Country profile: Pakistan
The Muslim-majority state of Pakistan occupies an
area which was home to some of the earliest human settlements and where two of
the world's major religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, were practised.
The modern state was born out of the partition of the Indian sub-continent in
1947 and has faced both domestic political upheavals and regional
Created to meet the demands of Indian Muslims for their own homeland,
Pakistan was originally in two parts.
The east wing - present-day Bangladesh - is on the Bay of Bengal bordering
India and Burma. The west wing - present-day Pakistan - stretches from the
Himalayas down to the Arabian Sea.
The break-up of the two wings came in 1971 when the mainly Bengali-speaking
east wing seceded with help from India.
The disputed northern territory of Kashmir has been the flashpoint for two of
the three India-Pakistan wars - those of 1947-8 and 1965. There was a further
brief but bitter armed conflict after Islamic militants infiltrated
Indian-administered Kashmir in 1999.
Civilian politics in Pakistan in the last few decades has been
tarnished by corruption, inefficiency and confrontations between
various institutions. Alternating periods of civilian and military
rule have not helped to establish stability.
Pakistan came under military rule again in October 1999 after the ousting of
a civilian government that had lost a great deal of public support.
The coup leader, General Pervez Musharraf, pledged to revive the country's
fortunes, but faced economic challenges as well as an increasing polarisation
between Islamist militancy and the modernising secular wing of Pakistani
Under growing pressure to reintroduce democratic rule, Mr Musharraf
relinquished his army post in November 2007, but at parliamentary elections in
February 2008, his supporters were defeated by the opposition Pakistan People's
Party and former PM Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League.
The two parties formed a coalition government and an impeachment process was
launched against Mr Musharraf, who resigned in August 2008.
Border tensions and terror
Pakistan's place on the world stage shifted after the 11 September
2001 attacks in the US. It dropped its support for the Taliban
regime in Afghanistan and was propelled into the frontline in the
fight against terrorism, becoming a key ally of Washington.
Cricket is the most popular sport in Pakistan,
which won the 1992 World Cup
However, Pakistani forces have struggled to maintain control over the restive
tribal regions along the Afghan border, where Taliban-linked militants became
Since 2009, the government has been waging an on-and-off military campaign to
flush the militants out of the tribal areas.
It has repeatedly denied US and Afghan allegations that senior Al-Qaeda and
Taliban leaders are present in the wild border areas, or that its intelligence
service ISI even has links to militant groups operating against the Afghan
Tensions with India over Kashmir have resurfaced regularly ever since the
partition of the sub-continent, and the two nuclear-armed powers have on
numerous occasions been on the brink of renewed conflict.
India has accused Pakistan of failing to cooperate adequately over the
investigation into the November 2008 extremist attacks in Mumbai, and suspended
talks on improving relations for over two-and-a-half years.
The National Masoleum in Karachi is the tomb of
Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah
- Full name: Islamic Republic of Pakistan
- Population: 184.7 million (UN, 2010)
- Capital: Islamabad
- Largest city: Karachi
- Area: 796,095 sq km (307,374 sq miles), excluding
Pakistani-administered Kashmir (83,716 sq km/32,323 sq miles)
- Major languages: English, Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi,
- Major religion: Islam
- Life expectancy: 65 years (men), 67 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 Pakistani Rupee = 100 paisa
- Main exports: Textile products, rice, cotton, leather
- GNI per capita: US $1,050 (World Bank, 2010)
- Internet domain: .pk
- International dialling code: +92
President: Asif Ali Zardari
Mr Zardari became president after Gen
Musharraf's resignation in 2008
Asif Ali Zardari won the presidential race of 6 September 2008 by a big
majority. His election by Pakistan's legislators came a few weeks after his
predecessor Pervez Musharraf resigned under threat of impeachment.
At his swearing-in ceremony, Mr Zardari said he was accepting the post of
president in the name of his assassinated wife, Benazir Bhutto.
Mr Zardari had long lived in the shadow of his late charismatic wife, who was
twice Pakistan's prime minister and head of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) -
a position Mr Zardari inherited upon her death in December 2007.
