15 Interesting Facts about Pakistani Currencies

When the British left South Asia in 1947, two nation-states- India and Pakistan came into being. The struggle for Pakistan was mainly founded on the demand of creating a separate state for the South Asian Muslims. M. A. Jinnah was the main figure behind this movement. It was his continuous political movement that compelled the British colonial rulers and other Indian nationalist leaders to consider his demand for a separate country. The creation of Pakistan on 14th August, 1947 marked the beginning of a new age in the history of South Asia. Since then the country has experienced several ups and downs. It had faced a crushing defeat at the hands of India in 1971 which resulted in the creation of independent Bangladesh. At present the country is facing serious threat from the growing activities of several Jihadi Islamist groups. All these have adversely affected the economy of the country. Still, the country has a rich history of coinage and currency which is, in many cases, inseparable from the monetary history of India. Here we have gathered 15 interesting facts about the monetary history of Pakistan.

  1. Pakistani currency is called Rupee. Rupee or Rupiya is the term which is used by several other South and West Asian countries for their currency. Rupiya is believed to be derived from the Sanskrit ‘roupya’, meaning silver.
  2. Until 1971, the Pakistani currency carried writings in both Urdu and Bengali. The printing of currency notes in Bengali was discontinued after the creation of Bangladesh following a bloody civil war.
  3. After the independence in 1947, Pakistan continued to use currency notes printed in India for some time. The notes bear stamps of ‘Government of Pakistan’ as symbol of their legitimacy in the Pakistani territory.
  4. The Pakistani state of Bahawalpur issued gold coins as late as 1948. In the early 1950s the currency system was made uniform throughout the country and gold and silver coins were discontinued.
  5. The first Pakistani coins were made of nickel and circulated in the market in 1948 along with the new currency notes.
  6. The first currency notes of Pakistan were of 1, 5, 10, and 100 Pakistani Rupee denominations.
  7. The first series of the notes were signed by the then Governor of State Bank of Pakistan Mohammad Ayub.
  8. The Pakistani Rupee is sub-divided into 100 sub-units which are known as Paisa. However, this decimalized currency system was introduced only in 1961.
  9. Before 1961, the Pakistani Rupee was sub-divided into 16 Annas and each Anna was further divided into 4 Pice.
  10. A currency note of 50 Pakistani Rupee denomination was first issued in 1957. It carried a portrait of M.A. Jinnah and the value of the money in two languages- Bengali and Urdu.
  11. The other note of higher denomination- the 5000 Pakistani Rupee note was first printed in xxx.
  12. The first series of coins which were issued in 1948 were of various denominations such as 1 Pice, 1/2, 1, and 2 Annas, ¼, ½, and 1 Rupee.
  13. In the subsequent years, coins of higher denomination were issued by the State Bank of Pakistan. The issue of Paisa coins was discontinued in the early 1990s.
  14. The State Bank of Pakistan issued special notes for Hajj pilgrims during 1950-1978. These notes were intended for the use of Pakistani pilgrims who visited Saudi Arabia for annual Hajj.
  15. Apart from the regular coins, State Bank of Pakistan has issued several commemorative coins for special occasions such as the issue of a special 20 Rupee coin in 2011 to mark the 150th year of the foundation of Lawrence College in Ghora Gali, Punjab.

The Indo-Greek Coins

South Asia, and more precisely the modern state of India has experienced the incursion of several tribes throughout its history. Many of the famous military generals of the world had made their mark in the territories of South Asia. The Greek military genius Alexander also attacked north western India albeit without much success. The invasion of Alexander took place in the year of 326 BCE. However, he succeeded in establishing several Greek colonies. He left some of his military generals and soldiers to occupy and rule his Indian and Central Asian conquests. These Greek generals came to be known as Indo-Greeks in the history. They ruled roughly during the period between mid-3rd century BCE when Diodotus I established an independent kingdom to early 1st century BCE when they were overwhelmed by the Parthians and the Shakas.

Their rule extended over a vast part of central Asia and north western South Asia. It included the modern areas of Afghanistan, north western part of Pakistan, the Indian provinces of Kashmir and Punjab. There were several dynasties and over 40 rulers of the Indo-Greek lineage who ruled over this extended time period. And surprisingly the main sources of information about the rule of these numerous kings are the numismatic evidences.

The Indo-Greek coins inaugurated a new phase in the history of South Asian coinage. These coins carried elaborate details about their issuing authority. The name, the issuing year of the coin and a portrait of the reigning monarch was die-struck very precisely on the metal pieces.

We can identify elaborate measures of coin circulation in the Indo-Greek territory. The coins circulated in the north of the Hindu Kush Mountains were mainly made of gold, silver, copper and nickel. They were struck according to Attic weight standard. The obverse of the coins carried the portrait of the issuing monarch. The reverse of the coin was marked by the depiction of Greek gods and goddesses. The name of the monarch and his royal titles were also mentioned in the reverse in Greek.

The coins which were circulated in the south of the Hindu Kush bear more Indian touch. They were mostly made of silver and copper. Most of these coins are of round shape, while some of them are square. These coins were struck according to Indian weight standard. They bear the royal portrait on the obverse. But their reverse was marked by Indian religious symbols rather than Greek. These type of coins also carried bilingual and bi-script inscriptions using the Greek and Prakrit languages; and Greek and Kharosthi or Brahmi scripts.

The Indo-Greek coins have been found in large numbers in the modern Afghanistan. The largest number of coins was discovered from Gardez. This hoard is known as the Mir Zakah hoard. It yielded 13,083 coins. Among these large number of coins 2,757 were Indo-Greek coins. Other major finds are the hoard found at Khisht Tepe near Qunduz and the coins found during excavations at the city of Ai-Khanoum.

The Indo-Greek coins are very important source of ancient Indian history. Out of 42 Indo-Greek kings who ruled, about 34 kings are known only through their coins. Coins of such kings as Menander depicted them slowly progressing from their teenage to old age, which also indicated their long reigns. The high standard of coinage set by the Indo-Greeks worked as a model for several other Indian dynasties for a very long period of time. The representation of Indian religious figures and symbols in the Indo-Greek coins has a greater significance for the cultural history of South Asia. This illustrated the syncretism of the Indo-Greek rulers. A sort of cultural and religious fusion between India and Greece can be traced from these coins.