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Islamic Republic of Pakistan

President: General Pervez Musharraf


Prime Minister: Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali (2002)

Area: 310,400 sq. mi. (803,940 sq. km)1

Population (1999 est.): 138,123,359 (average annual growth rate: 2.31%); birth rate: 33.5/1000; infant mortality rate: 91.9/1000; density per sq. mi.: 445

Capital (1981 census): Islamabad, 201,000

Largest cities: Karachi: city proper (1981 census) 5,208,132; metro. area (1996 est.) 10,119,000; Lahore, 2,952,700; Faisalabad, (Lyallpur) 1,920,000; Rawalpindi, 920,000; Hyderabad, 795,000

Monetary unit: Pakistan rupee

Principal languages: Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Siraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashtu 8%, Urdu (official) 100%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English, Burushaski, and others

Ethnicity/Race: Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun (Pathan), Baloch, Muhajir (immigrants from India and their descendants)

Religions: Islam, 97%; Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Parsi

Literacy rate: 35%

Economic summary: GNP: (purchasing power parity, 1996 est.): $296.5 billion; $2,300 per capita. Real growth rate: 5.5%. Inflation: 10.8% (FY95/96). Unemployment: n.a. Arable land: 27%. Agriculture: wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane. Labor force: 36.7 million (1997); agriculture, 47%; mining and manufacturing, 17%; services, 17%; other, 19%. Industry: cotton textiles, processed foods, petroleum products, construction materials. Natural resources: natural gas, limited petroleum, iron ore. Exports: $8.3 billion (FY95/96): cotton, rice, textiles, clothing. Imports: $12 billion (FY95/96): edible oil, crude oil, machinery, chemicals, transport equipment. Major trading partners: E.U., Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia.

1. Excluding Kashmir and Jammu.



Pakistan is situated in the western part of the Indian subcontinent, with Afghanistan and Iran on the west, India on the east, and the Arabian Sea on the south. The name “Pakistan” is derived from the Urdu words “Pak” (meaning pure) and “stan” (meaning country). It is nearly twice the size of California.

The northern and western highlands of Pakistan contain the towering Karakoram and Pamir mountain ranges, which include some of the world's highest peaks: K2 (28,250 feet [8,611 m]) and Nanga Parbat (26,660 feet [8,126 m]). The Baluchistan Plateau lies to the west, and the Thar Desert and an expanse of alluvial plains, the Punjab and Sind, lie to the east. The 1,000-mile-long (1,609 km) Indus River and its tributaries flow through the country from the Kashmir region to the Arabian Sea.


Pakistan is a federal republic with a bicameral legislature—a 217-member National Assembly and an 87-member Senate.


Pakistan was one of the two original successor states to British India, which was partitioned along religious lines in 1947. For almost 25 years following independence, it consisted of two separate regions, East and West Pakistan, but now is made up only of the western sector. Both India and Pakistan have laid claim to the Kashmir region, and this territorial dispute led to war in 1949, again in 1965 and 1971, and remains unresolved.

What is now Pakistan was in prehistoric times the Indus Valley civilization (c. 2500–1700 B.C.E.). A series of invaders—Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Turks, and others—controlled the region for the next several thousand years. Islam, the dominant religion, was introduced in C.E. 711. In 1526, the land became part of the Mogul Empire, which ruled most of the Indian subcontinent from the 16th to the mid-18th centuries. By 1857 the British became the dominant power in the region. With Hindus holding most of the economic, social, and political advantages, the Muslim minority's dissatisfaction grew, leading to the formation of the nationalist Muslim League in 1906 by Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1876–1949). The League supported Britain in the Second World War while the Hindu nationalist leaders, Nehru and Gandhi, refused. In return for the League's support of Britain, Jinnah expected British backing for Muslim autonomy. Britain agreed to the formation of Pakistan as a separate dominion within the Commonwealth in August 1947, a bitter disappointment to India's dream of a unified subcontinent. Jinnah became governor-general. The partition of Pakistan and India along religious lines resulted in the largest migration in human history, with 17 million people fleeing across the borders in both directions to escape the sectarian violence accompanying the partition.

Pakistan became a republic on March 3, 1956, with Major General Iskander Mirza becoming the first president. Military rule prevailed for the next two decades. Tensions between East and West Pakistan existed from the outset. Separated by more than a thousand miles, the two regions shared few cultural and social traditions other than religion. To the growing resentment of East Pakistan, the West monopolized the country's political and economic power. In 1970, East Pakistan's Awami League, led by the Bengali leader Sheik Mujibur Rahman, secured a majority of the seats in the National Assembly. President Yahya Khan postponed the opening of the National Assembly to skirt East Pakistan's demand for greater autonomy, provoking civil war. The independent state of Bangladesh, or Bengali nation, was proclaimed March 26, 1971. Indian troops entered the war in its last weeks fighting on the side of the new state. Pakistan was defeated on Dec. 16, 1971, and President Yahya Khan stepped down. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over Pakistan and accepted Bangladesh as an independent entity. In 1976 formal relations between India and Pakistan resumed.

Pakistan's first elections under civilian rule took place in March 1977, and the overwhelming victory of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) was denounced as fraudulent. A rising tide of violent protest and political deadlock led to a military takeover on July 5 by Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq. Bhutto was tried and convicted for the 1974 murder of a political opponent, and despite worldwide protests was executed on April 4, 1979, touching off riots by his supporters. Zia declared himself president on Sept. 16, 1978, and ruled by martial law until Dec. 30, 1985. A measure of representative government was restored with the election of a new National Assembly in Feb. 1985, although leaders of opposition parties were banned from the election. On Aug. 19, 1988, President Zia was killed in a mid-air explosion of a Pakistani Air Force plane. Elections at the end of 1988 brought longtime Zia opponent Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfikar Bhutto, into office as prime minister.

In the 1990s, Pakistan saw a shaky succession of governments. Benazir Bhutto was prime minister twice and dismissed each time by the president for incompetence or corruption. Nawaz Sharif's government is now in power for the third time. In April 1997 parliament amended the constitution to prevent a president from dismissing a government.

India's detonation of five nuclear tests in May 1998 near Pakistan's borders further deteriorated relations between the two countries, and in an act of nuclear brinksmanship, Pakistan evened the score by conducting nuclear tests of its own on May 28th and May 30th. In the fall of 1998 Pakistan indicated a willingness to sign a nuclear test ban treaty to rid itself of Western sanctions, which had been imposed since the nuclear testing. Pakistan began talks about the disputed territory of Kashmir, a major factor in its antagonistic relationship with India—Pakistan controls one-third of Kashmir, which is a predominantly Muslim territory. Both India and Pakistan continued their tit-for-tat military testing by launching nuclear-capable ballistic missiles in April 1999. The next month, fighting broke out in Kashmir. The Indian Air Force launched air strikes on May 26, 1999 and later sent in ground troops against Islamic guerrilla forces who had crossed the cease-fire line in India's territory. India blamed Pakistan for orchestrating the attacks; Pakistan countered that the guerrillas are Kashmiri freedom fighters struggling for India's ouster from the region.


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Sophia Demming   
Stand: 09. Januar 2003