June 15, 2013, 3:39 pm
Source: CIA
Content Cover Image

The Hunza Valley in the Northern Areas

Pakistan is a nation of one hundred and ninety million people (mid-2013 est.) in southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea, between India on the east and Iran and Afghanistan on the west and China in the north.

The eastern half of the country is dominated by the flat Indus plain. There are mountains in north and northwest with the second highest mountain in the world, K2 (Mt. Godwin-Austen). The Balochistan plateau occurs in the west.

It is the sixth most populous country in the world after China, India, United States, Indonesia and Brazil. The human population continues to grow rapidly.

Pakistan's major environmental issues include:

  • Water pollution from raw sewage, industrial wastes, and agricultural runoff;
  • Limited natural freshwater resources;
  • Most of the population does not have access to potable water;
  • Deforestation;
  • Soil erosion; and,
  • Desertification

Pakistan is susceptible to frequent earthquakes, which can occasionally be severe especially in north and west. It is also susceptible to flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August).

The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world and dating back at least 5000 years, spread over much of what is presently Pakistan. During the second millennium B.C., remnants of this culture fused with the migrating Indo-Aryan peoples. The area underwent successive invasions in subsequent centuries from the Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Arabs (who brought Islam), Afghans, and Turks.

The Mughal Empire flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries; the British came to dominate the region in the 18th century.

The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan (with West and East sections) and largely Hindu India was never satisfactorily resolved, and India and Pakistan fought two wars - in 1947-48 and 1965 - over the disputed Kashmir territory.

The region of Kashmir is the site of the world's largest and most militarized territorial dispute with portions under the de facto administration of China (Aksai Chin), India (Jammu and Kashmir), and Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas).

A third war between these countries in 1971 - in which India capitalized on Islamabad's marginalization of Bengalis in Pakistani politics - resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh.

In response to Indian nuclear weapons testing, Pakistan conducted its own tests in 1998. India-Pakistan relations have been rocky since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, but both countries are taking small steps to put relations back on track.

In February 2008, Pakistan held parliamentary elections and in September 2008, after the resignation of former President Musharraf, elected Asif Ali Zadari to the presidency.

Pakistani government and military leaders are struggling to control domestic insurgents, many of whom are located in the tribal areas adjacent to the border with Afghanistan.

It's location controls the two mountain passes (Khyber Pass and Bolan Pass) that have been the traditional invasion routes between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent.


Location: Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea, between India on the east and Iran and Afghanistan on the west and China in the north

Geographic Coordinates: 30 00 N, 70 00 E

Area: 796,095 sq km(land: 770,875 sq km; water: 25,220 sq km)

Land Boundaries: 6,774 km  (Afghanistan 2,430 km, China 523 km, India 2,912 km, Iran 909 km)

Coastline: 1,046 km

Maritime Claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin

Natural Hazards: frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe especially in north and west; flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August)

Terrain:  flat Indus plain in east; mountains in north and northwest; Balochistan plateau in west. The highest point is K2 (Mt. Godwin-Austen) (8,611 m) - the second highest mountain in the world.

Climate: mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north


Topology of Pakistan. Source: Creative Commons.

Ecology and Biodiversity

1. Southern Iran Nubo-Sindian desert and semi-desert
2. Kuh-Rud and Eastern Iran montane woodlands
3. Registan-North Pakistan sandy desert
4. Baluchistan xeric woodlands
5. East Afghan montane conifer forests
6. Sulaiman Range alpine meadows
7. Northwestern thorn scrub forests
8. Indus Valley desert
9. Thar desert
10. Rann of Kutch seasonal salt marsh
11. Indus River Delta-Arabian Sea mangroves
12. Western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests
13. Himalayan subtropical pine forests
14. Western Himalayan broadleaf forests
15. Northwestern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows
16. Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe

See also:

Source: World Wildlife Fund

People and Society

Population: 190,291,129 (July 2012 est.)

The majority of Pakistan's population lives in the Indus River valley and in an arc formed by the cities of Faisalabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi/Islamabad, and Peshawar. Although Urdu is an official language of Pakistan, it is spoken as a first language by only 8% of the population; 48% speak Punjabi, 12% Sindhi, 10% Saraiki, 8% Pashto, 3% Baloch, and 3% other. Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, and Baloch are Indo-European languages. English is the other official language, and is widely used in government, commerce, the officer ranks of the military, and in many institutions of higher learning.

Ethnic Groups: Punjabi 44.68%, Pashtun (Pathan) 15.42%, Sindhi 14.1%, Sariaki 8.38%, Muhajirs 7.57%, Balochi 3.57%, other 6.28%

This view shows K-2 Mountain (upper center) in Pakistan, the world's second highest peak, as seen from the International Space Station. The mountain (8,611 m; 28,251 ft high) is sometimes referred to as Savage Mountain, because of the difficulty of its ascent and the many lives lost in attempting its climb. Image courtesy of NASA.
Deep purple and green hues in this false-color satellite image enhance the Waziristan Hills, a mountainous region of northwest Pakistan near the Afghanistan border. A formidable landscape, the Waziristan Hills are a hodgepodge of steep, rugged hills split by narrow passes and deep gorges. Rivers coursing down from the mountains provide water for agriculture in a region of scanty rainfall. Image courtesy of USGS.
Islamabad-Rwalpindi freeway. Source: Maria Ly/Wikimedia Commons

Age Structure:

0-14 years: 35.4% (male 34,093,853/female 32,278,462)
15-64 years: 60.4% (male 58,401,016/female 54,671,873)
65 years and over: 4.2% (male 3,739,647/female 4,157,870) (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate:  1.551% (2012 est.)

Birthrate: 24.3 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Death Rate: 6.8 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Net Migration Rate: -2 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth:  66.35 years 

male: 64.52 years
female: 68.28 years (2012 est.)

Total Fertility Rate: 3.07 children born/woman (2012 est.)

Languages:  Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Saraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashtu 8%, Urdu (official) 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English (official; lingua franca of Pakistani elite and most government ministries), Burushaski, and other 8%

Literacy (age 15 and over can read and write)

total population: 49.9%
male: 63%
female: 36% (2005 est.)

Urbanization: 36% of total population (2010) growing at an annual rate of change of 3.1% (2010-15 est.)


Pakistan, along with parts of western India, contains the archeological remains of an urban civilization dating back 4,500 years. Alexander the Great’s empire included the Indus Valley in 326 B.C. His successors founded the Indo-Greek kingdom of Bactria based in what is today Afghanistan and extending to Peshawar. Following the rise of the Central Asian Kushan Empire in later centuries, the Buddhist culture of Afghanistan and Pakistan, centered on the city of Taxila just west of Islamabad, experienced a cultural renaissance known as the Gandhara period.

