History

A carved stone statue of a bearded man with a prominent nose wearing a garment with a pattern

The Indus Priest/King wearing a Sindhi Ajruk, ca. 2500 BC.

Map of India during the Vedic period, including the modern day Pakistan.
Standing Buddha, Gandhara, Pakistan, 1st century AD

The Indus region, which covers a considerable amount of Pakistan, was the site of several ancient cultures including the Neolithic era’s Mehrgarh and the bronze era Indus Valley Civilisation (2500–1500 BCE) at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.

The Vedic Civilization, dating from around 1700-1400 BCE flourished in the ancient Gandhāran city of Takṣaśilā, now Taxila in Punjab. The extent of the Swat and Cemetery H culture of the Rig Vedic people was in the Hindu Kush to Punjab region and the upper gangetic plains. The territory of the present-day Pakistan was once the seat of the ancient Hindu civilization, and the place of origin of the Rig Veda. Much of the area in which Hinduismoriginated is now in Pakistan, and the religion was well established in the region before the arrival of Islam in the 8th century AD. The city of Multan, which was once considered an important Hindu pilgrimage centre, was known to have had Hindu shrines.

Successive ancient empires and kingdoms ruled the region: the Achaemenid Persian empire around 543 BCE, the Greek empire founded by Alexander the Great in 326 BCE and the Mauryan empire founded by Chandragupta Maurya and extended by Ashoka the Great, until 185 BCE.

The Indo-Greek Kingdom founded by Demetrius of Bactria included Gandhara and Punjab from 184 BCE, and reached its greatest extent under Menander, establishing the Greco-Buddhist period with advances in trade and culture. The city of Taxila (Takshashila) became a major centre of learning in ancient times—the remains of the city, located to the west of Islamabad, are one of the country’s major archaeological sites. The Rai Dynasty (c.489–632) ofSindh, at its zenith, ruled this region and the surrounding territories. In 712 CE, the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh and Multan in southern Punjab.[ The Pakistan government’s official chronology states that “its foundation was laid” as a result of this conquest. This Arab and Islamic victory would set the stage for several successive Muslim empires in South Asia, including the Ghaznavid Empire, the Ghorid Kingdom, the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. During this period, Sufi missionaries played a pivotal role in converting a majority of the regional Buddhist and Hindu population to Islam.

The gradual decline of the Mughal Empire in the early eighteenth century provided opportunities for the Afghans, Balochis and Sikhs to exercise control over large areas until the British East India Company gained ascendancy over South Asia. The Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny, was the region’s last major armed struggle against the British Raj, and it laid the foundations for the largely non-violent freedom struggle led by theIndian National Congress in the twentieth century. In the 1920s and 1930s, a movement led by Congress leader Mahatma Gandhi engaged millions of protesters in mass campaigns of civil disobedience.

Image of the seventeenth-century Badshahi Masjid

The 17th century Badshahi Masjid built during Mughal rule in Lahore

The All India Muslim League rose to popularity in the late 1930s amid fears of under-representation and neglect of Muslims in politics. On 29 December 1930, Allama Iqbal’s presidential address called for an autonomous “state in northwestern India for Indian Muslims, within the body politic of India.” Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah espoused the Two Nation Theory and led the Muslim League to adopt the Lahore Resolution of 1940, popularly known as the Pakistan Resolution. In early 1947, Britain announced the decision to end its rule in India. In June 1947, the nationalist leaders of British India—including Jawaharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad on behalf of the Congress, Jinnah representing the Muslim League, andMaster Tara Singh representing the Sikhs—agreed to the proposed terms of transfer of power and independence.

The modern state of Pakistan was established on 14 August 1947 (27 Ramadan 1366 in the Islamic Calendar), carved out of the two Muslim-majority wings in the eastern and northwestern regions of British India and comprising the provinces ofBalochistan, East Bengal, the North-West Frontier Province, West Punjab and Sindh. The controversial, and ill-timed, division of the provinces of Punjab and Bengal caused communal riots across India and Pakistan—millions of Muslims moved to Pakistan and millions of Hindus and Sikhs moved to India.

Disputes arose over several princely states including in the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir, whose Hindu ruler had acceded to India following an invasion by Pashtun tribal militias, leading to the First Kashmir War in 1948.