Asif Zardari married Ms Bhutto in 1987 and held the positions of federal
environment minister and federal investment minister during her tenure as
But Mr Zardari was also controversially referred to as "Mr 10%" following
allegations of corruption. For this, and for murder charges of which he was
later cleared, he spent two separate terms in prison totalling eleven and a half
In December 2009, the Supreme Court ruled illegal an amnesty law introduced
in 2007 by former President Musharraf offering Mr Zardari immunity from
corruption charges. The law was designed to allow Mr Zardari's late wife,
Benazir Bhutto, to return to the country.
Under pressure to relinquish some of the powers accumulated by Pakistan's
presidency in four decades of recurrent military rule, Mr Zardari in April 2010
presented to parliament proposals for sweeping constitutional reform.
The measures were designed to strip the president of key powers - including
the right to dissolve parliament, dismiss the government and appoint the head of
the powerful military - and in effect restrict the office to a largely
The constitutional amendments bill received overwhelming support in both
houses of parliament.
In 2010, Mr Zardari came under heavy criticism in Pakistan for visiting
Britain during the devastating floods, in which millions were displaced.
On becoming president, Mr Zardari pledged to tackle the problem of Islamic
militancy. Following allegations by India that the devastating 2008 attacks on
the city of Mumbai were orchestrated in Pakistan, he insisted his country was
ready to cooperate with other countries in the fight against terrorism.
Asif Ali Zardari was born on 26 July 1955. He comes from a prominent family
in Pakistan's Sindh province and has one son and two daughters. His son, Bilawal
Zardari, was born in 1988 and is co-chairman of the Pakistan People's Party.
Prime Minister: Yusuf Raza Gilani
Yusuf Raza Gilani became the head of the coalition government in
March 2008, after the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) won the most
votes in elections in February.
Yusuf Raza Gilani has been a senior member of the
Pakistan People's Party for many years
Mr Gilani had long been a respected figure within the PPP. He joined the
party in 1988, when it was still very much in the political wilderness, and soon
earned a reputation for unwavering loyalty to the Bhutto family.
He was speaker of parliament from 1993 to 1996, during Benazir Bhutto's
second stint as premier.
In 2001, two years after Pervez Musharraf seized power in a military coup, Mr
Gilani was found guilty of making illegal government appointments while Speaker
and was jailed for five years.
He maintains that the charges were brought as part of an attempt by Mr
Musharraf to pressurise him into leaving the PPP. He was exonerated and freed in
Mr Gilani was born in 1952 in Karachi but his family comes from the Punjab
and was active in Punjabi politics for generations. His grandfather and
great-uncles were members of the All-India Muslim League, which campaigned for a
separate state for Muslims, and his father served as a provincial minister
during the 1950s.
After completing an MA in journalism at the University of Punjab, Mr Gilani
first entered politics in 1978 as a member of the Muslim League, but ten years
later switched to the PPP.
Pakistan's press can be outspoken,
though governments have tried to curb media freedom
Pakistan was the "world's deadliest country" for
journalists in 2011, according to Reporters Without Borders. Ten journalists
were killed, most of them murdered.
Intelligence agents and members of banned militant organisations are behind
"serious threats" to reporters, the watchdog cited journalists as saying.
The government uses legal and constitutional powers to curb press freedom and
the law on blasphemy has been used against journalists. The broadcasting
regulator can halt the carriage of foreign TV channels via cable, particularly
Indian or Afghan ones.
Television is the dominant medium, and there are dozens of private channels.
Most viewers watch them via cable; there are no private, terrestrially-broadcast
stations. State-run Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) is the sole national
More than 100 private FM radio stations are licensed. They are not allowed to
broadcast their own news.
Scores of unlicensed FM stations are said to operate in the tribal areas of
North-West Frontier Province. Usually operated by clerics, some of the outlets
are accused of fanning sectarian tension.
Pakistan's press is among the most outspoken in South Asia, but its influence
is limited by a low level of literacy.