The arrival of Muslim traders in Sindh also introduced Islam to Pakistan in the 8th century. The collapse of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century provided an opportunity for the English East India Company to extend its control over much of the subcontinent. The Sikh adventurer, Ranjit Singh, carved out a dominion that extended from Kabul to Srinagar and Lahore, encompassing much of the northern area of modern Pakistan. British rule replaced the Sikhs in the first half of the 19th century. In a decision that had far-reaching consequences, the British permitted the Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir, a Sikh appointee, to continue in power.

Pakistan emerged from an extended period of agitation by Muslims in the subcontinent to express their national identity free from British colonial domination as well as domination by what they perceived as a Hindu-controlled Indian National Congress. Muslim anti-colonial leaders formed the All-India Muslim League in 1906. Initially, the League adopted the same objective as the Congress--self-government for India within the British Empire--but Congress and the League were unable to agree on a formula that would ensure the protection of Muslim religious, economic, and political rights.

Pakistan and Partition
The idea of a separate Muslim state in British India first emerged in the 1930s. On March 23, 1940, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, formally endorsed the "Lahore Resolution," calling for the creation of an independent state in regions where Muslims constituted a majority. At the end of World War II, the United Kingdom moved with increasing urgency to grant India independence. The Congress Party and the Muslim League, however, could not agree on the terms for a Constitution or establishing an interim government. In June 1947, the British Government declared that it would bestow full dominion status upon two successor states--India and Pakistan, formed from areas in the subcontinent in which Muslims were the majority population. Under this arrangement, the various princely states could freely join either India or Pakistan. On August 14, 1947, Pakistan, comprising West Pakistan with the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and the North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa), and East Pakistan with the province of Bengal, became independent. East Pakistan later became the nation of Bangladesh in 1971.

The Maharaja of Kashmir was reluctant to make a decision on accession to either Pakistan or India. However, armed incursions into the state by tribesmen from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa led him to sign accession papers in 1947 and allow Indian troops into the state. The Government of Pakistan, however, refused to recognize the accession and campaigned to reverse the decision. The status of Kashmir remains in dispute to this day.

With the death in 1948 of its first head of state, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and the assassination in 1951 of its first prime minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, political instability and economic difficulty became prominent features of post-independence Pakistan. On October 7, 1958, President Iskander Mirza, with the support of the army, suspended the 1956 Constitution, imposed martial law, and canceled the elections scheduled for January 1959. Twenty days later, the military sent Mirza into exile to Britain, and Gen. Mohammad Ayub Khan assumed control of a military dictatorship. After Pakistan's loss in the 1965 war against India, Ayub Khan's power declined. Subsequent political and economic grievances inspired agitation movements that compelled his resignation in March 1969. He handed over responsibility for governing to the commander in chief of the army, General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan, who became President and Chief Martial Law Administrator.

General elections held in December 1970 polarized relations between the eastern and western sections of Pakistan. The Awami League, which advocated autonomy for the more populous East Pakistan, swept the East Pakistan seats to gain a majority in Pakistan as a whole. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), founded and led by Ayub Khan's former Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, won a majority of the seats in West Pakistan, but the country was completely split with neither major party having any support in the other area. Negotiations to form a coalition government broke down. On March 26, 1971, following a bloody crackdown by the Pakistan Army, Bengali nationalists declared an independent People's Republic of Bangladesh. As fighting grew between the army and the Bengalis, an estimated 10 million Bengalis sought refuge in India. On April 17, 1971, Bengali nationalists formed a provisional government in an area bordering India, and in November 1971, India sent its military into East Pakistan to intervene on the side of the Bangladeshis. On December 16, Pakistani forces surrendered in Dhaka, and East Pakistan became the new nation of Bangladesh. Yahya Khan then resigned the presidency and handed over leadership of the western part of Pakistan to Bhutto, who became President and the first civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator.

Bhutto moved decisively to restore national confidence and pursued an active foreign policy, taking a leading role in Islamic and Third World forums. Although Pakistan did not formally join the Non-Aligned Movement until 1979, the position of the Bhutto government coincided largely with that of the non-aligned nations. Domestically, Bhutto pursued a populist agenda and nationalized major industries and the banking system. In 1973, he promulgated a new Constitution accepted by most political elements and relinquished the presidency to become prime minister. Although Bhutto continued his populist and socialist rhetoric, he increasingly relied on Pakistan's urban industrialists and rural landlords. Over time the economy stagnated, largely as a result of the dislocation and uncertainty produced by Bhutto's frequently changing economic policies. When Bhutto proclaimed his own victory in the March 1977 national elections, the opposition Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) denounced the results as fraudulent and demanded new elections. Bhutto resisted and later arrested the PNA leadership.

Muhammad Zia ul-Haq
With the increasing anti-government unrest, the army grew restive. On July 5, 1977, the military removed Bhutto from power and arrested him, declared martial law, and suspended portions of the 1973 Constitution. Chief of Army Staff Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq became Chief Martial Law Administrator and promised to hold new elections within 3 months.

Zia released Bhutto and asserted that he could contest new elections scheduled for October 1977. After it became clear that Bhutto's popularity had survived his government, Zia then postponed the elections and began criminal investigations of the senior PPP leadership. Subsequently, Bhutto was convicted and sentenced to death for an alleged conspiracy to murder a political opponent. Despite international appeals on his behalf, Bhutto was hanged on April 6, 1979.

Zia assumed the presidency and called for elections in November. However, fearful of a PPP victory, Zia banned political activity in October 1979, and postponed national elections. He also passed into law the Hudood Ordinance, which implemented harsh Quranic punishments for violations of Shari'a (Islamic law).

In 1980, most center and left parties, led by the PPP, formed the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD). The MRD demanded Zia's resignation, an end to martial law, new elections, and restoration of the Constitution, as it existed before Zia's takeover. In early December 1984, President Zia proclaimed a national referendum for December 19 on his "Islamization" program. After non-party based polls were held for the National and Provincial Assemblies in 1985, President Zia appointed Muhammad Khan Junejo as the Prime Minister. He implicitly linked approval of "Islamization" with a mandate for his continued presidency. Zia's opponents, led by the MRD, boycotted the elections. When the government claimed a 63% turnout, with more than 90% approving the referendum, many observers questioned the figures.

