The Republic of Pakistan (پاکستان in Urdu), or Pakistan, is a country located in South Asia. Pakistan borders India, Iran, Afghanistan, China and the Arabian Sea. With over 150 million inhabitants it is the sixth most populous country in the world. It also happens to be the second largest Muslim country in the world (after Indonesia) and an important member of the OIC. Pakistan is also one of the few declared nuclear weapons states.
Origin of Name
The name was coined by Cambridge student and Muslim nationalist Choudhary Rahmat Ali. He devised the word and first published it on January 28, 1933 in the pamphlet Now or Never (http://www.zyworld.com/slam33/non.htm). He saw it as an acronym formed from the names of the "homelands" of Muslims in South Asia. (P for Punjab, A for the Afghan areas of the region, K for Kashmir, and S for Sindh , thus forming 'Pakstan.' An 'i' was later added to the English rendition of the name to ease pronunciation, producing Pakistan.) The word also captured the concepts of "Pak" meaning "Pure" and "stan" for "land" or "home" (as in the names of Central Asian countries in the region; Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, etc), thus giving it the meaning "Land of the Pure". Some critics express doubts concerning the name being an acronym comprising portions of the names of what they think would have had to be its constituent provinces. When Pakistan came into existence, it included not just regions in the northwestern part of South Asia, which were what Choudhary Rahmat Ali was thinking about, but also Muslim majority areas in the northeastern part.
The basic unit of currency is the Rupee, which is divided into 100 paisas. One US dollar is approximately equal to 60 rupees. The economy is now strengthening and is seen to improve.
The country that is now Pakistan was part of British India till August 14, 1947. The first proponents of an independent Muslim nation began to appear during the times of British colonial India. Among the first of these proponents was the writer/philosopher Allama Iqbal, who felt that a separate nation for Muslims was essential in an otherwise Hindu-dominated subcontinent. The cause found a leader in Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who became known as the Father of the Nation and eventually persuaded the British to partition the region into Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India.
From August 14, 1947, until 1971, the nation consisted of West Pakistan and East Pakistan, separated from each other by India. In 1971, East Pakistan rebelled, and with the aid of Indian troops became the independent state of Bangladesh. Since independence, Pakistan has also been in constant dispute with India over the territory of Kashmir. The Kashmir dispute has complicated relations between Pakistan and India. Pakistan has also had a dispute - relatively dormant since the Cold War ended after the withdrawal of Soviet forces - with Afghanistan over the Durand Line. Since the US invasion of Afghanistan, the viability of the Durand Line is of much greater concern to global security.
Pakistani political history is divided into alternating periods of military dictatorship and democratic civilian/parliamentary rule. Although dominion status was ended in 1956 with the formation of a Constitution and a declaration of Pakistan as an Islamic Republic, the military took control in 1958 and held power for more than 10 years. Civilian rule returned after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, but was interrupted in the late 1970s, with the execution of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was convicted of murdering a political opponent in a controversial split decision by Pakistan's Supreme Court.
During the 1980s, Pakistan received substantial aid from the United States and took in millions of Afghan (mostly Pashtun) refugees fleeing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The influx of so many refugees - the largest refugee population in the world - has had a heavy impact on Pakistan. The dictatorship of General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq also saw an expansion of Islamic law, as well as an influx of weaponry and drugs from Afghanistan. In 1988, the general died in an aircraft crash and Pakistan returned to an elected government, ushered in with the election of Benazir Bhutto.
From 1988 to 1998, Pakistan was ruled by civilian governments, alternately headed by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who were each elected twice and removed from office on charges of corruption. Economic growth declined towards the end of this period, hurt by erratic economic policies associated with political corruption, cronyism, and patronage. Other adverse factors were the Asian financial crisis, and economic sanctions imposed on Pakistan after its first tests of nuclear devices in 1998. The Pakistani testing came shortly after India tested nuclear devices and increased fears of a nuclear arms race in South Asia. The next year, the Kargil Conflict in Kashmir threatened to escalate to a full-scale war.
