Pakistan - language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate

Read about Pakistan: language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate ...



Pakistan, officially Islamic Republic of Pakistan, republic in South Asia, marking the area where South Asia converges with Southwest Asia and Central Asia. The capital of Pakistan is Islāmābād; Karāchi is the country’s largest city.

The area of present-day Pakistan was the cradle of the earliest known civilization of South Asia, the Indus Valley civilization (2500?-1700 BC). The territory was part of the Mughal Empire from 1526 until the 1700s, when it came under British rule. Pakistan gained independence in August 1947. It initially comprised two parts, West Pakistan and East Pakistan, which were separated by about 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of territory within India. In December 1971 East Pakistan seceded and became the independent republic of Bangladesh.


Pakistan is bordered on the west by Iran, on the north and northwest by Afghanistan, on the northeast by China, on the east and southeast by India, and on the south by the Arabian Sea. A panhandle of Afghanistan territory in the northwest, the Wakhan Corridor, separates Pakistan and Tajikistan. The area of Pakistan is 796,095 sq km (307,374 sq mi), not including the section of Jammu and Kashmīr under its control. Jammu and Kashmīr is a disputed territory located between Pakistan and India. Pakistan controls a portion of the territory as Azad (Free) Kashmīr and the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA), while India controls a portion as the state of Jammu and Kashmīr.

Natural Regions in Pakistan

Pakistan has great extremes of elevation, reaching the highest point at the Himalayan peak of K2 (also known as Mount Godwin Austen) in the north and the lowest point at the Arabian Sea coast in the south. The Indus River flows the length of Pakistan from north to south. The Indus and its tributaries form a wide river valley with fertile plains in Punjab and Sind (Sindh) provinces. Pakistan is mountainous in the north and west. Earthquakes are frequent, and occasionally severe, in the northern and western areas.

Much of Pakistan is a dry, sun-scorched region. To the west of the Indus are the rugged dry mountains of the Sulaimān Range, which merge with the treeless Kīrthar Range in the south. Farther west are the arid regions of the Baluchistan Plateau and the Khārān Basin. A series of mostly barren low mountains and hills predominate in the western border areas. The Thar Desert straddles the border with India in the southeast.

The country also possesses a variety of wetlands, with the glacial lakes of the Himalayas, the mudflats of the Indus Valley plains, and the extensive coastal mangroves of the Indus River delta. The wetland areas cover an estimated area of 7.8 million hectares (19.3 million acres).

Rivers of Pakistan

The Indus River is the lifeline of Pakistan. Without the Indus and its tributaries, the land would have turned into a barren desert long ago. The Indus originates in Tibet from the glacial streams of the Himalayas and enters Pakistan in the northeast. It runs generally southwestward the entire length of Pakistan, about 2,900 km (1,800 mi), and empties into the Arabian Sea. The Indus and its tributaries provide water to two-thirds of Pakistan. The principal tributaries of the Indus are the Sutlej, Beās, Chenāb, Rāvi, and Jhelum rivers. In southwestern Punjab Province these rivers merge to form the Panjnad (“Five Rivers”), which then merges with the Indus to form a mighty river. As the Indus approaches the Arabian Sea, it spreads out to form a delta. Much of the delta is marshy and swampy. It includes 225,000 hectares (556,000 acres) of mangrove forests and swamps. To the west of the delta is the seaport of Karāchi; to the east the delta fans into the salt marshes known as the Rann of Kutch.

Coastline of Pakistan

The coastline of Pakistan extends 1,046 km (650 mi) along the Arabian Sea. The Makran Coast Range forms a narrow strip of mountains along about 75 percent of the total coast length, or about 800 km (500 mi). These steep mountains rise to an elevation of up to 1,500 m (5,000 ft). Most of the coast is underdeveloped, with deserted beaches and only a few fishing villages.

Mountain Peaks and Passes in Pakistan

Pakistan has within its borders some of the world’s highest and most spectacular mountains. In the northern part of the country, the Hindu Kush mountains converge with the Karakoram Range, a part of the Himalayan mountain system. Thirteen of the world’s 30 tallest peaks are in Pakistan. The tallest include K2, the second highest peak in the world at 8,611 m (28,251 ft), in the Karakoram Range; Nanga Parbat (8,125 m/26,657 ft) in the Himalayas; and Tirich Mīr (7,690 m/25,230 ft) in the Hindu Kush.

Many mountain passes cross Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan and China. Passes crossing over the mountains bordering Afghanistan include the Khyber, Bolān, Khojak, Kurram, Tochi, and Gomal passes. The most well-known and well-traveled is the Khyber Pass in the northwest. It links Peshāwar in Pakistan with Jalālābād in Afghanistan, where it connects to a route leading to the Afghan capital of Kābul. It is the widest and lowest of all the mountain passes, reaching a maximum elevation of 1,072 m (3,517 ft). The route of the Bolān Pass links Quetta in Baluchistan Province with Kandahār in Afghanistan; it also serves as a vital link within Pakistan between Sind and Baluchistan provinces. Historically, the Khyber and Bolān passes were used as the primary routes for invaders to enter India from Central Asia, including the armies of Alexander the Great. Also historically significant is Karakoram Pass, on the border with China. For centuries it was part of the trading routes known as the Silk Road, which linked China and other parts of Asia with Europe.

Plants and Animals in Pakistan

The vegetation of Pakistan varies with elevation, soil type, and precipitation. Forests are largely confined to the mountain ranges in the north, where coniferous alpine and subalpine trees such as spruce, pine, and deodar cedar grow. The southern ranges of the Himalayas, which are of lower elevation, receive heavy rainfall and have dense forests of deodar, pine, poplar, and willow trees. The more arid Sulaimān and Salt mountain ranges are sparsely forested with a type of mulberry called shisham, a broad-leaved, deciduous tree. Dry-temperate vegetation, such as coarse grasses, scrub plants, and dwarf palm, predominates in the valleys of the North-West Frontier Province and the Baluchistan Plateau. The arid western hills are dotted with juniper, tamarisk (salt cedar), and pistachio trees. The area of Ziārat, Baluchistan, has juniper forests that are believed to be 5,000 years old; however, they are dwindling due to deforestation. Dry-tropical scrub and thorn trees are the predominant vegetation in the Indus River plain. Known as rakh, this vegetation is native to the region and can survive temperatures higher than 45°C (113°F). Riverine forests, found in the Indus floodplain, require six weeks of monsoon flooding to sustain them during the dry months. Irrigated tree plantations are found in Punjab and Sind. Mangrove forests in the coastal wetlands are an integral part of the marine food chain.

Animal life in Pakistan includes deer, boar, bear, crocodile, and waterfowl. The wetlands provide an essential habitat for a number of important mammal species, including coated otter, Indian river dolphin, fishing cat, hog deer, and wild boar. During the migration season, at least 1 million waterfowl representing more than 100 species visit the extensive deltas and wetlands of Pakistan. Pakistan’s rivers and coastal waters contain many types of freshwater and saltwater fish, including herring, mackerel, sharks, and shellfish.

Threatened or endangered species include the snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep (a subspecies of the argali), bharal (blue sheep), and ibex (a type of wild goat). These animals can still be found in remote and protected areas of the Himalayas. The houbara bustard has been overhunted as a game bird in Pakistan and is officially protected.

Climate in Pakistan

The climate of Pakistan varies widely, with sharp differences between the high mountains and low plains. The country experiences four seasons. In the mountainous regions of the north and west, temperatures fall below freezing during winter and are mild during summer. In the Indus plains, temperatures range between about 32° and 49°C (about 90° and 120°F) in summer, and the average in winter is about 13°C (about 55°F).

Mountainous areas receive most precipitation as heavy snowfall in winter. In other areas of Pakistan, most precipitation comes with the summer monsoons during July and August. The summer monsoons are seasonal winds that bring torrential rainfall, breaking the hot, dry spell and providing much-needed relief. The rainfall is so heavy that it causes rivers in Punjab and Sind provinces to flood the lowland areas. Rainfall is scarce the rest of the year. Punjab Province has the most precipitation in the country, receiving more than 500 mm (20 in) per year. In contrast, the arid regions of the southeast (the Thar Desert in Sind) and southwest (Baluchistan) receive less than 125 mm (5 in) annually.

Natural Resources of Pakistan

More than 20 different types of minerals have been identified in Pakistan, but few are of sufficient quality or quantity to be commercially exploited. Most mineral deposits are found in the mountainous regions. Pakistan’s exploited natural resources include coal, natural gas, petroleum, gypsum, limestone, chromite, iron ore, rock salt, and silica sand. Pakistan has extensive natural gas reserves, notably in the vicinity of Sui, Baluchistan, from where it is piped to most of the large cities of Pakistan. Petroleum is limited, but exploration for additional reserves holds promise. Most of the country’s coal is of poor quality. The Salt Range in Punjab Province has large deposits of pure salt. Only about 2.4 percent of Pakistan’s total land area is forested, and timber is in short supply.

Environmental Issues in Pakistan

The wetlands in Pakistan are a precious resource. In an arid to semiarid environment, these ecosystems have tremendous value. People, domestic livestock, and wildlife depend on them for livelihood and survival. The wetlands are also a major source of food staples, livestock grazing and fodder, fuel wood, and irrigation water. However, the fragile wetland ecologies are threatened by poor conservation, over-exploitation, and urban and industrial pollution.

Pakistan’s forests also are in urgent need of protection and conservation. The country has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. The primary causes of deforestation are population growth and settlement, lack of fuelwood alternatives, insect damage and diseases, forest fires, and lack of awareness about the importance of preservation.

In the 1970s the government of Pakistan began making efforts to protect the country’s forests by creating national parks. The protected forests of the parks help prevent soil erosion. The parks also serve as wildlife sanctuaries and game reserves, as well as tourist attractions. One of the country’s most important alpine biodiversity regions is contained within Khunjerab National Park, established in 1975. The park is an important habitat sanctuary for a number of threatened or endangered species, including the snow leopard. Located in the Himalayas, it is one of the highest-altitude parks in the world at 5,000 m (16,000 ft).

Pakistan participates in the World Heritage Convention and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and it has one designated biosphere preserve under the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Program.


