Pakistan is the inheritor of a long and varied history, rich in cultural traditions. Its landscapes have been draws and burial places for some of the greatest imperialists and adventurers. The land has attracted scholars and mystics, and missionaries. It is not easy to categorize Pakistanis. They belong to different tribes and ethnic groups and speak different languages. The main thing that unites most of the country is Islam largely introduced by Sufis who came to the region centuries ago. [Source: Ministry of Culture, Pakistan ]

Even though the majority of Pakistanis are Muslims they are otherwise divided by sects within Islam, levels of piety and conservatism and by tribe and ethnic group. If there is any one thing that defines and unifies Pakistan other than Islam it is the Indus River, which has its origins in the mountainous north, brings water to the agricultural areas of the Punjab, and brings life itself to the arid regions of southern Pakistan.

Lying in an area between the great civilizations of India, Persia and Central Asia, Pakistan has also been a crossroads for invaders. Aryans, Greeks, Persians, Huns, Turks, Muslims, Mongols, Moguls, and other passed through it primarily to gain access to India. Some of the great leaders of the world — Alexander and Timur, among others — fought great battles here that changed the course of history. It is also the home of the one the great pioneering ancient civilizations — the Indus culture — and the place where Buddhism survived between the time it evolved spread to the world. Despite being a corridor of invaders, and a link between South Asia and the Middle East, most of Pakistan was never brought under control of anyone.

Local, ethnic and tribal identities are very strong. Conflict between tribal, Afghani-influenced western Pakistan and India-influenced eastern Pakistan is recurrent theme. Based on ethnic and tribal connections, Pakistan and Afghanistan should probably be one nation, with the entire Punjab being part of Indian.

Pakistan is often described as a country divided by factions on the verge of collapse. Pakistan has a tradition of being a dangerous place, a place where it is difficult to figure out what is going on and a place where things are always changing and it is difficult to find people and information you can trust, Many predict nightmare scenarios with nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists but somehow Pakistan manages to stay together and not collapse.

Nicholas Schmidle wrote in The New Yorker: “Pakistan has a way of cutting careers short, some tragically. One Prime Minister was sent to the gallows after being toppled in a coup. Nine years later, the general who led the putsch died in a plane crash; conspiracists posit that it was brought down by combustible crates of mangoes on board. Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of the hanged Prime Minister, perished in a suicide blast. Two Americans were killed when radicals overran the U.S. Embassy in 1979; two more died in the plane crash. Two C.I.A. station chiefs have been forced to flee in the past few years. [Source: Nicholas Schmidle, The New Yorker, November 18, 2012]

Pakistan, its Name and Muslim State in South Asia

The official name of Pakistan is Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Islami Jamhooria Pakistan). “Istan” is the old Persian word for "place of." Pak means "pure" in Urdu and Pashto (the language of the Pashto). Thus Pakistan means "place of the pure." Citizens are called Pakistanis. Within Pakistan people are often identified by their ethnic group of which the main ones are the Pashtuns, Sindhis, Baloch and Muhajirs (Mohajirs). Pakistani also serves as an adjective for anything related to Pakistan.

A group of students at Cambridge University invented the name Pakistan — an acronym including the first initials of states of Punjab, Afghania (the present-day Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan), Kashmir, Sindh, and the last three letters of Balochistan — in 1933. There was no reference to Bengal, even as though East Pakistan was the most populous part of Pakistan when it was created. East Pakistan had previously been East Bengal and is now Bangladesh.

The poet-philosopher Sir Muhammed Iqbal (1873-1938) is credited with being the first to call for the creation of a Muslim state in South Asia — In 1930. Iqbal, an Islamic revivalist, discussed contemporary problems in his presidential address to the Muslim League conference at Allahabad in 1930. He saw India as Asia in miniature, in which a unitary form of government was inconceivable and community rather than territory was the basis for identification. To Iqbal, communalism in its highest sense was the key to the formation of a harmonious whole in India. Therefore, he demanded the creation of a confederated India that would include a Muslim state consisting of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province), Sindh, and Balochistan. In subsequent speeches and writings, Iqbal reiterated the claims of Muslims to be considered a nation "based on unity of language, race, history, religion, and identity of economic interests." [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

The idea of a Muslim nation gained wide support in 1940 when the Muslim League, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, demanded the establishment of a Muslim state in the areas of India where Muslims were in the majority. The League won most of the Muslim constituencies in the 1946 elections, and Britain and the Congress party reluctantly agreed to the formation of Pakistan as a separate dominion under the provisions of the Indian Independence Act, which went into effect on Aug. 15, 1947. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., The Columbia University Press]

