Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country located in South Asia. Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world and is the second most populous Muslim country.
Pakistan displays some of Asia’s most magnificent landscapes as it stretches from the Arabian Sea, its southern border, to spectacular mountain ranges in the north. The region that is Pakistan was also home to the first civilization in Asia: the Indus Valley Civilization.

Pakistan has a 1046-kilometer southern coastline along the Arabian Sea and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east, and China in the far northeast. The country is nearly four times the size of the United Kingdom and nearly twice the size of California.

  • Quick Facts About Pakistan
    Government: Official name Islamic Republic of Pakistan
    Government type: Federal republic
    President: Asif Ali Zardari
    Prime Minister: Raja Pervaiz Ashraf
    Independence day: 14 August 1947 (from United Kingdom)
    National holiday: 23 March (1956)
  • Population
    187,342,721 (July 2011 est.)
  • Age structure
    0-14 years: 35.4% (male 34,093,853/female 32,278,462)
    15-64 years: 60.4% (male 58,401,016/female 54,671,873)
    65 years and over: 4.2% (male 3,739,647/female 4,157,870) (2011 est.)
  • Ethnic groups
    Punjabi 44.68%, Pashtun (Pathan) 15.42%, Sindhi 14.1%, Sariaki 8.38%, Muhajirs 7.57%, Balochi 3.57%, other 6.28% Religions
    Muslim 95% (Sunni 75%, Shia 20%), other (includes Christian and Hindu) 5%
  • Languages
    Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Saraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashtu 8%, Urdu (official) 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English (official; lingua franca of Pakistani elite and most government ministries), Burushaski, and other 8%
  • Geography
    Total area :803,940 square kilometers
    Land area :778,720 square kilometers
    Water area :25,220 square kilometers
    Climate Mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north
  • Economy
    Currency: Pakistani rupee
    GDP: $395.2 billion (2005)
    GDP: per capita $2,400 (2005)
    Source: CIA World Factbook 2006


  • c. 3500: BCE Civilization develops in the Indus River Valley
  • 530 BCE: The Persian emperor Cyrus the Great conquers part of the Punjab
  • 332 BCE: Alexander the Great conquers most of what is now Pakistan before his own troops force him to turn back
  • c. 100: Peshawar becomes an important trading center of the Kushan Empire
  • 711: Arab Muslims cross the Arabian Sea and invade Sind, introducing Islam to Pakistan
  • c. 1000: Lahore becomes an important center of Islamic culture after Turkish Muslims from Persia conquer the Indus River Valley
  • 1206: Much of Pakistan becomes part of the Delhi Sultanate
  • 1526: Pakistan becomes part of the Mughal Empire; the Mughals introduce Sikhism and the Urdu language to Pakistan
  • c. 1740: The Mughal Empire begins to decline; its power and influence are gradually assumed by the British East India Company
  • c. 1800: Sikh kingdoms gain power in the Punjab
  • c. 1840: The British conquer the Sikh kingdoms
  • 1858: The British government assumes direct control of India and much of Pakistan
  • 1906: The All-Indian Muslim League is founded to campaign for greater self-rule for India’s Muslims
  • 1940: Fearing Hindu dominance of India, the Muslim League demandd the partition of India into Hindu and Muslim nations. The name Pakistan, meaning land of the pure in Urdu, is introduced to refer to the Muslim nation
  • 1947: Pakistan gains its independence; the eastern and western parts of the country are separated by more than 1600 km (1000 mi) of Indian territory
  • 1948-1949: Pakistan and India fight a war over control of the Kashmir region
  • 1956: Pakistan becomes a republic
  • 1965: India and Pakistan fight another war over Kashmir
  • 1971: East Pakistan proclaims its independence from Pakistan as the state of Bangladesh; more than 1 million people die in the ensuing civil war, which ends when India and Bangladesh defeate Pakistani forces
  • 1977: The military, led by General Muhammad Zia Ul-Haq, takes control of the government
  • 1988: Zia dies in a plane crash; Benazir Bhutto elected prime minister, becoming the first woman to lead an Islamic nation
  • 1990: President Ghulman Ishaq Khan removes Bhutto from office, citing her government with corruption
  • 1993: The military intervenes to resolve a dispute between the president and the prime minister; new elections are held, Bhutto returns to office
  • 1994: Tensions over Kashmir arise again; Prime Minister Bhutto announces plans to continue Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development program
  • 1996: The United States lifts some military and economic sanctions against Pakistan; President Farooq Leghari removs Bhutto from office, citing her government with corruption
  • 1997: Nawaz Sharif becomes prime minister after his Pakistan Muslim League wins a large majority in elections
  • 1998: When neighboring India conducts nuclear tests, Pakistan responds by detonating its own nuclear weapons for the first time in its history; the explosions raise fears of a regional nuclear arms race
  • 1999: Sharif is overthrown in a military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf; Musharraf suspends the constitution and the legislature and declares himself the Chief Executive of Pakistan
  • 2002: Musharraf announces elections and Pakistan Muslim League wins most of the seats; Zafarullah Khan Jamali sworn in as new Prime Minister of Pakistan

