Pakistan (PK)

Pakistan, officially known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is situated in South Asia. With a population exceeding 241.5 million, it stands as the fifth-most populous country globally and houses the second-largest Muslim population as of 2023. The capital is Islamabad, while Karachi serves as its largest city and financial hub. Covering a significant area, Pakistan ranks as the 33rd largest country globally and the second largest in South Asia. Its borders touch the Arabian Sea to the south, the Gulf of Oman to the southwest, and the Sir Creek to the southeast. It shares land boundaries with India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China to the northeast. Additionally, it shares maritime borders with Oman in the Gulf of Oman and is separated from Tajikistan in the northwest by Afghanistan’s narrow Wakhan Corridor.

Throughout history, Pakistan has been the site of various ancient cultures, including the Neolithic site of Mehrgarh in Balochistan, dating back 8,500 years, the Bronze Age Indus Valley civilization, and the ancient Gandhara civilization. Over the ages, the regions forming modern-day Pakistan were under the dominion of several empires and dynasties such as the Achaemenid, Maurya, Kushan, Gupta, Umayyad Caliphate, Samma, Hindu Shahis, Shah Miris, Ghaznavids, Delhi Sultanate, Mughals, and the British Raj from 1858 to 1947.

Following the Pakistan Movement, aimed at securing a homeland for the Muslims of British India, and subsequent election victories in 1946 by the All-India Muslim League, Pakistan gained independence in 1947 through the Partition of the British Indian Empire. This division led to the formation of separate Muslim-majority regions, accompanied by a massive migration and loss of life. Initially a Dominion of the British Commonwealth, Pakistan adopted its constitution in 1956 and emerged as an Islamic republic. In 1971, East Pakistan seceded, becoming the independent country of Bangladesh after a nine-month-long civil war. Since independence, Pakistan’s governance has witnessed a mix of civilian and military rule, democratic and authoritarian regimes, and varying degrees of secular and Islamist influences.

Pakistan holds the status of a middle power nation, boasting the world’s sixth-largest standing armed forces. It is a nuclear-weapons state and is recognized for its emerging and growth-leading economy, fueled by a sizable and rapidly expanding middle class. Despite periods of economic and military growth, Pakistan has also faced challenges like poverty, illiteracy, corruption, and terrorism. The country is ethnically and linguistically diverse, with a rich geography and wildlife. It maintains membership in various international organizations such as the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Nations, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, and the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition. Moreover, Pakistan holds the status of a major non-NATO ally by the United States.

The National Anthem

Pakistan’s National Anthem, adopted in August 1954, features a three-stanza composition with a tune based on eastern music, arranged for easy playability by foreign bands. The anthem celebrates Pakistan as a center of faith and freedom, highlighting its beauty and strength. Written by poet Abul Asar Hafeez Jullundhri and composed by musician Ahmed G. Chagla, it’s a lyrical ode to Pakistan’s Islamic foundation, ideology, and intrinsic strength.

Source Of : National Anthem

“Pāk sarzamīn shād bād
Kishwar-e haseen shād bād
Tū nishān-e azm-e ālīshān
Arz-e Pākistān!
Markaz-e yaqīn shād bād
Pāk sarzamīn kā nizām
Quwwat-e ukhuwwat-e ‘awām
Qaum, mulk, salt̤anat
Pāyindah tābindah bād!
Shād bād manzil-e murād
Parčam-e sitārah o hilāl
Rehbar-e taraqqī o kamāl
Tarjumān-e māzī, shān-e ḥāl
Jān-e istiqbāl!
Sāyah-yi Khudā-yi zuljālāl”

Etymology

The term “Pakistan” was coined by Choudhry Rahmat Ali, an activist of the Pakistan Movement. In January 1933, he introduced the term, originally spelled as “Pakstan,” in a pamphlet titled “Now or Never,” where he used it as an acronym. Rahmat Ali’s explanation elucidated that Pakistan was formed from the initial letters of various regions: Panjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan, symbolizing a collective identity for these homelands. He further elaborated that “Pakistan” is a fusion of Persian and Urdu, signifying “the land of the Paks,” which translates to “the spiritually pure and clean.” Etymologists observe that “pāk” means ‘pure’ in Persian and Pashto, while the Persian suffix “-stan” connotes ‘land’ or ‘place of.’

Rahmat Ali’s vision of Pakistan primarily encompassed the north-western region of the Indian subcontinent. Alongside, he proposed alternative names for other Muslim-majority areas: “Banglastan” for Bengal and “Osmanistan” for Hyderabad State. Additionally, he advocated for a political federation uniting these regions. His proposal aimed to establish a cohesive identity and political structure for Muslim-majority regions, emphasizing autonomy and representation within the broader Indian subcontinent.

Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Pakistan Flag
Pakistan Flag
State emblem (Coat of arms) of Pakistan
State emblem (Coat of arms) of Pakistan

Motto

Anthem

Official Languages

Native languages

Demonym(s)

Īmān, Ittihād, Nazam

Qaumī Tarānah

Urdu , English

 77 + languages 

Pakistani

Capital

Map ID

Largest City

Map ID

 Islamabad

33°41′30″N 73°03′00″E

Karachi

24°51′36″N 67°00′36″E

Religion

  • 96.5% Islam (official)
  • 2.1% Hinduism
  • 1.3% Christianity
  • 0.1% other

President

Asif Ali Zardari

Prime Minister

Shehbaz Sharif

Chairman of the Senate

Vacant

Speaker of the National Assembly

Ayaz Sadiq

Chief Justice

Qazi Faez Isa

 Upper house

Lower house

Senate

National Assembly

National Language

Urdu

Independence from the United Kingdom

 Declaration

23 March 1940

Recognized Dominion

14 August 1947

Republic

23 March 1956

Last territory’s acquisition

8 December 1958

Eastern territory withdrawn

16 December 1971

Current constitution

14 August 1973

Area / Population

Total

Water (%)

Population

Density

881,913 km2

2.86 %

241,499,431 5th (2023)

273.8/km2 (709.1/sq mi) (56th)

GDP (PPP) Total

Per capita

GDP (Nominal)

Per capita

Gini (2018)

HDI (2022)

Currency

Time zone

Date format

Driving side

Calling code

ISO 3166 code

Internet TLD

$1.568 trillion (24th)

$6,773 (138th)

$340.636 billion (46th)

$1,471 (161st)

31.6 Medium

0.544 low (161st)

Pakistani rupee (₨) 

UTC+05:00 (PKT)

dd-mm-yyyy

left

+92

PK

.pk
پاکستان.

Historical Perspective

Indus Valley Civilization

The roots of some of the earliest ancient human civilizations in South Asia can be traced back to the regions that now constitute present-day Pakistan. Evidence suggests that the earliest known inhabitants of this area were the Soanian people during the Lower Paleolithic period, as indicated by the discovery of stone tools in the Soan Valley of Punjab. The Indus region, which encompasses much of modern-day Pakistan, has been a cradle of successive ancient cultures. Among these, Mehrgarh stands out as a notable Neolithic site dating back to 7000–4300 BCE. Additionally, the region boasts a rich history of urban life spanning over 5,000 years, evident in iconic sites such as Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, which are part of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.

Vedic Period / Classical Period

After the decline of the Indus Valley civilization, Indo-Aryan tribes migrated into the Punjab region from Central Asia in multiple waves during the Vedic Period (1500–500 BCE). They brought with them their unique religious traditions, which blended with local cultures. The religious beliefs and practices of the Indo-Aryans, influenced by the Bactria–Margiana culture and the indigenous beliefs of the Harappan Indus civilization, eventually evolved into Vedic culture and tribes. Among these, the Gandhara civilization stood out, thriving at the crossroads of India, Central Asia, and the Middle East, facilitating trade and absorbing diverse cultural influences. The early Vedic culture, initially tribal and pastoral, was centered in the Indus Valley, present-day Pakistan, during which the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, were composed.

Priest-King from Mohenjo-Daro (c. 2500 BCE) and Cremation urn, Gandhara grave culture, Swat Valley, c. 1200 BCE
Priest-King from Mohenjo-Daro (c. 2500 BCE) and Cremation urn, Gandhara grave culture, Swat Valley, c. 1200 BCE

Around 519 BCE, the western regions of Pakistan were incorporated into the Achaemenid Empire. In 326 BCE, Alexander the Great asserted his conquest over the area, triumphing over local rulers, notably King Porus, at Jhelum. Subsequently, the region saw the reign of the Maurya Empire, established by Chandragupta Maurya and expanded by Ashoka the Great, until 185 BCE. The Indo-Greek Kingdom, initiated by Demetrius of Bactria around 180–165 BCE, included Gandhara and Punjab, flourishing under Menander (165–150 BCE) and fostering the Greco-Buddhist culture. Taxila, hosting one of the earliest universities globally, emerged during the late Vedic period in the 6th century BCE. This educational institution, comprising several monasteries, emphasized individualized religious instruction, noted in historical accounts by Alexander the Great’s invading forces and Chinese pilgrims in the 4th or 5th century CE. During its apex, the Rai dynasty (489–632 CE) governed Sindh and its adjacent territories.

Islamic Conquest

Muhammad ibn Qasim, the Arab conqueror, seized control of Sindh and parts of Punjab in 711 CE. While the Pakistan government’s official timeline credits this conquest as the foundation of Pakistan, the concept of Pakistan itself emerged much later, in the 19th century. Before Islam’s advent in the 8th century, the region that now constitutes Pakistan was a melting pot of diverse faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism. During the Early Medieval period (642–1219 CE), Sufi missionaries played a crucial role in the widespread conversion to Islam after the defeat of the Turk and Hindu Shahi dynasties.