The people of Pakistan are ethnically diverse. They trace their ethnic lineages to many different origins, largely because the country lies in an area that was invaded repeatedly during its long history. Migrations of Muslims from India since 1947 and refugees from Afghanistan since the 1980s have significantly changed the demographics of certain areas of the country. The people of Pakistan come from ethnic stocks such as Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, Greek, Scythian, Hun, Arab, Mongol, Persian, and Afghan. Although an overwhelming majority of the people are Muslim, religion does not supersede ethnic affiliations. The people follow many different cultural traditions and speak many different languages and dialects.

Pakistan has a population of 176,242,949 (2009 estimate), yielding an average population density of 226 persons per sq km (586 per sq mi). The country’s population was increasing in 2009 at a rate of 1.9 percent a year. Only 35 percent of the people live in urban areas.

Cultural Groups in Pakistan

Pakistan is a multilingual and multiethnic nation. Most of the people belong to one of the country’s five major ethnolinguistic groups: Punjabis, Sindhis, Pashtuns (Pakhtuns), Mohajirs (Muslims who migrated to the newly formed nation of Pakistan after 1947), and Baluch (Baloch). Ethnically distinct subgroups exist within each of these five categories. Overall, ethnic identity is multilayered and complex and may be based on a combination of religion, language, ethnicity, and tribe.

Not all of the ethnolinguistic groups are equally represented in the power structure of Pakistan. Mohajirs, Punjabis, and Pashtuns are the dominant groups, while Sindhis and Baluch struggle to advance and protect their interests.

Punjabis constitute nearly 60 percent of the population of Pakistan. They have diverse origins, but over the centuries they coalesced into a coherent ethnic group in the historic Punjab region and developed a common language, Punjabi. Today most Punjabis prefer to read and write in Pakistan’s official language, Urdu, and their language-based ethnic identity is relatively weak. Many Punjabis are farmers in the fertile valley of Punjab Province. Punjabis also predominate in the military and the federal government.

Sindhis make up about 13 percent of the population. They are a predominantly rural people. Their traditional homeland is the province of Sind, where they maintain the country’s largest concentration of large landholdings. Sindhis have a strong sense of linguistic and cultural pride and identity. They have a rich literary and folk tradition and prefer to read and write in their own language, Sindhi.

Pashtuns also make up about 13 percent of the population. They are primarily farmers, livestock herders, traders, and soldiers in the Pakistan military. Pashtuns are divided into many tribes, and their tribal structure is egalitarian. Pashtuns follow a strict code of conduct known as Pashtunwali (“Pashtun Way”). Pashtun identity, including their interpretation of Islamic law, is formulated and guided by Pashtunwali. The code is based on the absolute obligations of providing hospitality and sanctuary, even to one’s enemies, and exacting revenge at all costs in the defense of one’s honor. The code also requires Pashtuns to abide by the decisions of the jirga (council of tribal leaders) in matters of dispute. Many Pashtuns have blue eyes and claim to be descendants of the European soldiers who fought for Alexander the Great in the region 2,000 years ago. They have a rich oral tradition in their ethnic language, Pashto, but many Pashtuns prefer to read and write in Urdu.

Baluch constitute 4 percent of the country’s population. Most Baluch reside in their traditional homeland, the Baluchistan Plateau. They are a predominantly nomadic people, migrating wherever the arid land provides enough vegetation to raise their animals. Raising livestock, mainly sheep and goats, and selling their hides and wool constitute the way of life for many Baluch. They also have apple, almond, and apricot orchards, and some grow wheat. Baluch tribal organization is strictly hierarchical, and each tribe is headed by a sardar (tribal chief). Most Baluch speak Baluchi (Balochi), a language that is similar to Persian. About one-fifth of Baluch also speak Brahui, a Dravidian-derived language. Baluch are the least educated and poorest segment of the population and are inadequately represented in government.

Mohajirs constitute about 8 percent of the population. They are Muslims who settled in Pakistan after the partition of British India in 1947. Unlike other cultural groups of Pakistan, they do not have a tribe-based cultural identity. They are the only people in the country for whom Urdu, the official language, is their native tongue. Mohajirs were the vanguard of the Pakistan Movement, which advocated the partition of British India in order to create the independent nation of Pakistan for Indian Muslims. After the partition, a large number of Muslims migrated from various urban centers of India to live in the new nation of Pakistan. These migrants later identified themselves as mohajirs, meaning “refugees” in both Urdu and Arabic. A large number of Mohajirs settled in the cities of Sind Province, particularly Karāchi and Hyderābād. They were better educated than most indigenous Pakistanis and assumed positions of leadership in business, finance, and administration. Today they remain mostly urban.

Sindhis felt dispossessed by the preponderance of Mohajirs in the urban centers of Sind. With the emergence of a Sindhi middle class in the 1970s and adoption of Sindhi as a provincial language in 1972, tensions between Mohajirs and Sindhis began to mount. The 1973 constitution of Pakistan divided Sind into rural and urban districts, with the implication that the more numerous Sindhis would be better represented in government. Many Mohajirs felt that they were being denied opportunities and launched a movement to represent their interests. The movement, which evolved into the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) in the mid-1980s, called for official recognition of Mohajirs as a separate cultural group and advocated improved rights for Mohajirs. Although factional rivalries and violence within the MQM tarnished its image and shrunk its power base, the movement continues to be a potent force in urban centers of the province, particularly Karāchi. The MQM has contributed to a more defined Mohajir identity within the country.

Political Regions in Pakistan

The ethnic groups of Pakistan are distributed according to their historical settlement in the region. The current political regions of Pakistan roughly correspond to the settlement patterns established long before the partition of British India in 1947, when Pakistan was created as a homeland for Indian Muslims. The four provinces are Punjab, the Muslim portion of the historic Punjab region; Sind, the traditional homeland of the Sindhis; the North-West Frontier Province, a small portion of the Pashtun tribal lands; and Baluchistan, a portion of the Baluch tribal lands. The traditional homelands of the Pashtuns and Baluch extend beyond the modern political borders, both provincial and national.

Punjab is the most populated province of Pakistan, with 72.6 million people (1998). Most of the people are Punjabis. The province contains most of the country’s largest cities, but the rural agricultural areas are also densely settled. The province is the second largest in area.

Sind is the second most populated province in Pakistan, with about 30 million people (1998). Its population is the most urbanized in Pakistan. Sindhis make up about 60 percent of the population of Sind, living mostly in rural areas. Mohajirs constitute the remaining 40 percent and live mostly in the province’s large cities. Sind is the third largest province in area.

The North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) has a population of 17.6 million (1998). The majority of the people are Pashtuns. The province is part of the historic Pashtun tribal lands, which extend throughout southern and southeastern Afghanistan and well into western Pakistan, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and northern Baluchistan. The NWFP is Pakistan’s smallest province in area. In the 1980s refugees from war-torn Afghanistan began to settle in the province. Refugee camps and rudimentary villages were set up in the border areas. A large number of refugees also established communities in cities such as Peshāwar. Many became semipermanent residents of Pakistan because Afghanistan remained in a state of war through the mid-1990s. The majority of refugees were Pashtuns, facilitating their assimilation into the province’s population, in many cases through intermarriage.

Baluchistan is the most sparsely populated and least developed province of Pakistan. A majority of the 6.5 million (1998) people who live in Baluchistan are Baluch. Pashtuns are the second largest ethnic group in the province. In recent years a large number of Afghan refugees have settled in Baluchistan. In area, Baluchistan is the largest province of Pakistan, covering nearly 40 percent of the country’s total territory. However, the province is an arid and inhospitable hinterland.

Principal Cities of Pakistan

Pakistan’s largest city is Karāchi, the capital of Sind Province. It is the country’s only seaport and a major financial, industrial, and commercial center. It is also known as the ethnic melting pot of Pakistan. Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province, is Pakistan’s second largest city and a cultural and educational center. Faisalābād, in central Punjab, is the center of textile and fertilizer industries. Multān, the largest city in southern Punjab, has many ancient Muslim shrines, a huge fertilizer factory, and small cottage industries such as carpet weaving and pottery. Hyderābād, in Sind Province, is a manufacturing center with textile and glass factories, as well as a cultural center with museums, historic mosques, and a medical school. Peshāwar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province, is a busy, overcrowded frontier outpost and a hub of trade with Afghanistan. For centuries it served as a gateway and trading post between Afghanistan and Southeast Asia.

Islāmābād is the capital of Pakistan and the seat of the federal government; it forms its own administrative unit, the Islāmābād Capital Territory. Just to the south, in bordering Punjab Province, is Rāwalpindi, the headquarters of the Pakistani army and an industrial center.

Religion in Pakistan

Islam is the faith of about 97 percent of the people of Pakistan. About three-quarters of the country’s Muslims are Sunni, and about one-quarter are Shia. Some small Muslim fringe sects, such as the Ahmedis and Zikris, also exist. Hindus and Christians form the largest religious minorities. Other religious groups include Sikhs, Parsis, and a small number of Buddhists. The constitution defines Pakistan as an Islamic state but guarantees freedom of religion.

Languages in Pakistan

Urdu is the official language of Pakistan. It is the first language of only a small percentage of the population, but it cuts across linguistic and provincial boundaries as the national language. More than 75 percent of Pakistanis can speak and understand Urdu. In urban areas about 95 percent of the people communicate in Urdu. Urdu replaced English as the official language in 1978.

Most Pakistanis speak at least two languages. A large segment of the population is trilingual, speaking English, Urdu, and an ethnic-based regional language. Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Baluchi, and Brahui are the major regional languages. These languages have many regional dialects, including Saraiki, a widely spoken dialect of Punjabi. Regional languages are recognized as a potent force because language and ethnic identity are closely interrelated; even the national census categorizes groups according to their language, rather than their ethnicity. However, there is growing awareness among Pakistanis that for social mobility, national cohesion, and individual success, it is imperative to be fluent in Urdu and proficient in English.

