Pakistan (Urdu: پاکستان Pākstān), officially known as The Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Urdu: اسلامی جمہوریۂ پاكستان, Islāmī Jumhūriyah-yi Pākstān), is a nation in South Asia that was formed from the Muslim majority provinces of The Raj. Before then, the country had largely the same history as other parts of the Raj: India and Bangladesh.
The Indus River, which gave India its name, is mostly located in Pakistan. As a result, Pakistan is site of the Indian subcontinent's oldest civilization, the Indus Valley Civilization. Mohenjo-daro and Taxila, both important IVC cities, are located in the country. Due to its location at the doorstep of Central and West Asia, it was also the site of countless wars between India and its invading power. The Indus was the eastern extremity of The Achaemenid Empire and later Alexander the Great's Macedonian empire. It was also the easternmost extent of the first three Islamic caliphates (from the 650s to the 860s), making it the first region of the subcontinent to be Islamized.
The plan to divide the continent along religious lines was not a new one; the British tried to divide Bengal into a Hindu and Muslim part in 1905, mostly to distract the Bengalis from doing their independence activism at that time. However, it wasn't until after World War II that the plan eventually came to fruition. It was a highly impractical task: the plan to create a united country composed of the Raj's Muslim-majority provinces meant that West Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and the North West Frontier (West Pakistan) had to come together with East Bengal (East Pakistan), and they were not close by a long shot. As in, they were geographically separated by 2000 km of India. The plan also didn't account for Muslims who lived nowhere near the provinces, because Hindus and Muslims did and do coexist (Mahatma Gandhi famously fasted to near-death trying to prevent the partition from happening) and the latter were and are spread throughout the subcontinent. As a result, India currently hosts some 200+ million Muslim minority, which is roughly comparable to West Pakistan's entire population. During the height of the partition, India and Pakistan performed mass population transfers of Hindus and Muslims, which at times descended into violence and even total bloodbaths (particularly in Punjab).
Despite the geographic divide, relation between the two Pakistans was rosy until the late 1950s, when the military staged its first coup. The government's heavy-handed measures to bring East Pakistan — which it considered as expendable despite housing more than 50% of the population — into submission gradually fed anger into the region's population. Since the East was overwhelmingly dominated by one ethnic group (the Bengalis) and was basically a nation state, unlike the West, the anger spread fast and wide. Following the arbitrary dismissal of the pro-East cabinet that governed the union in 1970 and a terrible relief effort towards a cyclone that hit the East the same year, resulting in over 500,000 deaths and $86 million in property damage, the East's independence movement truly began. The West infamously responded by a state-sponsored massacre (or genocide depending on how you look at it) in 1971. East Pakistan declared independence, with India's help, through the Bangladesh Liberation War, after which West Pakistan became just Pakistan and East Pakistan became Bangladesh.
Pakistan and India really do not get along, although they maintain embassies in each other's capitals. The two fought a total of four wars: in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999. The first time, it was the beginning of The Kashmir Question, whose details are best described in that page. In the end, India gained the better part of the deal with the fertile and populous Kashmir Valley and the majority of ethnic Kashmiris, though Pakistan still captured a large territory (a small amount of Kashmir proper and most of the Karakoram). The 1971 war, on the other hand, was coterminous with the Bangladesh Liberation War. It should be noted that both countries have tried multiple peace overtures over the years, but every negotiation inevitably leads to Kashmir, on which nobody is willing to back down.
Pakistan's relation with Afghanistan has also been consistently frosty, popularly seen as beginning with the Afghan civil war but actually dating back earlier. Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, called the Durand Line, was carved in 1893 and separates the ethnic Pashtuns who live on both sides of the border. Needless to say, the Pashtun-dominated Afghan government wasn't happy about this and tried multiple times to cross over the Line and occupy the Pashtun-populated provinces. It didn't end well. Afghanistan eventually relented in 1976, just a few years before its civil war pitted the American and Pakistani-backed Mujahideen (formed from religious schools of Afghan refugees in Pakistan; during the Soviet invasion, about three million refugees fled to Pakistan) against the Soviet Union. Since the removal of the Taliban, successors of the Mujahideen, from Afghanistan in 2001, the latter has accused Pakistan of harboring the militant group with the implicit goal of destabilizing Afghanistan. Pakistan, in turn, accuses Afghanistan of harboring an unrelated militant group (Tehrik-i-Taliban) who has staged deadly attacks on Pakistani soil.