In the election that returned Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister in 1997, his party received a heavy majority of the vote, obtaining enough seats in parliament to change the constitution, which Sharif amended to eliminate the formal checks and balances that restrained the Prime Minister's power. Institutional challenges to Sharif's authority, by the Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and military chief Jehangir Karamat were put down, in the former case by a storming of the Supreme Court by party goons. The increasing authoritarianism and corruption of the Sharif government led to severe public dissatisfaction and culminated in a military coup by General Pervez Musharraf.
As of 2004, Musharraf had begun steps to return the nation to a democracy of sorts, having made a public pledge to step down as military chief by the end of 2004. However he is widely expected to remain in effective control of Pakistan as its president until 2007, given the support of the Pakistani Army and the United States. While his economic reforms have yielded some benefits, the social reform programmes appear to have run into resistance. Musharraf's power is threatened by Islamic fundamentalists who have grown in strength since the September 11, 2001 attacks and who are particularly angered by Musharraf's close political and military alliance with the United States.
Main article: Politics of Pakistan
Pakistan's two largest mainstream parties are the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan_Muslim_League_(Q), which obtained a plurality in the October 2002 elections. In those elections, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition of six religious parties, emerged as the third largest party, with 11% of the popular vote. In one province, NWFP, it obtained 48 out of 96 Provincial Assembly seats. It formed a government in that province and in the Balochistan, in coalition with other parties.
Form of Government
Officially a federal republic, and intermittently democratic, Pakistan has had a long history of military dictatorships including General Ayub Khan in the 1960s, General Zia ul Haq in the 1980s, and General Pervez Musharraf from 1999. General elections were held in October 2002. On May 22, 2004, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group re-admitted Pakistan into the Commonwealth, formally acknowledging its progress in returning to democracy.
Recent Political History
In October 1999, General Pervez Musharraf overthrew the civilian government after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif allegedly hijacked the commercial airliner on which Musharraf was travelling, and attempted to thwart its landing at Karachi. Musharraf assumed executive authority. Local government elections were held in 2000. Musharraf declared himself president in 2001. An April 2002 national referendum approved Musharraf's role as president but the vote was tainted by allegations of rigging and the opposition stridently questioned the legitimacy of Musharraf's presidency until his electoral college victory in January 2004.
Nation-wide parliamentary elections were held in 2002 with Zafarullah Khan Jamali of the Pakistan Muslim League party emerging as Prime Minister. After over a year of political wrangling in the bicameral legislature, Musharraf struck a compromise with some of his parliamentary opponents, giving his supporters the two-thirds majority vote required to amend the constitution in December 2003, retroactively legalizing his 1999 coup and permitting him to remain president if he met certain conditions. A parliamentary electoral college - consisting of the National Assembly and Senate and the provincial assemblies - gave Musharraf a vote of confidence (http://www.dawn.com/2004/01/02/top1.htm) on January 1, 2004, thereby legitimizing his presidency until 2007.
Prime Minister Jamali resigned on June 26, 2004. PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain became interim PM, and was succeeded by Finance minister and former Citibank VP Shaukat Aziz, who became Prime Minister on August 28, 2004.
Pakistan has 4 provinces, 2 territories, and also administers parts of Kashmir. The provinces are further subdivided into a total of 105 districts. Provinces:
Main article: Geography of Pakistan
Pakistan is located in South Asia. To the south is the Arabian Sea, with 1,046 km of Pakistani coastline. To Pakistan's east is India, which has a 2,912 km border with Pakistan. To its west is Iran, which has a 909 km border with Pakistan. To Pakistan's northwest lies Afghanistan, with a shared border of 2,430 km. China is towards the northeast and has a 523 km border with Pakistan.
