|From the earliest period of pre-history and recorded history of the region, modern Pakistan formed the heart-land of a larger territory, extending beyond its present eastern and western borders and receiving momentous and mighty impacts from both the directions.
The Indus region, which covers much of Pakistan, was the site of several ancient cultures including the Neolithic era Mehrgarh and the Bronze era Indus Valley Civilization (2500 BC – 1500 BC) at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
Waves of conquerors and migrants from the west — including Harappan, Indo-Aryan, Persian, Greek, Saka, Parthian, Kushan, Hephthalite, Afghan, Arab, Turkics, and Mughal — settled in the region through out the centuries, influencing the locals and being absorbed among them. Great ancient empires of the east — such as Nandas, Mauryas, and Guptas — ruled these territories at different times. However, in the medieval period, while the eastern provinces of Punjab and Sindh became aligned with Indo-Islamic civilisation, the western areas became culturally allied with the Iranic civilisation of Afghanistan and Iran. The region served as crossroads of historic trade routes, including the Silk Road, and as a maritime entreport, for the coastal trade between Mesopotamia and beyond up to Rome in the west and Malabar and beyond up to China in the east.
The Indus Valley Civilization collapsed in the middle of the second millennium BC and was followed by the Vedic Civilization, which also extended over much of the Indo-Gangetic plains. Successive ancient empires and kingdoms ruled the region: the Achaemenid Persian empire around 543 BC, Greek empire founded by Alexander the Great in 326 BC and the Mauryan empire there after. The Indo-Greek Kingdom founded by Demetrius of Bactria included Gandhara and Punjab from 184 BC, and reached its greatest extent under Menander, establishing the Greco-Buddhist period with advances in trade and culture. The city of Taxila (Takshashila) became a major center of learning in ancient times — the remains of the city, located to the west of Islamabad, are one of the country’s major archaeological sites. The Rai Dynasty (c.489–632) of Sindh, at its zenith, ruled this region and the surrounding territories.
In 712 AD, the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh and Multan in southern Punjab. The Pakistan government’s official chronology states that “its foundation was laid” as a result of this conquest. This Arab and Islamic victory would set the stage for several successive Muslim empires in South Asia, including the Ghaznavid Empire, the Ghorid Kingdom, the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. During this period, Sufi missionaries played a pivotal role in converting a majority of the regional Buddhist and Hindu population to Islam. The gradual decline of the Mughal Empire in the early eighteenth century provided opportunities for the Afghans, Balochis and Sikhs to exercise control over large areas until the British East India Company gained ascendancy over South Asia.
The War of Independence 1857, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny, was the region’s last major armed struggle against the foreign British Raj and it laid the foundations for the generally unarmed freedom struggle, led by the Hindu dominated Indian National Congress, in the twentieth century. The All India Muslim League rose to popularity in the late 1930s amid fears of under-representation and neglect of Muslims in politics. On 29 December 1930, Allama Iqbal’s presidential address called for an autonomous “state in northwestern India for Indian Muslims, within the body politic of India.” Muhammad Ali Jinnah espoused the Two Nation Theory and led the Muslim League to adopt the Lahore Resolution of 1940 (popularly known as the Pakistan Resolution), which ultimately led to the formation of an independent Pakistan. The Indian independence movement, led by Mahatma Gandhi, demanded freedom from British rule. In early 1947, Britain, coming under strong pressure from other Western nations to end its violent suppression of the freedom movement, decided to end its rule of India.
In June 1947, the nationalist leaders of British India — including Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad on behalf of the Congress, Jinnah representing the Muslim League, B. R. Ambedkar representing the Untouchable community, and Master Tara Singh representing the Sikhs — agreed to the proposed terms of transfer of power and independence. The modern state of Pakistan was established on 14 August 1947 (27 Ramadan 1366 in the Islamic Calendar), carved out of the two Muslim-majority wings in the eastern and northwestern regions of British India and comprising the provinces of Balochistan, East Bengal, the North-West Frontier Province, West Punjab and Sindh. The controversial division of the provinces of Punjab and Bengal set the stage for communal riots across India and Pakistan — millions of Muslims moved to Pakistan and millions of Hindus and Sikhs moved to India. Disputes arose over several princely states including Muslim-majority Kashmir and Jammu, whose ruler had acceded to India following an invasion by Pashtun warriors, leading to the First Kashmir War in 1948.
