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The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, or Islami Jamhooriya-e-Pakistan, in Urdu, or Pakistan, is a country located in South Asia and the Greater Middle East. The country borders India, Iran, Afghanistan, the China and the Arabian Sea. With nearly 160 million inhabitants, it is the sixth most populous country in the world.

اسلامی جمحوریہ پاکستان
Islami Jamhuriya-e-Pakistan
(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto: Iman, Ittehad, Tanzeem
(Urdu: Faith, unity, discipline)
Official languages Urdu, English
Capital Islamabad
Largest city Karachi
President General Pervez Musharraf (via referendum)
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 34th
803,940 km²
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 6th
Independence August 14, 1947 (from the UK)
Republic March 23, 1956
Religion Islam
Currency Pakistani Rupee
Currency Code PKR
Time zone UTC +5
National anthem Pak sarzamin shad bad
(Blessed Be The Sacred Land)
Internet TLD .pk
Calling Code 92
National game Field Hockey

Table of contents


Map of Pakistan

Main article: Subdivisions of Pakistan, Districts of Pakistan

Pakistan has 4 provinces, 2 territories, and also administers parts of Kashmir. The provinces are further subdivided into a total of 105 districts. Provinces:


Pakistani-administered portions of Jammu and Kashmir region:


Main articles: History of Pakistan, History of South Asia, History of Afghanistan, History of Iran, History of the Middle East, Prime Minister of Pakistan

Ancient Pakistan

The Achaemenid empire ruled ancient Pakistan in the reign of Cyrus the Great

The areas and communities that constitute Pakistan today have a shared history with India (see History of India, Ancient India, etc.), Afghanistan (see Pre-Islamic period of Afghanistan, etc.) Iran (see History of Iran, etc.) and other countries in the region today. Straddling the civilizations of the Indus valley and the Middle East and being on the borders of Central Asia, Pakistan's past also overlaps that of the Iranian plateau. In ancient times, Pakistan was conquered by many groups, including the Persians, Greeks, Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, White Huns, and Scythians, and various other more obscure groups. Pakistan is partially separated from modern-day India by natural barriers such as the Rann of Kutch and the desolate 500-mile (800-km) long Thar desert, and many of these groups did not penetrate further into the rest of the Indian subcontinent.

Ancient Gandhara Buddhist Monastery at Takht Bahi, Pakistan

Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization, 2800 BC–1800 BC, was one of the most ancient civilization thriving along the Indus River and the Ghaggar-Hakra river in what is now Pakistan. The Indus Valley Civilization is also sometimes referred to as the Harappa or Harappan Civilization of the Indus Valley, in reference to its first excavated city of Harappa.

Map of the Indus Valley Civilization

Indus Civilization settlements spread as far south as Mumbai, or Bombay, as far east as Delhi, as far west as the Iranian border, and as far north as the Himalayas. Among the settlements were the major urban centers of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, as well as Dholavira, Ganweriwala, Lothal, and Rakhigarhi. At its peak, the Indus Civilization may have had a population of well over five million.

The Indus Valley Civilization existed along the Indus River in present-day Pakistan. The Mohenjo-daro ruins pictured above were once the center of this ancient society.

To date, over 1,052 cities and settlements have been found, mainly in the general region of the Indus River in Pakistan.

Greco-Buddhist period

Greco-Buddhism, sometimes spelled Græco-Buddhism, is the cultural syncretism between the culture of Classical Greece and Buddhism, which developed over a period of close to 800 years in the area corresponding to modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan, between the 4th century BCE and the 5th century CE.
General area of Greco-Buddhism, and boundaries of the Kushan empire at its greatest extent around 150 CE.
Greco-Buddhism influenced the artistic (and, possibly, conceptual) development of Buddhism, and in particular Mahayana Buddhism, before it was adopted by Central and Northeastern Asia from the 1st century CE, ultimately spreading to China, Korea and Japan.

The interaction between Hellenistic Greece and Buddhism started when Alexander the Great conquered Asia Minor, the Achaemenid Empire and ancient Pakistan in 334 BCE, defeating Porus at the Battle of the Hydaspes (near modern-day Jhelum, Pakistan) and conquering much of the Punjab. Alexander's troops refused to go beyond the Beas river — which today runs along part of the Indo-Pakistan border — and he took most of his army southwest, adding nearly all of ancient Pakistan to his empire.