Several factors contributed to the establishment of Urdu as the lingua franca of Pakistan. It was the language of the educated Muslims in northern India, who spearheaded the Pakistan Movement. Urdu helped foster a linguistic identity among Muslims in the region. Although similar to Hindi as a spoken language, Urdu uses a Persian-derived script and incorporates many Arabic words. Choosing Urdu as the national language provided a linguistic basis for the formation of a Muslim national identity. It also provided the country with a “neutral” language because Urdu does not have ethnic or tribal associations. Since the founding of Pakistan in 1947, state-controlled electronic and print media have promoted Urdu. In the public schools of the country, Urdu is the principal language of instruction.

For all practical purposes, however, English is the de facto official language. Pakistan’s legal system is based on British common law, and judicial and government documents are mostly written in English. Pakistanis of all social strata strive to learn English, which has a certain elite status. Although the quality of instruction in English has declined, English continues to be the language of the educated and those who want to move ahead in life.

Education in Pakistan

Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. In 2007 only 54.9 percent of adult Pakistanis were literate. Male literacy was 68.7 percent, while female literacy was 40.2 percent. From 1976 to 2001 the number of primary schools doubled, but so did the population. High levels of population growth continue to hamper educational development in the country. The government launched a nationwide initiative in 1998 with the aim of eradicating illiteracy and providing a basic education to all children.

According to the constitution, it is the state’s responsibility to provide free primary education. Five years has been established as the period of primary school attendance, but attendance is not compulsory. While the enrollment rate in primary school is high for boys, less than half of all girls attend school. In the 2006 school year 66 percent of primary school-aged children were enrolled in school, while only 23 percent of secondary school-aged children attended. In 2007, 5.1 percent of Pakistan’s college-aged population attended institutions of higher education. The wealthiest and best students seek education in British and American universities.

At the time of independence Pakistan had only one university, the University of the Punjab, founded in 1882 in Lahore. Pakistan now has more than 20 public universities. Among Pakistan’s leading public institutions of higher education are Quaid-e-Azam University (1965), in Islāmābād, the University of Karāchi (1951), the University of Peshāwar (1950), and the University of Sindh (1947), near Hyderābād.

Since 1978 the government has encouraged the privatization of education at all levels. This led to the creation of three major private universities: Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Agha Khan University Medical College (in Karāchi), and Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (in Topi, North-West Frontier Province). The National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), in Rāwalpindi, conducts research in the fields of science and technology for both the public and private sectors.


Pakistan has a rich and diverse cultural heritage. Pakistanis celebrate their culture through folk music, dance, and festivals. They have a strong appreciation for poetic expression and storytelling. The history of the country comes to life in the splendid architectural detail of centuries-old mosques and forts. After it became part of the expansive Mughal Empire in 1526, the region that is now Pakistan entered a golden age of literature, architecture, and music.

Literature in Pakistan

Pakistanis adore poetry and commonly memorize long poems. A mushaira (poetry reading) in Pakistan can attract hundreds of listeners. Among classical poets in the Urdu language, Mirza Ghalib is perhaps the most widely admired. Ghalib, who wrote in the 19th century, is known for his lyrical and spiritual ghazals. Ghazals are the most popular form of poetry in the Urdu and Persian languages.

The official national poet of Pakistan is Allama (“the Wise”) Muhammad Iqbal. He earned the title of poet-philosopher of Pakistan not only because he was an exceptionally talented poet, but also because he was active in the politics of his time. In 1930 he called for the creation of a separate Muslim state in northwestern British India. He wrote poetry in Urdu and Persian and gave university lectures in English.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz is perhaps the most adored modern poet in Pakistan. Faiz began writing poetry in the 1950s after a distinguished journalism career. His ghazals are primarily concerned with class struggle, rather than the conventional themes of love and beauty. A progressive writer, Faiz was also a political dissident, and military governments banned his poetry from television and radio. Ahmad Faraz, Muneer Niazi, and Parveen Shakir are some of the other popular Urdu-language poets of Pakistan.

Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a Sufi mystic who in the first half of the 18th century wrote about love and Sindhi life, is the most revered poet of the Sindhi language. His poetry is widely recited by illiterate and educated Sindhis alike. Khushal Khan Khattak is the most famous poet of the Pashto language. In the 17th century he wrote poetry describing the beauty of women and nature, using military metaphors. The most well-known poet of the Punjabi language is Bulleh Shah, of the 17th century, whose poetry challenged the religious orthodoxy. In recent years short stories and travelogues have gained literary prominence, in addition to poetry.

Music and Film in Pakistan

The classical music tradition in Pakistan traces its roots to the 13th-century poet and musician Amir Khosrow, who composed the earliest ragas, the traditional rhythmic form. To play the ragas, Muslim musicians invented the sitar, a long guitar-like stringed instrument, and the tabla, a small pair of hand drums.

Qawwali, a form of devotional song, arose as part of the Sufi (Islamic religious sect) tradition. This rich vocal tradition is based on melodic and free-rhythmic song-poems and classical musical forms. It is traditionally performed at the shrines of Sufi saints, but today qawwali singers also perform for major secular events. Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan won international popularity in the late 20th century by infusing qawwali performances with new form and style. Other traditional musical forms—including the Punjabi bhangra, the Sindhi juhumar, and the Pashtun khattack—have also acquired new forms and continue to be popular for dancing. Punjabi, Pashto, and Sindhi folk songs are popular in rural Pakistan. Modern Pakistani musical groups and singers have introduced new forms of pop music based on traditional melodies.

Most Pakistanis prefer and enjoy songs from Pakistani and Indian movies. These songs are commonly played on radio and television. A synthesis of musical scores from movies, traditional folk music, and popular Western music is gaining popularity.

The film industry of Pakistan, known as Lollywood, is concentrated in Lahore. Most Pakistani movies are long, melodramatic love stories with plenty of songs. The film industry is often regulated and censored by the government. Films must follow the conventions of Islamic law, and the showing of physical contact such as kissing is prohibited. In the mid-1970s the industry produced about 150 movies a year, but since then the number has declined. In the 1980s the market for Pakistani films shrunk as a result of restrictions imposed by the military regime of Muhammad Zia ul-Haq and the availability of smuggled videotapes of Indian and Western movies.

Television became a major cultural influence in Pakistan in the 1980s, when the state-controlled network, Pakistan Television, attained national reach. It aired both Pakistani and American shows. In recent years satellite and cable television services have significantly increased access to international networks offering many different cultural and political perspectives.

Architecture in Pakistan

Pakistan has inherited a combination of Mughal and British colonial architectural forms. Mughal architects combined the Muslim preferences for large domes, slender towers, and archways with the Hindu use of red sandstone, white marble, and inlaid jewels. Mughal artists decorated the monuments with verses from the Quran, the sacred text of Islam. The best example of this architecture is the Badshahi Mosque and Lahore Fort, built between the 1580s and 1670s in Lahore by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Other examples of Mughal architecture include Shalimar Gardens (laid out in 1641), in Lahore; the Shah Jahan Mosque (17th century), in Thatta, Sind Province; and the mid-18th-century tomb of the great Sindhi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, in Bhit Shāh, near Hyderābād.

Pakistan’s most notable example of modern architecture is the Faisal Mosque in Islāmābād. One of the largest mosques in the world, it was completed in 1986 as a gift from Saudi Arabia. Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay designed the mosque to resemble an Arab desert tent, with an eight-sided prayer hall supported by four towering minarets. The interior contains the mosaics and calligraphy of the celebrated 20th-century Pakistani artist Sadequain.

Libraries and Museums in Pakistan

Karāchi is the seat of some of the most important libraries in Pakistan; these include the Liaquat Memorial Library (1950), the Central Secretariat Library (1950), and the University of Karāchi library. Also of note are the National Archives of Pakistan, in Islāmābād, and the Punjab Public Library (1884), in Lahore.

The National Museum of Pakistan (1950), in Karāchi, is noted for its archaeological material from the Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa sites in the Indus Valley. Important materials from this ancient civilization are also found at the Institute of Sindhology, in Jām Shoro, and the Hyderābād Museum. The Lahore Museum (1864), the country’s largest museum, and the Peshāwar Museum (1906) also have exhibits on the rich cultural history of the region. The Industrial and Commercial Museum, in Lahore, contains exhibits on the manufactures of Pakistan. The National Museum of Science and Technology is a participatory science center in Lahore.


Like most developing countries, Pakistan has been confronted with the problems of rapid population growth, chronic budget deficits, and heavy dependence on foreign aid and loans. Over the years Pakistan has accumulated a sizable foreign debt. The economy is also strained by the maintenance of a large military establishment. Debt repayment, defense spending, and general administrative expenditures tend to consume a large portion of Pakistan’s annual budget. The social sector is underdeveloped.

In 2007 Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $142.9 billion. The government budget in 2007 included $20.7 billion in revenues and $23.3 billion in expenditures.

Economic Development in Pakistan

After East Pakistan seceded to become the independent nation of Bangladesh in December 1971, the elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto tried to pick up the pieces of a truncated Pakistan. It devised economic policies that led to a drastic devaluation of the Pakistani currency, thereby boosting agricultural exports. To ease unemployment pressure the government encouraged the export of Pakistani labor to the Middle East. It also embarked on the nationalization of industries, banks, and agriculture-based industries. This expansion of the public sector ultimately shook private-sector confidence so that investment plummeted. The annual growth rate declined, averaging between 2.7 percent and 3.7 percent during most of the 1970s.

During the 1980s the country’s economy grew an average rate of 6 percent annually. This high growth rate was largely created by three factors: aid from the United States, the influx of foreign exchange from Pakistanis working abroad, and high crop yields. First, Pakistan received an average of $600 million per year in economic and military aid from the United States from 1981 to 1989, largely because of Pakistan’s support for anti-Soviet forces in the Soviet-Afghan War. (During this decade Pakistan was the third-largest recipient of U.S. aid, after Israel and Egypt.) Second, Pakistan received $2.5 billion in remittances from Pakistanis working abroad in the Persian Gulf States and other countries. Third, good weather conditions produced bumper cotton and wheat crops.

At the same time, the government did little to devise policies to boost the confidence of private investors or promote the welfare of Pakistani citizens. The negative fallout of the Afghan war on Pakistan was an expansion of the black market (the illicit sale of commodities) and the proliferation of portable weapons and violence. Despite the high economic growth rate, the economy remained largely agricultural, and socioeconomic disparities between the rich and poor widened. Also during the 1980s, the military regime increased defense spending to such an extent that the fiscal deficit rose to 10 percent of the GDP. In addition, public debt ballooned from less than 40 percent of the GDP to more than 80 percent.