From 1947 to 1956, Pakistan was a Dominion in the Commonwealth of Nations. It became a Republic in 1956, but the civilian rule was stalled by a coup d’état by General Ayub Khan, who was president during 1958–69, a period of internal instability and a second war with India in 1965. His successor, Yahya Khan (1969–71) had to deal with a devastating cyclone — which caused 500,000 deaths in East Pakistan — and also face a civil war in 1971.
Economic greivances and political dissent in East Pakistan led to violent political tension and military repression that escalated into a civil war, which invited covert and later overt Indian intervention that escalated into the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, and ultimately to the secession of East Pakistan as the independent state of Bangladesh. Estimates of the number of people killed during this episode vary greatly, from ~30,000 to over 2 million, depending on the source.
Civilian rule resumed in Pakistan from 1972 to 1977, under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, until he was deposed and later sentenced to death, (in what his followers claimed was a judicial murder), in 1979 by General Zia-ul-Haq, who became the country’s third military president. Pakistan’s secular policies were replaced by Zia’s introduction of the Islamic Shariah legal code, which increased religious influences on the civil service and the military. With the death of President Zia in a plane crash in 1988, Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan. Over the next decade, she alternated power with Nawaz Sharif, as the country’s political and economic situation worsened. Pakistan got invoved in the 1991 Gulf War and sent 5,000 troops as part of a US led coalition, specifically for the defence of Saudi Arabia. Military tensions in the Kargil conflict with India were followed by a Pakistani military coup d’état in 1999 in which General Pervez Musharraf assumed executive powers. In 2001, Musharraf became President after the controversial resignation of Rafiq Tarar. After the 2002 parliamentary elections, Musharraf transferred executive powers to newly elected Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who was succeeded in the 2004 Prime-Ministerial election by Shaukat Aziz and was followed, for a temporary period in office, by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. On 15 November 2007 the National Assembly completed its tenure and so, pending elections, a caretaker government was appointed with the former Chairman of the Senate, Muhammad Mian Soomro as caretaker Prime Minister. However, the December 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto during election campaign led to postponement of elections and also underscored the then prevailing instability of Pakistan’s political system. After the parliamentary elections held in march, Yousaf Raza Gillani was sworn in as Prime Minister .
|Location: Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea, between India on the east and Iran and Afghanistan on the west and China in the north
Geographic coordinates: 30 00 N, 70 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 803,940 sq km
land: 778,720 sq km
water: 25,220 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of California
Land boundaries: total: 6,774 km
border countries: Afghanistan 2,430 km, China 523 km, India 2,912 km, Iran 909 km
Coastline: 1,046 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north
Terrain: flat Indus plain in east; mountains in north and northwest; Balochistan plateau in west
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: K2 (Mt. Godwin-Austen) 8,611 m
Natural resources: land, extensive natural gas reserves, limited petroleum, poor quality coal, iron ore, copper, salt, limestone
Land use: arable land: 24.44%
permanent crops: 0.84%
other: 74.72% (2005)
Irrigated land: 182,300 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 233.8 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 169.39 cu km/yr (2%/2%/96%)
per capita: 1,072 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe especially in north and west; flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August)
Environment – current issues: water pollution from raw sewage, industrial wastes, and agricultural runoff; limited natural fresh water resources; most of the population does not have access to potable water; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: controls Khyber Pass and Bolan Pass, traditional invasion routes between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent
|The government of Pakistan was based on the Government of India Act (1935) for the first nine years after independence. The first Constitution of Pakistan was adopted in 1956, but was suspended in 1958 by General Ayub Khan. The Constitution of 1973 – suspended in 1977, by Zia-ul-Haq, but re-instated in 1991 – is the country’s most important document, laying the foundations of government. Pakistan is a semi-presidential federal democratic republic with Islam as the state religion. The bicameral legislature comprises a 100-member Senate and a 342-member National Assembly. The President is the Head of State and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and is elected by an electoral college. The prime minister is usually the leader of the largest party in the National Assembly. Each province has a similar system of government with a directly elected Provincial Assembly in which the leader of the largest party or alliance becomes Chief Minister. Provincial Governors are appointed by the President.
