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A nation in south-central Asia bordering Iran, Afghanistan, China, India, and the Arabian Sea.

People and economy

Pakistan is home to around 140 million people, most of whom are Muslim, which is the state religion. It is a relatively poor nation in which 50% of men and 75% of women are illiterate. Child labor is common, including what many people would consider child slave labor.


Though calling itself a federal republic, Pakistan is in fact an unstable state in which political succession is often arbitrary and haphazard. In October 1999, General Pervez Musharraf overthrew the civilian government and assumed executive authority, though he has not attempted to establish a military dictatorship. Because of the government's dependence on foreign aid and the nation's desperate need of foreign investment, Musharraf is probably reluctant to risk offending world opinion by becoming a dictator.


The concept of Pakistan was first created by Saiyid Ahmed Kahn, an Indian Muslim, who proposed that Muslims within India comprised a seperate nation next to the Hindu nation. As the possibility of independence from British colonialism grew close, this idea gained in popularity among Indian Muslims, who were not keen to become a minority and possibly be subjugated to Hindu rule. The concept was given the name Pakistan by a student, Chaudhri Rahmat Ali. Pakistan means "land of the pure", and also stands for the provinces it would include: P for Punjab, A for the Afghan States (aka North-West Frontier, K for Kashmir, S for Sindh, and Tan for Balochistan.

Different conceptions of Pakistan varied widely: some people thought it would be a pan-Asian Muslim superstate, including Central and West Asia. Some viewed it as a state-within-a-state, a Muslim partner to a hypothetical Hindustan within a federated India, and some viewed it as it as a seperate sovereign state.

Recent History

Pakistan was formerly a part of India. When the United Kingdom left India in 1947, Pakistan split from India to form a separate Muslim nation. From 1947 through 1971 the nation consisted of West Pakistan and East Pakistan, separated from one another by India. In 1971 East Pakistan rebelled, and with the help of India became the independent state of Bangladesh. Since 1947 there have been tensions between India and Pakistan over control of the state of Kashmir. These disputes have led to war on three occasions, including the 1971 war. During the cold war, Pakistan was wary of Soviet expansion (especially after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan). Consequently Pakistan built a strong alliance with China, which also was wary of the Soviets and which had border disputes with India as well. India countered by allying itself with the Soviets, a security arrangement that remains largely intact despite the Soviet collapse. Both India and Pakistan used their powerful friends to help acquire atomic weapons.

1971 Civil War

Though Muslim, the ethnic composition of the former East Pakistan differed from that of West Pakistan. The government of Pakistan before 1971 was dominated by West Pakistan, with the East Pakistanis being discrimnated against in government. Consequently, East Pakistan demanded independence, which led to civil war in 1971. In that war, troops of West Pakistan, under Yahya Khan, massacred an estimated 1.5 million people in an attempt to subdue the rebellion. Still, the outcome was in favour of independence of East Pakistan and the formation of Bangladesh.

From the CIA World Factbook 2000. Not Wikified.