The main waterway of Pakistan is the Indus River that begins in China, and runs nearly the entire length of Pakistan, flowing through all of Pakistan's provinces except Balochistan. Several major rivers, interconnected by the world's largest system of agricultural canals, join the Indus before it discharges into the Arabian Sea.
The northern and western areas of Pakistan are mountainous. Pakistani administered areas of Kashmir contain some of the highest mountains in the world, including the second tallest, K-2. Northern Pakistan tends to receive more rainfall than the southern parts of the country, and has some areas of preserved moist temperate forest. In the southeast, Pakistan's border with India passes through a flat desert, called the Cholistan or Thal Desert. West-central Balochistan has a high desert plateau, bordered by low mountain ranges. Most of the Punjab, and parts of Sindh, are fertile plains where agriculture is of great importance.
Main article: Economy of Pakistan
Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, faced with a number of challenges on the political and economic fronts. Historically, a confrontation with neighbouring India has resulted in a costly negative perception of Pakistan, especially in Western countries, resulting in a dearth of foreign direct investment (FDI). However, Pakistan's economic outlook has brightened in recent years in conjunction with a great improvement in its foreign exchange position, notably its current-account surplus and rapid growth in hard currency reserves. Additionally, the reduced tensions with India and the ongoing peace process raise new hopes for a prosperous and stable South Asia.
Pakistan's economy, once thought to be highly vulnerable to external and internal shocks, was unexpectedly resilient in the face of adverse events such as the Asian financial crisis, global recession, drought, the post-9/11 military action in Afghanistan, and tensions with India. In the two-and-a half year period since the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan's KSE-100 stock exchange index has been the best-performing in the world. Of late, Pakistan's manufacturing sector has experienced double-digit growth, with large-scale manufacturing growing by 18% in 2003. A reduction in the fiscal deficit has resulted in less government borrowing in the domestic money market, lower interest rates, and an expansion in private-sector lending to businesses and consumers.
Pakistan's economy has also been somewhat resilient over the long term, not having experienced a year-over-year decline in its overall economic output (GDP) since 1951.
The Government of Pakistan has, over the last few years, granted numerous incentives to technology companies wishing to do business in Pakistan. A combination of decade-plus tax holidays, zero duties on computer imports, government incentives for venture capital and a variety of programs for subsidizing technical education, have lent great impetus to the fledgling Information Technology industry. Many of Pakistan's technology companies supply software and services to the world's largest corporations.
Main article: Demographics of Pakistan
Pakistan has the world's sixth largest population. This, coupled with a high growth rate, means that Pakistan is expected to overtake other nations in population in the near future, and may become the third-most populous nation by 2050 if population-control measures fail. The majority of the people of Pakistan are 75%Sunni Muslim, with a sizeable minority of 20%Shiite Muslims. A small minority of non-Muslims exist, mostly Christians, Hindus, and smaller groups of Buddhists and animists in the remote Northern Areas. The percentage of non-muslims, especially Hindus, fell sharply in 1971 and 1972 as a result of two events - the secession of East Pakistan, which had the vast majority of Pakistan's Hindus, and the Indian army withdrawal from Pakistan's only Hindu-majority district, Tharparkar, when much of the district's population resettled in India.
Urdu and English are both recognised as the official languages of Pakistan. English is used in government and corporate business and by the educated urban elite. Public universities use English as the medium of instruction. Urdu is the lingua franca of the people. Besides these, nearly all Pakistanis speak mutually related Indo-European languages, of which the most widely spoken is Punjabi, followed by Sindhi, Pashto and Balochi. Punjabis comprise the largest ethnic group in the nation. Other important ethnic groups include: Sindhis, Pashtun, Balochis, and Muhajirs. There are also sizeable numbers of other immigrant groups such as Bengalis that are concentrated in Karachi.
