COUNTRY PROFILE: PAKISTAN A Report Prepared by the Federal Research Division,
Library of Congress
under an Interagency Agreement with the
Department of Defense
Researcher: William N. Ivey
Project Manager: Sandra W. Meditz
Federal Research Division
Library of Congress
Washington, D.C. 20540-4840
1 57 Years of Service to the Federal Government
1948 – 2005
This Country Profile is one in a series of profiles of foreign nations prepared as part of the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. After a hiatus of several years, the program was revived in FY2004 with Congressionally mandated funding under the sponsorship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J-5). Country Profiles, offering brief, summarized information on a country’s historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security, have long been and will continue to be featured in the front matter of published Country Studies. In addition, however, they are now being prepared as stand-alone reference aides for all countries in the series (as well as a number of additional countries of interest) in order to offer readers reasonably current country information independent of the existence of a recently published Country Study. Country Profiles will be updated annually (or more frequently as events warrant) and mounted on the Library of Congress Federal Research Division website at www.loc.gov/rr/frd. They will also be revised as part of the preparation of new Country Studies and will be included in published volumes.
COUNTRY Formal Name: Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Short Form: Pakistan.
Term for Citizen(s): Pakistani(s).
Capital: Islamabad (Islamabad Capital Territory).
Major Cities: Pakistan has seven cities with a population
of 1 million or more: Karachi (9,339,023), Lahore (5,143,495),
(1,197,384), Hyderabad (1,166,894), and Gujranwala (1,132,509).
Independence: Proclaimed August 14, 1947, from Britain.
Public Holidays: Eid-ul-Azha (Feast of the Sacrifice of Abraham, movable date); Muharram (Islamic New Year, movable date); Kashmir Day (February 5); Ashura (movable date); Pakistan Day (signing of first constitution and proclamation of the republic, March 23); Labour Day (May 1); Eid-i-Milad-un-Nabi (Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, movable date); Independence Day (August 14); Ramadan commencement (movable date); Iqbal Day (Birthday of Muhammad Iqbal, November 9); Eid-ul-Fitr (end of Ramadan, movable date); Birthday of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Christmas (December 25). Muslim holidays are observed nationally, and Christian holidays are elective for Christians only.
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Pakistan’s flag is green with a narrow vertical white band on its left side.
A white crescent and star are in the center of the green band. Green
signifies the Muslim majority, white denotes minorities, the crescent
represents progress, and the star symbolizes light and knowledge.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Early Empires: Existing archaeological evidence suggests that humans lived in what became Pakistan around 2.2 million years ago, and the first civilization in South Asia, the 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.
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.
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. 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.
European Influence: Although European contact with South Asia began in 1498 with the Portuguese, by the early 1800s the British had emerged as the preeminent political and economic power in much of the subcontinent. British dominance was far from complete, with at best tenuous control over what are now Pakistan’s western provinces. The British East India Company initially administered most of the Indian subcontinent, but the Indian-led Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 seriously challenged British occupation and caused the British government to administer India directly. This near defeat for the British prompted changes in their administration of the subcontinent and in their attitudes toward Indians, particularly Muslims. Prior to 1857, Muslims were prominent in economics and administration, and Muslim leaders are believed to have led the Sepoy Rebellion to regain the political and economic advantages enjoyed under Mughal rule. The British responded by dropping Urdu and Persian as official languages and replacing them with English, thus rendering many Muslims functionally illiterate and unemployable. The British also placed Hindus in many positions previously occupied by Muslims. As a result, Muslims perceived Hindus as opportunistic accomplices to the British oppression of Muslims, and this impression would endure for decades.
Independence Movement: Muhammad Iqbal conceived the concept of a Muslim homeland called Pakistan (“Land of the Pure”) in the 1920s, but the establishment of Pakistan was most advanced by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a Bombay lawyer who proved to be a shrewd leader of the Muslim League political party. Jinnah claimed that India contained two nations, one Hindu and one Muslim, and that Muslims could not safely exist in a Hindu-dominated India. The degree to which Jinnah’s objectives were motivated by religion is still debated, but his ideas resonated with Muslims who felt politically, economically, and socially discriminated against and with Muslims having theological interests in an Islamic state. At various times, the Muslim League acted independently of other groups and in shifting alliances with the colonial administration and the Congress Party of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Nevertheless, its objective was always the establishment of an independent Muslim homeland.
