Punjab is the most developed, populous, and prosperous province of Pakistan with approximately 55% of the country's total population. Lahore has traditionally been the capital of Punjab for a thousand years; it is Punjab's main cultural, historical, administrative and economic center. Historically, the Punjab region has been the gateway to the Indian subcontinent for people from Greece, Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan. Due to its strategic location, it has been part of various empires and civilizations throughout history, including the Indus Valley Civilization, Vedic civilization, Persians, Mauryans, Greeks, Scythians, Kushans, Guptas, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Timurids, Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs and the British.
Punjab has the largest economy in Pakistan, contributing most to the national GDP. The province's economy has quadrupled since 1972. Its share of Pakistan's GDP was 54.7% in 2000 and 59% as of 2010. It is especially dominant in the Service & Agriculture sectors of the Pakistan Economy. With its contribution ranging from 52.1% to 64.5% in the Service Sector and 56.1% to 61.5% in the Agriculture Sector. It is also major manpower contributor because it has largest pool of professionals and highly skilled (Technically trained) manpower in Pakistan. It is also dominant in the Manufacturing sector, though the dominance is not as huge, with historical contributions raging from a low of 44% to a high of 52.6%. In 2007, Punjab achieved a growth rate of 7.8% and during the period 2002–03 to 2007–08, its economy grew at a rate of between 7% to 8% per year and during 2008–09 grew at 6% against the total GDP growth of Pakistan at 4%.
Despite lack of a coastline, Punjab is the most industrialized province of Pakistan; its manufacturing industries produce textiles, sports goods, Heavy machinery, electrical appliances, surgical instruments, Cement, Vehicles, Auto Parts, I.T, metals, Sugar mill plants, Aircraft, Cement Plants, Agriculture Machinery, bicycles and rickshaws, floor coverings, and processed foods. In 2003, the province manufactured 90% of the paper and paper boards, 71% of the fertilizers, 69% of the sugar and 40% of the cement of Pakistan.
Despite its a tropical wet and dry climate, extensive irrigation makes it a rich agricultural region. Its canal-irrigation system established by the British is the largest in the world. Wheat and cotton are the largest crops. Other crops include rice, sugarcane, millet, corn, oilseeds, pulses, vegetables, and fruits such as oranges. Livestock and poultry production are also important. Despite past animosities, the rural masses in Punjab's farms continue to use the Hindu calendar for planting and harvesting.
Punjab contributes about 76% to annual food grain production in the country. Cotton and rice are important crops. They are the cash crops that contribute substantially to the national exchequer. Attaining self-sufficiency in agriculture has shifted the focus of the strategies towards small and medium farming, stress on barani areas, farms-to-market roads, electrification for tube-wells and control of water logging and salinity.
Punjab has also more than 68 thousand industrial units. The small and cottage industries are in abundance. There are 39,033 small and cottage industrial units. The number of textile units is 14,820. The ginning industries are 6,778. There are 7,355 units for processing of agricultural raw materials including food and feed industries.
Lahore and Gujranwala Divisions have the largest concentration of small light engineering units. The district of Sialkot excels in sports goods, surgical instruments and cutlery goods.
Punjab is also a mineral rich province with extensive mineral deposits of Coal, Iron, Gas, Petrol, Rock salt (with the second largest salt mine in the world),Dolomite, gypsum, and silica-sand. The Punjab Mineral Development Corporation is running over a hundreds economically viable projects. Manufacturing includes machine products, cement, plastics, and various other goods.