Sharif and Bhutto Civilian Governments
On August 17, 1988, a plane carrying President Zia, American Ambassador Arnold Raphel, U.S. Brig. General Herbert Wassom, and 28 Pakistani military officers crashed on a return flight from a military equipment trial near Bahawalpur, killing all on board. In accordance with the Constitution, Chairman of the Senate Ghulam Ishaq Khan became Acting President and announced that elections scheduled for November 1988 would take place. Elections were held on a party basis. On one side was an eight-party alliance and on the other, the PPP. The PPP won 94 seats out of 207 and the Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI) won 54. Muhammad Khan Junejo lost his home constituency. The president was bound to invite the PPP to form the government. However, Khan delayed doing so for 2 weeks in order to give the IJI time to muster the support of other groups. Ultimately, the president asked PPP Co-chairperson Benazir Bhutto to form a government.

The PPP, under Benazir Bhutto's leadership, succeeded in forming a coalition government with several smaller parties, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Differing interpretations of constitutional authority, debates over the powers of the central government relative to those of the provinces, and the antagonistic relationship between the Bhutto administration and opposition governments in Punjab and Balochistan seriously impeded social and economic reform programs. Ethnic conflict, primarily in Sindh province, exacerbated these problems. A fragmentation in the governing coalition and the military's reluctance to support an apparently ineffectual and corrupt government were accompanied by a significant deterioration in law and order.

In August 1990, President Khan, citing his powers under the eighth amendment to the Constitution, dismissed the Bhutto government and dissolved the national and provincial assemblies. New elections in October 1990 confirmed the political ascendancy of the IJI. In addition to a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, the alliance won control of all four provincial parliaments and enjoyed the support of the military and of President Khan. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, as leader of the PML, the most prominent party in the IJI, was elected prime minister by the National Assembly.

Sharif emerged as the most secure and powerful Pakistani prime minister since the mid-1970s. Under his rule, the IJI achieved several important political victories. Sharif's economic reform program of privatization, deregulation, and encouragement of private sector economic growth greatly improved Pakistan's economic performance and business climate. The passage into law in May 1991 of a Shari'a bill, providing for widespread Islamization, legitimized the IJI government among much of Pakistani society.

However, Nawaz Sharif was not able to reconcile the different objectives of IJI's constituent parties. The largest religious party, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), abandoned the alliance because of its antagonism to what it regarded as PML hegemony. The government was weakened further by the military's suppression of the MQM, which had entered into coalition with the IJI to contain PPP influence, and allegations of corruption directed at Nawaz Sharif. In April 1993, President Khan, citing "maladministration, corruption, and nepotism" and espousal of political violence, dismissed the Sharif government. The following month, however, the Pakistan Supreme Court reinstated the National Assembly and the Nawaz Sharif government. Continued tensions between Sharif and Khan resulted in governmental gridlock and the Chief of Army Staff brokered an arrangement under which both the President and the Prime Minister resigned their offices in July 1993.

An interim government, headed by Moeen Qureshi took office with a mandate to hold national and provincial assembly elections in October. Despite its brief term, the Qureshi government adopted political, economic, and social reforms that generated considerable domestic support and foreign admiration.

In the October 1993 elections, the PPP won a plurality of seats in the National Assembly, and Benazir Bhutto was asked to form a government. However, because it did not acquire a majority in the National Assembly, the PPP's control of the government depended upon the continued support of numerous independent parties, particularly the PML/J (Pakistan Muslim League-Junejo). The unfavorable circumstances surrounding PPP rule--the imperative of preserving a coalition government, the formidable opposition of Nawaz Sharif's PML/N (Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz) movement, and the insecure provincial administrations--presented significant difficulties for the government of Prime Minister Bhutto. Despite these conditions, the election of Prime Minister Bhutto's close associate, Farooq Leghari, as President in November 1993 gave her a stronger power base.

In November 1996, President Leghari dismissed the Bhutto government, charging it with corruption, mismanagement of the economy, and implication in extrajudicial killings in Karachi. Elections in February 1997, resulted in an overwhelming victory for the PML/N, and President Leghari called upon Nawaz Sharif to form a government. In March 1997, with the unanimous support of the National Assembly, Sharif amended the Constitution, stripping the President of the power to dismiss the government and making his power to appoint military service chiefs and provincial governors contingent on the "advice" of the Prime Minister. Another amendment prohibited elected members from "floor crossing" or voting against party positions. The Sharif government also engaged in a protracted dispute with the judiciary, culminating in the storming of the Supreme Court by ruling party loyalists and the engineered dismissal of the Chief Justice and the resignation of President Leghari in December 1997.

The new President elected by Parliament, Rafiq Tarar, was a close associate of the Prime Minister. A one-sided, anti-corruption campaign was used to target opposition politicians and critics of the regime. Similarly, the government moved to restrict press criticism and ordered the arrest and beating of prominent journalists. As domestic criticism of Sharif's administration intensified, Sharif attempted to replace Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf on October 12, 1999, with a family loyalist, Director General of the Interservice Intelligence Directorate, Lt. Gen. Ziauddin. Although General Musharraf was out of the country at the time, the army moved quickly to depose Sharif.

Pervez Musharraf
Following the October 12, 1999 nonviolent coup and subsequent ouster of the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the military-led government stated its intention to restructure the political and electoral systems. On October 14, 1999, General Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency and issued the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), which suspended the federal and provincial Parliaments, held the Constitution in abeyance, and designated Musharraf as Chief Executive. Musharraf appointed an eight-member National Security Council to function as Pakistan's supreme governing body, with mixed military/civilian appointees; a civilian Cabinet; and a National Reconstruction Bureau to formulate structural reforms. On May 12, 2000, Pakistan's Supreme Court unanimously validated the October 1999 coup and granted Musharraf executive and legislative authority for 3 additional years. On June 20, 2001, Musharraf named himself as president and was sworn in.

After the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked on September 11, 2001, Musharraf pledged complete cooperation with the United States in counterterrorism efforts, which included locating and shutting down terrorist training camps within Pakistan's borders, cracking down on extremist groups and withdrawing support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In a referendum held on April 30, 2002, Musharraf's presidency was extended by 5 more years. The handover from military to civilian rule came with parliamentary elections in November 2002, and the appointment of a civilian prime minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali. Having previously promised to give up his army post and become a civilian president, General Musharraf announced in late 2004 that he would retain his military role. In August 2004, Shaukat Aziz was sworn in as prime minister, having won a parliamentary vote of confidence, 191 of 342 votes, in which the opposition abstained.

On October 6, 2007, Musharraf was elected president for a 5-year term. On November 4 he declared a state of emergency, suspending the country’s Constitution and firing the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. In November 2007, Musharraf also relinquished his army post.