The economy of Pakistan slowed to an average annual growth of 3.8 percent during the 1990s. Factors contributing to the sluggish growth included corruption and mismanagement at the highest levels of government and the rise of ethnic and sectarian violence in Karāchi and other urban centers. These factors shook investor confidence.

The economic performance of the 1990s was also related to the structural adjustment programs (SAPs) of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Loans from these international lending agencies were subject to conditions on Pakistan’s national economic policies. Pakistan received its first formal loan in 1988. In Pakistan the primary focus of the IMF-sponsored program was to lower the budget and current-account deficits. These objectives were to be achieved by reducing public expenditures and broadening the tax base. In addition, in 1992-1993 the IMF further insisted that Pakistan reduce defense expenditures, impose an agricultural tax, and improve methods of tax collection. These reforms were never fully implemented, however, and the IMF-sponsored program did not achieve the desired result. Inflation rose from 8 percent in the 1980s to 11 percent in the 1990s, although a nominal reduction in the budget deficit was visible. Direct foreign investment did not improve and the export sector remained sluggish.

A high-powered Privatization Commission was created in 1990 to encourage privatization of public-sector industries, economic deregulation, and other reforms designed to boost confidence in the principles of a free-market economy. However, the commission was slow to implement its privatization program.

After Pakistan exploded a nuclear device in May 1998, it faced the imposition of international sanctions. In September 2001 the United States lifted most of the economic sanctions it had imposed, brightening prospects for Pakistan’s economy.

Agriculture of Pakistan

About 28 percent of Pakistan’s total land area is cultivated. Agriculture and related activities, including fishing, engage 42 percent of the workforce and provide 21 percent of the GDP. Principal crops include sugar cane, wheat, rice, cotton, and corn. Livestock include cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, and poultry.

Land reform is a controversial issue in Pakistan. At independence in 1947, a large proportion of the arable land was concentrated in a small number of large estates, many of them owned by absentee landlords and cultivated by tenant farmers. Land reforms introduced in 1959 provided some security of tenure to tenants but did little to break up the large estates. In the 1970s the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto introduced more extensive land reforms. The amount of land any individual could own was significantly reduced, and landlords were not compensated for the land they surrendered. Most of the expropriated land was distributed to tenants, but the government retained land that was not suitable for farming. Landlords strongly resisted the reforms, however, and the government bureaucracy was somewhat lax in enforcing them. In the end, the reforms shook the landlords but did not break their hold. By the end of the 20th century, about half of the country’s arable land was held by only a small percentage of wealthy landowners.

The Bhutto government also developed favorable credit and loan policies for farmers. The tractor became the new status symbol in rural Pakistan. Improved mechanization gave a boost to agricultural productivity. Formerly an importer of wheat, Pakistan achieved self-sufficiency in the grain by the late 1970s.

Fishing in Pakistan

Fishing resources, although underdeveloped, are extensive. In 2007 the catch was 611,623 metric tons, three-quarters of it obtained from the Indian Ocean. Types of fish caught include sardines, sharks, and anchovies.

Manufacturing in Pakistan

In 2007 manufacturing accounted for 19 percent of the GDP. About 21 percent of the labor force is engaged in industry, including manufacturing and mining. Important products include processed foods, cotton textiles, silk and rayon cloth, refined petroleum, cement, fertilizers, sugar, cigarettes, and chemicals. Many handicrafts, such as pottery and carpets, also are produced.

Energy in Pakistan

Pakistan’s total output of electricity in 2006 was 90 billion kilowatt-hours. Hydroelectric dams on the Indus and its tributaries help furnish the country’s energy needs, but the supply of hydroelectricity drops sharply during the dry winter months. About 34 percent of the country’s electricity is produced through dams. The country also exploits its reserves of natural gas, crude petroleum, and coal. About 63 percent of the country’s electricity is generated in thermal installations fueled by natural gas and petroleum.

Pakistan has two nuclear power plants, but neither produces a significant amount of electricity. The Karāchi plant was built with Canadian help in the early 1960s, and the Chashma plant, on the Indus River in southern Punjab, was built in the 1980s with financial support from China.

Pakistan is not self-sufficient in energy production. The country relies on imported petroleum to fuel its electricity-generating thermal plants. However, the country’s exports bring in hardly enough revenues to meet the cost of petroleum imports. During the 1990s rising oil prices had a devastating effect on the economy, leading to a rise in the country’s foreign debt.

Currency and Banking of Pakistan

The basic monetary unit is the Pakistani rupee, consisting of 100 paisa (60.70 rupees equal US$1; 2007 average). The State Bank of Pakistan, established in 1948, issues banknotes; manages currency and credit, the public debt, and exchange controls; and supervises the commercial banks. Pakistani banks were nationalized in 1974, but in the early 1990s the country transferred two banks to private ownership and issued licenses for ten new commercial banks. A number of major foreign banks maintain offices in the country. In conformity with Islamic doctrine, domestic banks in Pakistan have redefined the payment and collection of interest as profit. Investment partnerships between the bank and the customer have replaced loans at interest.

Foreign Trade in Pakistan

The foreign trade of Pakistan consists largely of the export of raw materials and basic products such as cotton yarn and the import of manufactured products. The United States is the largest trading partner of Pakistan. In 2007 exports earned $17.4 billion and imports cost $31.2 billion. The chief exports were cotton textiles, cotton yarn and thread, clothing, raw cotton, rice, carpets and rugs, leather, fish, and petroleum products; the main imports were machinery, electrical equipment, petroleum products, transportation equipment, metal and metal products, fertilizer, and foodstuffs.

Transportation in Pakistan

The lack of modern transportation facilities is a major hindrance to the development of Pakistan. Its terrain, laced with rivers and mountains, presents formidable obstacles to internal overland transportation. The country has 258,340 km (160,525 mi) of roads. The railroad network totals 7,791 km (4,841 mi).

Karāchi is the principal port of Pakistan. The coastline is underdeveloped because of the rugged topography, but it has promise for development. In recent years successive governments of Pakistan have made efforts to build infrastructure along the Makran Coast. Toward this end, the government of Pakistan signed an agreement with China in the late 1990s to develop an international shipping port at Gwādar as an alternative to Karāchi. Gwādar is located on a peninsula that is accessible to large ships traveling from the Gulf of Oman, which leads to the Persian Gulf.

The Karakoram Highway was constructed between China and Pakistan in 1978 and opened to regular traffic in 1982. This all-weather road is 1,300 km (800 mi) long and passes through the Himalayas, reaching an elevation of 5,000 m (16,000 ft) at Khunjerab Pass. It is of strategic significance for Pakistan and China, connecting Islāmābād with Kashgar, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the national airline, is in large part government owned. PIA offers flights within Pakistan and to a number of other countries. In the early 1990s the government ended the PIA’s monopoly on domestic service, allowing private carriers to offer domestic flights. Privately owned international airlines also operate in Pakistan. The country’s main international airports serve Karāchi, Lahore, Islāmābād, and Rāwalpindi.

Communications in Pakistan

In 2005 Pakistan had 34 telephone mainlines for every 1,000 people. The number of cellular-phone subscribers is growing rapidly. Radio receivers number 94 and television sets 131 per 1,000 residents.

Television broadcasting began in Lahore in 1964 and in Karāchi in 1966. Since then television-broadcasting centers have been set up in Peshāwar, Rāwalpindi, Islāmābād, and Quetta, giving the Pakistani television network an almost total nationwide reach. In the early 1990s satellite dishes made it possible for international television programming to reach even the remotest areas of the country. More recently, the availability of cable television has improved accessibility to the international networks. Newspapers are mainly printed in Urdu and English. Pakistan has 291 daily newspapers, most with small circulations. The major dailies are concentrated in Lahore, Karāchi, and Islāmābād.


Since independence in 1947 Pakistan has had three constitutions, adopted in 1956, 1962, and 1973, consecutively. The 1973 constitution was the result of consensus among the political parties that were represented in the parliament. After a military coup d’état in 1977, martial law was imposed and the constitution was suspended. In 1985 a civilian government was reestablished, and the 1973 constitution was restored, although in a radically amended form. The Eighth Amendment confirmed and legalized all acts and orders that had been issued under the martial law regime, including amendments to the constitution. The amended constitution significantly expanded the powers of the president. It also included clauses that promoted Islam as the supreme law of Pakistan. In 1997, however, the constitution was amended to repeal the main provisions of the Eighth Amendment, stripping the president of the power to dismiss the prime minister and dissolve the parliament. After another military coup in 1999, the constitution was suspended and the democratically elected parliament was dissolved. In August 2002 a presidential decree amended the constitution to grant sweeping powers to the president, restoring the president’s power to dismiss the prime minister and dissolve the parliament. Parliamentary elections were held in October to restore civilian rule in the country. The 1973 constitution was formally revived in November 2002.

Executive of Pakistan

Pakistan’s head of state is a president. Under the constitution, the president is elected to a five-year term by members of the national and provincial legislatures. A prime minister is the chief executive official. After legislative elections, the president appoints the leader of the majority party or majority coalition in the legislature to serve as prime minister. As amended in August 2002, the constitution allows the president to dissolve the national legislature, appoint military chiefs and Supreme Court justices, and chair the National Security Council, a quasi-military advisory body.

Legislature of Pakistan

Under the constitution, legislative power is vested in the bicameral Federal Legislature. The National Assembly (lower house) has 342 seats; 60 of these seats are reserved for women and 10 are reserved for non-Muslims on a basis of proportional representation. Members of the National Assembly are directly elected for four-year terms. The Senate (upper house) has 100 seats; senators are elected indirectly by the provincial and national legislatures for five-year terms.

Judiciary in Pakistan

The highest court in Pakistan is the Supreme Court. The judicial system in each province is headed by a high court. There is also a federal Sharia Court, which hears cases that primarily involve Sharia, or Islamic law. Legislation enacted in 1991 gave legal status to Sharia. Although Sharia was declared the law of the land, it did not replace the existing legal code.

