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. What is now Pakistan was the site of many important cities in the Indus Valley Civilization, including Mohendro-Daro and Taxila. The Persians, the Greeks under Alexander the Great, the Arabians, the Mughals, the British, etc have ruled and made their mark over Pakistan. At the time of its formation, it consisted of two halves (East and West Pakistan) separated by 2000 miles of India. Following the genocide committed by the Pakistani Army in 1971, East Pakistan declared its secession, and, with India's help, gained independence through the Bangladesh Liberation War, after which West Pakistan became just Pakistan and East Pakistan became Bangladesh.
- 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.
The origin of Pakistanis with Panters.
Examples of the following
- Arch-Enemy: India, ever since its founding (but even more so since India helped Bangladesh gain independence from Pakistan in a war in 1971). The never-ending Kashmir conflict ensures this will continue for some time.
- Artistic License Economics: Pakistan has some of the least taxation in the world, but operates several loss-making public enterprises, does not operate them well, and depends on foreign aid to pay the bills. All the while the politicians and the military both spend like kings. The public, at least in response to such stories in local media, is not amused.
- Boom Town: Karachi, Pakistan's Mega City/Merchant City and main port, is also one of the largest and fastest-growing in the world. Mind, prior to independence, the city was a relatively sleepy port town.
- The City vs. the Country: A big component of Sindhi politics, rightly or wrongly, thanks to the ethnic makeup within Karachi being vastly different from Sindh where it resides and the power dynamics between the two. Plays out more generally with the rest of Pakistan in terms of politics since, in the countryside, only the tribal landlords have any power to get things done while in the city, it's more (but not completely) egalitarian.
- The Clan: This is the Pashtuns' raison d'être. There's a reason why the "Federally Administered Tribal Areas" is titled like that, or the fact that the Pashtuns as a whole are unbelievably hard to be controlled/ordered, be it in Pakistan or in Afghanistan. Fraternity is just too valuable for them to discard in exchange for some petty nationalism.
- Cold War: It was one of the fronts of the conflict, on the side of the West, to prevent the Soviets from getting a warm water port and the ability to seal the Gulf. It also was instrumental in opening ties between the United States and China during the 1970s.
- Common Tongue: The official language, Urdu, as well as the formerly also official English. Noteworthy that both aren't spoken as a significant mother language percentage wise, even Urdu, which is brought to attention with the immigrants arriving during the Partition (the core region of Hindustan, from where Urdu emerged and the immigrants mostly hailed, is located wholly in India, so the language was not spoken natively in Pakistan pre-1947). Instead, they're picked to avoid prioritizing languages that do see major use, such as Punjabi.
- Deal with the Devil:
- Many Pakistanis are not overly fond of the country's alliance with the United States and angry protests about American involvement in Pakistan are routinely held in major cities. Conversely, Pakistan's support for the Taliban generates mixed feelings — sure they were religious loons, but they were able to keep Afghanistan stable and, more importantly, ensure that millions of refugees don't escape to (and overwhelm) Pakistan as what had happened when the Soviets invaded.
- Likewise, this was the West's general attitude towards Pakistan for most of the alliance's history, even though India was backed by the Soviets. The Bengali Genocide just was where it got too obvious to be ignored.
- The Deadliest Mushroom/Nuclear Option: Pakistan is quite proud of its nuclear arsenal, seeing it as the best guarantor of national security. Needless to say, Indian (and American) policymakers are not thrilled about this, especially the prospect of the stockpile being unsecured.
- Further compounded that it is currently the fastest growing arsenal of nuclear warheads in the world.
- It should be noted that historically, Pakistan only ever became involved in nuclear weapons after India started making tests and developing them.
- Death Mountain: Pakistan has some of the most dangerous mountains to climb in the world. K2, while not the highest, is very difficult to trek thanks to being nigh-symmetrical and being located far away from any civilization; for the record, it has never been climbed during winter (whereas Everest has). Then there's Nanga Parbat...locals nickname it the "Killer Mountain" due to the steep cliffs and glaciers that can and will kill people if they aren't careful. And if you think that natural hazard is enough, the mountain is also infamous for having hidden some remnants of the Tehrik-i-Taliban, who once attacked climbers in 2013.
- Defeat Means Friendship: With Bangladesh, who fought tooth and nails to gain independence from Pakistan. Fast forward to thirty years later and the countries could not have been closer in relationship. Basically, they work well as divorcees than spouses.
- Dreaming of a White Christmas: The winter of Gilgit-Baltistan routinely blocks roads and tunnels and freezes lakes and rivers; they usually don't get much contact with the outside world for over eight months within a year.
- Enforced Cold War:
- The relationship between the US and Pakistan has devolved into this due to the War in Afghanistan... mostly since the death of Bin Laden.
- The conflict between India and Pakistan has likewise degenerated into this. On one hand, both sides are nuclear powers and there is the risk of Mutually Assured Destruction; on the other virtually every return to open hostilities by the Pakistanis has led to them being curb stomped by the Indians.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: For years Pakistanis were indoctrinated into the belief that anything even mildly critical of Pakistan is, in fact, the work of certain elements hostile to Pakistan, such as a conspiracy hatched by a "foreign hand" or, more specifically, a "CIA-RAW-Mossad Nexus"note . This is still the case, but the internet and the very active Pakistani press have made the excuses much harder to swallow.
- Fighting for a Homeland:
- Pakistan's reasons for supporting Kashmiri militants, at least in public. Also true of Baloch militants.