After the conclusion of a 3-month-long state of emergency, legislative elections were held in February 2008. The elections brought to power former opposition parties, led by the PPP, in a coalition government; Yousuf Gilani was elected prime minister and head of government on March 24, 2008. Musharraf resigned as president on August 18, 2008, as the Parliament prepared for impeachment proceedings. Of the 13 Supreme Court justices whom Musharraf dismissed in November 2007, by the end of 2008, the new government reinstated five under a fresh oath of office. Three other judges either retired or resigned and five remained off the bench. The newly elected government also removed media restrictions adopted during the 2007 state of emergency and lifted curbs on unions imposed during Musharraf’s tenure.

Asif Ali Zardari
On September 6, 2008, Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Benazir Bhutto, was elected president and head of state. The PPP-led coalition government moved forward on long-awaited constitutional reforms. In particular, on April 19, 2010, Zardari signed into law the 18th Amendment to the Pakistani Constitution. The amendment realigns executive powers by restoring the prime minister as the premier civilian official and returning the presidency to its original, more ceremonial role as head of state, which largely eliminates constitutional changes made by former President Musharraf to strengthen the presidency. The reform package also abolishes the two-term limit on prime ministers; restricts the president’s power over judicial appointments; and reorganizes center-province relations, empowering provincial assemblies to elect their own chief ministers. The amendment also renamed the North-West Frontier Province to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which means “Khyber side of the land of the Pakhtuns,” in a nod to the region’s ethnic Pashtun majority.


In late July 2010, flooding caused by heavy monsoon rains began in several regions of Pakistan, including the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and parts of Baluchistan. According to the Associated Press, the floods have affected about one-fifth of the country. Tens of thousands of villages have been flooded, more than 1,500 people have been killed, and millions have been left homeless. The floodwaters are not expected to fully recede before late August.

The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft captured this cloud-free image over the city of Sukkur, Pakistan, on Aug. 18, 2010. Sukkur, a city of a half-million residents located in southeastern Pakistan's Sindh Province, is visible as the grey, urbanized area in the lower left center of the image. It lies along the Indus River, Pakistan's longest, which snakes vertically from north to south through the image and is the basis for the world's largest canal-based irrigation system. As reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation, Sukkur is one of the few urban areas in the region that has thus far escaped widespread destruction from the flooding, which has affected an estimated 4,000,000 people in the province. Relief camps have sprung up across the city to house some of these displaced people. The land along the Indus River in this region is largely agricultural, and the flooding has taken a heavy toll on the region's crops and fruit trees.

Source: NASA


Government Type: (Islamic Republic of Pakistan) - Federal republic

The president is chosen for a 5-year term by an electoral college consisting of the Senate, National Assembly, and the provincial assemblies. The prime minister is selected by the National Assembly for a 4-year term. The bicameral parliament--or Majlis-e-Shoora--consists of the Senate (100 seats; members are indirectly elected by provincial assemblies) and the National Assembly (342 seats; 60 seats reserved for women, 10 seats reserved for minorities). Each of the four provinces--Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan--has a Chief Minister and provincial assembly. The Northern Areas, Azad Kashmir, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are administered by the federal government but enjoy considerable autonomy. The cabinet, National Security Council, and governors serve at the president's discretion.

The judicial system comprises a Supreme Court, provincial high courts, and Federal Islamic (or Shari'a) Court. The Supreme Court is Pakistan's highest court. With the 18th Amendment now in place, the president names the most senior Supreme Court justice to be chief justice; also, the courts’ and Parliament’s influence are increased through a new judicial commission to oversee judges’ appointments. Each province, as well as Islamabad, has a high court, the justices of which are appointed by the president after conferring with the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the provincial chief justice. The judiciary is proscribed from issuing any order contrary to the decisions of the president. Federal Sharia Court hears cases that primarily involve Sharia, or Islamic law. Legislation enacted in 1991 gave legal status to Sharia. Although Sharia was declared the law of the land, it did not replace the existing legal code.

According to the constitution, Pakistan is a federation of four provinces: Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh. Governors appointed by the president head the provinces. There is also the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), comprised of seven agencies, and the Islamabad Capital Territory, which consists of the capital city of Islamabad. These areas and territory are under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The Northern Areas are administered as a de facto "Union Territory" and are treated as an integral part of Pakistan. The Pakistani-administered portion of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region includes Azad Kashmir, a separate and autonomous government that maintains strong ties to Pakistan.

Capital: Islamabad - 832,000 (2009)

Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan: Two capital cities in Pakistan lie next to one another but display land use patterns that are entirely different. Islamabad, with a population of 901,000 (ca. 1998) boasts a master-planned rectangular street pattern nestled against the Margala Hills (top left). The larger Rawalpindi (population 1,406,214 in 1998) lies to the south on the Soan River.

Islamabad has grown rapidly since construction began in 1961. It was created as a new administrative district in Pakistan to be the home of government, the supreme court, and the diplomatic corps. The great white building of the Faisal Mosque appears on the northern margin of the city. By contrast with orthogonal Islamabad, Rawalpindi displays the radial land transportation pattern of many cities with a river flowing through the city center. City blocks are small and growth less controlled than in its newer neighbor. Airports can be seen to the east and south.

Rawalpindi was an important British military center from the mid-1800s during colonial times, and became the interim capital for a decade (1959–69) once the decision was made to move the capital from Karachi inland to be closer to disputed Kashmir and neighboring Muslim countries. Rawalpindi is the headquarters of Pakistan’s army and an administrative, commercial, educational and industrial centre.

Source: NASA


Other Major Cities: Karachi 13.125 million; Lahore 7.132 million; Faisalabad 2.849 million; Rawalpindi 2.026 million  (2009)

A centuries-old settlement that now ranks among the world's largest, Pakistan's seaport city of Karachi mixes intense urbanization with remnants of a natural environment. This true-color satellite image of Karachi shows the southwestern edges of the city. Two rivers, the Lyari and Malir, pass through Karachi en route to the Arabian Sea. The Lyari River passes north of the Port of Karachi, and expansive salt works, appearing as large geometric areas of green, line the northern edge of that river's delta. East of the port, the Malir River flows southward toward the sea. Between the port and the Arabian Sea, a barrier island runs northwest-southeast (left edge of the image). East of this island and west of the port sits a large expanse of water and mangroves. Water in the Lyari River Delta must empty into the sea through the Baba Channel. Sediment colors the water flowing through that channel a lighter color than the surrounding ocean. Immediately east of the Port of Karachi lie two more mangroves, the larger of which is named Chinna Creek. Many of Karachi's oldest structures and most popular tourist attractions appear in the city center just northeast of the port, but street grids cover almost all of the available land outside of the mangroves. Photo courtesy of NASA.