World War II and widespread resistance to British rule in India created burdens that the British found too costly to bear, and in July 1947 the British announced their intention to withdraw from India. Pakistan was born as a bifurcated state in August 1947, divided by 1,600 kilometers of Indian soil and by economic and social divisions between a largely Bengali East Wing and a heavily Punjabi and Sindhi West Wing. The country also faced problems with absorbing millions of Muslim refugees from India, addressing substantial poverty, and establishing both a functioning government and a sense of national unity over a geographically and ethnically divided state. Just as daunting were the deficit of administrative personnel and limited material assets that curtailed the country’s capacity to address its difficulties.
Post-Independence and Civil War: The influential founding fathers, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, had passed away by 1951, and their deaths were ominous precursors to the subsequent series of short-lived governments that changed just as often by military coup as by election. Pakistan was initially governed by a Constituent Assembly responsible for drafting a constitution and issuing legislation until the constitution went into force. However, the constitution’s drafting was delayed by disagreements over how different regions would be represented and how the state would embody Islamic principles. Legislative paralysis prompted Governor General Ghulam Mohammad to dismiss the Constituent Assembly in 1954. This action is now seen as the beginning of “viceregal” politics in Pakistan, in which the military and civil bureaucracy, not elected officials, govern the country and maintain substantial influence over society and the provinces. A new Constituent Assembly wrote the first constitution in 1956 and reconstituted itself as the Legislative Assembly. However, regional rivalries between East and West Pakistan and ethnic and religious tensions threatened political stability, and on October 7, 1958, President Iskander Mirza disbanded the Legislative Assembly. Later that month, Mirza himself was overthrown by General Mohammad Ayub Khan.
Ayub Khan saw himself as a reformer who would bring much-needed stability to the country, and he started by establishing a system of local governments called Basic Democracies for communities to have meaningful input into politics. But Ayub quickly lost interest and turned toward the civil bureaucracy for policy advice and formation. A new constitution was promulgated in 1962, and it established a weak legislature (the National Assembly) and a president with substantial legislative, executive, and financial powers.
Possibly the most notable event of Ayub’s tenure was a 17-day war with India in 1965 over the nagging Kashmir dispute. Pakistan argued that under the terms of the 1947 partition, Muslim-dominant areas of the subcontinent should become part of Pakistan and claimed that India had pressured the Hindu ruler of Kashmir to accede to India at the time of partition, ostensibly against the wishes of the largely Muslim population. The 1965 war had the unintended consequences of interrupting impressive economic growth and deflating the military’s confidence in its own abilities. Amid worsening societal and political problems, substantial popular opposition, and his own declining health, Ayub Khan resigned in 1969.
Subsequently, General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan became president and chief martial law administrator, and he attempted to reinstitute parliamentary democracy. However, festering tensions over representation in the National Assembly led to civil war between East and West Pakistan in 1971. With Indian assistance, East Pakistan seceded and became the independent nation of Bangladesh. At the same time, India and West Pakistan fought another 17-day war, mostly in West Pakistan, which ended in a cease-fire agreement. Largely as a result of Pakistan’s military losses, Yahya resigned in 1971, and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was appointed president, becoming the first civilian head of government in nearly two decades.
Emergence of Civilian Rule: Bhutto lifted martial law, and a new constitution came into effect in August 1973. The constitution was heavily concerned with the role of Islam, the distribution of power between the federal and provincial governments, and the division of responsibilities between the president and prime minister, the latter assuming greater authority than before. Bhutto nationalized numerous industries, and the government’s heavy involvement in the economy would have enduring economic repercussions. The country appeared to be democratizing, but political opposition grew against Bhutto’s repression of political opponents and alleged voting irregularities. In July 1977, Bhutto was overthrown, and General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq became chief martial law administrator. Bhutto eventually was sentenced to death on charges of conspiring to murder a political opponent and was executed in 1979.