Local Government of Pakistan

According to the constitution, Pakistan is a federation. The country is divided into four autonomous (self-governing) provinces; two federally administered areas; and the Islāmābād Capital Territory, which consists of the capital city of Islāmābād.

The four provinces are Baluchistan, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Punjab, and Sind. The provinces are headed by governors appointed by the president. Under the constitution, each province has a directly elected provincial assembly headed by a chief minister. However, the provincial assemblies were suspended following the 1999 military coup.

The Islāmābād Capital Territory, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) are under the jurisdiction of the federal government. In the FATA, however, tribal leaders manage most internal affairs. Azad (Free) Kashmīr has a separate and autonomous government but maintains strong ties to Pakistan. Control of the territory included within FANA and Azad Kashmīr is a matter of dispute between Pakistan and India (see Jammu and Kashmīr).

Political Parties of Pakistan

Pakistan’s founding nationalist party, the Muslim League, dissolved after martial law was imposed in 1958. The Pakistan Muslim League (PML) founded in 1962 bore little resemblance to the original party. The PML subsequently splintered into several factions. In 1967 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto formed the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to oppose the regime of Muhammad Ayub Khan. In the aftermath of the military coup of 1977, political parties were banned from 1979 until civilian rule was restored in 1985. Although political parties were not banned after the military coup of 1999, they could not participate in government because the national and provincial assemblies were dissolved. In 2002 these legislative bodies were restored following multiparty elections.

Health and Welfare in Pakistan

Health services in Pakistan are limited by a lack of facilities. In 2004 the country had one physician for every 1,353 people and one hospital bed for every 1,000 people. In 1976 an old-age pension system was inaugurated, but it covers relatively few Pakistanis.

Defense of Pakistan

Military service in Pakistan is voluntary. In 2006 the country’s armed forces had 619,000 members, including 550,000 in the army, 45,000 in the air force, and 24,000 in the navy. Another 247,000 were in paramilitary units.


The area of present-day Pakistan has a long history of human settlement as the cradle of the Indus Valley civilization, the earliest-known civilization in South Asia. This Bronze Age culture flourished in the area of the Indus River Valley from about 2500 to 1700 BC. The Indus River is considered the lifeblood of Pakistan, and the ancient culture that arose there serves as an icon of Pakistan’s territorial identity. Important archaeological sites in Pakistan include Mohenjo-Daro (Sindhi for “Mound of the Dead”), in Sind Province, and Harappā, near the Ravi River (a tributary of the Indus) in Punjab Province.

Pakistan’s cultural identity is traced to the centuries of Muslim rule in the region. In AD 711 Mohammad bin Qasim, an Arab general and nephew of Hajjaj, ruler of Iraq and Persia, conquered Sind and incorporated it into the Umayyad Caliphate. Thereafter Muslims continued to rule areas of present-day Pakistan for almost 1,000 years. For the first 300 years the region of Sind was the only part of the Indian subcontinent that was under Muslim rule. Muslim rule began to spread to other areas after the Afghan sultan Mahmud of Ghaznī, leader of the Ghaznavids, invaded in 997. After he conquered the region of Punjab in the early 11th century, he made Lahore his capital. Between 1175 and 1186 the regions of Sind and Punjab were conquered by Muhammad of Ghur, leader of the Turkish Ghurid Empire, which was centered in what is now west central Afghanistan. His generals conquered all of north India by the time he was assassinated in 1206. That year his general Qutubuddin Aybak laid the foundations of an independent Muslim kingdom in India, the Delhi Sultanate. Thirty-five sultans ruled this rich and powerful sultanate from 1206 to 1526. The sultanate included most of Punjab and Sind during this period.

The golden age of Muslim rule in the Indian subcontinent came with the glory and grandeur of the Mughal Empire (1526-1858). Between 1526 and 1707 six powerful Mughal kings ruled in succession: Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb. As the boundaries of the empire grew, Islam spread in India through incoming Muslim rulers, intermarriages, conversions among the lower Hindu castes, and the teachings of Sufi mystics. The death of Aurangzeb in 1707 marked the beginning of the decline of the Mughal Empire, and of Muslim rule in India.

British Rule

The waning control of the Mughal Empire left the subcontinent vulnerable to new contenders for power from Europe. The British changed the course of history by penetrating India from the Bay of Bengal, in the east; until then invading forces had entered India from the northwest, mostly by way of the Khyber Pass. The English East India Company established trading posts in Bengal and represented British interests in the region. In 1757 company forces defeated the nawab (ruler) of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Dawlah, in the Battle of Plassey.

This victory marked the beginning of British dominance in the subcontinent. The company continued to expand the area under its control through military victories and direct annexations, as well as political agreements with local rulers. The British annexed the area of present-day Sind Province in 1843. The region of Punjab, then under the control of the Sikh kingdom of Lahore, was annexed in 1849 after British forces won the second of two wars against the Sikhs. Some areas of Baluchistan were declared British territory in 1887.

As the British sought to expand their empire into the northwest frontier, they clashed with the Pashtun tribes that held lands extending from the western boundary of the Punjab plains into the kingdom of Afghanistan. The Pashtuns strongly resisted British invasions into their territories. After suffering many casualties, the British finally admitted they could not conquer the Pashtuns. In 1893 Sir Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of the colonial government of India, negotiated an agreement with the king of Afghanistan, Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, to delineate a border. The so-called Durand Line cut through Pashtun territories, dividing them between British and Afghan areas of influence. However, the Pashtuns refused to be subjugated under British colonial rule. The British compromised by creating a new province in 1901, named the North-West Frontier Province, as a loosely administered territory where the Pashtuns would not be subject to colonial laws.

The British maintained their empire in the Indian subcontinent for nearly 200 years. The first 100 years were marked by chaos and crisis. The Sepoy Rebellion, also known as the Indian War of Independence, erupted in 1857 and became a widespread revolt against British rule. After the British quelled the rebellion in 1858, they immediately took steps to maintain control. The British government officially abolished the Mughal Empire and exiled Muhammad Bahadur Shah to Burma. In addition, the British government transferred authority from the English East India Company to the British crown, establishing direct imperial rule in India. To help consolidate control the British initiated a series of educational, administrative, and political processes between 1858 and 1900. English was introduced as the official language.

The Muslim response to the imposition of British rule evolved around the ideas and leadership of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. In 1875 Sir Syed founded Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College (now Aligarh University) because he believed that Muslims could best improve their social and economic standing by gaining a Western education, rather than the traditional Islamic education. He encouraged Muslims to pursue higher education based on the Western model as a way to advance themselves, and their community, in the new order. He also encouraged Muslims to seek government jobs and show loyalty to the British Raj. At the same time he sought British patronage for improving the lives of the Muslims of India. He demanded a separate Muslim electorate, arguing that Muslims were at a disadvantage among India’s overwhelming majority of Hindus. Hindus also were advancing themselves in the new order more quickly than Muslims, the majority of whom held low socioeconomic status as farmers and laborers. The emerging educated Muslim groups found Sir Syed’s ideas inspiring.

In the 1880s the British initiated political reforms that allowed the formation of political parties and local government. The Indian National Congress was created in 1885 to advocate for Indian autonomy from British rule. Many Muslims believed the organization focused on Hindu interests, however, and in 1906 Muslims formed the Muslim League to represent their interests. Muslims demanded, and were granted, separate electorates in the Government of India Act of 1909. This guaranteed Muslims representation in the national and provincial legislative councils, although the authority of these legislative councils was severely limited under the British colonial government. Both Muslims and Hindus demanded autonomy (self-government), and in 1919 constitutional reforms were introduced that gave the legislative councils greater authority. However, the reforms fell short of granting autonomy and did not satisfy political demands. The Amritsar Massacre of 1919 further galvanized nationalist, anti-British sentiment.

The concept of an autonomous Muslim state was publicly proposed during the Allahābād session of the Muslim League in 1930 by the leading Muslim poet-philosopher in South Asia, Mohammad Iqbal. He envisioned a system in which areas that had Muslim majorities would constitute an autonomous state within India. During the next decade, this concept evolved into the demand for the partition of India into separate Muslim and Hindu nations, known as the Two Nations Theory. In 1940 Muslim League president Mohammed Ali Jinnah presided over the organization’s annual session, held that year at Lahore, in which the League made its first official demand for the partition of India. The Lahore Resolution called for an independent, sovereign Muslim state.

During preindependence talks in 1946, the British government found that the stand of the Muslim League on separation and that of the Congress on the territorial unity of India were irreconcilable. The British then decided on partition and on August 14, 1947, granted independence to Pakistan. India gained its independence the next day. They both became independent dominions within the Commonwealth of Nations. Pakistan came into existence in two parts: West Pakistan, coextensive with the country’s present boundaries, and East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh. The two were separated by 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of Indian territory.

Problems of Partition

The division of India caused tremendous dislocation of populations. Some 3.5 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from Pakistan into India, and about 5 million Muslim refugees (known as Mohajirs) migrated from India to Pakistan. The demographic shift caused an initial bitterness between the two countries that was further intensified by each country’s accession of a portion of the princely states in the region. Nearly all of these 562 widely scattered polities joined either India or Pakistan; however, the Muslim princes of Hyderābād and Jūnāgadh and the Hindu ruler of Kashmīr chose not to join either country.

On August 14 and 15, 1947, these three princely states had become technically independent. But when the Muslim ruler of Jūnāgadh, with its predominantly Hindu population, joined Pakistan a month later, India annexed his territory. In September 1948 India used force of arms to annex Hyderābād (now part of Andhra Pradesh state, in central India), which had a mostly Hindu population. The Hindu ruler of Kashmīr, whose subjects were 85 percent Muslim, decided to join India. Pakistan, however, questioned his right to do so, and a war broke out between India and Pakistan. Although the United Nations (UN) subsequently resolved that a plebiscite be held under UN auspices to determine the future of Kashmīr, India continued to occupy about two-thirds of the state and refused to hold a plebiscite. Pakistan controlled the remaining portion as Azad (Free) Kashmīr, an autonomous region, and the Northern Areas, federally administered. This deadlock, which still persists, has intensified suspicion and antagonism between the two countries. See also Indo-Pakistani Wars.