Administrative divisions:  4 provinces, 1 territory*, and 1 capital territory**; Balochistan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas*, Islamabad Capital Territory**, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province), Punjab, Sindh. Note: the Pakistani-administered portion of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region consists of two administrative entities: Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan

Administrative Divisions of Pakistan. Note the disputed status of Kashmir with portions under the de facto administration of Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas), India (Jammu and Kashmir), and China (Aksai Chin) which are shaded differently. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Independence Date: 14 August 1947 (from British India)

Legal System:  common law system with Islamic law influence. Pakistan accepts compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction with reservations; and is a non-party state to the International criminal court (ICCt).

International Environmental Agreements

Pakistan is party to international agreements on: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, and Wetlands.

It has signed, but not ratified an international agreements on Marine Life Conservation.


Total Renewable Water Resources:  233.8 cu km (2003)

Freshwater Withdrawal169.39 cu km/yr (2% domestic, 2% industrial, 96% agricultural)

Per Capita Freshwater Withdrawal: 1,072 cu m/yr (2000)

Access to improved drinking water sources: total: 90% of population

Access to improved sanitation facilities: total: 45% of population

See: Water profile of Pakistan


Agricultural products: cotton, wheat, rice, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; milk, beef, mutton, eggs

Irrigated Land: 198,700 sq km (2008)


Natural Resources: land, extensive natural gas reserves, limited petroleum, poor quality coal, iron ore, copper, salt, limestone

Land Use:

arable land: 24.44%
permanent crops: 0.84%
other: 74.72% (2005)

See: Energy profile of Pakistan


Pakistan, an impoverished and underdeveloped country, has suffered from decades of internal political disputes and low levels of foreign investment. Between 2001-07, however, poverty levels decreased by 10%, as Islamabad steadily raised development spending. During 2004-07, GDP growth in the 5-8% range was spurred by gains in the industrial and service sectors - despite severe electricity shortfalls - but growth slowed in 2008-09 and unemployment rose. Inflation remains the top concern among the public, climbing from 7.7% in 2007 to more than 13% in 2010. In addition, the Pakistani rupee has depreciated since 2007 as a result of political and economic instability.

The World Bank considers Pakistan a low-income country. No more than 55.0% of adults are literate, and life expectancy is about 64 years. In FY 2008-2009, the GDP growth rate was 3.7%, and unemployment was estimated at 14%. Main inflation drivers include food and utility prices, the Pakistani rupee’s depreciation versus the U.S. dollar, and higher international commodity prices. Low levels of spending in the social services and high population growth have contributed to persistent poverty and unequal income distribution. Pakistan's extreme poverty and underdevelopment are key concerns, especially in rural areas. The country’s economy remains vulnerable to internal and external shocks due to internal security concerns and the global financial crises.

Reform, Aid, and Debt
Despite its economic and political difficulties, Pakistan has taken some steps over the years to liberalize its trade and investment regimes, either unilaterally or in the context of commitments made with the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. Pakistan has received significant loan/grant assistance from international financial institutions (e.g., the IMF, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB)) and bilateral donors, particularly after it began using its military/financial resources in counterterrorism efforts.

In 2000, the government made significant macroeconomic reforms: privatizing Pakistan's state-subsidized utilities, reforming the banking sector, instituting a world-class anti-money laundering law, cracking down on piracy of intellectual property, and moving to quickly resolve investor disputes. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and Pakistan's proclaimed commitment to fighting terror, many international sanctions, particularly those that had been imposed by the United States, were lifted. Pakistan's economic prospects began to increase significantly due to unprecedented inflows of foreign assistance at the end of 2001, and the trend was expected to continue through 2009. In 2002, the United States led Paris Club efforts to reschedule Pakistan's debt on generous terms, and in April 2003 the United States reduced Pakistan's bilateral official debt by $1 billion. In 2004, approximately $500 million more in bilateral debt relief was granted. Foreign exchange reserves and exports grew to record levels after a sharp decline. The IMF lauded Pakistan for its commitment in meeting lender requirements for a $1.3 billion IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility loan, which it completed in 2004, forgoing the final permitted tranche. The Government of Pakistan was successful in issuing sovereign bonds; it issued $600 million in Islamic bonds, putting Pakistan back on the investment map.

On October 8, 2005, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. The epicenter of the earthquake was near Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, and approximately 60 miles north-northeast of Islamabad. An estimated 75,000 people were killed and 2.5 million people were left homeless. The disaster of such a huge magnitude galvanized an international rescue and reconstruction effort in support of the affected region. The earthquake cost Pakistan $1.1 billion in resettling those affected. Despite the 2005 earthquake, GDP growth remained strong at 6.6% in fiscal year 2005-2006. Consumer price inflation eased slightly to an average of 8% in 2005-2006 from 9.3% in 2004-2005.

In 2008, the ratio of total debt and liabilities to GDP, a broad measure of the country's capacity to sustain debt, saw an end to a 7-year declining trend, rising in FY 2008 to 60%. The stock of Pakistan's total debt and liabilities increased by 27% year on year in 2008, to PKR 6,417.4 billion (U.S. $80.7 billion at 79.5 rupees per dollar), with a commensurate deterioration in debt sustainability indicators. The fiscal deficit widened from 5.6% of GDP in 1994-95, to 7.7% in 1997-98, and to 5.4% in 2008-2009. Support for loss-making, state-owned enterprises; fuel subsidies; and a weak domestic tax base have been critical elements in the recurring fiscal deficits.

In October 2008, Pakistan entered into a 23-month Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF in order to keep the country solvent and to support its foreign exchange reserves, which had fallen to precariously low levels. The $11.3 billion IMF loan supports two key objectives of restoring macroeconomic stability and confidence in the economy through a significant tightening of macroeconomic policies and ensuring social stability and adequate support for the poor. Other reforms include improvements in banking and tax legislation, phasing out electricity subsidies, and reducing foreign exchange market intervention by the State Bank of Pakistan. A contingency plan for handling problem banks has been prepared and is being strengthened; an action plan to reform tax policy and administration has been adopted and will be implemented with technical assistance from the IMF and the World Bank.

Pakistan remains dependent on IMF and other international assistance for budgetary support and to keep the country more or less solvent. So far, Pakistan has met some of the IMF benchmarks, most recently implementing a 13.6% increase in electricity prices in January 2010. In 2009, Pakistan also received $2.11 billion in aid from the “Friends of Pakistan” group of allies, who pledged $5.7 billion in total.

