Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, or Islami Jamhooriya-e-Pakistan, in Urdu, or Pakistan, is a country located in South Asia and the Greater Middle East. The country borders India, Iran, Afghanistan, the China and the Arabian Sea. With just over 160 million inhabitants, it is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second most populous Muslim majority nation. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and the OIC.
During the middle of the second millennium, several European countries, such as the Great Britain, Portugal, Holland and France were initially interested in trade with Indian rulers including the Mughals and leaders of other independant Kingdoms. The European took advantage of the fractured kingdoms and the divided rule to colonize the country. Most of India came under the crown of the British Empire in 1857 after a failed insurrection, popularly known as the First War of Indian Independence, against the British East India Company by Bahadur Shah Zafar. Present-day Pakistan remained part of British India until August 14, 1947.
The first proponents of an independent Muslim nation began to appear in the early 20th Century under the British Raj. Soon after Sir Syed's death, however, the All India Muslim League was founded on the sidelines of the 1905 conference of the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental Conference (an organization he had founded). This party was not, right until 1940, separatist. The idea of a separate nation was mooted in humor, satire and on the fringes of the political milieu.
Pakistan's independence was won through a democratic and constitutional struggle. Although the country's record with parliamentary democracy has been mixed, Pakistan, after lapses, has returned to this form of government. Pakistani political history is divided into alternating periods of authoritarian military government and democratic civilian/parliamentary rule. As the British granted independence to their dominions in India in mid- August 1947, the two nations joined the British Commonwealth as self-governing dominions. The partition left Punjab and Bengal, two of the biggest provinces, divided between India and Pakistan. In the early days of independence, more than two million people migrated across the new border and more than one hundred thousand died in a spate of communal violence.
On March 27, 1971, Major Ziaur Rahman, a decorated Bengali war-veteran, declared the independence of Bangladesh. Although the killing of Bengalis was mostly unsupported by the people of West Pakistan, it continued for 9 months. India supplied the Bengali freedom fighters with arms and training, and also hosted the millions of refugees who fled the turmoil. On December 6, 1971, the Indian Army officially joined the war (Indo-Pakistani War of 1971), and launched a massive assault into East Pakistan, where, by that time, the Pakistani Army led by General A. A. K. Niazi, had been weakened and exhausted. Being greatly outnumbered by the Indian Army and overwhelmed, it surrendered to the Indian Army-Mukti Bahini joint command on December 16, 1971, in one of the largest surrenders since WW2 - as nearly 90,000 soldiers become PoWs. The result was the emergence of the new nation of Bangladesh. Discredited by the defeat, President Gen. Yahya Khan resigned.
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 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.
On October 12 1999, Sharif attempted to dismiss army chief Pervez Musharraf and install ISI director Khwaja Ziauddin in his place. Musharraf, who was out of the country, boarded a commercial airliner to return to Pakistan. Senior Army generals refused to accept Musharraf's dismissal. Sharif ordered the Karachi airport to prevent the landing of the airliner, which then circled the skies over Karachi. In a coup, the generals ousted Sharif's administration and took over the airport. The plane landed with only a few minutes of fuel to spare, and Musharraf assumed control of the government. General Musharraf arrested and later expelled prime minister Sharif.
While economic reforms undertaken during his regime have yielded some results, social reform programmes appear to have met with resistance. Musharraf's power is threatened by extremists 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 and his liberal views on reforming Islam. Musharraf has survived assassination attempts by terrorist groups believed to be part of Al-Qaeda, including at least two instances where the terrorists had inside information from a member of his military security detail.
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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pakistan".