- Contrary to popular perception, Pakistan was created simply from the Muslim-majority provinces of The Raj, not for every Muslims of the Raj. This explains why India still hosts a large Muslim minority (189 million) within its borders. Still, the theory of it being a "Muslim homeland" does creep in at times, especially as the 1947 Partition did degenerate to rather nasty religious conflicts in some places.
- Fun with Acronyms: Pakistan's name (written using the letters P-A-K-S-T-A-N of Urdu) an acronym of the nation's constituent territories: Punjab, Afghania (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan. The i was added to allow for easy pronunciation. It also coincides with the Urdu word for "land of the pure".
- Loads and Loads of Characters: The population, as of 2017, number 212 million. Its neighbor, Iran, despite having twice as much area, has 1/3 of the population. Geography contributes a lot; Iran has a lot less fertile plains and rivers and a lot more mountains.
- The Man Behind the Man: Many Afghans are quick to point out that most of the insurgencies currently happening in their country (mainly from the Taliban) can be traced back to Pakistan's doings, and this is the reason why they're beginning to turn over to India nowadays. Needless to say, things are still hotly debated.
- Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: Legally, the National Assembly and Senate have supreme authority to do essentially whatever they please. However, partisan politics, personal rivalries/vendettas, incompetence, corruption, and, above all, fear of the powerful Pakistan Army (whose first coup back in the 1950s was caused by the other aforementioned factors) prevents them from actually exercising it, to the detriment (and sometimes benefit) of the public.
- Obstructive Bureaucracy/Beleaguered Bureaucracy: The civilian governments are infamous for either being carelessly incompetent or grossly self-serving. It is the largest reason why the Army has been able to successfully launch three coups, each lasting roughly a decade. Because of this history, the local media tend to disparage ALL Pakistani politicians in the same brush, with varying degrees of accuracy.
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Generally known in Pakistan as the "Establishment", it is said to consist of the military, its clandestine agencies, and (mentioned less often) certain influential politicians and businessmen. It is widely considered to be the true power behind the government, be it military or civilian. Opinions vary greatly as to its effect, purpose, moral stance and competence. The same trope is also applied to the top generals in the Pakistan Army, whenever they have a Corps Commanders meeting.
- Our Founder: Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
- Patchwork Map: Due to straddling the Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan is a real life version of this with desolate wasteland to the west, lush farmland to the east, the Mega City of Karachi and the sea shore to the south, snowcapped mountains to the north, and the purpose-built capital of Islamabad. Of course, if you only follow the Western media it is all desert.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Pashtun inhabitants of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and other northern regions. Also to a lesser extent Punjabis.
- Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: Islamabad.
- Though not actually a Middle Eastern nation, it is often portrayed that way by Western news and entertainment media, simply because it is a Muslim state. This trope gets most Pakistanis really really really angry. Even worse is when some clueless individuals call Pakistanis Arabs, and their language Arabic. In reality, Pakistan is at the crossroads of the Indian and Iranian cultural spheres, so their culture is a mixture of those two (to be more precise, deep down Indian with an Iranian twist). The languages spoken by the majority are akin to those found in India, while some have Iranian roots; they are by no means Arabic, which is generally only taught in religious schools, though the Arabic script does see active use. Also, being a former British colony, English is the primary language of businesses and the government after all, in a country with over seventy languages, opting for their old colonial masters' language is a better alternative to being accused of favoritism for a local language or two.
- As noted above, Pakistan is frequently the victim of Artistic License Geography in western media, which, either deliberately or not, portrays the country as an entirely dusty, haphazard, squalor-infested desert hellhole. To be fair, there are places where that is Truth in Television (Karachi is often stereotyped as this by Pakistanis themselves). Portraying Islamabad like that, however, is less◊ wise◊.
- The Shangri-La: Gilgit-Baltistan (or more specifically, just Baltistan) has been known as "Little Tibet" since ancient times. The whole area is a Buddhist pilgrimage site, and the indigenous people, the Baltis, are really Tibetans who converted to Shia Islam in the 16th century, but otherwise retain their ancestral culture intact. The mountainous scenery helps as well (the Deosai Plain has been called a condensed form of Tibet).
- Sitcom Archnemesis:
- Israel. Due to its status as a Muslim nation and also in an effort to maintain brotherly relations with the Arab world, Pakistan has long declared itself to be an enemy of Israel and has often backed any international legal actions against it. However, in practice, Pakistan isn't particularly active in its emnity with Israel since the 70s.
- Strangely, Pakistan also has an incredibly terrible relationship with Armenia, of all places. It officially does not recognize Armenia as a country. This is however regarded as simply lip service in favor of Azerbaijan, as the two countries have otherwise been relatively ambivalent towards each other.
- State Sec: the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
- Surprisingly Good English: Pakistani English, yes, but still English. While its official status has been repealed recently, it's not going anywhere anytime soon. Bilingual Backfires are not uncommon, especially when there are foreigners.
- Urban Segregation: Of the ethnic variety within Karachi, which sometimes leads to flare-ups.
- Vetinari Job Security: The Pakistan military's tactic of choice whenever they run afoul of the public during their stints in power. And also used with politicians with regards to the perks they enjoy as an organization.
- The War on Terror: With Afghanistan to the north and terrorists attacking its borders, Pakistan is one of the lynchpin states in this conflict and features a lot in related news, more so when Osama bin Laden was killed by a covert US mission in Abbottabad, a military city 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Islamabad.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Aside from al-Qaeda, the country is home to quite a few militant and/or Islamist groups (Lashkar-e-Taiba, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Balochi separatists and others). Opinions vary widely on them.
The Pakistani flag