Badshahi Mosque
Badshahi Mosque

Successive Muslim empires, such as the Ghaznavid Empire, the Ghorid Kingdom, and the Delhi Sultanate, ruled over the region from the 7th to the 11th centuries CE. The Mughal Empire (1526–1857 CE) further solidified its influence, introducing Persian literature and high culture, thus laying the foundation of Indo-Persian culture in the area. Significant cities during the Mughal era, including Multan, Lahore, Peshawar, and Thatta, flourished as centers of art and architecture. However, by the 18th century, the decline of the Mughal Empire accelerated due to internal strife and external invasions, notably by the Maratha Confederacy, the Sikh Empire, and Afghan and Iranian forces. Despite the growing influence of the British in Bengal, their presence had yet to extend significantly into the territories that would later become modern-day Pakistan.

Colonial period

Modern Pakistan did not come under British rule until 1839, when Karachi, a small fishing village governed by the Talpurs of Sindh, was captured and utilized as an enclave with a port and military base during the First Afghan War. Subsequently, the British gradually acquired control over the region through a series of conflicts and treaties. This expansion included the acquisition of Sindh in 1843 and the incorporation of various princely states into the British Indian Empire, ultimately encompassing all of modern Pakistan by 1893.

During British rule, modern Pakistan was administratively divided into the Sind Division, Punjab Province, and the Baluchistan Agency, alongside several princely states like Bahawalpur. The period witnessed significant unrest, including the Sepoy Mutiny of Bengal in 1857, fueled by tensions between Hinduism and Islam, aggravated by linguistic disputes. The rise of the Muslim League, spearheaded by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and later Muhammad Ali Jinnah, advocated for the two-nation theory, which eventually led to the Lahore Resolution of 1940, laying the groundwork for Pakistan’s creation.

The 1930s saw the Muslim League gaining momentum due to perceived neglect of Indian Muslims by Congress-led provincial governments. Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s advocacy for the two-nation theory intensified, culminating in the Pakistan Resolution of 1940. Amidst World War II, while Congress launched the Quit India Movement demanding immediate independence, Jinnah and the Muslim League supported the UK’s war efforts, paving the way for the eventual realization of a Muslim nation, Pakistan.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Pakistan Movement

The 1946 elections marked a significant turning point in Indian political history, with the Muslim League clinching a staggering 90 percent of the Muslim seats. This landslide victory, backed by the influential landowners of Sindh and Punjab, compelled the Indian National Congress to acknowledge the League’s growing significance, despite initial skepticism regarding its representation of Indian Muslims. The emergence of Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the prominent voice of Indian Muslims prompted the British, albeit reluctantly, to consider his stance, even as they remained hesitant about the idea of partitioning India. In a last-ditch effort to avert partition, they proposed the Cabinet Mission Plan.

Clock Tower, Faisalabad, built by the British government in the 19th century
Clock Tower, Faisalabad, built by the British government in the 19th century

However, with the failure of the Cabinet Mission, the British announced their intent to relinquish rule in 1946–47. Key nationalist leaders, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad from Congress, Muhammad Ali Jinnah of the All-India Muslim League, and Master Tara Singh representing the Sikhs, agreed to the terms proposed for the transfer of power and independence in June 1947, under the auspices of the Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten of Burma. Consequently, the United Kingdom acceded to the partition of India, leading to the establishment of the modern state of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, amalgamating the Muslim-majority eastern and northwestern regions of British India.

The aftermath of partition was marred by horrific violence, particularly in Punjab Province, where between 200,000 and 2,000,000 people lost their lives in what some have termed a retributive genocide based on religious lines. Tragic tales abound of the abduction and rape of around 50,000 Muslim women by Hindu and Sikh men, while 33,000 Hindu and Sikh women suffered similar fates at the hands of Muslims. This period also witnessed the largest mass migration in human history, with approximately 6.5 million Muslims moving from India to West Pakistan and 4.7 million Hindus and Sikhs migrating from West Pakistan to India. Furthermore, the dispute over the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir eventually ignited the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947–1948, further complicating an already tumultuous period in South Asian history.

Independence and modern Pakistan

After Pakistan gained independence in 1947, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the President of the Muslim League, assumed the roles of Pakistan’s first Governor-General and the first President-Speaker of the Parliament. However, he tragically succumbed to tuberculosis on September 11, 1948. Following his demise, Liaquat Ali Khan, the secretary-general of the party, was appointed as the nation’s first Prime Minister. During the period from 1947 to 1956, Pakistan remained a monarchy within the Commonwealth of Nations, witnessing the reign of two monarchs before transitioning into a republic.

The creation of Pakistan faced opposition from some British leaders, notably Lord Mountbatten, who expressed skepticism and lack of support for the Muslim League’s idea. Mountbatten even declined Jinnah’s offer to serve as Governor-General of Pakistan. In a revealing conversation, when asked if he would have undermined Pakistan had he known of Jinnah’s illness, Mountbatten admitted he might have done so. These dynamics underscored the complex geopolitical landscape surrounding Pakistan’s formation.