Early Governments and the Constitution of 1956

The first government of Pakistan was headed by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and it chose the seaport of Karāchi as its capital. Jinnah, considered the founder of Pakistan and hailed as the Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader), became head of state as governor-general. The government faced many challenges in setting up new economic, judicial, and political structures. It endeavored to organize the bureaucracy and the armed forces, resettle the Mohajirs (Muslim refugees from India), and establish the distribution and balance of power in the provincial and central governments. Undermining these efforts were provincial politicians who often defied the authority of the central government, and frequent communal riots. Before the government could surmount these difficulties, Jinnah died in September 1948.

In foreign policy, Liaquat established friendly relations with the United States when he visited President Harry S. Truman in 1950. Pakistan’s early foreign policy was one of nonalignment, with no formal commitment to either the United States or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the two major adversaries in the Cold War. In 1953, however, Pakistan aligned itself with the United States and accepted military and economic assistance.

Liaquat was assassinated in 1951. Khwaja Nazimuddin, an East Pakistani who had succeeded Jinnah as governor-general, became prime minister. Ghulam Muhammad became governor-general. Nazimuddin attempted to limit the powers of the governor-general through amendments to the Government of India Act of 1935, under which Pakistan was governed pending the adoption of a constitution. Ghulam Muhammad dismissed Nazimuddin and replaced him with Muhammad Ali Bogra, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, who subsequently was elected president of the Muslim League.

In the 1954 provincial elections in East Pakistan, the Muslim League was routed by the United Front coalition, which supported provincial autonomy. The coalition was dominated by the Awami League. However, Ghulam Muhammad imposed governor’s rule in the province, preventing the United Front from taking power in the provincial legislature. After the constituent assembly attempted to curb the governor-general’s power, Ghulam Muhammad declared a state of emergency and dissolved the assembly. A new constituent assembly was indirectly elected in mid-1955 by the various provincial legislatures. The Muslim League, although still the largest party, was no longer dominant as more parties, including those of the United Front coalition, gained representation. Bogra, who had little support in the new assembly, was replaced by Chaudhri Muhammad Ali, a former civil servant in West Pakistan and a member of the Muslim League. At the same time, General Iskander Mirza became governor-general.

The new constituent assembly enacted a bill, which became effective in October 1955, integrating the four West Pakistani provinces into one political and administrative unit, known as the One Unit. This change was designed to give West Pakistan parity with the more populous East Pakistan in the national legislature. The assembly also produced Pakistan’s first constitution, which was adopted on March 2, 1956. It provided for a unicameral (single-chamber) National Assembly with 300 seats, evenly divided between East and West Pakistan. It also officially designated Pakistan an Islamic republic. According to its provisions, Mirza’s title changed from governor-general to president.

Unstable Parliamentary Democracy

The new charter notwithstanding, political instability continued because no stable majority party emerged in the National Assembly. Prime Minister Ali remained in office only until September 1956, when he was unable to retain his majority in the National Assembly and was succeeded by Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, founder of the Awami League of East Pakistan. He formed a coalition cabinet that included the Awami League and the Republican Party of the West Wing, a new party that was formed by dissident members of the Muslim League. However, President Mirza forced Suhrawardy to resign after he discovered that the prime minister was planning to support Firoz Khan Noon, leader of the Republican Party, for the presidency in the country’s first general elections, scheduled for January 1959. The succeeding coalition government, headed by Ismail Ibrahim Chundrigar of the Muslim League, lasted only two months before it was replaced by a Republican Party cabinet under Noon.

President Mirza, realizing he had no chance of being reelected president and openly dissatisfied with parliamentary democracy, proclaimed martial law on October 7, 1958. He dismissed Noon’s government, dissolved the National Assembly, and canceled the scheduled general elections. Mirza was supported by General Muhammad Ayub Khan, commander in chief of the army, who was named chief martial-law administrator. Twenty days later Ayub forced the president to resign and assumed the presidency himself.

The Ayub Years

President Ayub ruled Pakistan almost absolutely for a little more than ten years. Although his regime made some notable achievements, it did not eliminate the basic problems of Pakistani society. Ayub’s regime increased developmental funds to East Pakistan more than threefold. This had a noticeable effect on the economy of the province, but the disparity between the two wings of Pakistan was not eliminated. His regime also initiated land reforms designed to reduce the political power of the landed aristocracy. Ayub also promulgated a progressive Islamic law, the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1961, imposing restrictions on polygamy and divorce and reinforcing the inheritance rights of women and minors.

In 1959, soon after taking office, Ayub ordered the planning and construction of a new national capital, to replace Karāchi. The chosen location of the new capital in the province of Punjab was close to the military headquarters of Rāwalpindi, which served as an interim capital. Islāmābād officially became the new capital in 1967, although construction continued into the 1970s.

Perhaps the most pervasive of Ayub’s changes was his introduction of a new political system, known as the Basic Democracies, in 1959. It created a four-tiered system of mostly indirect representation in government, from the local to the national level, allowing communication between local communities and the highly centralized national government. Each tier was assigned certain responsibilities in local administration of agricultural and community development, such as maintenance of elementary schools, public roads, and bridges. All the councils at the tehsil (subdistrict), zilla (district), and division levels were indirectly elected. The lowest tier, on the village level, consisted of union councils. Members of the union councils were known as Basic Democrats and were the only members of any tier who were directly elected.

A new constitution promulgated by Ayub in 1962 ended the period of martial law. The new, 156-member National Assembly was elected that year by an electoral college of 120,000 Basic Democrats from the union councils. After the legislative elections political parties were again legalized. Ayub created the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) as the official government party. The presidential election of January 1965, also determined by electoral college rather than direct vote, resulted in a victory for Ayub, although opposition parties were allowed to participate.

Ayub was skillful in maintaining cordial relations with the United States, stimulating substantial economic and military aid to Pakistan. This relationship deteriorated in 1965, when another war with India broke out over Kashmīr. The United States then suspended military and economic aid to both countries. The USSR intervened to mediate the conflict, inviting Ayub and Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri of India to meet in Toshkent (Tashkent). By the terms of the so-called Toshkent Agreement of January 1966, the two countries withdrew their forces to prewar positions and restored diplomatic, economic, and trade relations. Exchange programs were initiated, and the flow of capital goods to Pakistan increased greatly.

The Toshkent Agreement and the Kashmīr war, however, generated frustration among the people and resentment against President Ayub. Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who opposed Pakistan’s capitulation, resigned his position and founded the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in opposition to the Ayub regime. Ayub tried unsuccessfully to make amends, and amid mounting public protests he declared martial law and resigned in March 1969. Instead of transferring power to the speaker of the National Assembly, as the constitution dictated, he handed it over to the commander in chief of the army, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, who was the designated martial-law administrator. Yahya then assumed the presidency.

Yahya Regime

In an attempt to make his martial-law regime more acceptable, Yahya dismissed almost 300 senior civil servants and identified 32 families that were said to control about half of Pakistan’s gross national product. To curb their power Yahya issued an ordinance against monopolies and restrictive trade practices in 1970. He also committed to the return of constitutional government and announced the country would hold its first general election on the basis of universal adult franchise in late 1970.

Yahya determined that representation in the National Assembly would be based on population. In July 1970 he abolished the One Unit, thereby restoring the original four provinces in West Pakistan. As a result, East Pakistan emerged as the largest province of the country, while in West Pakistan the province of Punjab emerged as the dominant province. East Pakistan was allocated 162 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly, and the provinces of West Pakistan were allocated a total of 138.

Civil War

The election campaign intensified divisions between East and West Pakistan. A challenge to Pakistan’s unity emerged in East Pakistan when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (“Mujib”), leader of the Awami League, insisted on a federation under which East Pakistan would be virtually independent. He envisaged a federal government that would deal with defense and foreign affairs only; even the currencies would be different, although freely convertible.

Mujib’s program had great appeal for many East Pakistanis, and in the December 1970 election called by Yahya, he won by a landslide in East Pakistan, capturing 160 seats in the National Assembly. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) emerged as the largest party in West Pakistan, capturing 81 seats (predominantly in Punjab and Sind). This gave the Awami League an absolute majority in the National Assembly, a turn of events that was considered unacceptable by political interests in West Pakistan because of the divided political climate of the country. The Awami League adopted an uncompromising stance, however, and negotiations between the various sides became deadlocked.

Suspecting Mujib of secessionist politics, Yahya in March 1971 postponed indefinitely the convening of the National Assembly. Mujib in return accused Yahya of collusion with Bhutto and established a virtually independent government in East Pakistan. Yahya opened negotiations with Mujib in Dhaka in mid-March, but the effort soon failed. Meanwhile Pakistan’s army went into action against Mujib’s civilian followers, who demanded that East Pakistan become independent as the nation of Bangladesh.

There were many casualties during the ensuing military operations in East Pakistan, as the Pakistani army attacked the poorly armed population. India claimed that nearly 10 million Bengali refugees crossed its borders, and stories of West Pakistani atrocities abounded. The Awami League leaders took refuge in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and established a government in exile. India finally intervened on December 3, 1971, and the Pakistani army surrendered 13 days later. East Pakistan declared its independence as Bangladesh.

Yahya resigned, and on December 20 Bhutto was inaugurated as president and chief martial law administrator of a truncated Pakistan. Mujib became the first prime minister of Bangladesh in January 1972. When the Commonwealth of Nations admitted Bangladesh later that year, Pakistan withdrew its membership, not to return until 1989. However, the Bhutto government gave diplomatic recognition to Bangladesh in 1974.

The Bhutto Government

Under Bhutto’s leadership Pakistan began to rearrange its national life. Bhutto nationalized the basic industries, insurance companies, domestically owned banks, and schools and colleges. He also instituted land reforms that benefited tenants and middle-class farmers. He removed the armed forces from the process of decision making, but to placate the generals he allocated about 6 percent of the gross national product to defense. In July 1972 Bhutto negotiated the Simla Agreement, which confirmed a line of control dividing Kashmīr and prompted the withdrawal of Indian troops from Pakistani territory.