Alexander created garrisons for his troops in his new territories, and founded several cities in the areas of the Oxus, Arachosia, and Bactria, and Macedonian/Greek settlements in Gandhara (see Taxila) and the Punjab. The regions included the Khyber Pass — a geographical passageway south of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush mountains — and the Bolan Pass, on a trade route connecting Drangiana, Arachosia and other Persian and Central Asia areas to the lower Indus plain. It is through these regions that most of the interaction between India and Central Asia took place, generating intense cultural exchange and trade.

Following Alexander's death on June 10, 323 BCE, his Diadochi (generals) founded their own kingdoms in Asia Minor and Central Asia. General Seleucus set up the Seleucid Kingdom, which extended as far as India. Later, the Eastern part of the Seleucid Kingdom broke away to form the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom (3rd2nd century BCE), followed by the Indo-Greek Kingdom (2nd1st century BCE), and later still by the Kushan Empire (1st3rd century CE).

The interaction of Greek and Buddhist cultures continued over several centuries until it ended in the 5th century CE with the invasions of the White Huns, and later the expansion of Islam.

See also: History of Buddhism

Pakistan in the Middle Ages

The arrival of people from the Central Asian nations such as the Turks and Mongols was a significant turning point in the history of present-day Pakistan. The Qalandars (wandering Sufi saints) from Central Asia, Persia and Middle East preached a mystical form of Islam that appealed to the Buddhist population of Pakistan. The concept of equality, justice, spiritualness and secularism of the Islamic faith greatly attracted the masses towards it. The Sufi orders of the Qalandars was established gradually, over a period of centuries. Present-day Pakistan was a place of great cultural and religious diversity.

Pakistan still bears marvellous architectural monuments built by the Mughal emperors. During the Mughal rule, the cities of Delhi (present-day India) and Lahore (present-day Pakistan) were made the capitals of the nothern Indian subcontinent. The Mughals also implemented federal regulations including taxation, social welfare reforms, justice, development of the transport and agricultural system and water canals.

British Raj

British conquest and colonization

During the middle of the second millennium, several European countries, such as the Great Britain, Portugal, Holland and France were initially interested in trade with Indian rulers including the Mughals and leaders of other independant Kingdoms. The European took advantage of the fractured kingdoms and the divided rule to colonise the country. After a failed insurrection in 1857 against the British East India Company by Bahadur Shah Zafar, popularly known as the First War of Indian Independence, most of India came under the crown of the British Empire. Present-day Pakistan remained part of British India until August 14, 1947.

Muslims in the Raj

The first proponents of an independent Muslim nation began to appear in the early 20th Century under the British Raj. Soon after Sir Syed's death, however, the All India Muslim League was founded on the sidelines of the 1905 conference of the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental Conference (an organization he had founded). This party was not, right until 1940, separatist. The idea of a separate nation was mooted in humor, satire and on the fringes of the political milieu.

Pakistan movement

By 1930, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who ultimately led the movement for a separate state, had despaired of Indian politics and particularly of getting mainstream parties like the Congress (of which he was a member much longer than the League) to be sensitive to minority priorities. Among the first to make the demand for a separate state was the writer/philosopher Allama Iqbal, who, in his presidential address to the 1930 convention of the Muslim League said that he felt that a separate nation for Muslims was essential in an otherwise Hindu-dominated Indian subcontinent. The Sindh Assembly passed a resolution making it a demand in 1935.

The Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore commemorates the 1940 Pakistan Resolution

Iqbal, Jauhar and others then worked hard to draft Mohammad Ali Jinnah to lead the movement for this new nation. Jinnah later went on to become known as the Father of the Nation, with Pakistan officially giving him the title Quaid-e-Azam or "Great Leader". (See Mohammad Ali Jinnah#A "Secular" Jinnah?)