Cambridge and the Creation of Pakistan

On January 28, 1933, Choudhary Rahmat Ali a Cambridge academic, published a document called the Pakistan Declaration, containing the first recorded use of the name Pakistan. Rahmat lived on Humberstone Road in Chesterton. The house is now owned by Juliet Mills, who lives there with her son, Guy. [Source: Hannah Wilkinson,, January 30 2014],

Hannah Wilkinson wrote in “They were unaware of the site’s significance when they bought the humble suburban semi. The house has become a place of pilgrimage for Pakistani visitors wishing to see where their nation was born.“We do get people coming to the door asking to look around and one even asked if they could come to tea. We did think about it but were away when they wanted to visit,” Mills said. “Sometimes we do make them a cup of tea and let them look around but it is just an ordinary family house inside and we do like our peace and quiet – although we are sociable.”

“Rahmat is not Cambridge’s only link with Pakistan’s heritage: another founding father, Muhammed Iqbal, was a student at Trinity College in the early twentieth century. Usmaan Ahmed, a third-year medic from Churchill and President of Cambridge’s Pakistan Society, said: “Pakistan’s founding fathers were based in Cambridge, studied in Cambridge, so the heritage is definitely there and it is an attractive factor when you’re applying here – it’s awesome. Cambridge does bring the best out of you I suppose, like it brought the best out of them.”

The Cambridge Pakistan Society is “flourishing”, according to Ahmed; they are expecting at least 300 people to attend their annual ball on Saturday. But despite historical connections, Ahmed says there is still work to be done persuading ethnic minority students from diverse backgrounds to apply to Cambridge: “That’s why we have our access day. We know that there are disadvantaged schools with really high proportions of Pakistani students and ethnic minority students.

Pakistan and The Stans

Two thirds of all the people in the Stans — Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan — live Pakistan. William Safire wrote in the New York Times: “Sometimes I get confused with all these stans,” said Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, then the military dictator of Pakistan, “but as long as I don’t say Hindustan” — a Persian name for India that once included what is now Pakistan — “I’ll be O.K.” That 1982 citation of the suffix -stans in the form of a noun — rooted in the Persian for “home of” — was dug up by the phrasedick Paul McFedries of Zia picked up the suffix used by critics of South Africa’s proposed black African homelands in 1949; they had nicknamed the impoverished areas bantustans after the Bantu language spoken by the tribes. [Source: William Safire, New York Times, December 31, 2006]

“At the turn of the new millennium, attention was called to newly independent states on the fringe of the former Soviet Union — Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan — which the BBC identified as “collectively known as the Central Asian ‘stans.’ ” They were derogated by Stephen Kotkin in The New Republic in 2002 as “a dreadful checkerboard of parasitic states and statelets, government-led extortion rackets and gangs in power, mass refugee camps and shadow economies. Welcome to Trashcanistan.”

“That pejorative use of the suffix -stan to describe a place largely populated by Muslims — in 1990, Islamistan — was applied by Time magazine to the city of London in 2001: “So many volunteers to the bin Laden cause use the British capital as a base between visits to Afghan camps that French antiterrorist officials now call the city ‘Londonistan.’ ” In 2006, The Weekly Standard wondered who, if our efforts in Iraq did not succeed, “would take the trouble to ensure that some portions of Iraqi territory do not become little al Qaeda-stans?” U.S. News & World Report discovered Hamastan at about the same time The New Yorker coined Hezbollistan.

“Because of these plays on names, many moviegoers in 2006 thought that the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen — creator of the obnoxious character Borat, in the film titled “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” — had concocted the name of a fictional foreign land ending in -stan. It remained for the offended spokesman for the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Washington to set the record straight about Cohen’s suddenly famous character of Borat: “What he represents is a country of Boratastan — a country of one!”

Regions and Ethnic Group of Pakistan

Pakistan is divided into five distinct areas — the Sindh, Balochistan, the Punjab,the Northern Areas and the Northwest Frontier Province — that each have a strong identity with a population of people. The about two thirds of the population is Punjabi. Other major ethnic groups include the Sindhi associated with the Sindh, Balochs from Balochistan, Pashtuns who have traditionally lived in Afghanistan, the Northern Areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, and the Muhajirs (immigrants from India and their descendants).