Queen Elizabeth II was the last monarch of independent Pakistan before it became a republic in 1956.
Queen Elizabeth II was the last monarch of independent Pakistan before it became a republic in 1956.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan as a state of religious freedom and tolerance was articulated in his inaugural speech to the Constituent Assembly, emphasizing the separation of religion and state affairs. However, influential figures like Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani and Maulana Mawdudi advocated for an Islamic constitution, asserting the supremacy of shariah law. This led to the passage of the Objectives Resolution in 1949, a pivotal step in Pakistan’s constitutional history. Despite democratic aspirations, Pakistan faced challenges including martial law, economic downturns, and political instability, culminating in the conflict and eventual independence of Bangladesh in 1971.

Democracy in Pakistan faced a decisive blow with a military coup in 1977, ousting the leftist Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and ushering General Zia-ul-Haq into power in 1978. During Zia’s tenure from 1977 to 1988, his policies of corporatization and economic Islamization spurred rapid economic growth, positioning Pakistan as one of South Asia’s fastest-growing economies. Concurrently, Zia bolstered the country’s nuclear program, intensified Islamization efforts, and supported mujahideen factions in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion, with Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province serving as a crucial base.

The sudden demise of President Zia in a plane crash in 1988 paved the way for Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to become Pakistan’s first female Prime Minister. Subsequently, a power struggle ensued between the PPP and the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (N) over the next decade, characterized by stagflation, political instability, and geopolitical tensions with India. Amidst this backdrop, Nawaz Sharif, leader of PML (N), assumed power after securing a significant electoral victory in 1997, authorizing nuclear tests in response to India’s nuclear tests in 1998.

The turn of the century witnessed military tensions between Pakistan and India escalating into the Kargil War of 1999, leading to General Pervez Musharraf seizing power through a bloodless coup d’état. Musharraf’s regime, spanning from 1999 to 2008, witnessed significant economic reforms, social liberalization, and Pakistan’s active involvement in the US-led war on terrorism. However, the cost of this involvement was substantial, with Pakistan facing economic strains, casualties, and displacement of civilians. Despite democratic transitions, political turmoil persisted, marked by assassinations, resignations, and clashes between the executive and judiciary branches. The recent political landscape has seen shifts in power dynamics, with different parties vying for control through elections and coalition-building.

Role of Islam

Pakistan, established as the sole country in the name of Islam, garnered widespread support among Muslims, particularly in regions like the United Provinces where Muslims were a minority. This vision, championed by the Muslim League, Islamic scholars, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, aimed at creating an Islamic state. Jinnah, revered by religious scholars, was hailed by Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani as one of the greatest Muslims since Aurangzeb, with a fervent aspiration to unite Muslims globally under the banner of Islam.

The Objectives Resolution of March 1949 served as the foundational step towards this vision, affirming the sovereignty of God as the cornerstone. Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman, a prominent Muslim League leader, argued that true Islamic statehood for Pakistan could only be realized by uniting all Muslim believers into a single political entity. Pakistanis held a firm belief in the inherent unity of purpose and ideology within the Muslim world, anticipating solidarity on religious and nationalistic fronts from Muslims worldwide.

Badshahi Mosque
Badshahi Mosque

Pakistan’s aspiration for a unified Islamic bloc, known as Islamistan, did not receive widespread support from other Muslim governments. However, influential figures like the Grand Mufti of Palestine and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood were drawn to Pakistan’s cause. The establishment of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in the 1970s fulfilled Pakistan’s desire for an international organization of Muslim nations. However, internal divisions between East and West Pakistan, particularly regarding the role of Islam in governance, created significant tensions. While the 1973 Constitution declared Pakistan an Islamic Republic, incorporating Islam as the state religion and mandating compliance with Islamic teachings, subsequent political shifts and Islamist movements, notably under leaders like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Zia-ul-Haq, shaped the country’s trajectory towards an Islamic state.

Geography and Climate of Pakistan

Pakistan’s vast and varied geography, spanning 881,913 square kilometers (340,509 square miles), showcases a rich diversity of wildlife. Comparable in size to France and the UK combined, Pakistan ranks as the 33rd-largest nation globally, although this status can fluctuate due to the disputed status of Kashmir. With a coastline stretching 1,046 kilometers (650 miles) along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, Pakistan shares land borders totaling 6,774 kilometers (4,209 miles), including significant lengths with Afghanistan, China, India, and Iran. Positioned at the crossroads of South Asia, the Middle East, and Central Asia, Pakistan’s strategic location holds geopolitical significance.

Pakistan is the fifteenth most water stressed country in the world.
Pakistan is the fifteenth most water stressed country in the world.

Geologically, Pakistan straddles various tectonic plates, resulting in diverse landscapes ranging from coastal plains to glaciated mountains. Divided into three major geographic regions—the northern highlands, the Indus River plain, and the Balochistan Plateau—Pakistan offers a tapestry of deserts, forests, hills, and plateaus. The northern highlands boast majestic mountain ranges like the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, and Pamir, home to some of the world’s highest peaks, including the iconic K2 and Nanga Parbat. The Indus River, spanning 1,609 kilometers (1,000 miles), irrigates fertile alluvial plains in Punjab and Sindh, while the arid Thar Desert dominates the east.

