Pakistani Essay Sites

This article is about the country. For other uses, see Pakistan (disambiguation).

Coordinates: 30°N70°E / 30°N 70°E / 30; 70

Islamic Republic of Pakistan

اِسلامی جمہوریہ پاكِستان‬ (Urdu)
Islāmī Jumhūriyah Pākistān[1]

Motto: Īmān, Ittihād, Nazam
ایمان، اتحاد، نظم‬ (Urdu)
"Faith, Unity, Discipline" [2]

Area controlled by Pakistan shown in dark green; claimed but uncontrolled region shown in light green

33°40′N73°10′E / 33.667°N 73.167°E / 33.667; 73.167
Largest cityKarachi
24°51′36″N67°00′36″E / 24.86000°N 67.01000°E / 24.86000; 67.01000
Official languages
Recognised regional languages
National languageUrdu[11][12]
Ethnic groups(2016)44.68% Punjabis
15.42% Pashtuns
14.1% Sindhis
8.38% Saraikis
7.57% Muhajirs
3.57% Balochs
6.28% Others[13]
Religion96.4% Islam(Official)[14]
3.6% others[13]
GovernmentFederal parliamentary constitutional republic

• President

Mamnoon Hussain

• Prime Minister

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

• Chairman of the Senate

Raza Rabbani

• Speaker of the Assembly

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq

• Chief Justice

Mian Saqib Nisar

• Upper house


• Lower house

National Assembly
Independence from the United Kingdom

• Dominion

14 August 1947

• Islamic Republic

23 March 1956

• Current constitution

14 August 1973

• Total

881,913 km2 (340,509 sq mi)[a][16] (33rd)

• Water (%)


• 2017 census

209,970,000[17] (5th)

• Density

244.4/km2 (633.0/sq mi) (56th)
GDP (PPP)2017 estimate

• Total

$1.060 trillion[18] (25th)

• Per capita

$5,374[18] (137th)
GDP (nominal)2017 estimate

• Total

$304.4 billion[19] (42nd)

• Per capita

$1,629 [20] (145th)
Gini (2013)30.7[21]
HDI (2015) 0.550[22]
medium · 147th
CurrencyPakistani rupee (₨) (PKR)
Time zonePST(UTC+5b)
Drives on theleft[23]
Calling code+92
ISO 3166 codePK


Pakistan[b] (Urdu: پاکِستان‬‎), officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Urdu: اِسلامی جمہوریہ پاکِستان‬‎), is a country in South Asia and crossroads of Middle East and Central Asia. It is the fifth-most populous country with a population exceeding 209,970,000 people.[17] In area, it is the 33rd-largest country, spanning 881,913 square kilometres (340,509 square miles). Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre (650-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China in the far northeast. It is separated narrowly from Tajikistan by Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor in the northwest, and also shares a maritime border with Oman.

The territory that now constitutes Pakistan was the site of several ancient cultures, including the Mehrgarh of the Neolithic and the Bronze AgeIndus Valley Civilisation, and was later home to kingdoms ruled by people of different faiths and cultures, including Hindus, Indo-Greeks, Muslims, Turco-Mongols, Afghans, and Sikhs. The area has been ruled by numerous empires and dynasties, including the Persian Achaemenid Empire, Alexander III of Macedon, the Indian Mauryan Empire, the Arab Umayyad Caliphate, the Gupta Empire,[24] the Delhi Sultanate, the Mongol Empire, the Mughal Empire, the Afghan Durrani Empire, the Sikh Empire (partially), and, most recently, the British Empire.

Pakistan is the only country to have been created in the name of Islam.[25][26] As a result of the Pakistan Movement led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the subcontinent's struggle for independence, Pakistan was created in 1947 as an independent homeland for Indian Muslims.[27] It is an ethnically and linguistically diverse country, with a similarly diverse geography and wildlife. Initially a dominion, Pakistan adopted a constitution in 1956, becoming an Islamic republic. An ethnic civil war in 1971 resulted in the secession of East Pakistan as the new country of Bangladesh.[28] In 1973 Pakistan adopted a new constitution establishing, alongside its pre-existing parliamentary republic status, a federal government based in Islamabad consisting of four provinces and four federal territories. The new constitution also stipulated that all laws are to conform to the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah.[29]

