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President: Asif Ali Zardari (2008)
Prime minister: Yousaf Raza Gilani (2008)
Land area: 300,664 sq mi (778,720 sq km); total area: 310,401 sq mi (803,940 sq km)1
Population (2008 est.): 167,762,040 (growth rate: 1.8%); birth rate: 26.9/1000; infant mortality rate: 66.9/1000; life expectancy: 64.1; density per sq mi: 215
Capital (2003 est.): Islamabad, 601,600
Largest cities: Karachi, 11,819,000 (metro area), 9,339,023 (city proper); Lahore, 5,756,100; Faisalabad (Lyallpur), 2,247,700; Rawalpindi, 1,598,600; Gujranwala, 1,384,100
Monetary unit: Pakistan rupee
Principal languages: Urdu 8%, English (both official); Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Siraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashtu 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, Burushaski, and others 8%
Ethnicity/race: Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun (Pathan), Baloch, Muhajir (immigrants from India and their descendants)
Religions: Islam 97% (Sunni 77%, Shiite 20%); Christian, Hindu, and other 3%
National Holiday: Republic Day, March 23
Literacy rate: 49.9% (2005 est.)
Economic summary GDP/PPP (2007est.): $410 billion; per capita $2,600. Real growth rate: 6.4%. Inflation: 7.8%. Unemployment: 7.5% plus substantial underemployment. Arable land: 25%. Agriculture: cotton, wheat, rice, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; milk, beef, mutton, eggs. Labor force: 46.84 million; note: extensive export of labor, mostly to the Middle East, and use of child labor; agriculture 42%, industry 20%, services 38% (2004 est.). Industries: textiles and apparel, food processing, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, paper products, fertilizer, shrimp. Natural resources: land, extensive natural gas reserves, limited petroleum, poor quality coal, iron ore, copper, salt, limestone. Exports: $14.85 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): textiles (garments, bed linen, cotton cloth, yarn), rice, leather goods, sports goods, chemicals, manufactures, carpets and rugs. Imports: $14.01 billion (f.o.b., 2004 est.): petroleum, petroleum products, machinery, plastics, transportation equipment, edible oils, paper and paperboard, iron and steel, tea. Major trading partners: U.S., UAE, UK, Germany, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Kuwait (2004).
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 2.861 million (March 1999); mobile cellular: 158,000 (1998). Radio broadcast stations: AM 27, FM 1, shortwave 21 (1998). Radios: 13.5 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 22 (plus seven low-power repeaters) (1997). Televisions: 3.1 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 30 (2000). Internet users: 1.2 million (2000).
Transportation: Railways: total: 8,163 km (2002). Highways: total: 254,410 km; paved: 109,396 km (including 339 km of expressways); unpaved: 145,014 km (1999). Ports and harbors: Karachi, Port Muhammad bin Qasim. Airports: 124 (2002).
International disputes: thousands of Afghan refugees still reside in Pakistan; isolating terrain and close ties among Pashtuns in Pakistan make cross-border activities difficult to control; armed stand-off with India over the status and sovereignty of Kashmir continues—India objects to Pakistan ceding lands to China in 1965 boundary agreement that India believes are part of disputed Kashmir; disputes with India over Indus River water sharing and the terminus of the Rann of Kutch, which prevents maritime boundary delimitation.
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 ft; 8,611 m) and Nanga Parbat (26,660 ft; 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.
Military rule was instituted in Oct. 1999; a nominal democracy was declared in June 2001 by the ruling military leader, Pervez Musharraf.
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 it is made up only of the western sector. Both India and Pakistan have laid claim to the Kashmir region; this territorial dispute led to war in 1949, 1965, 1971, and 1999, and remains unresolved today.
What is now Pakistan was in prehistoric times the Indus Valley civilization (c. 2500–1700 B.C.). A series of invaders—Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Turks, and others—controlled the region for the next several thousand years. Islam, the principal religion, was introduced in 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 century. 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 Aug. 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 accompanying sectarian violence.
The New Republic
Pakistan became a republic on March 23, 1956, with Maj. Gen. Iskander Mirza as 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 on 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 he 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, when a measure of representative government was restored. On Aug. 19, 1988, Zia was killed in a midair 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.
A Shaky Government
In the 1990s, Pakistan saw a shaky succession of governments—Benazir Bhutto was prime minister twice and deposed twice and Nawaz Sharif three times, until he was deposed in a coup on Oct. 12, 1999, by Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The Pakistani public, familiar with military rule for 25 of the nation's 52-year history, generally viewed the coup as a positive step and hoped it would bring a badly needed economic upswing.
To the surprise of much of the world, two new nuclear powers emerged in May 1998 when India, followed by Pakistan just weeks later, conducted nuclear tests. Fighting with India again broke out in the disputed territory of Kashmir in May 1999.
Close ties with Afghanistan's Taliban government thrust Pakistan into a difficult position following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Under U.S. pressure, Pakistan broke with its neighbor to become the United States' chief ally in the region. In return, President Bush ended sanctions (instituted after Pakistan's testing of nuclear weapons in 1998), rescheduled its debt, and helped to bolster the legitimacy of the rule of Pervez Musharraf, who appointed himself president in 2001.
On Dec. 13, 2001, suicide bombers attacked the Indian parliament, killing 14 people. Indian officials blamed the attack on Islamic militants supported by Pakistan. Both sides assembled hundreds of thousands of troops along their common border, bringing the two nuclear powers to the brink of war.