In contrast to its bad relations with its two biggest neighbors, Pakistan is becoming close to its other neighbor: China. China has invested billions of dollars into Pakistan as part of its Belt and Road initiative and, to Pakistan's relief, is neutral about the Kashmir Question. Pakistan in turn supports China's position in world disputes, which controversially includes avoiding the subject of Xinjiang.
Relation with the United States has seen its ups and downs. Pakistan joined the West during the Cold War, which prevented the Soviet Union from having a warm water port. However, the US increasingly started to question the relationship come the brutal response to Bangladesh's independence movement, followed by Pakistan researching and developing nuclear weapons to catch up with India. The 9/11 attacks and subsequent invasion of Afghanistan energized the relationship, with Pakistan providing the West with information and bases to attack al-Qaeda. It turned sour again when America became more critical of Pakistan's supposedly total unhelpful actions and allegations that it houses the Taliban and other militant groups. It eventually reached its nadir when Osama bin Laden was killed on a city located less than 150 km away from Islamabad and just a few blocks away from a military outpost (and subsequent revelations confirmed that he had been living in Pakistan undisturbed for several years). Granted, current relation is not as tense as it was in 2011, but it's still a long way to go before it can be normalized.
Until recently, the country was a primarily agricultural economy. Industries and services have since gone up, with the latter sector eclipsing agriculture in the labor market in The New '10s. The country's main export is textile, while it heavily imports oil, natural gas, and machinery. Pakistan is considered a lower-middle income country and the 39th largest economy in the world.
- Punjab (Population: 110,012,442. Capital: Lahore)
The industrial and agricultural heartland and most populated of the provinces. Punjabis dominate the province, though it should be noted that Punjabi is itself a macrolanguage with many divergent dialects, so don't be surprised if they refuse to consider themselves Punjabi, instead preferring the cities where they come from as their identifier. As a rule of thumb, Punjabi proper is spoken upstream of the confluence of the Rivers Chenab, Jhelum, and Ravi (including the cities of Lahore, Faisalabad, and Gujranwala). Downstream and west of the confluence centered on Multan, the people speak the Saraiki dialect. Northwest of the Jhelum is Pothohari Plateau, which is home to two Punjabi dialects: Hindko in the west and Pahari-Pothwari in the east. Islamabad's twin city, Rawalpindi, lies in the intersection of these two dialect areas.
Punjab was one of the rare regions literally split in half during the 1947 Partition and suffered immensely from it; as of today, Pakistani Punjab is virtually 100% Muslim, whereas Indian Punjab is virtually 100% not-Muslim (although this can be attributed more to East Punjab being devolved into three different states, as it caused what is left of its Muslim minority to be assigned in another state, Haryana).
- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) (Population: 40,525,047. Capital: Peshawar)
The smallest province by land area. It is geographically divided into two parts: a highly rugged north (the Hindu Kush mountain range) and comparatively low and fertile south. It is known for its natural beauty, with one particular area, the Swat Valley, earning the moniker "Switzerland of the East".
The province is part of "Pashtunistan", an area that stretches into Afghanistan and inhabited by the Pashtuns, like their Kurdish cousins in the Middle East, known for their Proud Warrior Race Guy tendencies, tribal structures, and, curiously enough, one of the nicest and friendliest personalities on the planet according to many people who have visited. Their language, Pashto is spoken by up to 60 million people worldwide, making it the largest surviving member of Eastern Iranian language family by a wide margin (the next largest, Ossetian, has less than a million speakers). Pashto as spoken in KP has two major dialects: Central (incl. Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu) and Northern (incl. Mingora and Peshawar). Many Pashtuns have given a middle finger to the border that separates their homeland and have waged a long, long struggle against both governments in an attempt to preserve their homeland. Until recently, the province was infamous for being a terrorist hotspot (thanks to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban) and was once considered even more violent than the longtime Butt-Monkey Balochistan. After 2014 and Operation Zarb-e-Azb however, violence has been significantly reduced and the province is slowly regaining its pre-2004 top tourist destination status.
The northernmost part of the province reaches the tip of the Karakoram mountain range, which is otherwise located in Gilgit-Baltistan. This region is outside of Pashtunistan. Many different mountain tribes live here, including the Gurjars, Khowars and Kohistanis.
- Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)
The one part of Pashtunistan that is even wilder than KP, being only nominally under the control of Islamabad since colonial times. This region was governed under the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations, which among other things denied its citizens the right to appeal to normal courts and handed out punishments to entire tribes for the wrongs of one. In 2018, the cabinet proposed a bill to merge the territory with KP. The bill successfully passed through the National Assembly, the Senate, and the Regional Assembly of KP. The estimated time for the completion of the merger is two years, during which time the territory will be governed under an interim regulation that replaced the FCR.
- Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)
- Balochistan (Population: 12,344,408. Capital: Quetta)
The largest province by land area and the smallest by population, it also happens to be the most resource-rich. The province is a plateau barricaded by mountains to the east and west, making it very dry and hot. The greater Balochistan area stretches into Afghanistan and Iran. The province is also the poorest and most conflict-ridden, with a Baloch secession movement being the longest-lasting (it has been going since 1948, seemingly with no end in sight). Demographically, Balochs are dominant in Southern Balochistan (i.e. everywhere south of Quetta) and they live side by side with the Brahui, with whom they had established states together before Pakistan's creation. North of Quetta, Pashtuns are the majority. Quetta lies between between these two areas and the city has witnessed ugly ethnic conflicts between the three ethnic groups, although things seem to be relatively quiet now. Speaking of Balochs and Brahui, the two have a quite interesting history. Since Balochs speak a Western Iranian language (its closest relatives are Mazandaran and Talysh, spoken in Iran's Caspian Sea coast), they are thought to be medieval-era migrants from Persia. As for the Brahui, their language is classified as Dravidian, of the same family as Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada. Like the Balochs, they are relatively recent migrants; some scholars even postulated that they arrived at Balochistan around the same time as the Balochs.
- Sindh (Population: 47,886,051. Capital: Karachi)
The second most populous province and the business hub of the country. Karachi, the state capital, is the largest city and port hub in Pakistan. The eastern part of the province blends in with the Thar Desert, the subcontinent's largest. Sindhi is the first language for most of the province except for Karachi and Hyderabad, where its position is taken by Urdu.
Pakistan also has one federally administered territory:
- Islamabad Capital Territory (Population: 2,006,572)
Sandwiched between the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces is the purpose-built Pakistani capital of Islamabad. It is the smallest and least populous first-level administrative division of Pakistan.
And its two disputed holdings in the Kashmir Region (which are a cross between a protectorate, a puppet state, and a province). Note that these two have not been fully integrated into Pakistan, in pursuant to UN-mediated talks. In other words, the people here are not entitled to the same rights as Pakistani citizens, and thus cannot vote and elect members to the Federal Assembly. Self-governance was denied to them at first, too, but it was eventually given in 1975 (Azad Kashmir) and 2009 (Gilgit-Baltistan):
- Azad Kashmir (Population: 4,045,366. Capital: Muzaffarabad, Largest city: New Mirpur City)
The smaller of the two territories of Pakistani-administered Kashmir. The province's name translates to "Free Kashmir", though some people might challenge that title, since freedom is carefully controlled and still an extremely sensitive issue. Despite the name, ethnic Kashmiris figure very little in the demography (they are mainly found in the Kashmir Valley, located in India's share of the region). Instead, Punjabis speaking the Pahari-Pothwari dialect are the majority. One interesting fact about the region is that it has the largest share of the Pakistani diaspora in the United Kingdom: the Mirpuri Punjabis, who make up about 70% of British Pakistanis.
- Gilgit-Baltistan (Population: 2,441,523. Capital: Gilgit. Largest city: Skardu)
The larger of the two territories of Pakistani-administered Kashmir and Pakistan's northernmost first-level administrative division. The Himalayas/Karakoram cross the region and thus, mountains, glaciers, and harsh winters, are common sights/occurrences; five "eight thousanders" are found here, including the second-highest mountain in the world, K2. As can be inferred from its name, it is made of two distinct regions: Baltistan, surrounding Skardu and home of the Balti, a Tibetan people; and Gilgit, where the state capital is located. Gilgit itself can be divided into two cultural areas: the territory surrounding the titular city, which is inhabited by the Shina (an ethnic group close to Kashmiris); and Hunza Valley, home of the Burusho, who speak a language isolate called Burushaski. North of Hunza is the Khunjereb Pass, the location of a highway to China.