A regional[30][31][32] and middle power,[33][34][35] Pakistan has the sixth-largest standing armed forces in the world and is also a nuclear power as well as a declared nuclear-weapons state, the second in South Asia and the only nation in the Muslim world to have that status. Pakistan has a semi-industrialised economy with a well-integrated agriculture sector and a growing services sector.[36][37] The Pakistani economy is the 24th-largest in the world in terms of purchasing power and the 41st-largest in terms of nominal GDP (World Bank). It is ranked among the emerging and growth-leading economies of the world,[38][39] and is backed by one of the world's largest and fastest-growing middle class.[40][41]

Pakistan's political history since independence has been characterized by periods of military rule, political instability and conflicts with India. The country continues to face challenging problems, including overpopulation, terrorism, poverty, illiteracy, and corruption.[42][43][44][45] Pakistan is a member of the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Economic Cooperation Organisation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the Developing Eight, and the G20 developing nations, Group of 24, Group of 77, and ECOSOC. It is also an associate member of CERN. Pakistan is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


The name Pakistan literally means "land of the pure" in Urdu and Persian. It alludes to the word pāk meaning pure in Persian and Pashto.[46] The suffix ـستان (-stān) is a Persian word meaning the place of, and also recalls the synonymous (and cognate) Sanskrit word sthānaस्थान.[47]

The name of the country was coined in 1933 as Pakstan by Choudhry Rahmat Ali, a Pakistan Movement activist, who published it in his pamphlet Now or Never,[48] using it as an acronym ("thirty million Muslim brethren who live in PAKSTAN") referring to the names of the five northern regions of the British Raj: Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan.[49][50][51] The letter i was incorporated to ease pronunciation.[52]


Main article: History of Pakistan

See also: Outline of South Asian history

Early and medieval age

Main articles: Indus Valley Civilization, Vedic Civilization, Mauryan Empire, Indo-Greek Kingdom, Gupta Empire, Pala Empire, Sikh Empire, and Mughal Empire

Some of the earliest ancient human civilisations in South Asia originated from areas encompassing present-day Pakistan.[53] The earliest known inhabitants in the region were Soanian during the Lower Paleolithic, of whom stone tools have been found in the Soan Valley of Punjab.[54] The Indus region, which covers most of present day Pakistan, was the site of several successive ancient cultures including the Neolithic Mehrgarh[55] and the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilisation[57][58][59][60] (2,800–1,800 BCE) at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.[61][62]

The Vedic Civilisation (1500–500 BCE), characterised by Indo-Aryan culture, during this period the Vedas, the oldest scriptures associated with Hinduism, were composed and this culture later became well established in the region.[63][64]Multan was an important Hindu pilgrimage centre.[65] The Vedic civilisation flourished in the ancient Gandhāran city of Takṣaśilā, now Taxila in the Punjab, which was founded around 1000 BCE.[55] Successive ancient empires and kingdoms ruled the region: the Persian Achaemenid Empire (around 519 BCE), Alexander the Great's empire in 326 BCE[67] and the Maurya Empire, founded by Chandragupta Maurya and extended by Ashoka the Great, until 185 BCE.[55] The Indo-Greek Kingdom founded by Demetrius of Bactria (180–165 BCE) included Gandhara and Punjab and reached its greatest extent under Menander (165–150 BCE), prospering the Greco-Buddhist culture in the region.[55][68] Taxila had one of the earliest universities and centres of higher education in the world, which was established during the late Vedic period in 6th century BCE.[69][70] The school consisted of several monasteries without large dormitories or lecture halls where the religious instruction was provided on an individualistic basis.[70] The ancient university was documented by the invading forces of Alexander the Great, "the like of which had not been seen in Greece," and was also recorded by Chinese pilgrims in the 4th or 5th century CE.[71][72][73][74]

At its zenith, the Rai Dynasty (489–632 CE) of Sindh ruled this region and the surrounding territories.[75] The Pala Dynasty was the last Buddhist empire, which, under Dharmapala and Devapala, stretched across South Asia from what is now Bangladesh through Northern India to Pakistan.