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Pakistan's principal natural resources are arable land, water, hydroelectric potential, and natural gas reserves. About 28% of Pakistan's total land area is under cultivation and is watered by one of the largest irrigation systems in the world. Agriculture accounts for about 21% of GDP and employs about 42% of the labor force. The most important crops are cotton, wheat, rice, sugarcane, fruits, and vegetables, which together account for more than 75% of the value of total crop output. Despite intensive farming practices, Pakistan remains a net food importer. Pakistan exports rice, fish, fruits, and vegetables and imports vegetable oil, wheat, cotton (net importer), pulses, and consumer foods.

The economic importance of agriculture has declined since independence, when its share of GDP was around 53%. Following the poor harvest of 1993, the government introduced agriculture assistance policies, including increased support prices for many agricultural commodities and expanded availability of agricultural credit. From 1993 to 1997, real growth in the agricultural sector averaged 5.7% but declined to 4.7% in FY 2008-2009.

Pakistan has extensive energy resources, including fairly sizable natural gas reserves, some proven oil reserves, coal, and large hydropower potential. However, exploitation of energy resources has been slow due to a shortage of capital and domestic and international political constraints. For instance, domestic gas and petroleum production totals only about half the country's energy needs, and dependence on imported oil contributes to Pakistan's persistent trade deficits and shortage of foreign exchange.

Pakistan's manufacturing sector accounts for about 25% of GDP. Cotton textile production and apparel manufacturing are Pakistan's largest industries, accounting for about 51.4% of total exports. Other major industries include food processing, beverages, construction materials, clothing, and paper products. Manufacturing sector growth has slowed in the last 2 years due to energy shortages and capacity constraints. However, the sector is forecast to grow 5.5% for FY 2010. Despite government efforts to privatize large-scale parastatal units, the public sector continues to account for a significant proportion of industry. The government seeks to diversify the country's industrial base and bolster export industries. Net foreign investment in Pakistani industries is only 0.5% of GDP. Pakistan's search for additional foreign direct investment has been hampered by concerns about the security situation, domestic and regional political uncertainties, and questions about judicial transparency.

Foreign Trade
Weak world demand for its exports and domestic political uncertainty have contributed to Pakistan's high trade deficits. In FY 2008, the trade deficit was over $15 billion. In the 2008-2009 budget, the Government of Pakistan raised the maximum tariffs from the 20%-25% range to the 30%-35% range on 300 luxury items due to the large trade gap and growing current account deficit. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, Pakistan’s trade deficit decreased to $10.92 billion as a result of a decline in imports and a slight increase in exports.

Major imports, which fell to $28.4 billion in 2009, include petroleum and petroleum products, edible oil, wheat, chemicals, fertilizer, capital goods, industrial raw materials, and consumer products. Energy imports account for nearly 30% of Pakistan's imports, and the total gap between electricity supply and demand in Pakistan is over 4,800 megawatts (MW). The ongoing energy crisis and security concerns, together with a decline in global demand, have hampered Pakistan’s textile-reliant export base. Pakistan's exports continue to be dominated by cotton textiles and apparel, despite government diversification efforts.

Record floods in July-August 2010 lowered agricultural output and contributed to a jump in inflation, and reconstruction costs will strain the limited resources of the government.

Remittances from overseas workers, averaging about $1 billion a month since March 2011, remain a bright spot for Pakistan. However, after a small current account surplus in fiscal year 2011 (July 2010/June 2011), Pakistan's current account turned to deficit in the second half of 2011, spurred by higher prices for imported oil and lower prices for exported cotton. Pakistan remains stuck in a low-income, low-growth trap, with growth averaging 2.9% per year from 2008 to 2011. Pakistan must address long standing issues related to government revenues and energy production in order to spur the amount of economic growth that will be necessary to employ its growing population. Other long term challenges include expanding investment in education and healthcare, and reducing dependence on foreign donors.

GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): $488 billion (2011 est.)

GDP: (Official Exchange Rate): $204.1 billion (2011 est.)

GDP- per capita (PPP): $2,800 (2011 est.)

GDP- composition by sector:

agriculture: 20.9%
industry: 25.8%
services: 53.3% (2011 est.)

Industries: textiles and apparel, food processing, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, paper products, fertilizer, shrimp

Currency: Pakistani rupees (PKR)

Foreign Relations

After September 11, 2001, Pakistan's prominence in the international community increased significantly, as it pledged its alliance with the U.S. in counterterrorism efforts and made a commitment to eliminate terrorist camps on its territory. Historically, Pakistan has had difficult and volatile relations with India, long-standing close relations with China, extensive security and economic interests in the Persian Gulf, and wide-ranging bilateral relations with the United States and other Western countries. It expresses a strong desire for a stable Afghanistan.

Since partition, relations between Pakistan and India have been characterized by rivalry and suspicion. Although many issues divide the two countries, the most sensitive one since independence has been the status of Kashmir.

At the time of partition, the princely state of Kashmir, though ruled by a Hindu king, had an overwhelmingly Muslim population. When the king hesitated in acceding to either Pakistan or India in 1947, some of his Muslim subjects revolted in favor of joining Pakistan. In exchange for military assistance in containing the revolt, the Kashmiri ruler offered his allegiance to India. Indian troops occupied the eastern portion of Kashmir, including its capital, Srinagar, while the western part came under Pakistani control.

India submitted this dispute to the United Nations on January 1, 1948. One year later, the UN arranged a cease-fire along a line dividing Kashmir but leaving the northern end of the line not demarcated and the Valley of Kashmir (with the majority of the population) under Indian control. India and Pakistan agreed to a UN-supervised plebiscite to determine the state's future. This plebiscite has not occurred because the main precondition, the withdrawal of both nations' forces from Kashmir, has failed to take place. Pakistan has since fought three wars with India over Kashmir, in 1948, 1965, and the Kargil conflict in 1999.

In July 1972, following the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, which resulted in the creation of an independent Bangladesh, President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi met in the hill station of Shimla, India, and agreed to a line of control in Kashmir. Both leaders endorsed the principle of settlement of bilateral disputes through peaceful means. In 1974, Pakistan and India agreed to resume postal and telecommunications linkages and to enact measures to facilitate travel. Trade and diplomatic relations were restored in 1976 after a hiatus of 5 years.