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National Symbols

  • The Flag
    The flag of Pakistan was designed by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.Each component of the flag is a symbol:
    The dark green field represents the Muslim majority.
    The white field represents Pakistan’s religious minorities.
    The crescent stands for progress.
    The five-pointed star stands for light and knowledge.
  • The State Emblem
    The State Emblem of Pakistan was approved by the government in 1954. As with the flag, each element of the emblem is significant:
    The crescent-and-star crest is a traditional symbol of Islam.
    The shield depicts cotton, wheat, tea and jute in each of its four partitions. These are the staple crops of Pakistan and represent the strong, agriculture-based economy.
    The wreath is a reproduction of the floral designs used in traditional Mughal art. It is a tribute to Pakistan’s cultural heritage.
    The banner carries the Urdu version of Quaid-e-Azam’s famous motto, “Faith, Unity, Discipline.” These three words are the guiding principles for the nation.
    Unlike other heraldic devices which are emblazoned with symbols representing mythological, historical and geographical features, the State Emblem of Pakistan gives due recognition to the country’s source of inspiration, strength, and tradition.
  • The National Anthem

    Click to listen
    The Qaumi Tarana, the national anthem of Pakistan, was composed by Ahmed Ghulamali Chagla in 1950. It was adopted as the national anthem in 1954. It is a harmonious rendering of a three-stanza composition, with a melody based on Eastern music but arranged in such a manner that it can be easily played by Western bands.Abul Asar Hafeez Jullundhri, a renowned Pakistani poet, wrote the lyrics for the piece. The anthem is evocative in spirit, extolling Pakistan as the center of faith and freedom, a land of beauty and strength. The words touch upon the various facets of national life, with an invocation for integrity to Pakistan.English lyrics:
    Blessed be the sacred land
    Happy be the bounteous realm
    Symbol of high resolve
    Land of Pakistan
    Blessed be thou citadel of faith
    The order of this sacred land
    Is the might of the brotherhood of the people
    May the nation, the country, and the state
    Shine in glory everlasting
    Blessed be the goal of our ambition
    This flag of the crescent and star
    Leads the way to progress and perfection
    Interpreter of our past, glory of our present
    Inspiration of our future
    Symbol of Almighty’s protection

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Father of the Nation

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, played several roles with distinction throughout his life. He was one of the greatest legal luminaries India produced during the first half of the century, an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, a great constitutionalist, a distinguished parliamentarian, a top-notch politician, an indefatigable freedom-fighter, a dynamic Muslim leader, a political strategist and, above all one of the great nation-builders of modern times.