The Arab conqueror Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh in 711 CE.[76][77][78][79][80] The Pakistan government's official chronology claims this as the time when the foundation of Pakistan was laid[76][81][82] but the concept of Pakistan came in 19th century.The Early Medieval period (642–1219 CE) witnessed the spread of Islam in the region. During this period, Sufimissionaries played a pivotal role in converting a majority of the regional Buddhist and Hindu population to Islam.[83] These developments set the stage for the rule of several successive Muslim empires in the region, including the Ghaznavid Empire (975–1187 CE), the Ghorid Kingdom, and the Delhi Sultanate (1206–1526 CE). The Lodi dynasty, the last of the Delhi Sultanate, was replaced by the Mughal Empire (1526–1857 CE).

The Mughals introduced Persian literature and high culture, establishing the roots of Indo-Persian culture in the region.[84] From the region of modern-day Pakistan, key cities during the Mughal rule were Lahore and Thatta,[85] both of which were chosen as the site of impressive Mughal buildings.[86] In the early 16th century, the region remained under the Mughal Empire ruled by Muslim emperors.[87] By the early 18th century, increasing European influence contributed to the slow disintegration of the empire as the lines between commercial and political dominance became increasingly blurred.[87]

During this time, the English East India Company had established coastal outposts.[87] Control over the seas, greater resources, technology, and British military protection led the Company to increasingly flex its military muscle, allowing the Company to gain control over the subcontinent by 1765 and sideline European competitors.[88] Expanding access beyond Bengal and the subsequent increased strength and size of its army enabled it to annex or subdue most of region by the 1820s.[87] Many historians see this as the start of the region's colonial period.[87] By this time, with its economic power severely curtailed by the British parliament and itself effectively made an arm of British administration, the Company began more deliberately to enter non-economic arenas such as education, social reform, and culture.[87] Such reforms included the enforcement of the English Education Act in 1835 and the introduction of the Indian Civil Service (ICS).[89] Traditional madrasahs—primary institutions of higher learning for Muslims in the subcontinent—were no longer supported by the English Crown, and nearly all of the madrasahs lost their financial endowment.[90]

Colonial period

Main articles: Aligarh Movement and British Raj

The gradual decline of the Mughal Empire in the early 18th century enabled the Sikh Empire to control larger areas until the British East India Company gained ascendancy over the Indian subcontinent.[91] A rebellion in 1857 called the Sepoy mutiny was the region's major armed struggle against the British Empire and Queen Victoria.[92] Divergence in the relationship between Hinduism and Islam created a major rift in British India that led to racially motivated religious violence in India.[93] The language controversy further escalated the tensions between Hindus and Muslims.[94] The Hindu renaissance witnessed an awakening of intellectualism in traditional Hinduism and saw the emergence of more assertive influence in the social and political spheres in British India.[95][96] An intellectual movement to counter the Hindu renaissance was led by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who helped found the All-India Muslim League in 1901 and envisioned, as well as advocated for, the two-nation theory.[91] In contrast to the Indian Congress's anti-British efforts, the Muslim League was a pro-British movement whose political program inherited the British values that would shape Pakistan's future civil society.[97] In events during World War I, British Intelligence foiled an anti-Englishconspiracy involving the nexus of Congress and the German Empire.[citation needed] The largely non-violent independence struggle led by the Indian Congress engaged millions of protesters in mass campaigns of civil disobedience in the 1920s and 1930s against the British Empire.[98][99][100]

The Muslim League slowly rose to mass popularity in the 1930s amid fears of under-representation and neglect of Muslims in politics. In his presidential address of 29 December 1930, Allama Iqbal called for "the amalgamation of North-West Muslim-majority Indian states" consisting of Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sindh, and Balochistan.[102] The perceived neglect of muslim interests by Congress led provincial governments during the period of 1937–39 convinced Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan to espouse the two-nation theory and led the Muslim League to adopt the Lahore Resolution of 1940, popularly known as the Pakistan Resolution.[91] In World War II, Jinnah and British-educatedfounding fathers in the Muslim League supported the United Kingdom's war efforts, countering opposition against it whilst working towards Sir Syed's vision.[103]

Pakistan Movement

Main articles: History of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Pakistan Movement, and Partition of India