There were 29.7 million internet users by June 2010 (Internetworldstats.com).
The rapid growth in mobile phone use is boosting the delivery of online content.
Filtering is aimed at online content deemed blasphemous, secessionist,
anti-state, or anti-military, OpenNet Initiative reports. In 2010, the
government announced the monitoring of major websites for "anti-Islamic"
content. A 2011 directive ordered ISPs to ban the use of online encryption,
ostensibly for anti-terrorism reasons.
- Pakistan Television Corporation Ltd
- state TV, operates PTV Home, regional network PTV National, Baluchi-language
PTV Bolan, PTV News
- ATV - semi-private, terrestrial
- Geo TV - leading private satellite
broadcaster, owned by Jang publishing group; based in Dubai; services
include Urdu-language Geo News
- Dawn News - private satellite
broadcaster, owned by Herald group; first English-language news channel
- Aaj TV - private satellite broadcaster,
owned by Business Recorder group
- Indus TV - private, via satellite;
services include Indus Vision, Indus News and entertainment channels
- ARY Digital - private, via
satellite; services include ARY News and entertainment channels
- Radio Pakistan - state-run,
operates 25 stations nationwide, an external service and the
entertainment-based FM 101 network, aimed at younger listeners
- Azad Kashmir Radio - state-run service for Pakistani-administered
- Mast FM 103 - private,
- FM 100 - private,
A chronology of key events:
Muhammed Ali Jinnah - founding father of Pakistan
- Born in Karachi, 1876
- Pakistan's first head of state until his death in 1948
1906 - Muslim League founded as forum
for Indian Muslim separatism.
1940 - Muslim League endorses idea of separate nation for
1947 - Muslim state of East and West Pakistan created out of
partition of India at the end of British rule. Hundreds of thousands die in
widespread communal violence and millions are made homeless.
1948 - Muhammed Ali Jinnah, founding leader of Pakistan,
dies. First war with India over disputed territory of Kashmir.
1951 - Jinnah's successor Liaquat Ali Khan is
1956 - Constitution proclaims Pakistan an Islamic republic.
1958 - Martial law declared and General Ayyub Khan takes
1960 - General Ayyub Khan becomes president.
War and secession
1965 - Second war with India over Kashmir.
i League, leading to rising tension with West Pakistan.
1971 - East Pakistan attempts to secede, leading to civil
war. India intervenes in support of East Pakistan which eventually breaks away
to become Bangladesh.
General Zia's death in 1988 ended 11-year military rule
1972 - Simla peace agreement with
India sets new frontline in Kashmir.
1973 - Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto becomes prime minister.
Zia takes charge
1977 - Riots erupt over allegations of
vote-rigging by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
General Zia ul-Haq launches military coup.
1969 - General Ayyub Khan resigns and General Yahya Khan
1970 - Victory in general elections in East Pakistan for
1978 - General Zia becomes president, launches campaign to
introduce Islamic law and usher in an Islamic system in Pakistan.
1979 - Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto hanged.
1980 - US pledges military assistance to Pakistan following
Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.
1985 - Martial law and political parties ban lifted.
1986 - Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's daughter Benazir returns from
exile to lead PPP in campaign for fresh elections.
1988 August - General Zia, the US ambassador and top
Pakistan army officials die in mysterious air crash.
Benazir Bhutto: Twice prime minister of Pakistan
- Daughter of hanged PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto
- Served as PM 1988-1990 and 1993-1996
- Died in a bomb blast in 2007, shortly after returning from exile
Ghulam Ishaq Khan takes over as acting president, and
is later elected to the post.
1988 November - Benazir Bhutto's PPP wins general
1990 - Benazir Bhutto dismissed as prime minister on charges
of incompetence and corruption.
1991 - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif begins economic
liberalisation programme. Islamic Shariah law formally incorporated into legal
1992 - Government launches campaign to stamp out violence by
Urdu-speaking supporters of the Mohajir Quami Movement.
1993 - President Khan and Prime Minister Sharif both resign
under pressure from military. General election brings Benazir Bhutto back to
Politics and corruption
1996 - President Leghari dismisses Bhutto
government amid corruption allegations.