According to the “Encyclopedia of Nations”: The Rajputs and the Jats are the most numerous of the Punjabi castes. In the area of the delta and the lower course of the Indus River are Sindhi peasant tribesmen. In the north and northwest are the hardy, warlike nomadic and seminomadic Pashtuns. The Baloch live in the vast western section of Pakistan and are divided into 12 major tribes, some of them purportedly of Dravidian origin. Native speakers of Urdu, the Muhajirs are refugees, or descendants of refugees, from pre-partition India. They are well represented in the cities..”Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

The Northern Areas is made up of a series of valleys situated in the Karakorum range. Perhaps more spectacular than the Everest and Annapurna Himalayas, the Karokorum mountains are located where India, China, the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Himalayas, Pamirs, and Hindu Kush all come together.

Rugged mountains rise along the borders of Iran and Afghanistan. The main range, the Sulaiman, has peaks over 3,500 meters (11,000 feet high). The other main ranges are the Kirthat and Hindu Kush. Below these huge mountains are foot hills that would be high mountains if they were in any other place. South of the northern mountains is the Potohar Plateau, known for it eroded physical features. South of this is the Salt Range, known for its unusual rock formations and huge salt sediments.

Along the Afghan border, encompassing the Hindu Kush, are the Northwest Frontier Provinces. In this remote and rarely traveled region you will find wild mountain tribes, Afghan refugees and the Golden Crescent, the largest opium growing and heroin producing region in the world. In western Pakistan, taking up almost a third a country, is Balochistan, a massive desert of boulders and sand that extends to the Iranian and Afghan borders. Much of it lies on a plateau.

The Punjab region, which extends into India, is the breadbasket of Pakistan and the only part of the country you could is say is really green. Huge irrigation project harness the waters of the Indus to grow rice, grain and vegetables. Many of these are set up are around canal colonies. Unlike the Punjab in India there are few Sikhs in the Pakistani Punjab. The Sindh occupies the Lower Indus Plain. The unirrigated land is barren and brown. Karachi, Pakistan's most important city and largest port, is located in the Sindh. The gray, sandy Sindh Desert in the southeast is an extension of India's Thar Desert.

Five Thousand Years of Pakistan

When British archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler was commissioned in 1947 by the government of Pakistan to give a historical account of the then new country, he entitled his work Five Thousand Years of Pakistan. Indeed, Pakistan has a history that can be dated back to the Indus Valley civilization (ca. 2500-1600 B.C.), the principal sites of which lay in present-day Sindh and Punjab provinces. Pakistan was later the entryway for the migrating pastoral tribes known as Indo-Aryans, or simply Aryans, who brought with them and developed the rudiments of the religio-philosophical system of what later evolved into Hinduism. They also brought an early version of Sanskrit, the base of Urdu, Punjabi, and Sindhi languages that are spoken in much of Pakistan today. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Hindu rulers were eventually displaced by Muslim invaders, who, in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, entered northwestern India through the same passes in the mountains used earlier by the Indo-Aryans. The culmination of Muslim rule in the Mughal Empire (1526-1858, with effective rule between 1560 and 1707) encompassed much of the area that is today Pakistan. Sikhism, another religious movement that arose partially on the soil of present-day Pakistan, was briefly dominant in Punjab and in the northwest in the early nineteenth century. All of these regimes subsequently fell to the expanding power of the British, whose empire lasted from the eighteenth century to the midtwentieth century, until they too left the scene, yielding power to the successor states of India and Pakistan.

The departure of the British was also a goal of the Muslim movement championed by the All-India Muslim League (created in 1906 to counter the Hindu-dominated Indian National Congress), which in turn wanted both political independence and cultural separation from the Hindu-majority regions of British India. These objectives were reached in 1947, when British India received its independence as two new sovereign states. The Muslim-majority areas in northwestern and eastern India were separated and became Pakistan, divided into the West Wing and East Wing, respectively. The placement of two widely separated regions within a single state did not last, and in 1971 the East Wing broke away and achieved independence as Bangladesh.

The pride that Pakistan displayed after independence in its long and multicultural history has disappeared in many of its officially sponsored textbooks and other material used for teaching history (although the Indus Valley sites remain high on the list of the directors of tourism). As noted anthropologist Akbar S. Ahmed has written in History Today, "In Pakistan the Hindu past simply does not exist. History only begins in the seventh century after the advent of Islam and the Muslim invasion of Sindh."