Main article: Culture of Pakistan
Pakistan has a very rich cultural and traditional background going back to Indus Valley Civilization, 2800 BC–1800 BC. The region that is now Pakistan has in the past been invaded and occupied by many different peoples, including White Huns, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and various Eurasian groups. Thus modern Pakistani culture has its origins in the mixture of many cultures. There are differences in culture among the different ethnic groups in matters such as dress, food, and religion, especially where pre-Islamic customs differ from Islamic practices.
Film and television
Despite tense relations with India, Indian movies are popular in Pakistan. Ironically, Indian films are officially illegal, but they can easily be found across Pakistan. An indigenous movie industry exists in Pakistan, and is known as Lollywood, producing over forty feature-length films a year. Music is also very popular in Pakistan, and ranges from traditional styles (such as Qawwali ) to more modern groups that try to fuse traditional Pakistani music with western music.
Increasing globalization has increased the influence of "Western culture" in Pakistan, especially among the affluent, who have easy access to Western products, television, media, and food. Pakistan ranks 46th in the world on the Kearney/FP Globalization index (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/issue_marapr_2004/countrydetail.php). Many Western restaurant_chains have established themselves in Pakistan, and are found in the major cities. At the same time, there is also a reactionary movement within Pakistan that wants to turn away from Western influences, and this has manifested itself in a return to more traditional roots, often conflated with Islam.
A large Pakistani diaspora exists, especially in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia as well as in the Scandinavian nations. A large number of Pakistani expatriates are also living in the Middle East. These emigrants and their children influence Pakistan culturally and economically, by travelling to Pakistan, and especially by returning or investing there.
The most popular sport in Pakistan is cricket, and large numbers of Pakistanis gather around TV sets to watch the Pakistani team play in international competitions, especially against Pakistan's rival India. Pakistan has one of the top teams in international cricket, one that won the World Cup in 1992. Hockey is also an important sport in Pakistan, Pakistan having won the gold medal at the Olympics a number of times in the sport. Squash is another sport that has a large following. Football is played in Pakistan as well, but is not very popular. Polo is believed to have originated in the Northern parts of Pakistan, and continues to be an important sport there with large competitions throughout the year.
Shopping is a hugely popular pastime for most well-to-do Pakistanis. The cities of Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Islamabad, Faisalabad and Quetta are especially known for the great contrast in shopping experiences - from burgeoning bazaars to modern multi-story shopping malls. In particular, Lahore and Karachi are peppered with colourful plazas that house hundreds of technology shops. Most of these are small stores, offering mind-boggling bargains and repair services for almost any computer or technology product. The tech enthusiast finds everything from the latest mobile phones, to extremely inexpensive CDs and DVDs.
The impact of the Internet
Pakistan is taking a great leap in the third millennium. With a rapid increase in the number of internet users and ISPs, and a large English-speaking population, the people of Pakistan are coming out of their shells culturally and politically and becoming more aware of Pakistan's role as a member of the global community.
According to journalist and writer Habib R. Sulemani, "Pakistan has started a big and difficult journey on the ‘Cyber Highway.’ Today some 450 cities and towns of Pakistan are connected to the World Wide Web and more connections are expected [...] e-commerce and e-governments are evolving [...] — almost all of the main government departments, organisations and institutions have now their own websites ... Day by day the Internet is penetrating into the daily life of the people very deeply. [The] rural population is also joining the cyber world and with the use of the Internet ‘urbanisation’ is taking place and the ‘great divide’ between the rural and urban societies is taking a new shape. Now, at least in the field of information a ‘rural guy’ is not less [than] a ‘shehri babu’ or ‘urban guy.’ The Internet has made the world a ‘Global Village’ in the real sense. It has become an integral part of the civilised world. The use of internet search engines and messenger services is also booming. ... Pakistanis based abroad extensively use the messenger services as they offer voice chat facilities. Yahoo messenger's pakistan rooms are very popular among users."  (http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/oct2003-daily/23-10-2003/oped/o6.htm)
Pakistani Government Links
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