The Pakistani military has played an influential role in mainstream politics throughout Pakistan’s history, with military presidents ruling from 1958–71, 1977–88 and from 1999 onwards. The leftist Pakistan Peoples Party, led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, emerged as a major political player during the 1970s. Under the military rule of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan began a marked shift from the British-era secular politics and policies, to the adoption of Shariat and other laws based on Islam. During the 1980s, the anti-feudal, pro-Muhajir Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was started by unorthodox and educated urban dwellers of Sindh and particularly Karachi. The 1990s were characterized by coalition politics dominated by the Pakistan Peoples Party and a rejuvenated Muslim League.
In the October 2002 general elections, the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) (PML-Q) won a plurality of National Assembly seats with the second-largest group being the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), a sub-party of the PPP. Zafarullah Khan Jamali of PML-Q emerged as Prime Minister but resigned on 26 June 2004 and was replaced by PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as interim Prime Minister. On 28 August 2004 the National Assembly voted 191 to 151 to elect the Finance Minister and former Citibank Vice President Shaukat Aziz as Prime Minister. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of Islamic religious parties, won elections in North-West Frontier Province, and increased their representation in the National Assembly – until their defeat in the 2008 elections.
Pakistan is an active member of the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the latter of which Pakistan has used as a forum for Enlightened Moderation, a plan to promote a renaissance and enlightenment in the Muslim world. Pakistan is also a member of the major regional organisations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO). In the past, Pakistan has had mixed relations with the United States; in the early 1950s, Pakistan was the United States’ “most allied ally in Asia” and a member of both the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO). Also, during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s Pakistan was a crucial US ally. But relations soured in the 1990s, when sanctions were applied by the US over suspicions of Pakistan’s nuclear activities. However, the 11 September 2001 attacks and the subsequent War on Terrorism have seen an improvement in US–Pakistan ties, especially after Pakistan ended its support of the Taliban regime in Kabul. This was evidenced by a drastic increase in American military aid, which saw Pakistan take in $4 billion more in three years after the 9/11 attacks than in the three years before.
On 18 February 2008, Pakistan held its general elections after being postponed from 8 January 2008. The Pakistan Peoples Party won the majority of the votes and formed an alliance with the Pakistan Muslim League (N). They nominated and elected Yousaf Raza Gilani as Prime Minister of Pakistan
On 18 August 2008, when the ballooning impeachment scandal threatened his power, President Musharraf resigned as President of Pakistan, claiming it was a “difficult decision”.
In the presidential election that followed, Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan People’s Party won by a landslide majority and became President of Pakistan.
|Population: 172,800,048 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 37.8% (male 33,617,953/female 31,741,258)
15-64 years: 58% (male 51,292,535/female 48,921,023)
65 years and over: 4.2% (male 3,408,749/female 3,818,533) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 20.5 years
male: 20.3 years
female: 20.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.999% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 28.35 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 7.85 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.51 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 66.94 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 67.04 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 66.84 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 64.13 years
male: 63.07 years
female: 65.25 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.73 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 74,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 4,900 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
animal contact disease: rabies
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
Nationality: noun: Pakistani(s)
Ethnic groups: Punjabi 44.68%, Pashtun (Pathan) 15.42%, Sindhi 14.1%, Sariaki 8.38%, Muhagirs 7.57%, Balochi 3.57%, other 6.28%
Religions: Muslim 95% (Sunni 75%, Shi’a 20%), other (includes Christian and Hindu) 5%
Languages: Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Siraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashtu 8%, Urdu (official) 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English (official; lingua franca of Pakistani elite and most government ministries), Burushaski and other 8%
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 49.9%
female: 36% (2005 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 7 years
male: 7 years
female: 6 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 2.6% of GDP (2006)