Brief History of Pakistan

Historically, the area occupied by present-day Pakistan is one of the most ancient lands known to man. The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world and dating back at least 5,000 years, spread over much of what is presently Pakistan. Excavations at Harappa, Mohenjodaro and Kot Diji have brought to light evidence of an advanced civilization flourishing here. During the second millennium B. C. , remnants of this culture fused with the migrating Indo-Aryan peoples. Around 1,500 B.C. the Aryans conquered this region and slowly pushed the Hindu inhabitants further east, towards the Ganges Valley. [Source: Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation. ; CIA World Factbook, 2020]

The area occupied by modern Pakistan underwent successive invasions in subsequent centuries from the Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Arabs (who brought Islam), Afghans, and Turks. The Persians occupied the northern regions in 5th century B.C. The Greeks came in 327 B.C., under Alexander the Great and took over the region claimed by the Persians. In 712 A.D. the Arabs, led by Mohammed Bin Qasim, landed somewhere near what is now Karachi, and ruled the lower half of Pakistan for two hundred years. During this time Islam took root and influenced the life, culture and traditions of the inhabitants of the region. From 10th century A.D. onwards, a systematic conquest of Indo-Pakistan by the Muslims from Central Asia began. The Mughal Empire flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries. the British came to dominate the region in the 18th century. They colonized the Sub-continent and ruled for nearly 200 years (for 100 years over what is now Pakistan).

The Muslim revival began towards the end of the last century when Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, a renowned leader and educationist, launched a movement for intellectual renaissance of the Indian Muslims. In 1930, the well-known poet/philosopher, Dr. Mohammed Iqbal conceived the idea of a separate state for the Muslims of the Sub-continent, and in 1940, the All-India Muslim League adopted the famous Pakistan Resolution. After seven years of untiring struggle, under the brilliant leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan emerged on the world map as a sovereign state on August 14, 1947, when the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two independent states — India and Pakistan.

The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan (with West and East sections) and largely Hindu India was never satisfactorily resolved, and India and Pakistan fought two wars and a limited conflict — in 1947-48, 1965, and 1999 respectively — over the disputed Kashmir territory. A third war between these countries in 1971 — in which India assisted an indigenous movement reacting to the marginalization of Bengalis in Pakistani politics — resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh.

In response to Indian nuclear weapons testing, Pakistan conducted its own tests in mid-1998. India-Pakistan relations improved in the mid-2000s but have been rocky since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks and have been further strained by attacks in India by militants believed to be based in Pakistan. Imran KHAN took office as prime minister in 2018 after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party won a plurality of seats in the July 2018 general elections. Pakistan has been engaged in a decades-long armed conflict with militant groups that target government institutions and civilians, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant networks.

Pakistan’s Early History

The democratic state of Pakistan, though young in the comity of nations, has a rich and varied history spanning a period onward from the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) down to the present time. Pakistan is an ancient land in world history. The oldest remains of human activity were found in the Soan Valley of the Potohar region of the country. Some stone tools have been estimated by some to be 2 million years. [Source: Ministry of Culture, Pakistan ]

Still within the Stone Age, in Balochistan, we find the remains of some of the world’s earliest settlements. Signs of a continuous process of human activity and the hesitant steps of Neolithic and Chalcolithic-Bronze Age communities towards civilization have been found at Mehrgarh (8,000 B.C.). Evidence of crop cultivation, animal husbandry and human settlements have been found here. The inhabitant of Mehrgarh were living in mud-brick houses and learned to make pottery around 6000 BC. The Kot Diji culture is marked by well-made pottery and houses built of mud-bricks and stone foundations.

Sometime around 2,700-2,500 B.C., this and other settlements began to disintegrate, possibly as a result of migration by people towards the Indus Basin. This process coincided with the emergence and extension of settled or urban life in the greater Indus Valley, culminating around 2,300-1,500 BC., in the mature Bronze Age 'Indus Valley Civilization' represented by the sites of Moenjodaro (Sindh) and Harappa (Punjab). They are renowned for being one of the most well developed early urban civilizations in human history.

