Pakistan is a low-income country and ranks in South Asia, measured by gross national income (GNI) per resident of (2018) 1,580 US- $, behind India and Bangladesh and ahead of Nepal. After a phase of liberalization, privatization and budget consolidation around the turn of the millennium, the Pakistani economy shows an upward trend, but the high population growth prevents an effective fight against poverty.
Foreign trade: The foreign trade balance is chronically in deficit (2018 import value: US $ 60.2 billion; export value: US $ 23.6 billion). The most important export goods are textiles, clothing, fabrics and yarns, which together make up more than half of exports. Food (rice) and chemical products are also exported. The main import goods are petroleum and petroleum products, machines and vehicles, chemical products (fertilizers), electronic goods, and iron, steel and steel products. The main supplier countries are China, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the USA. The most important customer countries are the USA, China, Afghanistan and the EU countries (especially Great Britain and Germany). In addition to official foreign trade, a considerable amount of goods is smuggled to and from India and Afghanistan in particular.
Agriculture is still the most important economic sector; it employs around 42% of the workforce and generates 22.9% of the gross domestic product (GDP). A quarter of the territory (22.7 million hectares) is used for arable farming; Meadows and pastures cover an area of around 5 million hectares. Almost 85% of the cultivated area is artificially irrigated, mainly by draining the water of the Indus and its tributaries via a widely ramified canal system, supplemented by a combination of deep wells and motor pumps. It is the largest irrigation system on earth, on which the cultivation of wheat, rice, cotton and sugar cane is based. In addition, pulses and oil fruits as well as fruits and vegetables are cultivated. In many places, two harvests a year are possible. Due to the high temperatures, valuable irrigated arable land is also repeatedly lost through salinization. The severe plague of locusts in 2019 meant a setback for agriculture. Livestock farming (cattle, sheep, chickens) is extensive, nomadic in the mountains and steppe areas; poultry farming has strong growth.
Forestry: Only 1.9% of the country’s territory is officially designated as primary forests. They are mainly located in the inaccessible mountain regions in northern Pakistan. There are also areas that are mostly overgrown by sparse stands of trees. The annual logging is around 30.6 million m³; over 90% is used as firewood.
Fisheries: Fisheries are of particular regional importance. Almost 75% of the catch (492,000 t) comes from the sea and a quarter from rivers, lakes and canals. 151 100 t are bred in aquaculture.
As a country starting with letter P according to COUNTRYAAH.COM, Pakistan has considerable deposits of natural gas (especially in the middle Indus), rock salt (Salt Range) as well as stones and earths (limestone, soapstone, marble). There are also stocks of crude oil, coal and ores (iron, chromium, copper, uranium, phosphate). The exploration and extraction of existing mineral resources is only progressing slowly, so that the country is still dependent to a considerable extent on corresponding imports of oil, coal and iron.
Thermal power plants account for 62% of the electricity generation and hydropower plants (Tarbela, Mangla, Warsak) for 27%; the two nuclear power plants at Karachi and Chasma contribute around 5%; Renewable energies (wind, sun, biomass) generate around 6% of the electricity. Overall, the country’s energy supply is still precarious. Temporary power cuts, from which industry in particular suffers, are the order of the day. Overall, the infrastructure is largely out of date and around 20,000 villages are not yet connected to the electricity network.
In the industrial sector (with mining, energy and construction), 23.7% of employees generated 17.9% of GDP in 2017. Around a third of all companies are located in Karachi, the economic center of Pakistan (including refineries and steel production). Small businesses dominate. Large companies – with the exception of the clothing industry, predominantly state-owned – can be found primarily in the textile, chemical, metal and building materials industries. The industrial added value is mainly generated in the textile sector, in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry and in the iron and steel sector, mechanical engineering and vehicle construction as well as the electrical industry. Carpet knotting and weaving has made Pakistan an important carpet exporter.
The service sector employs 34.3% of the workforce (2017) and provides over half of gross value added. Important sectors are finance, administration, transport and communication as well as the retail sector, which is split up into small businesses.
Tourism: The insecure domestic political situation due to Islamist terrorist attacks and the lack of appropriate infrastructure have hindered the development of tourism so far. With its diverse landscape and numerous historical sights (World Heritage Sites Mohenjo-Daro, Takht-e-Bahi and Sahr-e-Bahlol, the ruined city of Taxila and others), Pakistan has great development potential. In 2016, 965,500 foreign visitors came to the country; revenues were US $ 328 million.
The main lines of rail and road run in an arc from the seaport of Karachi – following the Indus and Ravi – to Lahore and further on the southern edge of the Himalayas via the capital Islamabad to Peshawar. For natural reasons (mountains, deserts) and political reasons, there are only few connections to neighboring countries. Since the Indo-Pakistani war for Kashmir in 1965, there has only been one connection between the Chinese border and the Arabian Sea via the rail and road crossing between Lahore (Pakistan) and Amritsar (India). In domestic transport, the railways have lost most of their importance to the roads. 70% of the road network is paved. Most of the sea trade is carried out via the port of Karachi (or since 1980 also via the port of Muhammad bin Qasim east of Karachi). Gwadar, located in the extreme southwest of the country, was expanded as a new port in 2007 with Chinese help. It is of great importance as an oil transshipment point and container port in transit traffic to China. Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and others have international airports. In addition to the national airline Pakistan International Airlines, there have also been private companies since 1993.