Martial Law and Islamization: Zia adapted the structure of Ayub Khan’s Basic Democracies to a new system of local governments and also adopted various measures to create an Islamic state. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan became the recipient of numerous Afghan refugees and large-scale foreign aid from the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, and others. The refugees and financial assistance continued until the war’s end in 1989.
Zia officially terminated martial law in 1985 by assuming the presidency and reinstating the 1973 constitution. However, he also added the Eighth Amendment, which empowered the president to appoint and dismiss the prime minister and provincial governors and to dissolve the national and provincial legislatures. When Zia died in an airplane crash in August 1988, Benazir Bhutto—head of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and daughter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto—became prime minister. Pakistan thus became the first Muslim country with a female head of government.
The Restoration of Civilian Government: Bhutto’s government was plagued by ethnic conflict, severe economic problems, and a lack of legislative support. In October 1990, Mian Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Islamic Democratic Alliance (IDA), became prime minister and faced the same problems that troubled Bhutto. In 1993 Bhutto’s PPP won the National Assembly, and she once again became prime minister. However, in 1996 President Farooq Leghari dismissed Bhutto on charges of corruption, and in 1997 Nawaz Sharif replaced her.
In 1998 India conducted nuclear tests, and two weeks later Pakistan reacted by detonating five nuclear devices. Many countries responded with condemnation and sanctions, but Pakistan felt that it finally possessed sufficient deterrent force against its perennial rival, India. Deterrence failed to hold, however, and in October 1999 India and Pakistan engaged in a limited conflict (the Kargil War), which Pakistan was widely seen as precipitating because of its suspected support of militants who entered Indian-held Kashmir from Pakistani-held Kashmir. The conflict proved to be embarrassing for the government, and, with the economy suffering tremendously, General Pervez Musharraf overthrew Nawaz Sharif in late October 1999.
Return to Military Rule: Musharraf became both president and chief of army staff, and he further consolidated his power through various legal measures. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, Musharraf’s government benefited from an infusion of economic and military aid, because Pakistan is seen as an important ally in the war on terrorism. However, Pakistan was widely suspected of complicity in a terrorist attack on India’s parliament in December 2001. In an April 2002 national referendum, Musharraf’s tenure as president was extended to 2007. In late 2004, Musharraf reneged on a previous commitment to relinquish his position as chief of army staff, much to the chagrin of many secular and religious political parties, who demanded that elections be held in early 2005.
In 2005 Pakistan continued to face many of the same problems that have plagued the country since its inception: government instability, tense relations with India, ethnic tensions, political divisions among provinces, economic dependence on international aid, and weak prospects for democracy. However, Pakistan’s government continued to survive and society to endure in spite of such difficulties, occasionally exhibiting remarkable flexibility and resilience. Indeed, it is often difficult to tell if Pakistan is on the precipice of disintegration or on the verge of renewal.
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GEOGRAPHY Location: Located in South Asia, Pakistan borders Iran to
the southwest, Afghanistan to the west and north, China to
the northeast, and India to the east. The Arabian Sea marks
Pakistan’s southern boundary.
Size: Pakistan’s exact size is debated because of its disputed
border with India. According to the United Nations and the
Pakistan government, the country has a total area of 796,095
square kilometers. This figure, however, does not include the
Pakistan-administered portions of Jammu and Kashmir (known
square kilometers and 72,520 square kilometers, respectively). These areas are claimed by Pakistan, but because their possession is disputed, they are not included in official land area statistics.
Land Boundaries: Pakistan shares borders with Afghanistan (2,430 kilometers), China (523 kilometers), India (2,912 kilometers), and Iran (909 kilometers).
Disputed Territory: Afghanistan disputes the legitimacy of its border with Pakistan, and at times Afghanistan’s governments have argued that all Pashtun (Pakhtun) territory in Afghanistan and Pakistan should be under Afghan control. Pakistan and India have disputed possession of Jammu and Kashmir since 1947, and the issue remains unresolved despite numerous cease-fire agreements between the two countries. Jammu and Kashmir is split between the two countries by a United Nations-monitored border called the Line of Control.
Length of Coastline: Pakistan’s coastline totals 1,064 kilometers along the Arabian Sea.
Maritime Claims: Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Pakistan claims a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea, and a 24-nautical-mile contiguous zone for security, immigration, customs, and other matters.