Jinnah is remarkable in that he created a nation out of an inchoate minority and established a cultural and national home for his people. For over three decades before the successful culmination in 1947 of the Muslim struggle for freedom in the South-Asian subcontinent, Jinnah had provided political leadership to the Indian Muslims – initially as one of the leaders, but later as the only prominent leader- the Quaid-i-Azam. For over thirty years, he fought relentlessly and inexorably for the rights of Muslims on the subcontinent. Indeed, the life of Muhammad Ali Jinnah is the story of the rebirth of the Muslims of the subcontinent and their spectacular rise to nationhood.

Early Life
Muhammad Ali Jinnah was born on December 25, 1876, to a prominent mercantile family in Karachi. He was educated at the Sindh Madrassat-ul-Islam and the Christian Mission School. In 1893, Jinnah joined the Lincoln’s Inn and three years later, at the age of 20, he became the youngest Indian ever called to the Bar. With nothing except his native ability and determination, the young Jinnah rose to prominence and became Bombay’s most successful lawyer within a few years.

Beginnings of a Political Career
After firmly establishing himself as a capable lawyer, Jinnah embarked on his political career in 1905 as a member of the Indian National Congress. That year, he and Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1866-1915) went to England as members of a delegation to plead the cause of Indian self-government. Within a year, Jinnah was serving as secretary to Dadabhai Noaroji (1825-1917), the president of the Indian National Congress, a great honor for the young politician. At the Calcutta Congress session (December 1906), he also made his first political speech in support of the resolution on self-government.

In January 1910, Jinnah was elected to the newly-formed Imperial Legislative Council. Jinnah soon became a leading voice of the group. At the time, Jinnah passionately believed in and assiduously worked for Hindu-Muslim unity, as he would for three more decades. Gokhale, the foremost Hindu leader before Gandhi, once said of him, “He has the true stuff in him and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity.” Surely enough, Jinnah did become the architect of Hindu-Muslim Unity: he was responsible for the Congress-League Pact of 1916 – known popularly as Lucknow Pact – the only pact ever signed between the Indian National Congress and the All-India Muslim League.

The Lucknow Pact was a milestone in the evolution of Indian politics. It gave Muslims the right to a separate electorate, reservation of seats in the legislatures, and weightage in representation in all provinces. It was a tacit recognition of the All-India Muslim League as the representative organization of Indian Muslims, thus strengthening the trend towards Muslim individuality in Indian politics.

By 1917, Jinnah had earned respect from Hindus, Muslims, and the British as one of India’s most outstanding political leaders. Around the end of the First World War, the British Secretary of State for India Edwin Montagu remarked that Jinnah was “perfect mannered, impressive-looking, armed to the teeth with dialectics…a very clever man, and it is, of course, an outrage that such a man should have no chance of running the affairs of his own country.” By this time, Jinnah had become a prominent member of the Congress and the Imperial Legislative Council, President of the All-India Muslim League, and president of the Bombay branch of the Home Rule League. Because of his key-role in the Lucknow Pact, he was hailed as a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity.

Constitutional Struggle
In subsequent years, Jinnah became dismayed at the rise of political violence. He believed that political terrorism was a dark path to disaster and destruction. Jinnah stood for “ordered progress,” moderation, gradualism and constitutionalism. Jinnah was thus opposed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s novel methods of Satyagara (“peaceful resistance”) and the triple boycott of government-aided schools and colleges, courts and councils, and British textiles. He felt that Gandhi’s doctrine of non-cooperation was at best one of negation and despair: it would lead to the buildup of resentment among the people. When Gandhi, having been elected President of the Home Rule League in October 1920, sought to change its constitution, Jinnah resigned, saying: “Your extreme program has for the moment struck the imagination mostly of the inexperienced youth and the ignorant and the illiterate. All this means disorganization and chaos.” On the eve of its adoption of the Gandhian program, Jinnah warned the Nagpur Congress: “You are making a declaration (of Swaraj within a year) and committing the Indian National Congress to a programme which you will not be able to carry out”. For Jinnah, there was no short-cut to independence Gandhi’s extra-constitutional methods would not bring India closer to freedom.