The Working Committee of the Muslim League in Lahore (1940)

From 1947 to 1956, Pakistan was a Dominion of Pakistan in the Commonwealth of Nations, as West-Pakistan claimed anexclusive mandate for all of Pakistan, considering itself to be the reorganized continuation of the country in the United Nations. It became a Parliamentary Republic in 1956, but the civilian rule was stalled by a coup d’état by then-Army Commander-in-Chief General Ayub Khan, who was the first Chief Martial Law Administrator and also the President during 1958–69, a period of internal instability and a second war with India in 1965. His successor, General Yahya Khan (1969–71), also an Army Commander, had to deal with a devastating cyclone—which caused 500,000 deaths in East-Pakistan—and also face a bitter civil war in 1971. Economic grievances and political dissent in East Pakistan led to violent political tension and military repression that escalated into a civil war. After nine months of guerrilla warfare between the Pakistan Armed Forces and the Indian backed Bengali Mukti Bahini militia, Indian intervention escalated into the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, and ultimately to the secession of East Pakistan as the independent state of Bangladesh.

Image of the founder and first Governor General of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah

The first Governor General Muhammad Ali Jinnah delivering the opening address on 11 August 1947 to the new state of Pakistan.

Isolated and devastated, General Yahya Khan immediately surrendered his executive powers to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who became the first and to-date only civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator. Civilian rule resumed in Pakistan from 1972 to 1977 under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, until he was deposed and later sentenced to death in 1979 by General Zia-ul-Haq, who became the country’s third military president and fourth Chief Martial Law Administrator. From the period of 1971 to 1977, Bhutto worked on uniting the remaining part of the country and taking initiatives to stabilizing the economy. As part of this policy, Bhutto inaugurated the country’s first atomic power plant in Karachi, Sindh Province in 1972. Under Bhutto, Pakistan became first nuclear power country in the Muslim world, and also authorized the integrated nuclear weaponsdevelopment the same year. As awake of Smiling Buddha, an Indian nuclear test in 1974, Bhutto intensified and accelerated the scientific research on nuclear weapons. By the 1978, this crash program had fully became mature, and Pakistan conducted a cold-test of a nuclear device (see Kirana-I) in Kirana Hills in 1983, followed by another cold test (see Kahuta Test) in 1984.

However, another serious liberation movement took place in Balochistan Province in 1974. In response, Bhutto launched an armed operation in the province and the rebellion was successfully quelled by the Pakistan Armed Forces in 1978. Bhutto was removed in a coup d’état led by General Zia-ul-Haq, Chief of Army Staff, in 1977. The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the execution of Bhutto after he allegedly approved the murder of political opponent. In 1979, Bhutto was executed and General Zia-ul-Haq became the Chief Martial Law Administrator and President after Bhutto’s execution. General Zia’s martial law and military government lasted until 1988 when he diedin a plane crash in 1988.

As military president, General Zia introduced the Islamic Sharia legal code, which increased religious influences on the civil service and the military. With the death of President Zia in a plane crash in 1988, Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan. Over the next decade, she fought for power with conservative leader Nawaz Sharif as the country’s political and economic situation worsened. Pakistan got involved in the 1991 Gulf War and sent 5,000 troops as part of a U.S.-led coalition, specifically for the defence of Saudi Arabia.

Bhutto was sworned as President and later Prime minister after the East Pakistan disaster in 1971.

Navaz Sharif secured an overwhelming victory over Benazir Bhutto in the 1997 parliamentary elections and sworned as Prime minister of Pakistan. Navaz Sharif became the second politically strongest Prime minister, only after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to have claimed and have achieved the exclusive mandate of all over the Pakistan, defeating Benazir Bhutto on a large scale margin. In 1998, tensions with India heightened, as Navaz Sharif ordered the nuclear tests in Balochistan in May of 1998 (see Chagai-I and Chagai-II) as a reaction to that of Indian nuclear tests (Pokhran-II). Military tensions in the Kargil conflict with India were followed by a Pakistani military coup d’état in 1999 in which General Pervez Musharraf assumed vast executive powers. In 2001, Musharraf became President after the controversial resignation of Rafiq Tarar. After the 2002 parliamentary elections, Musharraf transferred executive powers to the newly elected Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who was succeeded in the 2004 prime-ministerial election by Shaukat Aziz. On 15 November 2007, the National Assembly, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, completed its tenure and new elections were called. The exiled political leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were permitted to return to Pakistan. However, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto during the election campaign in December led to postponement of elections and nationwide riots. Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won the largest number of seats in the elections held in February 2008 and its member Yousaf Raza Gillani was sworn in as Prime Minister. On 18 August 2008, Pervez Musharraf resigned from the presidency when threatened withimpeachment, and was succeeded by current president Asif Ali Zardari. By the end of 2009, more than 3 million Pakistani civilians have been displaced by the on goingconflict in North-West Pakistan between the government and Taliban militants.

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