Pakistan experiences a varied climate, ranging from tropical to temperate, with arid conditions prevailing in the coastal south. The country witnesses distinct seasons, including a cool, dry winter, a hot, dry spring, a monsoon season characterized by heavy rainfall, and a retreating monsoon period. However, rainfall patterns exhibit significant variability from year to year, often alternating between periods of flooding and drought. Despite these climatic challenges, Pakistan’s diverse landscapes and ecosystems sustain a remarkable array of flora and fauna.

Flora and Fauna

Markhor is the national animal of Pakistan
Markhor is the national animal of Pakistan

Pakistan’s varied terrain and climate provide a rich habitat for a diverse array of plant and animal species. From the towering coniferous trees like spruce, pine, and deodar cedar found in the northern mountains to deciduous varieties like shisham in the Sulaiman Mountains, and the lush palms such as coconut and date trees in the southern regions, the landscape is teeming with life. The western hills are adorned with juniper, tamarisk, coarse grasses, and scrub plants, while mangrove forests thrive in the coastal wetlands of the south. Balochistan’s xeric regions are characterized by date palms and Ephedra, while Punjab and Sindh’s Indus plains boast tropical and subtropical forests, along with shrublands. Despite these diverse ecosystems, only a small fraction of Pakistan’s land—approximately 2.2% or 1,687,000 hectares—was forested in 2010.

Pakistan’s fauna is as varied as its flora, reflecting the country’s climatic diversity. With around 668 bird species, including a variety of crows, sparrows, mynas, hawks, and eagles, the skies are alive with avian diversity. The southern plains are home to mongooses, small Indian civets, hares, jackals, pangolins, jungle cats, and desert cats, while the Indus River hosts mugger crocodiles, surrounded by wild boars, deer, porcupines, and rodents. In the central sandy scrublands, Asiatic jackals, striped hyenas, wildcats, and leopards roam. The mountainous north provides a sanctuary for species like the Marco Polo sheep, urial, markhor goat, ibex goat, Asian black bear, and Himalayan brown bear. However, threats such as deforestation, hunting, and pollution endanger many species, including the rare snow leopard and the blind Indus river dolphin, highlighting the need for conservation efforts in Pakistan.

Government and Political Structure

Parliament House
Parliament House

Pakistan functions as a democratic parliamentary federal republic, with Islam designated as the state religion. The constitutional journey of the nation has seen various iterations, with the current comprehensive constitution coming into effect in 1973. However, military influence has been a significant factor throughout Pakistan’s history, with periods of martial law and military leaders governing as de facto presidents. Despite this, Pakistan now operates under a multi-party parliamentary system, with the first successful democratic transition occurring in May 2013.

In terms of governance structure, the Head of State is the President, serving as the ceremonial head and civilian commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, holds executive authority and is typically the leader of the majority party or coalition in the National Assembly. The bicameral legislature consists of the Senate and the National Assembly, ensuring representation through various mechanisms, including reserved seats for women and religious minorities.

At the provincial level, each province follows a similar governance system, with directly elected Provincial Assemblies choosing Chief Ministers to lead the provincial cabinet. The judiciary, overseen by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, comprises the superior and subordinate judiciary, with the Supreme Court at the apex responsible for upholding the constitution and ensuring legal justice across the nation.

International Relations

Since achieving independence, Pakistan has strived to maintain a delicate balance in its foreign relations. The country’s foreign policy and geostrategy revolve around economic development, national security, identity preservation, and territorial integrity, while also fostering close ties with fellow Muslim nations. According to Hasan Askari Rizvi, an expert in foreign policy, Pakistan’s approach emphasizes sovereign equality, bilateralism, mutual interests, and non-interference in domestic affairs as fundamental principles.

The Kashmir conflict remains a prominent issue in Pakistan-India relations, with several wars fought over it. Consequently, Pakistan has cultivated strong alliances with nations like Turkey and Iran, partly due to strained relations with India. Moreover, Saudi Arabia holds significance in Pakistan’s foreign relations, further shaping its diplomatic landscape.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the 2019 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the 2019 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit

As a non-signatory of the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Pakistan wields influence in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Its nuclear program, initiated in response to regional security concerns, solidified Pakistan as a nuclear power. The country maintains a policy of credible minimum deterrence, considering its nuclear capability vital for deterring external aggression.

Strategically located along major maritime routes and communication corridors, Pakistan enjoys proximity to Central Asia’s natural resources. Actively engaging in international forums like the United Nations, Pakistan advocates for concepts such as “enlightened moderation” in the Muslim world. It holds membership in various organizations, including the Commonwealth of Nations, SAARC, ECO, and the G20 developing nations.

Pakistan’s relationship with China is particularly noteworthy, characterized by strong diplomatic ties and significant economic cooperation. Serving as a key ally, Pakistan hosts China’s largest embassy and plays a crucial role in China’s global outreach. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) stands as one of the largest investments in Pakistan’s history, cementing the bond between the two nations on multiple fronts, including diplomatic support on sensitive international issues.