Although Jinnah had resigned from the Congress, he continued his efforts toward a Hindu-Muslim entente, which he rightly considered “the most vital condition of Swaraj”. One such effort was the formulation of the Delhi Muslim Proposals in March 1927. In order to bridge Hindu-Muslim differences on the constitutional plan, these proposals waived the Muslim right to a separate electorate, the most basic Muslim demand since 1906, had again become a source of friction between the two communities despite its recognition in the Lucknow Pact. However, the 1928 Nehru Report, which represented the Congress-sponsored proposals for the future constitution of India, did not recognize Muslim demands embodied in the Delhi Muslim Proposals. Because of this failure to compromise and because of the deep distrust between the two communities, Jinnah’s efforts came to naught.

In vain did Jinnah argue at the 1928 National convention that “what we want is that Hindus and Mussalmans should march together until our object is achieved…These two communities have got to be reconciled and united and made to feel that their interests are common.” The Convention’s blank refusal to accept Muslim demands was the most devastating setback to Jinnah’s life-long efforts to bring about Hindu-Muslim unity. For the Muslims, it was the last straw, and for Jinnah it was “the parting of the ways,” as he confessed to a Parsee friend at that time. Jinnah’s disillusionment at the course of politics in the subcontinent prompted him to move in London in the early 1930s. He return to India in 1934 at the pleadings of his fellow Muslims to assume leadership. At the time, the Muslims were disgruntled and demoralized men and women, politically disorganized and bereft of a clear-cut political program.

Muslim League Reorganized
The task that awaited Jinnah was anything but easy. The central organization had little control over its its provincial organizations. In the Punjab, Bengal, Sindh, the North West Frontier, Assam, Bihar and the United Provinces, various Muslim leaders had set up their own provincial parties to serve their personal ends. Nor did the central body have any coherent policy of its own until the Bombay session in 1936, which Jinnah organized.

Undismayed by this bleak situation, Jinnah devoted himself with singleness of purpose to organizing the Muslims on one platform. He embarked upon country-wide tours. He pleaded with provincial Muslim leaders to sink their differences and make common cause with the League. He exhorted the Muslim masses to organize themselves and join the League. He gave coherence and direction to Muslim sentiments on the Government of India Act in 1935. He advocated that the Federal Scheme should be scrapped as it was subversive of India’s cherished goal of complete, responsible government, while the provincial scheme, which conceded provincial autonomy for the first time, should be worked for what it was worth. He also formulated a viable League manifesto for the election of 1937.

Despite the multitude of odds against it, the Muslim League won 108 seats out of a total of 485 Muslim seats in the various legislatures. Though not very impressive in itself, the League’s partial success was significant in view of the fact that the League won the largest number of Muslim seats and that it was the only all-India party of the Muslims in the country. Thus, the elections represented the first milestone on the long road to putting Muslim India on the map.

Congress in Power
1937 was the first year of the most momentous decade in modern Indian history. That year, the provincial part of the Government of India Act of 1935 came into force, granting autonomy to Indians in the provinces for the first time. The Congress, having become the dominant party in Indian politics, came to power in seven provinces exclusively, spurning the League’s offer of cooperation, turning its back on the coalition idea, and excluding Muslims from positions of power. The Muslim League, under Jinnah’s dynamic leadership, was reorganized into a mass organization, and made the spokesman of Indian Muslims as never before.

Above all, 1937 was the year in which the seeds were sown for the eventual partition of the subcontinent. The policy of the Congress which took office in July 1937 convinced Muslims that they could live only as second-class citizens to the Hindus. Many Muslims felt that their religion, language and culture were not safe. Jinnah siezed on this situation to organize Muslims into a power to be reckoned with. He gave coherence, direction and articulation to their vaguest, innermost urges and aspirations. Above all, he filled them with his indomitable will, his unflinching faith in their destiny.