Lahore Resolution of 1940

In 1940, Jinnah called a general session of the All India Muslim League in Lahore to discuss the situation that had arisen due to the outbreak of the Second World War and the Government of India joining the war without taking the opinion of the Indian leaders. The meeting was also aimed at analyzing the reasons that led to the defeat of the Muslim League in the general election of 1937 in the Muslim majority provinces. Jinnah, in his speech, criticised the Congress and the nationalist Muslims, and espoused the Two-Nation Theory and the reasons for the demand for separate Muslim homelands. Sikandar Hayat Khan, the Chief Minister of the Punjab, drafted the original Lahore Resolution, which was placed before the Subject Committee of the All India Muslim League for discussion and amendments. The resolution, radically amended by the subject committee, was moved in the general session by Shere-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Huq, the Chief Minister of Bengal, on 23 March and was supported by Choudhury Khaliquzzaman and other muslim leaders. The Lahore Resolution ran as follows:

That the areas where the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the Northwestern and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute 'independent states' in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.

The Resolution was adopted on 24 March, 1940 with great enthusiasm.

Origin of Name

The name was coined by Cambridge student and Muslim nationalist Choudhary Rahmat Ali. He devised the word and first published it on January 28, 1933 in the pamphlet Now or Never [1]. He saw it as an acronym formed from the names of the "homelands" of Muslims in South Asia. (P for Punjab, A for the Afghan areas of the region, K for Kashmir, S for Sindh and tan for Baluchistan, thus forming 'Pakstan.' An 'i' was later added to the English rendition of the name to ease pronunciation, producing Pakistan.) The word also captured in the Persian language the concepts of "Pak" meaning "Pure" and "stan" for "land" or "home" (as in the names of Central Asian countries in the region; Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, etc), thus giving it the meaning Land of the Pure.


As the British granted independence to their dominions in India in mid- August 1947, the two nations joined the British Commonwealth as self-governing dominions. In the early days of independence, more than two million people migrated across the new border and more than one hundred thousand died.

Independence to present


Pakistan's independence was won through a democratic and constitutional struggle. Although the country's record with parliamentary democracy has been mixed, Pakistan, after lapses, has returned to this form of government. Pakistani political history is divided into alternating periods of authoritarian military government and democratic civilian/parliamentary rule.

Since independence, Pakistan has also been in constant dispute with India over the territory of Kashmir. The Kashmir dispute has complicated relations between Pakistan and India.

Military Rule (1958-1971)

Ayub Khan
Although dominion status ended in 1956 with the formation of a Constitution and a declaration of Pakistan as an Islamic Republic, the military took control in 1958 and held power for more than 10 years. Field Marshall Ayub Khan also started Basic Democracy in which the people elected electors who in turn voted to select the President.
Fatima Jinnah; courtesy Dawn
He nearly lost the national elections to Fatima Jinnah. During Ayub's rule, relations with the United States grew stronger. Pakistan engaged in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 with India over Kashmir and the Rann of Kutch. After a nationwide uprising in 1969, Ayub Khan stepped down and handed over power to General Yahya Khan who promised general elections to be held at the end of 1970.

1971 war and the secession of East Pakistan

From August 14, 1947, until 1971, the nation consisted of two parts, West Pakistan and East Pakistan, geographically separated by over a thousand miles, with India in between. More than 150,000 people died in the largest natural disaster of the twentieth century when a cyclone hit East Pakistan in 12 November, 1970.

Despite the tragedy, elections went on, and the results showed a clear division between the Eastern and the Western provinces of the country. The Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won a majority in the National Assembly, with 167 of the 169 East Pakistani seats, but with no seats from West Pakistan, where the Pakistan Peoples Party led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, won 85 seats in the National Assembly. Yahya and Bhutto refused to hand over power to Sheikh Mujib. Meanwhile, Mujib initiated a civil disobedience movement, strongly supported by the general population of East Pakistan and most of its government workers. A round-table conference between Yahya, Bhutto and Mujib was convened in Dhaka, and after it ended without a solution, the Pakistani Army started "Operation Searchlight", an organized and brutal crackdown on the East Pakistani army, police, politicians, innocent civilians and students in Dhaka. Mujib and many other Awami League leaders were arrested, while others fled to India. On March 27, 1971, Major Ziaur Rahman, a decorated Bengali war-veteran, declared the independence of Bangladesh on behalf of Mujib. The crackdown broadened and later escalated into a guerrilla warfare between the Pakistani Army and the Mukti Bahini-Bengali freedom fighters. Although the killing of Bengalis was mostly unsupported by the people of West Pakistan, it continued for 9 months. India supplied the Bengali freedom fighters with arms and training, and also hosted the millions of refugees who fled the turmoil.
Gen Niazi (right) signing the document of surrender, Dec. 16, 1971
On December 6, 1971, the Indian Army officially joined the war(Indo-Pakistani War of 1971), and launched a massive assault into East Pakistan, where, by that time, the Pakistani Army led by General A. A. K. Niazi, had been weakened and exhausted. Being greatly outnumbered by the Indian Army and overwhelmed, it surrendered to the Indian Army-Mukti Bahini joint command on December 16, 1971, in one of the largest surrenders in after WW2 – as nearly 90,000 soldiers become PoWs.