India's nuclear test in 1974 generated great uncertainty in Pakistan and is generally acknowledged to have been the impetus for Pakistan's nuclear weapons development program. In 1983, the Pakistani and Indian Governments accused each other of aiding separatists in their respective countries--Sikhs in India's Punjab state and Sindhis in Pakistan's Sindh province. In April 1984, tensions erupted after troops were deployed to the Siachen Glacier, a high-altitude, desolate area close to the Chinese border not demarcated by the cease-fire agreement (Karachi Agreement) signed by Pakistan and India in 1949.

Tensions diminished after Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister in November 1984 and after a group of Sikh hijackers was brought to trial by Pakistan in March 1985. In December 1985, President Zia and Prime Minister Gandhi pledged not to attack each other's nuclear facilities. A formal "no attack" agreement was signed in January 1991. In early 1986, the Indian and Pakistani Governments began high-level talks to resolve the Siachen Glacier border dispute and to improve trade.

Bilateral tensions increased in early 1990, when Kashmiri militants began a campaign of violence against Indian Government authority in Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequent high-level bilateral meetings relieved the tensions between India and Pakistan, but relations worsened again after the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque by Hindu extremists in December 1992 and terrorist bombings in Bombay in March 1993. Talks between the Foreign Secretaries of both countries in January 1994 ended in deadlock.

The relationship improved markedly when Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee traveled to Lahore for a summit with Nawaz Sharif in February 1999. There was considerable hope that the meeting could lead to a breakthrough. However, any breakthrough that was made was negated when in spring 1999, infiltrators from Pakistan occupied positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control in the remote, mountainous area of Kashmir near Kargil. By early summer, serious fighting flared in the Kargil sector of Kashmir. The infiltrators withdrew following a meeting between Prime Minister Sharif and President Bill Clinton in July. Subsequently, relations between India and Pakistan became particularly strained during the 1999 coup in Islamabad. Then, on December 13, 2001 just weeks after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, an attack on India's Parliament further strained this relationship.

The prospects for better relations between India and Pakistan improved in early January 2004 when a summit meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) permitted India's Prime Minister Vajpayee to meet with President Musharraf. Both leaders agreed to reestablish the Composite Dialogue to resolve their bilateral disputes. The Composite Dialogue focuses on eight issues: confidence building measures, Kashmir, Wullar barrage, promotion of friendly exchanges, Siachen glacier, Sir creek, terrorism and drug trafficking, and economic and commercial cooperation. The first round in this renewed Composite Dialogue was held in New Delhi on June 27-28, 2004.

Relations further improved when President Musharraf met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York in October 2004. Additional steps aimed at improving relations were announced when Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh visited Islamabad in February 2005 and in April 2005 when President Musharraf traveled to India to view a cricket match and hold discussions. In a further display of improved relations, bus service commenced from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir to Srinagar in April 2005. After a destructive earthquake hit the Kashmir region in October 2005, the two countries cooperated with each other to deal with the humanitarian crisis.

However, the July 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, followed in November 2008 by terrorist attacks in Mumbai, brought the bilateral Composite Dialogue to a halt. Pakistan agreed to foreign secretary-level talks in New Delhi, which occurred February 25, 2010. On April 29, 2010, Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met on the sidelines of the 16th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit and signaled they would work toward resuming dialogue. Following the meeting, Pakistani officials assured India that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used for terrorist activity directed against India. Pakistan also said it would expedite the trial of suspects implicated in the Mumbai attacks.

Following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Pakistani Government played a vital role in supporting the Afghan resistance movement and assisting Afghan refugees. After the Soviet withdrawal in February 1989, Pakistan, with cooperation from the world community, continued to provide extensive support for displaced Afghans. Continued turmoil in Afghanistan prevented the refugees from returning to their country. In 1999, more than 1.2 million registered Afghan refugees remained in Pakistan. Pakistan was one of three countries to recognize the Taliban regime of Afghanistan. International pressure after September 11, 2001, prompted Pakistan to reassess its relations with the Taliban regime and support the U.S. and international coalition in Operation Enduring Freedom to remove the Taliban from power. Pakistan has publicly expressed its support to Afghanistan's President Karzai and has pledged $100 million toward Afghanistan's reconstruction. Both nations are also working to strengthen cooperation and coordination along their shared rugged border.

People's Republic of China
In 1950, Pakistan was among the first countries to recognize the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.). Following the Sino-Indian hostilities of 1962, Pakistan's relations with China became stronger; since then, the countries have regularly exchanged high-level visits resulting in various agreements. China has provided economic, military, and technical assistance to Pakistan. Favorable relations with China have been a pillar of Pakistan's foreign policy. The P.R.C. strongly supported Pakistan's opposition to Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and is perceived by Pakistan as a regional counterweight to India and Russia.

Iran and the Persian Gulf
Historically, Pakistan has had close geopolitical and cultural-religious linkages with Iran. However, strains in the relationship appeared following the Iranian revolution. Pakistan and Iran supported different factions in the Afghan conflict. Also, some Pakistanis suspect Iranian Government support for the sectarian violence that has plagued Pakistan. However, relations between the countries have improved since their policies toward Afghanistan have converged with the fall of the Taliban. Both countries contend that they are on the road to strong and lasting friendly relations.

Pakistan has also provided military personnel to strengthen Gulf-state defenses and to reinforce its own security interests in the area.

Unted States
The United States and Pakistan established diplomatic relations in 1947. The U.S. agreement to provide economic and military assistance to Pakistan and the latter's partnership in the Baghdad Pact/CENTO and SEATO strengthened relations between the nations. However, the U.S. suspension of military assistance during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war generated a widespread feeling in Pakistan that the United States was not a reliable ally. Even though the United States suspended military assistance to both countries involved in the conflict, the suspension of aid affected Pakistan much more severely. Gradually, relations improved, and arms sales were renewed in 1975. Then, in April 1979, the United States cut off economic assistance to Pakistan, except food assistance, as required under the Symington Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, due to concerns about Pakistan's nuclear program.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 highlighted the common interest of Pakistan and the United States in peace and stability in South Asia. In 1981, the United States and Pakistan agreed on a $3.2 billion military and economic assistance program aimed at helping Pakistan deal with the heightened threat to security in the region and its economic development needs.

Recognizing national security concerns and accepting Pakistan's assurances that it did not intend to construct a nuclear weapon, Congress waived restrictions (Symington Amendment) on military assistance to Pakistan. In March 1986, the two countries agreed on a second multi-year (FY 1988-93) $4 billion economic development and security assistance program. On October 1, 1990, however, the United States suspended all military assistance and new economic aid to Pakistan under the Pressler Amendment, which required that the President certify annually that Pakistan "does not possess a nuclear explosive device."

