Pakistan is a democratic parliamentary federal republic with Islam as the state religion. The first Constitution of Pakistan was adopted in 1956, but was suspended in 1958 by General Ayub Khan. The Constitution of 1973 – suspended in 1977, by Zia-ul-Haq, but re-instated in 1985 – is the country’s most important document, laying the foundations of the current government.
The bicameral legislature comprises a 100-member Senate and a 342-member National Assembly. The President is the Head of state and the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and is elected by an electoral college. The prime minister is usually the leader of the largest party in the National Assembly. Each province has a similar system of government with a directly elected Provincial Assembly in which the leader of the largest party or alliance becomes Chief Minister. Provincial Governors are appointed by the President.
The Pakistani military has played an influential role in mainstream politics throughout Pakistan’s history, with military presidents ruling from 1958–71, 1977–88 and from 1999–2008. The leftist Pakistan Peoples Party, led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, won support after the loss of East Pakistan but was overthrown amidst riots in 1977. Under the military rule of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, a politically nationalist insurgency in Balochistan was also bloodlessly quelled by military governor Rahimuddin. The 1990s were characterised by coalition politics dominated by the Pakistan Peoples Party and a rejuvenated Muslim League. Pakistan is an active member of the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the latter of which Pakistan has used as a forum for Enlightened Moderation, a plan to promote arenaissance and enlightenment in the Muslim world. Pakistan is also a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO). In the past, Pakistan has had mixed relations with the United States; in the early 1950s, Pakistan was the United States’ “most allied ally in Asia” and a member of both the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO). After Sino-Indian War in 1962 Pakistan’s closest strategic, military and economic ally is China.
|National Symbols of Pakistan|
|Flag||Flag of Pakistan|
|Emblem||Faith, Unity, Discipline|
During the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s, Pakistan was a major U.S. ally. But relations soured in the 1990s, when sanctions were imposed by the U.S. over Pakistan’s refusal to abandon its nuclear activities. However, the American War on Terrorism, as an aftermath of 11 September 2001 attacks in New York, led to an improvement in US–Pakistan ties, especially after Pakistan ended its support of the Taliban regime in Kabul. Its positive side was evidenced by a major increase in American military aid, providing Pakistan $4 billion more in three years after the 9/11 attacks than before. On the other hand, Pakistan is presently burdened with nearly 3 million displaced civilians due to the ongoing Afghan war. As of 2004, in contexts of the War on Terror, Pakistan was being referred to as part of the Greater Middle East by the US under the Bush administration.
On 18 February 2008, Pakistan held its general elections after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination postponed the original date of 8 January 2008. The Pakistan Peoples Party won the majority of the votes and formed an alliance with the Pakistan Muslim League (N). They nominated and elected Yousaf Raza Gilani as Prime Minister. On 18 August 2008, Pervez Musharraf resigned as President of Pakistan amidst increasing calls for his impeachment. In the presidential election that followed, Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan People’s Party won a landslide majority and became President of Pakistan.