The result was the emergence of the new nation of Bangladesh. Discredited by the defeat, President Gen. Yahya Khan resigned.

Civilian rule and the 1973 Constitution

Civilian rule returned after the war when General Yahya Khan handed over power to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

In 1972, Pakistani intelligence learned that India was close to developing a nuclear bomb, and in response, Bhutto formed a group of engineers and scientists, headed by nuclear scientist Abdus Salam – who later won the Nobel Prize in Physics – to develop nuclear devices. In 1973, Parliament approved the 1973 Constitution. Pakistan was alarmed by the Indian nuclear test of 1974, and Bhutto promised that Pakistan would also have a nuclear device "even if we have to eat grass and leaves." Elections were held in 1977, with Bhutto winning. Bhutto's victory was challenged by the opposition, which accused him of rigging the vote. General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq took power in a coup, Bhutto was later executed after being convicted of murdering a political opponent in a controversial 4–3 split decision by Pakistan's Supreme Court.

Front-line state in the anti-Soviet struggle

Pakistan had been a US ally for much of the Cold War, from the 1950s and as a member of CENTO and SEATO. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan renewed and deepened the US-Pakistan alliance. The Reagan administration in the United States helped supply and finance an anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan, using Pakistan as a conduit. In retaliation, the KHAD, under Afghan leader Mohammad Najibullah, carried out (according to the Mitrokhin archives and other sources) a large number of terrorist operations against Pakistan, which also suffered from an influx of weaponry and drugs from Afghanistan. In the 1980s, as the front-line state in the anti-Soviet struggle, Pakistan received substantial aid from the United States and took in millions of Afghan (mostly Pashtun) refugees fleeing the Soviet occupation. The influx of so many refugees – the largest refugee population in the world – had a heavy impact on Pakistan and its effects continue to this day. The dictatorship of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq saw an expansion of Islamic law. In 1988, the general died in an aircraft crash and Pakistan returned to an elected government, ushered in with the election of Benazir Bhutto.

Civilian Democracy

Benazir Bhutto; a formal portrait from when she was Prime Minister

From 1988 to 1998, Pakistan was ruled by civilian governments, alternately headed by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who were each elected twice and removed from office on charges of corruption. Economic growth declined towards the end of this period, hurt by the Asian financial crisis, and economic sanctions imposed on Pakistan after its first tests of nuclear devices in 1998. The Pakistani testing came shortly after India tested nuclear devices and increased fears of a nuclear arms race in South Asia. The next year, the Kargil Conflict in Kashmir threatened to escalate to a full-scale war.

Nawaz Sharif
In the election that returned Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister in 1997, his party received a heavy majority of the vote, obtaining enough seats in parliament to change the constitution, which Sharif amended to eliminate the formal checks and balances that restrained the Prime Minister's power. Institutional challenges to his authority, led by the civilian President Farooq Leghari, military chief Jehangir Karamat and Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah were put down and all three were forced to resign – the Chief Justice did so after the Supreme Court was stormed by Sharif partisans.

1999 coup

On October 12 1999, Sharif attempted to dismiss army chief Pervez Musharraf and install ISI director Khwaja Ziauddin in his place. Musharraf, who was out of the country, boarded a commercial airliner to return to Pakistan. Senior Army generals refused to accept Musharraf's dismissal. Sharif ordered the Karachi airport to prevent the landing of the airliner, which then circled the skies over Karachi. In a coup, the generals ousted Sharif's administration and took over the airport. The plane landed with only a few minutes of fuel to spare, and Musharraf assumed control of the government. General Musharraf arrested and later expelled prime minister Sharif.