Relations with the Muslim world

Following Independence, Pakistan embarked on a robust pursuit of bilateral relations with fellow Muslim nations, aiming to position itself as a leader in the Muslim world or at least as a catalyst for unity efforts. The Ali brothers envisioned Pakistan as a natural leader due to its substantial manpower and military strength. Notably, Khaliquzzaman, a prominent Muslim League leader, advocated for the formation of Islamistan, a pan-Islamic entity that would unite all Muslim countries.

However, Pakistan’s aspirations for leadership in the Muslim world faced challenges, particularly from Western powers. British Prime Minister Clement Attlee expressed a desire for India and Pakistan to reunite, reflecting international sentiment at the time. Additionally, the rise of nationalist movements in the Arab world diminished enthusiasm for Pakistan’s Pan-Islamic agenda, with some countries viewing it as an attempt to assert dominance over other Muslim states.

Pakistan actively supported self-determination movements for Muslims worldwide, contributing significantly to the independence struggles of various nations. While initial tensions marred relations with Bangladesh following its secession, bilateral cooperation has improved in recent years. Conversely, Pakistan’s relations with Iran have been strained by sectarian tensions, exacerbated by proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Despite historical challenges, Pakistan remains a pivotal member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, underscoring the significance of its cultural, political, and economic ties with the Muslim world in its foreign policy.

World governance initiatives

Pakistan has played a significant role in world governance initiatives, exemplified by its participation in the drafting of a world constitution. In 1968, the World Constituent Assembly convened for the first time in history to draft and adopt the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, with Pakistan among the signatories of the agreement. Notably, President Muhammad Ayub Khan signed the agreement to convene this assembly, demonstrating Pakistan’s commitment to global cooperation and governance. Additionally, Ahmed Ebrahim Haroon Jaffer, a member of Parliament and adviser to the Prime Minister, represented Pakistan at the World Constituent Assembly held in Interlaken, Switzerland in August 1968.

The inaugural session of the Provisional World Parliament (PWP) held in Brighton, U.K. in 1982 marked another milestone in global governance, with Pakistani jurist and diplomat Sir Chaudhry Mohammad Zafrullah Khan presiding over the assembly. His leadership underscored Pakistan’s dedication to fostering international collaboration and promoting principles of justice and equality on a global scale. Through such engagements, Pakistan has emerged as a proactive participant in shaping the future of world governance initiatives, contributing to the collective pursuit of a more peaceful and equitable world order.

Administrative divisions

Pakistan is a federal parliamentary republic comprising four provinces: Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Balochistan, along with three territories: Islamabad Capital Territory, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Kashmir. Additionally, the Government of Pakistan holds de facto jurisdiction over the Frontier Regions and the western parts of the Kashmir Regions. These regions are organized into separate political entities, Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan, with the latter being awarded semi-provincial status in 2009 under the Gilgit–Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order.

The administrative structure of Pakistan operates through a three-tier system consisting of districts, tehsils, and union councils, each with its elected body. Altogether, there are approximately 130 districts, with Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan having ten and seven districts respectively. Law enforcement is a joint effort conducted by various intelligence agencies, including the National Intelligence Directorate, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Intelligence Bureau (IB), and Civil Armed Forces such as Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Corps.

The judiciary in Pakistan follows a hierarchical structure, with the Supreme Court at the apex, followed by high courts, Federal Shariat Courts, district courts, and various magistrate courts. Tribal Areas in Pakistan operate under limited jurisdiction from the Penal code, with law primarily derived from tribal customs. Notably, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), established in 1947, has been recognized internationally, with ABC News Point ranking it as the top intelligence agency globally in 2014.

DivisionCapitalPopulation
BalochistanQuetta12,344,408
PunjabLahore110,126,285
SindhKarachi47,886,051
Khyber PakhtunkhwaPeshawar40,525,047
Gilgit-BaltistanGilgit1,800,000
Azad KashmirMuzaffarabad4,567,982
Islamabad Capital TerritoryIslamabad2,851,868

Kashmir conflict

The Kashmir conflict stems from the complex history of the region, situated at the northernmost point of the Indian subcontinent. Before the Partition of India in 1947, Kashmir was governed as an autonomous princely state within the British Raj. However, post-partition, it became a focal point of contention between India and Pakistan, leading to significant bilateral tensions. Two major wars erupted over the region in 1947–1948 and 1965, with additional smaller-scale conflicts occurring in 1971, 1984, and 1999. Currently, India administers approximately 45.1% of the Kashmir region, including Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, while Pakistan controls about 38.2%, comprising Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit−Baltistan. China also holds a portion, about 20%, including Aksai Chin and the Shaksgam Valley, under an agreement with Pakistan in 1963.

The dispute between India and Pakistan revolves around competing claims and legal agreements. India asserts its control based on the Instrument of Accession, signed by the maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, which integrated the region into India. Pakistan, on the other hand, lays claim to Kashmir due to its Muslim-majority population and geographic proximity to Pakistan, aligning with principles applied during the partition. The United Nations became involved in 1948, urging Pakistan to withdraw troops to facilitate a plebiscite. However, Pakistan’s failure to comply led to a ceasefire in 1949, resulting in the establishment of the Line of Control (LoC) as a de facto border. India’s reluctance to hold a plebiscite, fearing secession, further exacerbated tensions.

