Country profile: Pakistan
The Muslim-majority state of
Pakistan occupies an area which was home to some of the earliest human
settlements and where two of the world's major religions, Hinduism and
Buddhism, were practised.
The modern state was born out of
the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947 and has faced both
domestic political upheavals and regional confrontations.
Created to meet the demands of Indian Muslims for their own homeland, Pakistan was originally in two parts.
east wing - present-day Bangladesh - is on the Bay of Bengal bordering
India and Burma. The west wing - present-day Pakistan - stretches from
the Himalayas down to the Arabian Sea.
The break-up of the two wings came in 1971 when the mainly Bengali-speaking east wing seceded with help from India.
A marble edifice honours Pakistan's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah
The disputed northern territory of Kashmir has been the flashpoint
for two of the three India-Pakistan wars - those of 1947-8 and 1965.
There was a further brief but bitter armed conflict after Islamic
militants infiltrated Indian-administered Kashmir in 1999.
politics in Pakistan in the last few decades has been tarnished by
corruption, inefficiency and confrontations between various
institutions. Alternating periods of civilian and military rule have
not helped to establish stability.
Pakistan came under military
rule again in October 1999 after the ousting of a civilian government
that had lost a great deal of public support.
The coup leader,
General Pervez Musharraf, pledged to revive the country's fortunes, but
faced economic challenges as well as an increasing polarisation between
Islamist militancy and the modernising secular wing of Pakistani
Mr Musharraf eventually relinquished his army post in
November 2007, but at parliamentary elections in February 2008, his
supporters were defeated by the opposition Pakistan People's Party and
former PM Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League.
The two parties formed
a coalition government led by the PPP's Yusuf Raza Gilani and an
impeachment process was launched against Mr Musharraf, who resigned in
Pakistan's place on the world stage shifted after
the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US. It dropped its support for the
Taliban regime in Afghanistan and was propelled into the frontline in
the fight against terrorism, becoming a key ally of Washington.
Pakistani forces have struggled to maintain control over the restive
tribal regions along the Afghan border, where Taliban-linked militants
are firmly entrenched.
In the spring of 2009, the government
attempted to reduce disaffection in the troubled north-western Swat
district by agreeing to the imposition of Sharia law.
improving security, this move allowed the Taliban to tighten their grip
on the region, and the agreement broke down after only a few weeks.
Since then the government has waged a rolling military campaign to
flush the militants out of the tribal areas.
India over Kashmir have resurfaced regularly ever since the partition
of the sub-continent, and the two nuclear-armed powers have on numerous
occasions been on the brink of renewed conflict.
accused Pakistan of failing to cooperate adequately over the
investigation into the November 2008 extremist attacks in Mumbai, and
has halted talks on improving relations.
- Full name: Islamic Republic of Pakistan
- Population: 180.8 million (UN, 2009)
- Capital: Islamabad
- Largest city: Karachi
- Area: 796,095 sq km (307,374 sq miles), excluding Pakistani-administered Kashmir (83,716 sq km/32,323 sq miles)
- Major languages: English, Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi
- Major religion: Islam
- Life expectancy: 66 years (men), 67 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 Pakistani Rupee = 100 paisa
- Main exports: Textile products, rice, cotton, leather goods
- GNI per capita: US $980 (World Bank, 2008)
- Internet domain: .pk
- International dialling code: +92
President: Asif Ali Zardari
Asif Ali Zardari won the
presidential race of 6 September 2008 by a big majority. His election
by Pakistan's legislators came a few weeks after his predecessor Pervez
Musharraf resigned under threat of impeachment.
At his swearing-in ceremony, Mr Zardari said he was accepting the
post of president in the name of his assassinated wife, Benazir Bhutto.
Mr Zardari had long lived in the shadow of his late charismatic
wife, who was twice Pakistan's prime minister and head of the Pakistan
People's Party (PPP) - a position Mr Zardari inherited upon her death
in December 2007.
Asif Zardari married Ms Bhutto in 1987 and
held the positions of federal environment minister and federal
investment minister during her tenure as premier.