Following the decline of the Indus Cities and the arrival of the Aryans in this region, around 1,800-800 BC., at Pirak, Balochistan, there are indications of the use of iron by the communities of the region, along with extensive cultivation of rice, sorghum and millet. The fall of the Indus Civilization coincided with the arrival of Indo-European (Aryan) tribes round about 1,500 BC. They were pastoral societies which developed into the Rig-Vedic or Early Historic city-states. Successively, the territories now constituting Pakistan were conquered by Darius-I of Iran, the Mauryan Great King Asoka, Bactrian Greeks, Scythians, Parthians and Kushans. The Gandhara region in northern Pakistan flourished from the time of the Persian conquest to the invasion of the White Huns. Almost all the early invaders favored Buddhism and Buddhist cultural traditions flourished in the region. One of the most prized art forms of Pakistan 'the Buddhist Art of Gandhara' reached its zenith during the reign of Kanishka.

Ancient Civilizations and Empires of Pakistan

The first civilization in South Asia, the Indus Valley Harappan Civilization, is believed to have started around 3000 B.C. in the Indus River valley. Indus civilizations maintained irrigated agriculture, had contact with the Middle East and North Africa, and endured until around 1750 B.C., when nomadic tribes from Central Asia called Aryans conquered much of the Indus Valley. The Aryans maintained a system of social stratification based on inherited occupation and physical separation of themselves from native peoples, and this system was justified religiously in scripts called Vedas that form the basis of Hinduism. [Source: Library of Congress, February 2005 **]

The Indus Valley Civilization was at its peak from the 3rd till the middle of the 2nd millennium BC. Discovered in 1922, Moenjodaro was once a metropolis of great importance, forming part of the Indus Valley Civilization with Harappa (discovered in 1923).. Moenjodaro is considered as one of the most spectacular ancient “Cities of the World”. It had mud baked bricks buildings, an elaborate covered drainage system, a large state granary, a spacious pillared hall, a College of Priests, a palace and a citadel. Harappa was surrounded by a massive brick wall fortification. Other features and plan of the city were similar to that of Moenjodaro. Other ancient Indus Valley sites are scattered throughout Pakistan and western India.

By 326 B.C., Chandra Gupta Maurya established the first empire in South Asia, but it was his grandson, Ashoka, who led the Mauryan Empire to political prominence around 200 B.C. In the following centuries, various powers exercised control in the subcontinent, although most only temporarily maintained dominance over particular regions. From A.D. 320–550, the Gupta Empire controlled much of the subcontinent with the assistance of locally based intermediaries.

The Kushan Kingdom (135 B.C. to A.D. 375) was founded in the Bactria region of northern Afghanistan by Yuezhi nomads who migrated there from Xinjiang in present-day western China due to Chinese Han Dynasty campaigns. Once there, they displaced the Greco-Bactrian kingdom and expanded over the Hindu Kush mountains into today’s India and Pakistan. The Kushans controlled parts of Afghanistan and Iran, and in India the realm stretched from Purushapura (modern Peshawar, Pakistan) in the northwest, to Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) in the east, and to Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh) in the south. For a short period, the kingdom reached still farther east, to Pataliputra. The Kushana Kingdom was the crucible of trade among the Indian, Persian, Chinese, and Roman empires and controlled a critical part of the legendary Silk Road. [Source: Library of Congress]

Gandhara Civilization (600 B.C. to A.D. 500) overlaps with the Kushan Kingdom and describes an area occupied by different kingdoms over a long period of time. Gandhara region, the hallowed centre of Buddhism, had once been the cradle of the world famous Gandhara art, culture and knowledge. The archaeological remains found in Taxila, Peshawar, Charsadda, Shahbaz Garhi, Jamal Garhi, Takht Bahi, Swat and rock carvings along the ancient Silk Road (KKH) have well recorded the history of Gandhara. Lying in Haro river valley near Islamabad, Taxila, the main centre of Gandhara, is over 3,000 years old. Taxila attracted the attention of the great conqueror, Alexander in 327 B.C., when it was a province of the powerful Achaemenian Empire. It later came under the Maurian dynasty and reached a remarkable matured level of development under the great Ashoka. Then appeared the Indo-Greek descendants of Alexander’s warriors and finally came the most creative period of Gandhara. The Kushan dynasty was established in about 50 AD. During the next 200 years, Taxila, Peshawar and Swat became a renowned centre of learning philosophy, art and trade. Pilgrims and travellers were attracted to Gandhara from as far as China and Greece. In 5th century AD, the White Huns snuffed out the last of the successive civilizations that held unbroken sway in this region for several centuries. [Source: Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation. ]

History of Islam in Pakistan

Around 711, Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim introduced Islam into Sindh, and by the tenth century, Islam was further promoted by Turkish sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, who controlled Punjab. After the conquest of Sindh by General Bin Qasim in 711 AD., Islam gained a firm hold in the area. From the 10th century A.D. onwards, Ghaznavis, Ghoris, Khiljis and Tughlaks ruled over the subcontinent until the invasion of Timur, who paved the way for the great Mughal Empire. This empire lasted until the war of independence of 1857.