The 1946 elections resulted in the Muslim League winning 90 percent of the seats reserved for Muslims. Thus, the 1946 election was effectively a plebiscite in which the Indian Muslims were to vote on the creation of Pakistan, a plebiscite won by the Muslim League.[104] This victory was assisted by the support given to the Muslim League by the support of the landowners of Sindh and Punjab. The Congress, which initially denied the Muslim League's claim of being the sole representative of Indian Muslims, was now forced to recognise the fact.[104] The British had no alternative except to take Jinnah's views into account as he had emerged as the sole spokesperson of India's Muslims. However, the British did not want India to be partitioned, and in one last effort to prevent it they devised the Cabinet Mission plan.[105]

As the cabinet mission failed, the British government announced its intention to end the British Raj in India in 1946–47.[106]Nationalists in British India—including Jawaharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad of Congress, Jinnah of the All-India Muslim League, and Master Tara Singh representing the Sikhs—agreed to the proposed terms of transfer of power and independence in June 1947 with the Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten of Burma.[107] As the United Kingdom agreed to the partitioning of India in 1947, the modern state of Pakistan was established on 14 August 1947(27th of Ramadan in 1366 of the Islamic Calendar), amalgamating the Muslim-majority eastern and northwestern regions of British India.[100] It comprised the provinces of Balochistan, East Bengal, the North-West Frontier Province, West Punjab, and Sindh.[91][107]

In the riots that accompanied the partition in Punjab Province, it is believed that between 200,000 and 2,000,000[108][109][110][111][112][113] people were killed in what some have described as a retributive genocide between the religions[114][115] while 50,000 Muslim women were abducted and raped by Hindu and Sikh men and 33,000 Hindu and Sikh women also experienced the same fate at the hands of Muslims.[116][117][118][119] Around 6.5 million Muslims moved from India to West Pakistan and 4.7 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from West Pakistan to India.[120] It was the largest mass migration in human history.[121][122][123] Dispute over Jammu and Kashmir led to the First Kashmir War in 1948.[124][125]

Independence and modern Pakistan

Main articles: Dominion of Pakistan and History of Pakistan

"You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State."

—Muhammad Ali Jinnah's first speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan[126]

After independence in 1947, Jinnah, the President of the Muslim League, became the nation's first Governor-General as well as the first President-Speaker of the Parliament,[127] but he died of tuberculosis on 11 September 1948.[128] Meanwhile, Pakistan's founding fathers agreed to appoint Liaquat Ali Khan, the secretary-general of the party, the nation's firstPrime Minister. With dominion status in the Commonwealth of Nations, independent Pakistan had two British monarchs before it became a republic.[127]

The creation of Pakistan was never fully accepted by many British leaders, among them Lord Mountbatten.[129] Mountbatten clearly expressed his lack of support and faith in the Muslim League's idea of Pakistan.[130] Jinnah refused Mountbatten's offer to serve as Governor-General of Pakistan.[131] When Mountbatten was asked by Collins and Lapierre if he would have sabotaged Pakistan had he known that Jinnah was dying of tuberculosis, he replied 'most probably'.[132]

Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, a respected Deobandi alim (scholar) who occupied the position of Shaykh al-Islam in Pakistan in 1949, and Maulana Mawdudi of Jamaat-i-Islami played a pivotal role in the demand for an Islamic constitution. Mawdudi demanded that the Constituent Assembly make an explicit declaration affirming the "supreme sovereignty of God" and the supremacy of the shariah in Pakistan.[133]

A significant result of the efforts of the Jamaat-i-Islami and the ulama was the passage of the Objectives Resolution in March 1949. The Objectives Resolution, which Liaquat Ali Khan called the second most important step in Pakistan's history, declared that "sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to God Almighty alone and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust". The Objectives Resolution has been incorporated as a preamble to the constitutions of 1956, 1962, and 1973.[134]

Democracy was stalled by the martial law that had been enforced by President Iskander Mirza, who was replaced by army chief, General Ayub Khan. After adopting a presidential system in 1962, the country experienced exceptional growth until a second war with India in 1965 that led to an economic downturn and wide-scale public disapproval in 1967.[135][136]Consolidating control from Ayub Khan in 1969, President Yahya Khan had to deal with a devastating cyclone that caused 500,000 deaths in East Pakistan.[137]