Recent history

On May 12, 2000 the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered Pervez Musharraf to hold general elections by October 12, 2002. In an attempt to legitimize his presidency and assure its continuance after the impending elections, he held a national referendum on April 30, 2002, which extended his presidential term to a period ending five years after the October elections. The referendum was monitored by various world and media organizations and received mixed reviews. Independent polls found that 55% to 67% of the general population supported Musharraf, and a larger percentage of those who participated in the referendum — which was, however, boycotted by the majority of Pakistani political groupings, and voter turnout was 30% or below by most estimates.

General elections were held in October 2002 and the centrist PML-Q won a plurality of the seats in the Parliament. However, parties opposed to Musharraf's Legal Framework Order effectively paralyzed the National Assembly for over a year. The deadlock ended in December 2003, when Musharraf and some of his parliamentary opponents agreed upon a compromise, and pro-Musharraf legislators were able to muster the two-thirds supermajority required to pass the Seventeenth Amendment, which retroactively legitimized Musharraf's 1999 coup and many of his subsequent decrees. In a vote of confidence on January 1, 2004, Musharraf won 658 out of 1,170 votes in the Electoral College of Pakistan, and according to Article 41(8) of the Constitution of Pakistan, was "deemed to be elected" to the office of President.

While economic reforms undertaken during his regime have yielded some results, social reform programmes appear to have met with resistance. Musharraf's power is threatened by extremists who have grown in strength since the September 11, 2001 attacks and who are particularly angered by Musharraf's close political and military alliance with the United States and his liberal views. Musharraf has survived assassination attempts by terrorist groups believed to be part of Al-Qaeda, including at least two instances where the terrorists had inside information from a member of his military security detail.


Domestic politics

Main article: Politics of Pakistan

Political Parties

Pakistan's two largest mainstream parties are the leftist Pakistan Peoples Party and the centrist Pakistan Muslim League (Q), which obtained a plurality in the October 2002 elections. In those elections, the right-wing Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition of six religious muslim parties, emerged as the third largest party, with 11% of the popular vote. In one province, NWFP, it obtained 48 out of 96 Provincial Assembly seats. It formed a government in that province and in the Balochistan, in coalition with other parties.

Form of Government

Officially a federal republic, Pakistan has had a long history of alternating periods of electoral democracy and authoritarian military government. Military presidents include General Ayub Khan in the 1960s, General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, and General Pervez Musharraf from 1999. However, a majority of Pakistan's Heads of State and Heads of Government have been elected civilian leaders. General elections were held in October 2002. After monitoring the elections, the Commonwealth Observer Group stated in its report, "We believe that on election day this was a credible election: the will of the people was expressed and the results reflected their wishes." [2] On May 22, 2004, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group re-admitted Pakistan into the Commonwealth, formally acknowledging "the progress made in restoring democracy and rebuilding democratic institutions in Pakistan." [3]

Recent Political History

In October 1999, General Pervez Musharraf overthrew the civilian government after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif allegedly hijacked the commercial airliner on which Musharraf was travelling, and attempted to thwart its landing at Karachi. Musharraf assumed executive authority. Local government elections were held in 2000. Musharraf declared himself president in 2001. An April 2002 national referendum approved Musharraf's role as president, but the vote was marred by irregularities — for which Musharraf apologized — and the opposition stridently questioned the legitimacy of Musharraf's presidency until his electoral college victory in January 2004.

Nation-wide parliamentary elections were held in 2002 with Zafarullah Khan Jamali of the Pakistan Muslim League party emerging as Prime Minister. After over a year of political wrangling in the bicameral legislature, Musharraf struck a compromise with some of his parliamentary opponents, giving his supporters the two-thirds majority vote required to amend the constitution in December 2003, retroactively legalizing his 1999 coup and permitting him to remain president if he met certain conditions. A parliamentary electoral college — consisting of the National Assembly and Senate and the provincial assemblies — gave Musharraf a vote of confidence[4] on January 1, 2004, thereby legitimizing his presidency until 2007.

Prime Minister Jamali resigned on June 26, 2004. PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain became interim PM, and was succeeded by Finance minister and former Citibank Vice President Shaukat Aziz, who became Prime Minister on August 28, 2004.

International politics and foreign relations

Main article: Foreign relations of Pakistan

Pakistan has been an ally of the United States for much of its history as a modern nation-state, from the 1950s and as a member of CENTO and SEATO . It is an important member of the OIC. Pakistan is the second largest Muslim country in terms of population and its status as declared nuclear power—the only Muslim one—also plays into its role on the international scene.