The Early Muslim rulers of the subcontinent kept the border open for Muslims, which resulted in the spread of Islam and the establishment of Muslim settlements throughout the region. This era has left Pakistan rich in ethnic and cultural heritage. Muslim rulers came from Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia, with entirely different cultures, resulting in a fusion with local and pre-existing cultures, outlook on life, language and literature, customs and legal system, arts and architecture.

By the thirteenth century, a succession of Turkic rulers known as the Mughals ruled most of the Indian subcontinent, and their influence on architecture, cuisine, and language endures to the twenty-first century. However, Mughal rule eventually suffered from numerous difficulties related to controlling a large land area with distinct economies and cultures. One notable challenge to Mughal rule came from Sikh rulers who took control of the Punjabi capital Lahore in 1761. The Sikh ruler, Ranjit Singh, eventually controlled vast areas of Punjab by 1818 and Kashmir by 1819, but after Singh’s death in 1840, infighting and factionalism among Sikh leaders led to the gradual disintegration of their holdings into small principalities. The British took advantage of the dissipation of Sikh power and ended Sikh rule by 1849.

The Muslims ruled the subcontinent until the establishment of the British Empire, which lasted until 1947. After Independence in 1947, Islamic traditions and values continued to be a defining force in the collective and individual lives of the people of Pakistan.

Timeline of Modern Pakistan

  1. The idea of establishing a separate state for all Muslims of South Asia is conceived by the poet-philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies”, The Gale Group Inc., 2002]

“1947. On 14 August, the British divide the crown colony of India into 2 territories: the Republic of India and the future Islamic Republic of Pakistan, essentially establishing separate Hindu and Muslim states. Several millions of Muslims and Hindus are killed in sporadic fighting between the 2 groups as people migrate across the border into the country aligned with their religious affiliation.

“1948. On 30 July, Pakistan signs the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), an agreement aimed at regulating international trade.

“1950s-60s. Pakistan uses military and economic aid from its Cold-War alliances to create an artificial prosperity.

“1970-71. Zulfikar Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) wins elections in West Pakistan, while the Awami League wins the overall majority due to its clear victory in East Pakistan. After the ensuing civil war, East Pakistan declares its independence as the People's Republic of Bangladesh. Bhutto becomes prime minister of the remaining Pakistan.

“1970s. The 1970s oil boom in the nearby manpower-starved Persian Gulf enables Pakistan to export manpower in large numbers. Money from Gulf workers transferred home to Pakistan in large amounts helps to sustain the economy in the 1970s.

“1977-79. The chief of army staff, General Zia-ul-Haq, overthrows Bhutto in a military coup on 5 July 1977 and becomes president in 1978. Bhutto is executed in April 1979.

“1980s. Pakistan's opposition to the Soviet invasion of neighboring Afghanistan in late 1979 helps it procure heavy doses of financial aid from Western nations also opposed to the Soviet action. However, when the aid dries up with the end of the Cold War towards the close of the decade, Pakistan's economy becomes saddled with huge amounts of foreign debt .

“1988. Pakistan returns to democratic rule after Zia-ul Haq dies in an airplane crash. The country once again comes under the rule of the Pakistan People's Party, now led by Bhutto's daughter, Benazir. The constitution is restored with some amendments on 30 December.

“1996-97. The Bhutto government is dismissed by the president due to charges of corruption, mismanagement, and involvement in extra-judicial killings. Elections in February 1997 result in an overwhelming victory for the Pakistan Muslim League and Nawaz Sharif, who becomes prime minister.

“1998. In May, India and Pakistan both conduct nuclear tests, demonstrating their strength and bringing the region to the verge of nuclear war over the disputed Kashmir province. The ensuing international economic sanctions and the related drying up of most capital inflows lead to severe financial difficulties.

“1999. The government of Sharif is overthrown by the chief of army staff, General Pervez Musharraf, who jails Sharif and declares himself chief executive of the state. The supreme court validates the military coup against Sharif but restricts the rule of the chief executive to a period of 3 years.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (, Official Gateway to the Government of Pakistan (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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