons in FY 2003. In the same period, the number of locomotives decreased from 676 to 577, and the quantity of coaches fell from 2,831 to 1,843.

Since 1992, various privatization ventures have been terminated and placed back on the market, and the federal government has attempted to transfer responsibility for some rail services to local and provincial authorities. Urban and suburban passenger rail service is often irregular and slower than road transport, but the government plans to build passenger rail systems in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, and Rawalpindi. A proposed rail line connecting Pakistan with Iran has been stalled because of a lack of funding.

Ports: According to government statistics, the tonnage handled by ports increased from 30 million tons in FY 1994 to 41.2 million tons in FY 2003. In the same period, the number of twenty-foot-equivalent-units (TEUs) increased from 409,670 to 615,826. In 2004 Pakistan had two ports, Karachi and Port Qasim, both of which were upgraded in the 1990s. Karachi handles approximately 60 percent of import and export cargo and is linked by a daily container train to an inland terminal at Lahore. Port Qasim handles about 40 percent of import and export cargo. The first phase of a multipurpose port located at Gwadar on the Balochistan coast was expected to be operational in early 2005, with a second phase still under construction. A deepwater port at Keti Bandar, 100 kilometers southeast of Karachi, is planned as part of a private power project.

Inland and Coastal Waterways: Inland water transport basically has been nonexistent since the nineteenth century, although there have been government proposals to change this situation. Bridges, irrigation systems, and seasonal changes in water availability limit tremendously the navigability of former inland waterways, particularly the Indus River system. There is small-scale use between Sukkur and Kalabagh on the Indus River, and Pakistani government and transportation analysts have considered inland water routes linking Port Qasim with points on the Indus. However, the technical feasibility of these proposals is doubtful, and high capital costs limit their economic feasibility.

Civil Aviation and Airports: Since the 1980s, the air network has expanded. Pakistan has 50 airports with permanently surfaced runways. Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, and Rawalpindi handle both international passenger and cargo flights, and Multan and Turbat handle international cargo. The airports in Karachi and Lahore have expanded their facilities since 1994. From FY 1994 to FY 2003, international passengers increased from 4.1 million to 5.1 million, and international cargo increased slightly from 1.1 million tons to 1.2 million tons. In the same time period, however, domestic passengers declined from 9.1 million to 5.5 million, and domestic cargo fell from 243,000 tons to 187,000 tons. The major international airline is government-owned Pakistan International Airlines, and four other private airlines offer international passenger and cargo services. Pakistan International Airlines flights to New Delhi beginning in January 2004 have been viewed as a sign of improved relations between India and Pakistan.

Pipelines: In 2004 Pakistan had 9,945 kilometers of gas pipelines and 1,821 kilometers of oil pipelines. The government currently is considering several proposed gas pipelines linking Pakistan with Afghanistan, India, Iran, Turkmenistan, and others. As of early 2005, these proposals were still under consideration, at least partly because their proposed routes would go through areas of periodic civil unrest.

Telecommunications: From 1991 to 2002, the estimated number of radios increased only slightly from 10 to 10.2 million, and the estimated number of televisions was unchanged at 2.1 million. The government runs both Azad Kashmir Radio, with three stations, and Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, with 35 stations. Three private radio stations also are in operation. Government-run Pakistan Television Corporation maintains four domestic television channels, and there are three private television broadcasters. Foreign channels are available by satellite and cable. Domestic phone service is poor. In the early 2000s, Pakistan had approximately 3.7 million telephones, 8 million cellular telephones, 600,000 personal computers, and 500,000 Internet users.

PUBLISHER / AUTHOR: This series of profiles of foreign nations is part of the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The profiles offer brief, summarized information on a country's historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security. In addition to being featured in the front matter of published Country Studies, they are now being prepared as stand-alone reference aides for all countries in the series, as well as for a number of additional countries of interest. The profiles offer reasonably current country information independent of the existence of a recently published Country Study and will be updated annually or more frequently as events warrant.

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