The New Awakening
As a result of Jinnah’s ceaseless efforts, the Muslims awakened from their “unreflective silence,” and to “the spiritual essence of nationality” that had existed among them for many years. Roused by the impact of successive, unfriendly Congressional policies, the Muslims “searched their social consciousness in a desperate attempt to find coherent and meaningful articulation to their cherished yearnings” (B.R. Ambedkar). Muslim opinion had turned in favor of a separate Muslim state.

Demand for Pakistan
“We are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral code, customs and calendar, history and tradition, aptitudes and ambitions; in short, we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law, we are a nation,” proclaimed Jinnah to Ghandhi 1944.

Not only were Hindus hostile to the Muslim demand for a separate state, but the British were also, for they believed that the unity of India was their main achievement and their foremost contribution. The Hindus and the British had not anticipated the astonishingly tremendous response that the Pakistan demand elicited from the Muslim masses. They failed to realize how a hundred million people had suddenly become supremely conscious of their distinct nationhood and their high destiny. No one had played a more pivotal role in this process than Jinnah. It was his powerful advocacy of the case of Pakistan and his remarkable strategy in the delicate negotiations that made Pakistan a reality.

Cripps Scheme
The British reaction to the Pakistan demand came in the form of the Cripps offer of April, 1942, which conceded the principle of self-determination to provinces on a territorial basis. The Rajaji Formula (named after the eminent Congress leader C. Rajagopalacharia) represented the Congress alternative to Pakistan. The Cripps offer was rejected because it did not concede the Muslim demand the whole way, while the Rajaji Formula was found unacceptable since it offered a “moth-eaten, mutilated” Pakistan.

Cabinet Mission
The most delicate and tortuous negotiations took place during 1946 and 1947, after the elections showed that the country was sharply and somewhat evenly divided between the Congress and the League and that the central issue in Indian politics was Pakistan.

These negotiations began with the arrival in March 1946 of a three-member British Cabinet Mission. The crucial task with which the Cabinet Mission was entrusted was that of devising a constitution-making machinery, and of setting up a popular interim government. But because the Congress-League gulf could not be bridged despite the Mission’s (and the Viceroy’s) prolonged efforts, the Mission had to make its own proposals in May 1946. Known as the Cabinet Mission Plan, this proposal stipulated a limited central government, supreme only in foreign affairs, defense, and communications, and three autonomous groups of provinces. Two of these groups were to have Muslim majorities while the third one, comprising the Indian mainland, was to have a Hindu majority.

Consummate statesman that he was, Jinnah saw his chance. He interpreted the clauses relating to a limited central government and the grouping of provinces as “the foundation of Pakistan” and induced the Muslim League Council to accept the plan in June 1946, much to the dismay of the Congress.

Tragically, the League’s acceptance was put down to its supposed weakness and the Congress put up a posture of defiance, designed to swamp the League into submitting to its dictates and its interpretations of the plan. Jinnah and the League had no alternative but to rescind their earlier acceptance, reiterate and reaffirm their original stance. Jinnah’s ability to turn the tide of events at a time when all seemed lost was indication at his adeptness at making strategic and tactical moves.

Partition Plan
By the end of 1946, communal riots had flared up to murderous heights, engulfing almost the entire subcontinent. The two peoples, it seemed, were engaged in a fight to the finish. The time for a peaceful transfer of power was fast running out. Realizing the gravity of the situation, His Majesty’s Government sent down to India a new Viceroy: Lord Mountbatten. Mountbatten’s protracted negotiations with the various political leaders resulted in a plan by which the British decided to partition the subcontinent and hand over power to two successor states on August 15, 1947. The plan was duly accepted by the three Indian parties represented: the Congress, the League, and the Akali Dal (representing the Sikhs).

