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The domestic transportation system was not well developed at independence. Railroads were the main means of transportation, but the network in West Pakistan had been constructed under the assumption that the area formed part of a larger subcontinental economic and political entity and was not suited to the needs of the new nation. Considerable development was necessary to improve links between Karachi, Pakistan's first capital and the country's principal port and commercial center, and Punjab, where Islamabad was established as the new administrative capital in 1962.

In the 1970s and 1980s, road and air networks grew considerably faster than did the railroads. Between FY 1978 and FY 1992, the volume of freight and the number of passengers carried by rail increased only slightly, whereas road-borne freight and the number of air passengers more than doubled. In 1994 transportation policy was aimed at shifting more of the traffic back to the rail system, with a long-term goal of a railto -road freight traffic ratio of 33:67 by 2000. However, it appears unlikely that this target will be met.

In June 1992, the road system covered 179,752 kilometers, of which asphalt roads made up 51.2 percent (see fig. 8). The number of motor vehicles more than doubled during the 1980s. Their number was estimated at nearly 2 million in 1992, including 932,000 motorcycles, 454,000 automobiles, 220,000 tractors, 157,000 trucks and vans, and 37,000 buses. In March 1992, the government approved a five-year Rs73 billion program of road construction and rehabilitation. This plan included building a four-lane 339-kilometer highway between Lahore and Islamabad, scheduled for completion in mid-1995. Road transport is mostly in the private sector, but some passenger and freight services are provided by public-sector corporations.

The railroad system is government owned and covers 8,775 kilometers (see fig. 9). In FY 1992 there were 753 locomotives and 34,851 freight wagons. The system usually runs at a loss. In mid-1992 the most profitable route, that between Lahore and Faisalabad, was privatized. It is expected that the government will attempt to privatize other rail routes, but the LahoreFaisalabad line was renationalized in September 1993 when the private operator failed to make a profit.

Shipping capacity decreased in the 1980s. The merchant fleet, almost all operated by the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC), consisted in 1992 of twenty-two vessels, down from fifty vessels in 1982. Approximately half the fleet is more than fifteen years old and is unsuited to present needs. The PNSC handled 2.74 million tons of cargo in the last six months of 1991, compared with 2.77 million tons during the corresponding period in 1990. In 1992, in line with its privatization policy, the government invited applications for setting up a private shipping sector and promised to operate the PNSC on a commercial basis.

There are two international ports--Karachi and Port Muhammad bin Qasim. In the early 1990s, Karachi handled the bulk of the traffic. During the nine months ending in March 1992, Karachi handled 14.7 million tons of cargo, of which 11.0 million tons were imports and 3.7 million tons exports. This was 4.2 percent more cargo than was handled during the corresponding period of 1990-91. Port Qasim, which is fifty-three kilometers south of Karachi, handled 5.8 million tons of cargo in the first nine months of FY 1992.

In early 1994, the major airline was the government-controlled Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). PIA had a fleet of forty-seven aircraft in March 1993, of which fifteen were wide-bodied Boeing 747s and A300-B4s. The PIA network includes forty-five international and thirty-five domestic airports. There are international airports at Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta. Several small private airlines began operating domestic routes in 1993. One of these carriers, Shaheen Air International, also operates international cargo routes and plans to provide international passenger service in 1994 or 1995.

Data as of April 1994

Country Listing

Pakistan Table of Contents