Main article: Geography of Pakistan

Khyber Pass in the Karakorams near Peshawar – A historic gateway into the Indian subcontinent

Pakistan has a total area of 803,940 square kilometers, and a land area of 778,720 square kilometers, slightly larger than the land areas of France and the United Kingdom combined.

To the south is the Arabian Sea, with 1,046 km (650 mile) of Pakistani coastline. To Pakistan's east is India, which has a 2,912 km (1,809 mi.) border with Pakistan. To its west is Iran, which has a 909 km (565 mi.) border with Pakistan. To Pakistan's northwest lies Afghanistan, with a shared border of 2,430 km (1,510 mi.). China is towards the northeast and has a 523 km (325 mi.) border with Pakistan.

The main waterway of Pakistan is the Indus River that begins in China, and runs nearly the entire length of Pakistan, flowing through all of Pakistan's provinces except Balochistan. Several major rivers, interconnected by the world's largest system of agricultural canals, join the Indus before it discharges into the Arabian Sea.

The northern and western areas of Pakistan are mountainous. Pakistani administered areas of Kashmir contain some of the highest mountains in the world, including the second tallest, K-2. Northern Pakistan tends to receive more rainfall than the southern parts of the country, and has some areas of preserved moist temperate forest. In the southeast, Pakistan's border with India passes through a flat desert, called the Cholistan or Thar Desert. West-central Balochistan has a high desert plateau, bordered by low mountain ranges. Most of the Punjab, and parts of Sindh, are fertile plains where agriculture is of great importance.


Main article: Economy of Pakistan


The Finance and Trade Center, Karachi, Pakistan

Pakistan, a developing country, is the sixth most populous in the world and is faced with a number of challenges on the political and economic fronts. At the time of its independence in 1947, Pakistan was a very poor country, with agriculture accounting for 53% of its GDP. In the second half of the twentieth century, its economic growth rate was better than the world average, but imprudent policies led to a slowdown in the 1990s. Since then, the Pakistani government has instituted wide-ranging reforms, and economic growth has accelerated in the current century. Pakistan's economic outlook has brightened and its manufacturing and financial services sectors have experienced rapid expansion. The growth of the non-agricultural sectors has changed the structure of the economy, and agriculture now only accounts for roughly one-fifth of the GDP. There has been a great improvement in its foreign exchange position and a rapid growth in hard currency reserves as a result of its current account surplus.

Macroeconomic reform and prospects

According to the CIA World Factbook, the government has made substantial inroads in macroeconomic reform since 2000, and medium-term prospects for job creation and poverty reduction are the best in nearly a decade. Islamabad has raised development spending from about 2% of GDP in the 1990s to 4% in 2003, a necessary step towards reversing the broad underdevelopment of its social sector. Reduced tensions with India and the ongoing peace process raise new hopes for a prosperous and stable South Asia.

Large middle class

Looking towards Karachi downtown

Measured by purchasing power, Pakistan has a 30 million strong middle class enjoying per capita incomes of $8000-$10,000, according to Dr. Ishrat Husain, Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan [5]. In addition, Pakistan has a growing upper class with relatively high per capita incomes. However, Pakistan has no (USD) billionaires, according to Forbes magazine, and has the distinction of being (by population) the largest nation to have none.

Economic resilience

Pakistan's overall economic output (GDP) has grown every year since a 1951 recession. Despite this record of sustained growth, Pakistan's economy had, until a few years ago, been characterized as unstable and highly vulnerable to external and internal shocks. However, the economy proved to be unexpectedly resilient in the face of multiple adverse events concentrated into a four-year period: the Asian financial crisis, economic sanctions, global recession, a severe drought — the worst in Pakistan's history, lasting four years — and heightened perceptions of risk as a result of military tensions — with as many as a million troops on the border, and predictions of impending war — with India, and the post-9/11 military action in neighboring Afghanistan. Despite these adverse events, Pakistan's economy kept growing, and economic growth accelerated towards the end of this period. This resilience has led to a change in perceptions of the economy, with leading international institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, and ADB praising Pakistan's performance in the face of adversity.

Stock market

In the first three years of the current century, Pakistan's KSE-100 stock exchange index was the best-performing major market index in the world, driven in part by profit growth, high dividend yields and greater transparency in publicly traded companies as a result of reforms enacted by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.