1997 - Nawaz Sharif returns as prime minister after his
Pakistan Muslim League party wins elections.
1998 - Pakistan conducts its own nuclear tests after India
explodes several nuclear devices.
Nawaz Sharif, ousted in 1999 coup, exiled, back in government in 2008
1999 April - Benazir Bhutto and her
husband convicted of corruption and given jail sentences. Ms Bhutto stays out of
1999 May - Kargil conflict: Pakistan-backed forces clash
with the Indian military in the icy heights around Kargil in Indian-held
Kashmir. More than 1,000 people are killed on both sides.
1999 October - General Pervez Musharraf seizez power in
2000 April - Nawaz Sharif sentenced to life imprisonment on
hijacking and terrorism charges over his actions to prevent the 1999 coup.
2000 December - Nawaz Sharif goes into exile in Saudi Arabia
after being pardoned by military authorities.
2001 June - Gen Pervez Musharraf names himself president
while remaining head of the army.
2001 September - Musharraf swings in behind the US in its
fight against terrorism and supports attacks on Afghanistan. US lifts some
sanctions imposed after Pakistan's nuclear tests in 1998.
2001 December - India, Pakistan prompt fears of
full-scale war by massing troops along common border amid growing
tensions over Kashmir following suicide attack on Indian parliament.
Tensions with India over Kashmir go back decades
2002 January - President Musharraf
bans two militant groups - Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad - and takes
steps to curb religious extremism.
2002 April - President Musharraf wins another five years in
office in a referendum criticised as unconstitutional and flawed.
2002 May - Pakistan test fires three medium-range
missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, amid rumours of
impending conflict with India.
2002 August - President Musharraf grants himself sweeping
new powers, including the right to dismiss an elected parliament.
2003 November - Pakistan declares a Kashmir
ceasefire; India follows suit.
Military ruler put under pressure by US's "war on terror": Pervez
2003 December - Pakistan and India
agree to resume direct air links and to allow overflights of each other's planes
from beginning of 2004, after a two-year ban.
2004 February - Leading nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer
Khan admits to having leaked nuclear weapons secrets, reportedly to Libya, North
Korea and Iran.
2004 June - Pakistan mounts first military offensive against
suspected Al-Qaeda militants and their supporters in tribal areas near Afghan
border. US begins using drone strikes to target Al-Qaeda leaders in the area.
2004 April - Parliament approves creation of military-led
National Security Council, institutionalising role of armed forces in civilian
2004 May - Pakistan readmitted to Commonwealth.
2005 April - Bus services, the first in 60 years, operate
between Muzaffarabad in Pakistani-administered Kashmir and Srinagar in
2005 August - Pakistan tests its first nuclear-capable
2005 October - Earthquake kills tens of thousands
of people in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
The 2008 storming of the radical Red Mosque killed more than 100 people.
2006 September - Government signs
peace accord to end fighting with pro-Al-Qaeda militants in Waziristan tribal
areas near Afghan border.
2007 February - Sixty-eight passengers are killed by bomb
blasts and a blaze on a train travelling between the Indian capital New Delhi
and the Pakistani city of Lahore.
Pakistan and India sign an agreement aimed at reducing the risk of accidental
Musharraf targets judiciary
2007 March - President Musharraf suspends Chief
Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, triggering a wave of protests
across the country.
2007 July - Security forces storm the militant-occupied Red
Mosque complex in Islamabad following a week-long siege.
Supreme Court reinstates Chief Justice Chaudhry.
The assassination of former PM Benazir Bhutto shook Pakistani politics
2007 October - Ex-prime minister
Benazir Bhutto returns from exile. Dozens of people die in a suicide bomb
targeting her homecoming parade in Karachi.
Army launches offensive against militants in North Waziristan. Nearly 200
people die in the fighting.
2007 October-November - Musharraf wins presidential election
but is challenged by Supreme Court. He declares emergency rule, dismisses Chief
Justice Chaudhry and appoints new Supreme Court, which confirms his re-election.