The areas shown in green are the Pakistani-controlled areas.
The areas shown in green are the Pakistani-controlled areas.

The crux of the conflict lies in differing perspectives on the future of Kashmir. Pakistan advocates for the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination through impartial elections, as mandated by the United Nations. In contrast, India maintains that Kashmir is an integral part of its territory, citing agreements like the 1972 Simla Agreement and regular regional elections. Amidst these stances, certain Kashmiri independence groups advocate for complete autonomy from both India and Pakistan, adding further complexity to the dispute.

Law enforcement

Law enforcement in Pakistan operates through a collaborative effort between federal and provincial police agencies, each with jurisdiction limited to their respective regions. At the provincial level, civilian police forces are established in each of the four provinces and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). Additionally, at the federal level, several civilian intelligence agencies, such as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), operate with nationwide jurisdiction. The law enforcement landscape also encompasses specialized units like the Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts, Punjab Rangers, and Frontier Corps Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (North), contributing to national security and maintaining law and order.

Senior officers from provincial police forces constitute the Police Service, an integral component of Pakistan’s civil service structure. This includes the Punjab Police, Sindh Police, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Police, and Balochistan Police, each led by appointed Inspector-Generals. The ICT maintains its own police component, the Capital Police, responsible for upholding law and order within the capital territory. Crime investigation units, known as CID bureaus, play a crucial role within each provincial police service, ensuring effective handling of criminal cases.

Pakistan’s law enforcement apparatus extends to specialized units such as the Motorway Patrol, tasked with enforcing traffic laws and ensuring safety on inter-provincial motorways. Elite police units, coordinated by the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), operate within provincial police services, offering counter-terrorism measures and VIP escorts. In Punjab and Sindh, the Pakistan Rangers serve as an internal security force, focusing on maintaining security in conflict zones and providing assistance to civilian police. Similarly, the Frontier Corps operates in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, contributing to security efforts and law enforcement in these regions.

Human rights

In Pakistan, male homosexuality is considered illegal and can lead to severe penalties, including imprisonment for life. Reporters Without Borders’ 2018 Press Freedom Index placed Pakistan at 139 out of 180 countries, indicating significant constraints on press freedom. Media outlets, including television stations and newspapers, face regular closures for publishing content critical of the government or the military, reflecting limitations on freedom of expression and the press within the country.

Military and Defense Strategies

Pakistan boasts the sixth-largest armed forces globally, with approximately 651,800 personnel on active duty and 291,000 paramilitary personnel, according to estimates in 2021. Established post-independence in 1947, the military has wielded significant influence over national politics throughout its history. The chain of command is centralized under the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, overseeing joint operations, coordination, logistics, and missions through the Joint Staff HQ, which comprises the Air HQ, Navy HQ, and Army GHQ situated in the Rawalpindi Military District.

Pakistan Air Force's JF-17 Thunder flying in front of the 8,130-metre-high (26,660-foot) Nanga Parbat
Pakistan Air Force's JF-17 Thunder flying in front of the 8,130-metre-high (26,660-foot) Nanga Parbat

At the helm of the armed forces is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, serving as the principal military adviser to the civilian government. Although lacking direct authority over the individual branches, the Chairman maintains strategic communication and control from the JS HQ. As of 2021, General Nadeem Raza holds this position, alongside other key figures such as General Asim Munir, Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi, and Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmad Babar leading the army, navy, and air force respectively. The military comprises the Army, Air Force, and Navy, reinforced by numerous paramilitary forces across the country.

Strategic control, including over arsenals, deployment, and development, falls under the purview of the National Command Authority, tasked with implementing the nuclear policy for credible minimum deterrence. Pakistan enjoys close military ties with the United States, Turkey, and China, with regular exchanges of equipment and technology transfer. Joint military exercises and logistics operations, particularly with China and Turkey, contribute to enhancing Pakistan’s defense capabilities. While the constitution allows for a military draft in times of emergency, it has yet to be enforced.

EquipmentTypeQuantity
JF-17 ThunderMultirole Fighter150+
F-16 Fighting FalconMultirole Fighter70+
Mirage III/5Fighter150+
Chengdu F-7Fighter100+
C-130 HerculesTransport Aircraft20+
Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&CAirborne Early Warning4
ZDK-03 Karakoram Eagle AEW&CAirborne Early Warning4
Alouette IIIUtility Helicopter50+
Bell AH-1 CobraAttack Helicopter20+
Mil Mi-17Utility Helicopter60+
AgustaWestland AW139Transport Helicopter10+
Harbin Z-9Utility Helicopter40+

Military History

Since its independence in 1947, Pakistan has found itself entangled in four major conventional conflicts with India. The first Indo-Pak war erupted in 1947 over the Kashmir region, resulting in Pakistan gaining control of Western Kashmir (Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan), while India retained Eastern Kashmir (Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh). Subsequent territorial disputes led to another conventional war in 1965. The 1971 conflict concluded with Pakistan’s unconditional surrender of East Pakistan. Tensions flared again during the Kargil standoff, bringing the two nations to the brink of war. Additionally, border skirmishes with Afghanistan over unresolved territorial issues have persisted, notably repelled by the military and intelligence community in 1961.