Leader of a Free Nation
In recognition of his singular contribution, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was nominated by the Muslim League as the Governor-General of Pakistan, while the Congress appointed Mountbatten as India’s first Governor-General. It has been said that Pakistan was born in chaos. Indeed, few nations in the world have started with fewer resources and in more treacherous circumstances. The new nation did not inherit a central government, a capital, an administrative core, or an organized defence force. Its social and administrative resources were poor. Conflict had left vast areas in shambles. With the en masse migration of the Hindu and Sikh business and managerial classes to India, the economy was left shattered.

The treasury was empty, India having denied Pakistan the major share of its cash balances. On top of this, the still unorganized nation was called upon to feed some eight million refugees who had fled the insecurities and barbarities of the north Indian plains that long, hot summer. If all this was symptomatic of Pakistan’s administrative and economic weakness, the Indian military annexation of Junagarh in November 1947 and the Kashmir war over the state’s accession exposed her military weakness. Given the circumstances, it was nothing short of a miracle that Pakistan survived at all. The nation desperately needed a charismatic leader at that critical juncture in history, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah was just the man for the job.

In the final analysis, Jinnah’s very presence at the helm of affairs was responsible for enabling the newly born nation to overcome the terrible crises it faced. He mustered up the immense prestige and the unquestioning loyalty he commanded among the people to energize them, raise their morale, and direct the profound feelings of patriotism that freedom had generated along constructive channels. Though tired and in poor health, Jinnah carried the heaviest burden in that first crucial year. He laid down the policies of the new state, called attention to the immediate problems confronting the nation, and told the members of the Constituent Assembly, the civil servants, and the Armed Forces what the nation expected of them. He saw to it that law and order was maintained at all costs, despite the provocation that the large-scale riots in north India had provided. He moved from Karachi to Lahore and supervised the refugee problem in the Punjab. In a time of fierce excitement, he remained sober, cool and steady. He advised his excited audience in Lahore to concentrate on helping the refugees, to avoid retaliation, exercise restraint, and protect minorities. He toured the various provinces, attended to their particular problems, and instilled in the people a sense of belonging. He reversed the British policy in the northwest frontier and ordered the withdrawal of the troops from the tribal territory of Waziristan, thereby making the Pathans feel themselves an integral part of Pakistan’s body-politics. He created the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions and assumed responsibility for ushering in a new era in Balochistan. He settled the controversial question of the states of Karachi and secured the accession of states, including Kalat, and carried on negotiations with Lord Mountbatten for the settlement of the Kashmir Issue.

The Quaid’s Last Message
It was with a sense of supreme satisfaction at the fulfillment of his mission that Jinnah told the nation in his last message on August 14, 1948: “The foundations of your state have been laid and it is now for you to build and build as quickly and as well as you can.” In accomplishing his task, Jinnah had worked himself to death, but he had contributed more than any other man to Pakistan’s survival. Jinnah died on September 11, 1948. Lord Pethick-Lawrence, the former Secretary of State for India, said of Jinnah: “Jinnah died by his devotion to Pakistan.”

Jinnah, who had spent his life fighting for the rights of his people and for the nation of Pakistan, was the recipient of some of the greatest tributes paid to anyone in modern times, even from those who held opposing viewpoints.

Beverley Nichols, the author of Verdict on India, called Jinnah “the most important man in Asia,” and Dr. Kailashnath Katju, the governor of West Bengal in 1948, thought of him as “an outstanding figure of this century not only in India, but in the whole world”. Abdul Rahman Azam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, called him “one of the greatest leaders in the Muslim world,” and the Grand Mufti of Palestine considered his death as a “great loss” to the entire world of Islam. Perhaps Surat Chandra Bose, leader of the Forward Bloc wing of the Indian National Congress, best eulogized Jinnah’s when he said: “Mr. Jinnah was great as a lawyer, once great as a Congressman, great as a leader of Muslims, great as a world politician and diplomat, and greatest of all as a man of action. By Mr. Jinnah’s passing away, the world has lost one of the greatest statesmen, and Pakistan its life-giver, philosopher and guide.”