In April 1972 Bhutto lifted martial law and convened the National Assembly, which consisted of members elected from West Pakistan in 1970. After much political debate, the legislature drafted the country’s third constitution, which was promulgated on August 14, 1973. It changed the National Assembly into a two-chamber legislature, with a Senate as the upper house and a National Assembly as the lower house. It designated the prime minister as the most powerful government official, but it also set up a formal parliamentary system in which the executive was responsible to the legislature. Bhutto became prime minister, and Fazal Elahi Chaudry replaced him as president.

Although discontented, the military grudgingly accepted the supremacy of the civilian leadership. Bhutto embarked on ambitious nationalization programs and land reforms, which he called “Islamic socialism.” His reforms achieved some success but earned him the enmity of the entrepreneurial and capitalist class. In addition, religious leaders considered them to be un-Islamic. Unable to deal constructively with the opposition, he became heavy-handed in his rule. In the general elections of 1977, nine opposition parties united in the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) to run against Bhutto’s PPP. Losing in three of the four provinces, the PNA alleged that Bhutto had rigged the vote. The PNA boycotted the provincial elections a few days later and organized demonstrations throughout the country that lasted for six weeks.

Zia Regime

The PPP and PNA leadership proved incapable of resolving the deadlock, and the army chief of staff, General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, staged a coup on July 5, 1977, and imposed another martial-law regime. Bhutto was tried for authorizing the murder of a political opponent and found guilty; he was hanged on April 4, 1979. The PPP was reorganized under the leadership of his daughter, Benazir Bhutto.

Zia formally assumed the presidency in 1978 and embarked on an Islamization program. Through various ordinances between 1978 and 1985, he instituted the Islamization of Pakistan’s legal and economic systems and social order. In 1979 a federal Sharia (Islamic law) court was established to exercise Islamic judicial review. Other ordinances established interest-free banking and provided maximum penalties for adultery, defamation, theft, and consumption of alcohol.

On March 24, 1981, Zia issued a Provisional Constitutional Order that served as a substitute for the suspended 1973 constitution. The order provided for the formation of a Federal Advisory Council (Majlis-e-Shoora) to take the place of the National Assembly. In early 1982 Zia appointed the 228 members of the new council. This effectively restricted the political parties, which already had been constrained by the banning of political activity, from organizing resistance to the Zia regime through the election process.

The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979 heightened Pakistan’s insecurity and changed the fortunes of General Zia’s military regime. Afghan refugees began to pour into Pakistan. After about a year, the United States responded to the crisis. In September 1981 Zia accepted a six-year economic and military aid package worth $3.2 billion from the United States. (The United States approved a second aid package worth $4.0 billion in 1986 but then suspended its disbursement in 1989 due to Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program.) After a referendum in December 1984 endorsed Zia’s Islamization policies and the extension of his presidency until 1990, Zia permitted elections for parliament in February 1985. A civilian cabinet took office in April, and martial law ended in December. Zia was dissatisfied, however, and in May 1988 he dissolved the government and ordered new elections. Three months later he was killed in an airplane crash possibly caused by sabotage, and a caretaker regime took power until elections could be held.

Shifting Civilian Governments

Benazir Bhutto became prime minister after her PPP won the general elections in November 1988. She was the first woman to head a modern Islamic state. A civil servant, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, was appointed president. In August 1990 he dismissed Bhutto’s government, charging misconduct, and declared a state of emergency. Bhutto and the PPP lost the October elections after she was arrested for corruption and abuse of power.

The new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, head of the Islamic Democratic Alliance (a coalition of Islamic parties including the Pakistan Muslim League), introduced a program of privatizing state enterprises and encouraging foreign investment. Fulfilling Sharif’s election promise to make Sharia (Islamic law) the supreme law of Pakistan, the national legislature passed an amended Shariat Bill in 1991. Sharif also promised to ease continuing tensions with India over Kashmīr. The charges against Bhutto were resolved, and she returned to lead the opposition. In early 1993 Sharif was appointed the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League.

In April 1993 Ishaq Khan once again used his presidential power, this time to dismiss Sharif and to dissolve parliament. However, Sharif appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and in May the court stated that Khan’s actions were unconstitutional, and the court reinstated Sharif as prime minister. Sharif and Khan subsequently became embroiled in a power struggle that paralyzed the Pakistani government. In an agreement designed to end the stalemate, Sharif and Khan resigned together in July 1993, and elections were held in October of that year. Bhutto’s PPP won a plurality in the parliamentary elections, and Bhutto was again named prime minister.

In 1996 Bhutto’s government was dismissed by President Farooq Leghari amid allegations of corruption. New elections in February 1997 brought Nawaz Sharif back to power in a clear victory for the Pakistan Muslim League. One of Sharif’s first actions as prime minister was to lead the National Assembly in passing a constitutional amendment stripping the president of the authority to dismiss parliament. The action triggered a power struggle between Sharif, Leghari, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. When the military threw its support behind Sharif, Leghari resigned and Shah was removed. Sharif’s nominee, Rafiq Tarar, was then elected president.

Pakistan was beset by domestic unrest beginning in the mid-1990s. Violence between rival political, religious, and ethnic groups erupted frequently in Sind Province, particularly in Karāchi. Federal rule was imposed on the province in late 1998 due to increasing violence.

Relations with India

Relations between India and Pakistan became more tense beginning in the early 1990s. Diplomatic talks between the two countries broke down in January 1994 over the disputed Kashmīr region. In February Bhutto organized a nationwide strike to show support for the militant Muslim rebels in Indian Kashmīr involved in sporadic fighting against the Indian army. She also announced that Pakistan would continue with its nuclear weapons development program, raising concerns that a nuclear arms race could start between Pakistan and India, which has had nuclear weapons since the 1970s. In January 1996, despite some controversy, the United States lifted economic and some military sanctions imposed against Pakistan since 1990. The sanctions, imposed to protest Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, were lifted to allow U.S. companies to fulfill contracts with Pakistan and to help foster diplomatic relations between the two countries.

In early 1997 Sharif resumed talks with India over the Kashmīr region; however, negotiations quickly broke down when armed hostilities erupted again. Tensions escalated further in 1998, when India conducted several nuclear tests. Pakistan responded with its own tests, detonating nuclear weapons for the first time in its history. The Pakistani government then declared a state of emergency, invoking constitutional provisions that operate when Pakistan’s security comes under “threat of external aggression.” Many foreign countries, including the United States, imposed economic sanctions against both India and Pakistan for exploding nuclear devices. In the months following the explosions, the leaders of Pakistan and India placed a moratorium on further nuclear testing, and the United States initiated negotiations between the two countries aimed at reducing tensions and circumventing an arms race in the region.

In early 1999 Sharif and Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signed the Lahore Declaration, which articulated a commitment to work toward improved relations. However, in April fears of a nuclear arms race revived when both countries tested medium-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Furthermore, in May 1999 Kashmīri separatists, widely believed to be backed by Pakistan, seized Indian-controlled territory near Kargil in the disputed Kashmīr region. Fighting between Indian forces and the separatists raged until July, when Sharif agreed to secure the withdrawal of the separatists and India suspended its military campaign.

The Pakistani military accused Sharif of giving in too easily to pressure from India and for pinning the blame for the Kargil attack on army chief Pervez Musharraf. In October 1999 Sharif tried to dismiss General Musharraf from his position. He attempted to prevent Musharraf’s return to Pakistan from abroad by refusing to let his airplane land. The commercial airplane was forced to circle the Karāchi airport until army forces loyal to Musharraf took over the airport. Army forces also seized control of the government in a bloodless coup that lasted less than three hours.

Pakistan Under Musharraf

Musharraf declared himself the chief executive of Pakistan, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the legislature. He appointed an eight-member National Security Council to function as the country’s supreme governing body. Many Pakistanis, already chafing under Sharif’s increasingly autocratic rule and suffering from a sagging Pakistani economy after ten years of government excesses and corruption, welcomed the coup. Sharif was arrested, and in April 2000 he was convicted of abuse of power and other charges and sentenced to life imprisonment; his sentence was subsequently commuted and he was allowed to live in exile in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Pakistan set a deadline of October 2002 for holding national elections to restore civilian rule. The Commonwealth of Nations, however, formally suspended Pakistan’s membership because the coup ousted a civilian government.

After assuming power, Musharraf’s military government adopted a reformist posture. It identified economic reform as the most urgent measure needed to restore the confidence of foreign and local investors. As part of this strategy, Musharraf initiated an ambitious program based on accountability, improved governance, and widening of the tax net. However, in the wake of the coup new international sanctions were imposed to oppose the military regime. Donor agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were unwilling to provide new loans or reschedule Pakistan’s foreign debt.

Pakistan Allies with United States

In 2001 Pakistan established itself as a vital U.S. ally and key regional player after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Pakistan became a frontline state of high strategic importance as the U.S.-led war on terrorism unfolded in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan had been an ally of the Taliban, which had established a fundamentalist Islamic regime in Afghanistan in 1996. The Taliban was accused of harboring the suspected mastermind of the terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden. The Taliban and bin Laden’s international terrorist network, al-Qaeda, became the target of U.S.-led air strikes in Afghanistan that began on October 7. The Musharraf government agreed to provide logistical support and use of Pakistan’s airspace for the offensive, and to share military intelligence to fight global terrorism. Formally breaking with the Taliban, Pakistan withdrew all of its diplomats from Afghanistan and officially closed its shared border. On September 22, meanwhile, the United States lifted most of the economic sanctions it had imposed after Pakistan exploded nuclear devices in 1998, brightening prospects for Pakistan’s economy.

Musharraf’s cooperation with the United States evoked hostility from hardline Islamic fundamentalist groups within Pakistan. In December 2003 the Pakistani president survived two assassination attempts. Suspicions centered on militant Islamic groups within Pakistan, on al-Qaeda, or a joint conspiracy between the two groups. The attacks appeared to encourage Musharraf to crack down on the militant fundamentalists and to bolster Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States in pursuing al-Qaeda and Taliban forces along the Pakistani border with Afghanistan.