2007 November - Former PM Nawaz Sharif returns from exile.
Bhutto killed, Musharraf resigns
2007 December - State of emergency lifted.
Benazir Bhutto assassinated at political rally at election campaign rally in
2008 February-March - Pakistan People's Party (PPP) nominee
Yusuf Raza Gilani becomes PM at head of coalition with Nawaz Sharif's Muslim
League party following parliamentary elections in February.
2008 August - President Musharraf resigns after the two main
governing parties agree to launch impeachment proceedings against him.
Taliban militia expanded their influence in Pakistan's tribal areas in
Nawaz Sharif pulls his PML-N out of the coalition,
accusing the PPP of breaking its promise to reinstate all judges sacked by Mr
2008 September - MPs elect Pakistan People's Party's (PPP)
Asif Ali Zardari - the widower of assassinated former PM Benazir Bhutto -
Suicide bombing on Marriott Hotel in Islamabad kills 53 people. Soon after,
government launches major offensive in Bajaur tribal area, killing more than
2008 November - The government borrows billions of dollars
from the International Monetary Fund to overcome its spiralling debt crisis.
2008 December - India blames Mumbai attacks in
November on Pakistani-based militants and demands Pakistan take
action. Islamabad denies involvement but promises to co-operate with
the Indian investigation.
2009 February - Government agrees to implement Sharia law in
north-western Swat valley in effort to persuade Islamist militants there to
agree to permanent ceasefire.
2009 March - After days of protests, government yields to
demands for reinstatement of judges dismissed by former President Musharraf.
2009 April - Swat agreement breaks down after Taleban-linked
militants seek to extend their control. Government launches offensive to wrest
control of Swat from militants.
The 2010 monsoon floods were the worst in 80 years
- At least 1,600 people killed
- 20 million people affected
- 4 million lost livehoods and homes
2009 July - The Supreme Court
acquits opposition leader Nawaz Sharif of hijacking charges dating from 1999
army coup, removing ban on his running for public office.
2009 August - The leader of Pakistan's Taliban, Baitullah
Mehsud, is killed in US drone attack in South Waziristan. He is succeeded by
Suicide bombing in northwestern city of Peshawar kills 120 people.
2009 November - President Asif Ali Zardari hands control of
Pakistan's nuclear arsenal to PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, in apparent attempt to ease
2010 January - Suicide attack on a volleyball match in
north-west kills more than 100 people.
2010 April - Parliament approves package of
wide-ranging constitutional reforms. Measures include transferring
key powers from office of president to prime minister.
2010 August - Worst floods in 80 years kill at least 1,600
people and affect more than 20 million. Government response widely criticised.
Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was found hiding in a suburban compound
2010 October - Rise in targeted
political killings, bombings in commercial hub of Karachi.
2011 January - A campaign to reform Pakistan's blasphemy law
leads to the killing of two prominent supporters, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer
in January, and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti in March.
2011 March - The prime ministers of India and Pakistan meet
to watch a cricket match, an occasion seen as an chance for the two nations to
2011 April - The founder of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, is
killed by American special forces in Abbottabad.
2011 November - Pakistan shuts down Nato supply routes after
a Nato attack on military outposts kills 25 Pakistani soldiers.
2011 December - Pakistan boycotts the Bonn Conference on
Afghanistan in protest at the Nato attack on a border checkpoint.
President Zardari undergoes treatment in Dubai for a heart condition. The
government comes under pressure over a leaked memo alleging that senior
officials sought US aid against a military coup after the killing of Osama bin
Ladin in April.
US troops leave the Shamsi air base in Balochistan in the wake of the
November border attack, and Pakistan blocks US convoys entering Afghanistan.
2012 January - Amid growing tension between government and
military over "memogate" scandal, army chief Gen Pervez Kayani warns of
"unpredictable consequences" after PM Yousuf Raza Gilani criticises army leaders
and sacks top defence official.
Supreme Court threatens to prosecute PM Gilani for contempt of court over
government's refusal to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali
Zardari and other political figures.