The basic unit of currency is the Rupee, which is divided into 100 paisas. Since the turn of the century, a strengthening economy and large current-account surplus has caused the rupee's exchange rate to rise in value. In response, Pakistan's central bank has prevented the rupee from rising too much, by lowering interest rates and buying dollars, in order to preserve the country's export competitiveness. As of 2005, one US dollar is approximately equal to 60 rupees.

Manufacturing and finance

Pakistan's manufacturing sector has experienced double-digit growth in recent years, with large-scale manufacturing growing by 18% in 2003. A reduction in the fiscal deficit has resulted in less government borrowing in the domestic money market, lower interest rates, and an expansion in private sector lending to businesses and consumers. Foreign exchange reserves continued to reach new levels in 2003, supported by robust export growth and steady worker remittances.

Tax incentives for IT industry

The Government of Pakistan has, over the last few years, granted numerous incentives to technology companies wishing to do business in Pakistan. A combination of decade-plus tax holidays, zero duties on computer imports, government incentives for venture capital and a variety of programs for subsidizing technical education, are intended to give impetus to the nascant Information Technology industry.

Technology and the Internet

Color television came to the country before surrounding countries. Paging and mobile (cellular) telephony were adopted early and freely. Cellular phones and the Internet were adopted through a rather laissez-faire policy with a proliferation of private service providers that led to fast adoption. Both have taken off and penetrated society deeply in the last few years of the '90s and first few years of the 2000s. With a rapid increase in the number of internet users and ISPs, and a large English-speaking population, Pakistani society has seen major changes. The internet, some writers (see, for example 1) argue, has become an integral part of Pakistani culture. For example:

  • One estimate is that today some 1300 cities and towns of Pakistan are connected to the World Wide Web (see 1).
  • Almost all of the main government departments, organisations and institutions have their own websites.
  • The use of search engines and messenger services is also booming. Pakistanis are some of the most ardent chatters on the internet, communicating with users all over the world. Recent years have seen a huge increase in the use of online marriage services, for example, leading to a major re-alignment of the tradition of arranged marriages.


Main article: Demographics of Pakistan

Large population and decelerating population growth

Pakistan has the world's sixth largest population, more than Russia, but less than Brazil. Because of Pakistan's high growth rate, it is expected to overtake Brazil in population before 2025. Based on the high fertility rates of the 1980s, demographers had projected that Pakistan would be the third most populous nation by 2050. However, from 1988 onward, Pakistan's fertility rate has fallen faster than that of any other country except China (Feeney and Alam, 2003, PDF). It is now projected that its population will stabilize at a more sustainable level.


The Badshahi Mosque, Lahore, Pakistan

The majority of the people of Pakistan are Muslim, with 97% of the population professing Islam to be their faith. Most muslims in Pakistan are Sunni (>75%) Shia (20%), although a number of smaller sects exist.

Pakistan has a small non-muslim population, mostly consisting of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Sikhs, Jews, and Animists in the remote Northern Areas. As in the rest of the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan's religious demographics were altered by partition.


Urdu and English are both recognised as the official languages of Pakistan. English is used in government and corporate business and by the educated urban elite. Public universities use English as the medium of instruction. Urdu is the lingua franca of the people, being widely spoken as a second language, although it is the mother tongue of only 8% of the population — mainly Muhajirs, and mostly in Karachi. Besides these, nearly all Pakistanis speak mutually related Indo-European languages, of which the most widely spoken is Punjabi, followed by Pashto, Sindhi, and Balochi.

Ethnic groups

Punjabis comprise the largest ethnic group in the country. Other important ethnic groups include: Pashtun, Sindhis, Balochis, Muhajirs and Seraikis. There are also sizeable numbers of other immigrant groups such as Afghans and Iranians who are found mainly in the NWFP and Baluchistan – in the 1980s, Pakistan accommodated over three million Afghan refugees – the largest refugee population in the world. Urdu-speaking Bengali immigrants, who identify with Pakistan, are mainly concentrated in Karachi.

Society and culture

Pakistan has a rich and unique cultural heritage, and has actively preserved its established traditions throughout history. Many cultural practices and monuments have been inherited from the rule of Mughal emperors.