Several incidents of violence against American officials and U.S. mission employees in Pakistan have marred the relationship. In November 1979, false rumors that the United States had participated in the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca provoked a mob attack on the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad in which the chancery was set on fire resulting in the loss of life of American and Pakistani staff. In 1989, an attack on the American Center in Islamabad resulted in six Pakistanis being killed in crossfire with the police. In March 1995, two American employees of the consulate in Karachi were killed and one wounded in an attack on the home-to-office shuttle. In November 1997, four U.S. businessmen were brutally murdered while being driven to work in Karachi. In March 2002 a suicide attacker detonated explosives in a church in Islamabad, killing two Americans associated with the Embassy and three others. There were also unsuccessful attacks by terrorists on the Consulate General in Karachi in May 2002. Another bomb was detonated near American and other businesses in Karachi in November 2005, killing three people and wounding 15 others. On March 2, 2006, a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives as a vehicle carrying an American Foreign Service officer passed by on its way to Consulate Karachi. The diplomat, the Consulate's locally-employed driver and three other people were killed in the blast; 52 others were wounded. In September 2008, a truck bomb at Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel killed three Embassy staff. On April 5, 2010, heavily armed terrorists in two vehicles hurled bombs and fired at security men near Consulate Peshawar, killing four Pakistanis.

The decision by India to conduct nuclear tests in May 1998 and Pakistan's matching response set back U.S. relations in the region, which had seen renewed U.S. Government interest during the second Clinton Administration. A presidential visit scheduled for the first quarter of 1998 was postponed and, under the Glenn Amendment, sanctions restricted the provision of credits, military sales, economic assistance, and loans to the government. The October 1999 overthrow of the democratically elected Sharif government triggered an additional layer of sanctions under Section 508 of the Foreign Appropriations Act, which include restrictions on foreign military financing and economic assistance. U.S. Government assistance to Pakistan was subsequently limited mainly to refugee and counter-narcotics assistance.

The U.S.-Pakistan relationship changed significantly once Pakistan agreed to support the U.S. campaign to eliminate the Taliban in Afghanistan and to join the United States in efforts against terrorism. Since September 2001, Pakistan has provided extensive assistance in counterterrorism efforts by capturing more than 600 al-Qaida members and their allies. The United States has stepped up its economic assistance to Pakistan, providing debt relief and support for a major effort for education reform. During President Musharraf's visit to the United States in 2003, President Bush announced that the United States would provide Pakistan with $3 billion in economic and military aid over five years. This assistance package commenced during FY 2005.

Following the region's October 8, 2005 earthquake, the United States responded immediately and generously to Pakistan's call for assistance. The response was consistent with U.S. humanitarian values and our deep commitment to Pakistan. At the subsequent reconstruction conference in Islamabad on November 19, 2005, the U.S. announced a $510 million commitment to Pakistan for earthquake relief and reconstruction, including humanitarian assistance, military support for relief operations, and anticipated U.S. private contributions.

In 2004, the United States recognized closer bilateral ties with Pakistan by designating Pakistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally. President Bush visited Pakistan in March 2006, where he and President Musharraf reaffirmed their shared commitment to a broad and lasting strategic partnership, agreeing to continue their cooperation on a number of issues including: counterterrorism efforts, security in the region, strengthening democratic institutions, trade and investment, education, and earthquake relief and reconstruction. The United States concluded the sale to Pakistan of F-16 aircrafts in late 2006, further reflecting the deepening strategic partnership.

The Barack Obama administration has reaffirmed a U.S. strategic partnership with Pakistan. In particular, the U.S. Congress passed the Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) legislation to authorize $1.5 billion in non-military assistance to Pakistan annually for five years, which President Obama signed into law on October 15, 2009.

Along with the passage of KLB, in late October 2009, Secretary of State Clinton visited Pakistan, setting the stage for a renewed engagement with the Pakistani Government and people. During the Secretary’s visit, she and Foreign Minister Mahmood Shah Qureshi agreed to a Strategic Dialogue to be held at the ministerial level for the first time. Following through on this commitment, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Qureshi co-hosted the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue on March 24-25, 2010 in Washington, DC.

At the Dialogue, the Pakistani delegations and their U.S. counterparts engaged in sessions on agriculture, defense and security, economic development and finance, social issues, energy and water, and communications. The participants constructed deliverable goals on the issues that are crucial to both countries. In particular, these objectives included agriculture infrastructure assistance through a $30 million allocation; a pledge for the United States to work with Pakistan to make progress in the timely implementation of tax system and energy financing reforms; continued and expanded collaboration on improving quality of and access to education; cooperation on a range of technological advances to include information technologies and telecommunications such as eLearning, eGovernance, telemedicine, and mobile banking; and mapping out progress on natural gas development and agendas for future discussions on water. A letter of intent was also signed to upgrade major road infrastructure in northwest Pakistan, as well as implementation agreements for three thermal power station rehabilitation projects that will aid in combating electricity shortages in the country.

International Disputes

Various talks and confidence-building measures cautiously have begun to defuse tensions over Kashmir, particularly since the October 2005 earthquake in the region. Kashmir nevertheless remains the site of the world's largest and most militarized territorial dispute with portions under the de facto administration of China (Aksai Chin), India (Jammu and Kashmir), and Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas).

UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) has maintained a small group of peacekeepers since 1949.

India does not recognize Pakistan's ceding historic Kashmir lands to China in 1964.

India and Pakistan have maintained their 2004 cease fire in Kashmir and initiated discussions on defusing the armed stand-off in the Siachen glacier region.

Pakistan protests India's fencing the highly militarized Line of Control and construction of the Baglihar Dam on the Chenab River in Jammu and Kashmir, which is part of the larger dispute on water sharing of the Indus River and its tributaries.

To defuse tensions and prepare for discussions on a maritime boundary, India and Pakistan seek technical resolution of the disputed boundary in Sir Creek estuary at the mouth of the Rann of Kutch in the Arabian Sea.

Pakistani maps continue to show the Junagadh claim in India's Gujarat State.

By 2005, Pakistan, with UN assistance, repatriated 2.3 million Afghan refugees leaving slightly more than a million, many of whom remain at their own choosing.

Pakistan has sent troops across and built fences along some remote tribal areas of its treaty-defined Durand Line border with Afghanistan, which serve as bases for foreign terrorists and other illegal activities.

Afghan, Coalition, and Pakistan military meet periodically to clarify the alignment of the boundary on the ground and on maps




Agency, C., & Department, U. (2013). Pakistan. Retrieved from


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