In 1970 Pakistan held its first democratic elections since independence, meant to mark a transition from military rule to democracy, but after the East Pakistani Awami League won against the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Yahya Khan and the military establishment refused to hand over power.[138][139]Operation Searchlight, a military crackdown on the Bengali nationalist movement, led to a declaration of independence and the waging of a war of liberation by the Bengali Mukti Bahini forces in East Pakistan.[139][140] However, in West Pakistan the conflict was described as a civil war as opposed to a war of liberation.[141]

Independent researchers estimate that between 300,000 and 500,000 civilians died during this period while the Bangladesh government puts the number of dead at three million,[142] a figure that is now nearly universally regarded as excessively inflated.[143] Some academics such as Rudolph Rummel and Rounaq Jahan say both sides[144] committed genocide; others such as Richard Sisson and Leo E. Rose believe there was no genocide.[145] In response to India's support for the insurgency in East Pakistan, preemptive strikes on India by Pakistan's air force, navy

Over 10 million people were uprooted from their homeland and travelled on foot, bullock carts, and trains to their promised new home during the Partition of India. During the partition, between 200,000 to 2,000,000 people were killed in the retributive genocide.[101]
The American CIA film on Pakistan made in 1950 examines the history and geography of Pakistan.

Pakistan became an independent state in 1947. Artists created works of art to promote the establishment of Pakistan as a modern country. This joyous occasion, however, was tempered by looming difficulties. The nation was located in two geographically distinct units separated by a thousand miles. The form of its government seemed uncertain—its founders had envisioned a democratic state in which all religions, including Islam, could be worshipped freely. However, because Pakistan was created as the homeland for South Asia’s Muslim population, there was pressure to govern with Islamic law. In this tense political climate, writers critiqued and questioned the founding of the nation in stories, novels, and poems.

Modern Painting in West Pakistan
New on the world stage, Pakistani artists aimed to present themselves as modern according to international standards. They adopted styles prevalent in Europe and the United States, but they also experimented with indigenous traditions to see how these could fit into the modern world.

The first artist in Pakistan to have an exhibition of modern paintings was a woman—Zubeida Agha (1922–1997). Trained in both Pakistan and Europe, Agha developed an approach to painting that reflected her education and experience. Her images of landscapes and people are simplified forms made with a variety of vibrant colors reminiscent of both Fauvism and Rajput miniatures.

In the 1950s, Shakir ‘Ali (1916–1975), fresh from Europe, taught and later became principal of the National College of Arts. He brought back with him knowledge about Cézanne and Cubism, which offered new ways of interpreting the natural world in art. ‘Ali’s simplified and heavily outlined images of people, animals, and objects reflect a familiarity with Primitivism, a style developed in Europe yet influenced by Eastern art. Anna Molka Ahmed (1917–1994), coming from London to Lahore with her husband, also experienced the art world in both Pakistan and Europe. Her paintings are suggestive of French Impressionism in her use of thick, impasto brushstrokes to present life in Pakistan.

Shakir ‘Ali, along with Gulgee (born 1926) and Sadequain (1930–1987; 1980.3.2), was also interested in local practices, in particular Islamic calligraphy. These artists experimented with calligraphy in paintings that placed centuries-old texts into modern formats. Gulgee’s calligraphy paintings are abstract and gestural interpretations of Arabic and Urdu letters. His sweeping layers of paint explore the formal qualities of oil paint while they make references to Islamic design elements. Ranging in styles, Sadequain’s representations of calligraphy include anthropomorphic letters that are angular and sharp, similar to his figurative works of the poor and downtrodden. In other calligraphic images, Sadequain transformed text into objects.

Modern Painting in East Pakistan
Zainul Abedin (1914–1976) is considered the pioneer of modernism in East Pakistan. Formally, in paintings and drawings, he relied on the Kalighat folk art made in Bengal as well as the art of earlier Indian painters, including Jamini Roy (1887–1972) and Abanindranath Tagore (1871–1951). But in his choice of topics such as famine and working-class life, his subject matter is more socially aware than the work of these earlier artists.

Atteqa Ali
Independent Curator

October 2004

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