Zardari was also controversially referred to as "Mr 10%" following
allegations of corruption. For this, and for murder charges of which he
was later cleared, he spent two separate terms in prison totalling
eleven and a half years.
On becoming president, Mr Zardari
pledged to tackle the problem of Islamic militancy. In response to
allegations that the devastating terrorist attack on the Indian city of
Mumbai in November 2008 was orchestrated in Pakistan, he insisted that
his country was itself a victim of terrorism and was ready to cooperate
with other countries in the fight against terrorism.
Zardari was born on 26 July 1955. He comes from a prominent family in
Pakistan's Sindh province and has one son and two daughters. His son,
Bilawal Zardari, was born in 1988 and is co-chairman of the Pakistan
Prime Minister: Yusuf Raza Gilani
Raza Gilani became the head of the coalition government in March 2008,
after the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) won the most votes in elections
Mr Gilani has learned a reputation as a PPP loyalist
Mr Gilani had long been a respected figure within the PPP. He joined
the party in 1988, when it was still very much in the political
wilderness, and soon earned a reputation for unwavering loyalty to the
He was Speaker of parliament from 1993 to 1996, during Benazir Bhutto's second stint as premier.
2001, two years after Pervez Musharraf seized power in a military coup,
Mr Gilani was found guilty of making illegal government appointments
while Speaker and was jailed for five years.
He maintains that
the charges were brought as part of an attempt by Mr Musharraf to
pressurise him into leaving the PPP. He was exonerated and freed in
Mr Gilani was born in 1952 in Karachi but his family
comes from the Punjab and was active in Punjabi politics for
generations. His grandfather and great-uncles were members of the
All-India Muslim League, which campaigned for a separate state for
Muslims, and his father served as a provincial minister during the
After completing an MA in journalism at the University
of Punjab, Mr Gilani first entered politics in 1978 as a member of the
Muslim League, but ten years later switched to the PPP.
Pervez Musharraf's rule ushered in increased freedom for the print
media and a liberalisation of broadcasting policies. Towards the end of
his time in office, however, media rules were tightened under emergency
A coalition government, formed in early 2008, pledged to undo measures introduced by the former president.
Television is the dominant medium, and there are around 50 private
channels. The overwhelming majority of viewers receive them via cable.
There are no private, terrestrial stations.
More than 100 private FM radio stations have been licensed. They are not allowed to broadcast their own news programmes.
of unlicensed FM stations are said to operate in the tribal areas of
North-West Frontier Province. They are usually operated by clerics.
Some of them are accused of fanning sectarian tension.
government uses legal and constitutional powers to curb press freedom.
Private TV news channels were closed under a state of emergency in late
2007, and the law on blasphemy has been used against journalists.
broadcasting regulator can order a halt to the carriage of foreign TV
channels via cable, particularly Indian or Afghan ones. This usually
coincides with periods of tension between Pakistan and one or other of
Pakistan's press is among the most outspoken in
South Asia, although its influence is limited by a literacy level of
World telecoms body the ITU estimated in March 2008
that there were 17.5 million internet users. The authorities filter
some websites. A growing number of bloggers write about politics.
- Pakistan Television Corporation Ltd - state TV, operates PTV Home, regional network PTV National, Baluchi-language PTV Bolan, PTV News
- ATV - semi-private, terrestrial network
- Geo TV
- leading private satellite broadcaster, owned by Jang publishing
group; based in Dubai; services include Urdu-language Geo News
- Dawn News - private satellite broadcaster, owned by Herald group; first English-language news channel
- Aaj TV - private satellite broadcaster, owned by Business Recorder group
- Indus TV - private, via satellite; services include Indus Vision, Indus News and entertainment channels
- ARY Digital - private, via satellite; services include ARY News and entertainment channels
- Radio Pakistan
- state-run, operates 25 stations nationwide, an external service and
the entertainment-based FM 101 network, aimed at younger listeners
- Azad Kashmir Radio - state-run service for Pakistani-administered Kashmir
- Mast FM 103 - private, music-based
- FM 100 - private, music-based