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Country Profile : Pakistan

Country profile: Pakistan

Map of 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 confrontations.

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.

Military dominance

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 politics.

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.

Pakistani boys play cricket near Lahore's 17th Century Badshahi Mosque 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 firmly entrenched.

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 government.

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.


Naval cadets march past Pakistan's National Masoleum 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, Pashto, Balochi
  • 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 goods
  • GNI per capita: US $1,050 (World Bank, 2010)
  • Internet domain: .pk
  • International dialling code: +92



President: Asif Ali Zardari
Pakistani 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 premier.

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 years.

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 ceremonial role.

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.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani 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 2006.

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 terrestrial broadcaster.

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 network
  • 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 Kashmir
  • Mast FM 103 - private, music-based
  • FM 100 - private, music-based

News agency



A chronology of key events:

Muhammad Ali Jinnah

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 India's Muslims.

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.

Military rule

1951 - Jinnah's successor Liaquat Ali Khan is assassinated.

1956 - Constitution proclaims Pakistan an Islamic republic.

1958 - Martial law declared and General Ayyub Khan takes over.

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.

Zia ul-Haq

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 takes over.

1970 - Victory in general elections in East Pakistan for breakaway Awam

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 addressing a rally

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.

Bhutto comeback

1988 November - Benazir Bhutto's PPP wins general election.

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 code.

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 power.

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

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 the country.

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 coup.

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.

Kashmir tensions

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.

Pakistani soldiers build bunkers at Line of Control separating Pakistani- and Indian-held Kashmir

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.

Missile tests

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.

Kashmir ceasefire

2003 November - Pakistan declares a Kashmir ceasefire; India follows suit.

Pervez Musharraf in 2000

Military ruler put under pressure by US's "war on terror": Pervez Musharraf

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 affairs.

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 Indian-controlled Kashmir.

2005 August - Pakistan tests its first nuclear-capable cruise missile.

Kashmir quake

2005 October - Earthquake kills tens of thousands of people in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

Gunmen defending the Red Mosque, Islamabad, in 2008

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 nuclear war.

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.

Two women mourn assassinated former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto

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 Rawalpindi.

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 fighters train in South Waziristan tribal area

Taliban militia expanded their influence in Pakistan's tribal areas in 2008

Nawaz Sharif pulls his PML-N out of the coalition, accusing the PPP of breaking its promise to reinstate all judges sacked by Mr Musharraf.

2008 September - MPs elect Pakistan People's Party's (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari - the widower of assassinated former PM Benazir Bhutto - president.

Suicide bombing on Marriott Hotel in Islamabad kills 53 people. Soon after, government launches major offensive in Bajaur tribal area, killing more than 1,000 militants.

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.

A boy makes his way through flood waters in a village south of Muzaffargarh in Punjab, 21 August 2010

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 Hakimullah Mehsud.

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 political pressure.

2010 January - Suicide attack on a volleyball match in north-west kills more than 100 people.

Reform efforts

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.

Compound where Osama Bin Laden was found and killed on outskirts of Abbottabad, northwest Pakistan

Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was found hiding in a suburban compound in Pakistan

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 repair relations.

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.

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