Pakistani society is largely multilingual and multicultural. Religious practices of various faiths are an integral part of everyday life in society. Education is highly regarded by members of every socio-economic stratum. Traditional family values are highly respected and considered sacred, although urban families have grown into a nuclear family system, owing to the socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional joint family system. The past few decades have seen emergence of a middle class in cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Sukkur, [[Peshawar, Gujrat, Abbottabad, Multan, etc. The Northwestern part of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, is highly conservative and dominated by centuries-old regional tribal customs.

Main article: Culture of Pakistan


Pakistan has a very rich cultural and traditional background going back to the Indus Valley Civilization, 2800 BC–1800 BC. The region that is now Pakistan has in the past been invaded and occupied by many different peoples, including Greeks, White Huns, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and various Eurasian groups. There are differences in culture among the different ethnic groups in matters such as dress, food, and religion, especially where pre-Islamic customs differ from Islamic practices.

Film and television

The Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi, Pakistan

Traditionally, the government-owned Pakistan Television (PTV) has been the dominant media player in Pakistan. However past decade has seen emergence of several private TV channels (news , entertainment) such as the GEO TV and the ARY channel. Traditionally the bulk of TV shows have been plays or soap operas---some of them critically acclaimed. Various American, European, Asian and Indian TV channels and movies are available to a majority of the population via Cable TV.

Pakistani music is represented by a wide variety of forms. It ranges from traditional styles (such as Qawwali) to more modern forms that try to fuse traditional Pakistani music with western music. A famous Pakistani musician, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is internationally renowned for creating a form of music which synchronized Qawwali with western music. Popular forms of music also prevail, the most notable being Film music. In addition to this are the diverse traditions of folk music

An indigenous movie industry exists in Pakistan, and is known as Lollywood as it is based in Lahore, producing over forty feature-length films a year. In contrast, Indian Cinema Bollywood is very popular in Pakistan.


Increasing globalization has increased the influence of "Western culture" in Pakistan. Pakistan ranks 46th in the world on the Kearney/FP Globalization index. Many Western restaurant chains have established themselves in Pakistan, and are found in the major cities.

A large Pakistani diaspora exists in the West. Whereas Pakistanis in the United States, Canada and Australia tend to be professionals, the majority of them in the United Kingdom, Germany and the Scandinavian nations comes from a rural background and belongs to the working class. Pakistan has more expatriates than any other Muslim country, with a large number of expatriates living in the Middle East. Pakistani emigrants and their children influence Pakistan culturally and economically, keeping close ties with their roots by travelling to Pakistan and especially by returning or investing there.


The most popular sport, followed religiously in Pakistan, is Cricket. Pakistan has historically produced several multi-talented players who have been among the best batsmen and bowlers in the world. Almost every district and neighborhood in Pakistan has its cricket team and most people start playing from a young age. Pakistan has won several important international Cricket events, including the pinnacle of Cricket, the World Cup in 1992.

Hockey is also among the popular sport in Pakistan. Pakistan has won the gold medal at the Olympics and the Hockey World Cup a few times.

Squash is another sport that has a large following. Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan are considered as legends of the sport and have won several World Squash Championships and other tournaments.

Football or Soccer is played in Pakistan as well, though mostly on a local level.

Polo is believed to have originated in the northern parts of Pakistan, and continues to be an important sport there with several large annual competitions.

Tennis is also very popular and Pakistanis compete in various international events.

Athletics Pakistanis compete in various athletic events including Swimming.

Other popular sports followed on TV include Formula-One motor racing, Basketball (NBA), Rugby, Table-Tennis, Chess, Badminton.

Mercantile culture

Pakistan's service sector accounts for 53% of the country's GDP. Wholesale and retail trade is 30% of this sector. Shopping is a popular pastime for many Pakistanis, especially among the well-to-do and the thirty-million strong middle class. The cities of Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Islamabad, Faisalabad and Quetta are especially known for the great contrast in shopping experiences – from burgeoning bazaars to modern multi-story shopping malls. In particular, Lahore and Karachi are peppered with colourful shopping plazas.

See also

External links

Pakistani Government Links

Pakistani Publications & News

Pakistani TV Channels

Maps of Major Cities


Other external links

Countries in South Asia

Bangladesh | Bhutan | India | Maldives | Nepal | Pakistan | Sri Lanka

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