Leaders of note:
- Muhammad Ali Jinnah - Pakistan's founder and first governor-general. Also known as the Quaid-e-Azam. Died almost exactly a year after independence.
- Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan - Pakistan's first military dictator, ruling from 1958 to 1969. Before that was Pakistan's first native to head the Pakistan Army, and before that served with Kipling's Finest against the Japanese in Burma during World War II. Under his rule, Pakistan joined the West's side in the Cold War, the economy did well (at the cost of increasing the wealth gap), before he screwed up by fighting a war with India in 1965 that ended up crashing Pakistan's economy and sowing the seeds of the Bengali independence movement. He was relieved from his position by his own junta in 1969.
- General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan - Ayub's successor, he ruled from 1969 til 1971. Presided over what was to be Pakistan's first free and fair elections...that subsequently led to political deadlock and forced him to choose sides, eventually causing the disasterous 1971 war that broke Pakistan in two and caused him to resign in disgrace. Also served with Kipling's Finest prior to independence.
- Zulfikar Ali Bhutto - First leader of post-1971 Pakistan, and first leader of the Pakistan People's Party. Nationalized many institutions and industries, creating many enemies. Overthrown in 1977 and subsequently executed by his successor.
- General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq - Currently the record holder of longest lasting leader of Pakistan at 11 years from 1977 til his mysterious death in 1988. Known for his involvement in opposing the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and for his Islamization policies.
- Benazir Bhutto - First (and thus far, only) woman prime minister of Pakistan (from 1988 until 1990 and from 1993 until 1996), and first female leader in the Muslim world in modern times, daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Assassinated in a bombing in 2007.
- Nawaz Sharif - The Rival to Benazir Bhutto and leader of his own faction of the Pakistan Muslim League. Started out as a steel magnate, and got into politics when his family's business became one of the victims of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's nationalization schemes. Credited for attempting peace with India (before Kargil ruined it) and for detonating the world's first "Islamic nuke". He also initiated Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which was credited for stabilizing the country after years of militant threat. Currently Pakistan's only PM to have more than two terms under his belt, although his third term was cut short by the Panama Papers corruption scandal. The subsequent trial barred him from participating in politics for good.
- General Pervez Musharraf - Called The Commando for his stint in the Pakistan special forces, he was Pakistan's 4th military dictator and harbinger of the 3rd military era of Pakistan. His supporters consider him a Pakistani Mustafa Kemal Ataturk or George Washington. His critics put him somewhere between General Ripper and Miles Gloriosus. His tenure is most noted for his involvement in The War on Terror as a close ally of George W. Bush. Was later forced to resign and go into exile following his ouster of the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court in 2007, his fate later sealed by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto later that year. Eventually came back to run in the 2013 elections, only to be subsequently arrested and put on trial for treason. Mostly because he thought he was still popular based on facebook likes.
- Asif Ali Zardari - Widower of Benazir Bhutto and father of the current party chairman. Served as President of Pakistan after Musharraf and is generally considered not only an accidental president, but possibly the most corrupt and incompetant leader in recent memory.
- Imran Khan - Former cricket star, he entered politics after creating the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party in 1996. Was elected into premiership position in 2018.
Pakistan in fiction:
- Vertical Limit: A group of mountaineers attempt to climb K2. It doesn't end well.
- Eagle Eye: The opening shows a military operation in Balochistan that goes wrong and kills a lot of Americans. This is the Start of Darkness for the ARIIA, who regards this as a betrayal to the American people and decides to assassinate the entire executive branch of the US goverment.
- Zero Dark Thirty: Deals with the events leading up to Osama bin Laden's death in Abbottabad.
- G.I. Joe: Retaliation: The assassination of the Pakistani President and the robbery of the country's nuclear warheads are blamed on the Joes, who are subsequently targeted by strikes, killing off Duke.
- London Has Fallen: The attempted assassination of the main villain, Pakistani arms dealer Aamir Barkawi, in his home sets the film's plot. Barkawi survives the attack, but his daughter does not.
- The Kite Runner: Amir reunites with Rahim Khan in Peshawar for the first time since his emigration to the United States. Near the end, he briefly stays in Peshawar following his escape from Afghanistan with Sohrab.
- The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Tells the story of a Pakistani living in post-9/11 United States.
The Pakistani flag