Constitutional Amendments and Elections

Musharraf pledged to hold provincial and parliamentary elections in October 2002. In a bid to secure his position as president, a title he had adopted in 2001, Musharraf called a referendum in April 2002 on extending his presidency for five years. The referendum returned a majority of votes in favor of the proposal, although low voter turnout, loose voting rules, and the absence of poll monitors tainted the results. In addition, political parties denounced the referendum because under the constitution, the president is to be selected by members of the national and provincial legislatures. In August 2002 Musharraf granted himself sweeping new powers, unilaterally enacting the Legal Framework Order that introduced 29 amendments to Pakistan’s constitution. Among other powers, the amendments allowed him to dissolve the parliament, force the resignation of the prime minister, and appoint Supreme Court justices.

In the October 2002 elections no single party or coalition of parties won a majority of seats in the National Assembly (lower house). The largest number of seats went to the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam), or PML-Q, a new PML faction formed as a pro-Musharraf party. Pro-democracy parties, which had formed the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy, also made a strong showing, as did hardline Islamic parties. Afterward, Britain announced that in restoring an elected civilian government, Pakistan qualified for readmission to the Commonwealth of Nations.

In December 2003 the parliament passed a constitutional-amendment bill that legitimized Musharraf’s rule and approved most of the special powers that he had awarded himself in 2002. It also specified that Musharraf would have to relinquish his post as chief of army staff by the end of 2004. Before the deadline approached, however, both houses of parliament voted to allow Musharraf to remain in the dual role of president and army chief until 2007. Opposition leaders vehemently opposed the vote, which passed by a simple majority. Musharraf continued to insist that a formal role for the military in governing the country was necessary to ensure stability.

Regional Diplomacy

Tensions escalated between Pakistan and India following violent attacks on Indian targets by Kashmīri separatists in late 2001 and early 2002. By mid-2002 the two countries had amassed an estimated 1 million troops along their shared border, with most of the military buildup in the disputed Jammu and Kashmīr region. The threat of armed conflict between the two nuclear powers prompted intense international diplomacy, which ultimately helped defuse the crisis.

In May 2003 India and Pakistan agreed to restore diplomatic ties. High-level contacts followed. In late November Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee accepted Musharraf’s offer of a cease-fire in Jammu and Kashmīr. For the first time in 14 years, artillery fire ceased along the 1,100-km (700-mi) border. The two leaders also made moves toward restoring and improving trade and transportation ties between their countries. In January 2004 India and Pakistan agreed to resume talks on a range of issues, including the status of Kashmīr.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program

In February 2004 the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted that he had shared nuclear weapons technology with other nations. Through these deals Khan became enormously wealthy. In a nationally televised address Khan apologized for his actions. The next day Musharraf pardoned Khan, who is regarded as a national hero within Pakistan. Khan’s ties with Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons laboratory had previously been severed in 2001 due to financial irregularities. He was placed under house arrest in early 2004 after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and several Western intelligence agencies confronted Musharraf with overwhelming evidence that Khan had passed nuclear weapons secrets to Iran, Libya, and North Korea.

Deadly Earthquake

In October 2005 a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck Pakistan’s mountainous northern regions. Near the epicenter, located about 105 km (65 mi) northeast of Islāmābād, entire villages were reduced to rubble. The quake killed at least 73,000 people and left about 3 million homeless in Pakistan. International donors pledged more than $5 billion for reconstruction, and aid agencies quickly moved in to provide humanitarian relief. However, the remoteness of many communities impeded aid efforts. As heavy winter snows set in, many survivors were forced to live in tents and other inadequate shelters. A year later about 30,000 people faced another brutally cold winter without adequate shelter, due to the slow pace of rebuilding. The Pakistani government estimated that reconstruction would take several years to complete.

Opposition to Musharraf

In March 2007 Musharraf formally suspended the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Chaudhry, and replaced him with an acting chief justice of his own choosing. The dismissal of Chaudhry sparked daily street protests by lawyers and opposition politicians, who accused Musharraf of undermining the independence of the judiciary in the run-up to the presidential elections due in October. The Supreme Court reinstated Chaudhry in July, ruling that Musharraf had acted illegally and exceeded his constitutional authority. The opposition against Musharraf gained new impetus from the ruling.

The following month, the Supreme Court ruled that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf had deposed in 1999, had an “inalienable right” to return to Pakistan from exile in Saudi Arabia. Sharif, who had maintained his leadership of the PML faction loyal to him (the PML-N), announced his intention to return and contest upcoming elections. Upon his arrival in September 2007, Sharif was promptly arrested by government forces and sent back to Saudi Arabia. However, in November he was allowed to return to Pakistan.

In early October, Musharraf easily won reelection as president. Most opposition parties boycotted the election, which was held by an electoral college comprising members of the national and provincial assemblies. Although the Supreme Court had allowed the election to go ahead as scheduled, it decided to hear challenges to Musharraf’s right to reelection, thus postponing his inauguration. At issue was his eligibility to run for president while retaining his role as army chief. Musharraf indicated he would give up his military title once his reelection as president was secured.

Meanwhile, Musharraf engaged in negotiations with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the widely popular PPP leader who had remained in self-imposed exile since 1999. Bhutto sought to gain amnesty from the longstanding corruption charges against her, as well as the right to serve a third term as prime minister (disallowed under the amended constitution). In return Bhutto reportedly agreed to accept Musharraf as president, providing he resigned as army chief. In October 2007 Musharraf granted Bhutto amnesty, and she promptly returned to Pakistan.

Bhutto’s arrival procession in Karāchi drew throngs of supporters, but the homecoming celebration turned into a tragedy as suicide-bomb attacks killed at least 136 people and injured hundreds more. Afterward, the government instituted restrictions on public political gatherings. Suicide-bomb attacks, attributed to Islamic militants, had been on the rise in Pakistan for several months.

Musharraf declared a state of emergency in November 2007, claiming that the country was “on the verge of destabilization” due to increasing activity by pro-Taliban militants. Musharraf suspended the constitution and dissolved the Supreme Court but stopped short of shutting down the parliament. Only the state-run television station was allowed to broadcast, and telephone lines were disabled. Chief Justice Chaudhry refused to endorse the emergency order and was promptly dismissed and put under house arrest. Chaudhry’s supporters and others who staged protests against the imposition of emergency rule were met with baton-wielding police and tear gas.

Musharraf resigned his military post in late November and was subsequently inaugurated as president, this time as a civilian. He lifted the state of emergency in mid-December. Later that month Bhutto was assassinated, reportedly by Pakistani Taliban insurgents, while campaigning in Rāwalpindi. Parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for January 2008, were postponed until February. The PPP emerged as the largest party in the National Assembly, followed by Sharif’s PML-N. The pro-Musharraf PML-Q and its allies suffered a crushing defeat, losing their majority. The PPP and PML-N formed a coalition government in opposition to Musharraf. Yusuf Raza Gilani of the PPP was named prime minister.

In early August 2008 the coalition government drew up charges of impeachment against Musharraf, who subsequently resigned rather than face impeachment. The speaker of the Pakistani Senate, Muhammad Mian Sumroo, took over as caretaker president until a new election could be held. The election, which was held in the National Assembly and four provincial assemblies in early September, was won by Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower and the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Also in September, Gilani was the apparent target of an assassination attempt as his motorcade came under fire, although government officials said Gilani was not in the motorcade at the time. The attack occurred just hours after United States Special Operations forces staged the first-ever border raid into Pakistan from commando bases in Afghanistan. The raid, which targeted Taliban and al-Qaeda units based in a border village in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, resulted in civilian deaths, including that of at least one child, and drew strong protests from Pakistan’s government.

Conflict with the Taliban and al-Qaeda

As 2009 began, it became apparent that Pakistan faced a major challenge from a growing internal insurgency led by the Taliban and aided by al-Qaeda. The Taliban insurgency was characterized as indigenous, not to be confused with the Afghanistan Taliban, although both shared the goal of establishing strict religious rule in their respective countries. After a year of sporadic fighting with Taliban insurgents in the Swat Valley region of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, the provincial government offered a truce to the Taliban in that region in February. The region has about 1.5 million residents and is only 160 km (100 mi) from Pakistan’s capital, Islāmābād. The insurgency in Swat began in 2007 but intensified after the secular Awami National Party (ANP) won provincial elections in 2008. The Taliban attempted to intimidate them by carrying out a campaign of guerrilla warfare and assassinations against ANP ministers and members of parliament. Instead of showing resolve to combat and defeat the insurgency, the provincial government sought a ceasefire.

As part of the truce offer, the government said it would recognize judicial courts based on Sharia, the Islamic legal code, but would not implement that recognition until the fighting stopped. As a result of the guerrilla war, the Pakistan Taliban had come to control about 70 percent of the Swat region. In late February the Taliban agreed to accept the ceasefire offer but then refused to disarm. With the Swat region in its control, the Taliban had in effect created a mini-state in parts of the North-West Frontier Province and the semi-autonomous areas of North and South Waziristan. Members of the provincial government fled, as did millions of civilians who sought to escape the fighting and political recriminations.

By April 2009, according to some estimates, the Taliban controlled or contested for control about 7 to 8 percent of all of Pakistan and were establishing terrorist networks in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. Some political observers also reported that the Taliban were making inroads among the poor, promising an end to economic and political inequality. Taliban rule in the Swat region, however, was harsh, including executions, public beatings, and the banning of schools for girls.

After taking control of Swat, the Taliban began attacking neighboring districts, particularly Mardan and Peshawar. Alarmed by these inroads and rising public demand to curb the militants, the PPP government began a military offensive against the Taliban in the Swat region in late April, sending 16,000 troops into the area against a Taliban force believed to number about 8,000 fighters. By late May, the military reported that its offensive was succeeding and that the local populace was informing on the whereabouts of Taliban guerrillas. The military also claimed the recapture of Mingāora, the largest city in Swat. In response to the offensive, the Taliban carried out terrorist attacks in Islāmābād and Lahore, the principal city of Punjab. From February 2008 to April 2009, Pakistan was hit by 1,842 terrorist attacks, killing 1,395 citizens. Military operations appeared to have the Taliban on the run. As a result the Taliban seemed to be increasingly launching terrorist attacks on the offices and personnel of law enforcement agencies in an attempt to create a heightened level of fear in the country.

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