Pakistan, along with parts of western India, contain the archeological
remains of an urban civilization dating back 4,500 years. Alexander the
Great included the Indus Valley in his empire in 326 B.C., and 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 east of Peshawar, experienced a cultural
renaissance known as the Gandhara period.
Pakistan's Islamic history began with the arrival of Muslim traders
in the 8th century in Sindh. The collapse of the Mughal Empire in the 18th
century provided an opportunity to the English East India Company to extend
its control over much of the subcontinent. In the west in the territory
of modern Pakistan, the Sikh adventurer Ranjit Singh carved out a dominion
that extended from Kabul to Srinagar and Lahore. 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 over an extended period of agitation by many 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 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. Accordingly, on August 14, 1947 Pakistan, comprising
West Pakistan with the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and the
Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), and East Pakistan with the province
of Bengal, became independent. East Pakistan later became the independent
nation of Bangladesh.
The Maharaja of Kashmir was reluctant to make a decision on accession
to either Pakistan or India. However, armed incursions into the state by
tribesman from the NWFP led him to seek military assistance from India.
The Maharaja signed accession papers in October 1947 and allowed Indian
troops into much of the state. The Government of Pakistan, however, refused
to recognize the accession and campaigned to reverse the decision. The
status of Kashmir has remained in dispute.
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 in 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, and a civil war ensued. India
attacked East Pakistan and captured Dhaka in December 1971, when the eastern
section declared itself the independent 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.
1977-1985 Martial Law
With 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. However, after it became clear that Bhutto's
popularity had survived his government, Zia postponed the elections and
began criminal investigations of the senior PPP leadership. Subsequently,
Bhutto was convicted and sentenced to death for 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.
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. 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 these figures.
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 of its occupants. 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.
After winning 93 of the 205 National Assembly seats contested, the PPP,
under the leadership of Benazir Bhutto, formed a coalition government with
several smaller parties, including the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM). The
Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI), a multi-party coalition led by the PML
and including religious right parties such as the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI),
won 55 National Assembly seats.
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
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, held in October 1990,
confirmed the political ascendancy of the IJI. In addition to a two-thirds
majority in the National Assembly, the alliance acquired 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
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. The implementation of Sharif's economic reform program,
involving 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 the IJI's constituent parties. The largest religious party, Jamaat-i-Islami
(JI), abandoned the alliance because of its perception of PML hegemony.
The regime was weakened further by the military's suppression of the MQM,
which had entered into a 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, but the
following month 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, a former World Bank
Vice President, took office with a mandate to hold national and provincial
parliamentary 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. The unfavorable circumstances
surrounding PPP rule--the imperative of preserving a coalition government,
the formidable opposition of Nawaz Sharif's PML/N movement, and the insecure
provincial administrations--presented significant difficulties for the
government of Prime Minister Bhutto. However, 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/Nawaz, 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 lines. The Sharif
government 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
ISI Lt. Gen. Ziauddin. Although General Musharraf was out of the country
at the time, the army moved quickly to depose Sharif.
Following the October 12 ouster of the government of Prime Minister
Sharif, the military-led government stated its intention to restructure
the political and electoral systems. On October 14, 1999, General 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 (think tank) 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 years from the coup date. 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 its war on terror, which included locating and shutting down terrorist
training camps within its borders and cracking down on extremist groups.
This policy was highly unpopular with many Pakistani citizens, and the
country was, for a while, plagued by popular demonstrations. However, in
a referendum held on April 30, 2002, Musharraf's presidency was extended
by 5 more years.