Topography: Pakistan has a diverse array of landscapes spread among nine major ecological zones. Its territory encompasses portions of the Himalaya, Hindu Kush, and Karakoram mountain ranges, making it home to some of the world’s highest mountains, including K2, which at 8,611 meters above sea level is the world’s second highest peak. Intermountain valleys make up much of the North-West Frontier Province, and rugged plateaus cover much of Balochistan Province in the west. In the east, expansive, irrigated plains along the Indus River cover much of of Punjab and Sindh provinces, which have deserts as well (Cholistan in Punjab, Thar in Sindh).
Principal Rivers: The main rivers are the Indus (2,749 kilometers within Pakistan) and its tributaries: the Chenab (730.6 kilometers), Ravi (680.6 kilometers), Jhelum (611.3 kilometers), and Sutlej (530.6 kilometers). The navigable portions of these rivers are generally small and unconnected as a result of seasonal variations in water flows and the presence of substantial irrigation structures.
Climate: Most of Pakistan has a generally dry climate and receives less than 250 millimeters of rain per year, although northern and southern areas have noticeable climatic differences. The average annual temperature is around 27°C, but temperatures vary with elevation from –30°C to –10°C during the coldest months in mountainous and northern areas of Pakistan-administered Kashmir to 50°C in the warmest months in parts of Punjab, Sindh, and the Balochistan Plateau. Mid-December to March is dry and cool; April to June is hot, with 25 to 50 percent relative humidity; July to September is the wet monsoon season; and October-November is the dry post-monsoon season, with hot temperatures nationwide.
Natural Resources: Economically important natural resources include arable land, chromite, coal, copper, fireclay, gypsum, iron, limestone, oil, natural gas, rock salt, and silica sand.
Land Use: More than 40 percent of the working population is employed in agriculture, yet the per capita amount of agricultural land is declining, and there are significant natural limitations to increasing the quantity of arable land. According to official statistics for 2004, the country’s total land area is 79.6 million hectares, but only 59.3 million hectares have been surveyed. Out of the surveyed land area, 24.6 million hectares are classified as not available for cultivation, 3.6 million hectares are forest area, and 9.2 million hectares are unused but believed to be cultivable. Approximately 22 million hectares are used for cultivation, of which nearly 16 million hectares are actually sown, with the remainder left fallow. About 13.5 million hectares of the sown area are irrigated, and 6.5 million hectares are sown more than once per year. Most cultivable and irrigated land is located in the eastern provinces of Punjab and Sindh around the Indus River and its tributaries. Pakistan has an extensive but inefficient canal system for irrigation, and much of the crop area is rain fed, but precipitation tends to be unevenly distributed throughout the year.
Environmental Factors: Numerous environmental problems threaten the economy and the population’s health, and there is little indication of their abatement. A 1997 World Bank study estimated the annual cost of Pakistan’s environmental problems at US$1.8 billion in health expenditures, reduced labor productivity, and other costs. The availability of natural resources is limited by the dry climate and mountainous terrain, substantial population growth is increasing pressure on the resource base, and resource management has suffered from the emphasis on rapid economic growth and often-unregulated forms of economic productivity. As a result, human transformation of the environment is manifest in several problems. Population growth and poor water infrastructure have reduced per capita water availability from 53,000 cubic meters to 1,200 cubic meters, and heavy reliance on firewood has contributed to the world’s second highest rate of deforestation. Poor agricultural practices have led to soil erosion, groundwater degradation, and other problems that have hindered crop output and contributed to health problems for rural communities. Solid waste burning, low-quality fuels, and the growing use of fuel-inefficient motor vehicles have contributed to air pollution that in some cities—such as Islamabad, Lahore, and Rawalpindi—has exceeded levels deemed safe by the World Health Organization.
The government has expressed concern about environmental threats to economic growth and social development and, since the early 1990s, has addressed environmental concerns with new legislation and institutions such as the Pakistan Environment Protection Council. Yet, foreign lenders provide most environmental protection funds, and only 0.04 percent of the government’s development budget goes to environmental protection. Thus, the government’s ability to enforce environmental regulations is limited, and private industries often lack funds to meet environmental standards established by international trade organizations.