Amidst regional tensions, particularly with the USSR’s involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s intelligence community, notably the ISI, orchestrated the coordination of US resources to support Afghan mujahideen and foreign fighters against Soviet forces. This involvement led to engagements between the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and the Soviet Air Force, supported by the Afghan Air Force. Pakistan has also actively participated in United Nations peacekeeping missions, ranking as the third-largest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping missions.

Beyond its regional conflicts, Pakistan has extended military support to Arab countries, with its fighter pilots volunteering in conflicts such as the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War against Israel. In 1979, Pakistani special forces were deployed to assist Saudi forces during the Grand Mosque seizure. Pakistan’s involvement in the Gulf War in 1991 and its support to Bosnian mujahideen during the Bosnian War illustrate its broader international engagements.

In recent years, Pakistan’s military has been engaged in counter-insurgency operations in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, primarily targeting Tehrik-i-Taliban factions. These operations include significant endeavors such as Operation Black Thunderstorm, Operation Rah-e-Nijat, and Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Despite its involvement in conflicts, Pakistan has also emerged as a major importer of arms, ranking as the 9th-largest recipient and importer of arms between 2012 and 2016 according to SIPRI.

Economy of Pakistan

Pakistan’s economy ranks as the 23rd largest in the world based on purchasing power parity (PPP) and the 42nd largest in terms of nominal gross domestic product (GDP). Historically, Pakistan was among the wealthiest regions globally during the first millennium CE, boasting the largest economy by GDP. However, this prosperity waned in the 18th century, as other regions like China and Western Europe surged ahead. Presently, Pakistan is classified as a developing country and is recognized as one of the Next Eleven, alongside the BRICS nations, indicating high potential for economic growth in the 21st century.

Economic IndicatorValueYear
GDP (PPP)$1.254 trillion2019
GDP (nominal)$284.2 billion2019
Real GDP growth3.29%2019
CPI inflation10.3%2019
Unemployment5.7%2018
Labor force participation48.9%2018
Total public debt$106 billion2019
National wealth$465 billion2019

In recent years, Pakistan has grappled with social instability and macroeconomic imbalances, particularly evident in sectors like rail transportation and electricity generation. The economy is semi-industrialized, with growth hubs predominantly along the Indus River. Karachi and Punjab’s urban centers exhibit diversified economies, contrasting with less-developed regions like Balochistan. Despite these disparities, Pakistan ranks as the 67th largest export economy globally and the 106th most complex economy according to the Economic Complexity Index.

As of 2022, Pakistan’s estimated nominal GDP stands at US$376.493 billion, with a GDP by PPP of US$1.512 trillion. Notably, the country faces challenges associated with poverty and unemployment, with 21.04% of the population living below the international poverty line. However, Pakistan also boasts a growing middle class, estimated at around 40 million citizens and projected to reach 100 million by 2050. Despite fluctuations in economic growth over the years, Pakistan has demonstrated resilience and potential for sustained development, with forecasts suggesting significant growth in the coming decades.

Agriculture and Primary Sector

The Pakistani economy has undergone a significant transformation, transitioning from a predominantly agricultural base to a robust service-oriented structure. As of 2015, agriculture contributes only 20.9% to the GDP. Nonetheless, Pakistan remains a major producer in the agricultural sector, notably excelling in wheat production. In 2005, the country produced 21,591,400 metric tons of wheat, surpassing Africa’s total and nearly matching South America’s output. A significant portion of the population relies directly or indirectly on agriculture, with the sector employing 43.5% of the labor force and serving as a crucial source of foreign exchange earnings.

Manufactured exports in Pakistan heavily rely on raw materials sourced from the agriculture sector, such as cotton and hides. Supply shortages and market disruptions in agricultural products often contribute to inflationary pressures. Pakistan ranks fifth globally in cotton production, achieving a remarkable growth from 1.7 million bales in the early 1950s to 14 million bales. The country is also self-sufficient in sugarcane and stands as the fourth-largest producer of milk worldwide. Despite limited increases in land and water resources, advancements in labor and agriculture productivity have been significant. The Green Revolution in the late 1960s and 1970s played a pivotal role, leading to substantial improvements in wheat and rice yields. The introduction of private tube wells and High Yielding Varieties (HYVs) further boosted crop yields, contributing to a 50-60% increase. Additionally, the meat industry, accounting for 1.4% of the overall GDP, represents another vital component of Pakistan’s economic landscape.

Industry

The industrial sector plays a crucial role in Pakistan’s economy, ranking as the second-largest sector and contributing 19.74% to the gross domestic product (GDP). Additionally, it provides employment for approximately 24% of the total workforce. Within the industrial sector, large-scale manufacturing (LSM) holds significant sway, constituting 12.2% of the GDP and commanding 66% of the sector’s share. Small-scale manufacturing follows closely, contributing 4.9% to the total GDP. Notably, Pakistan’s cement industry is experiencing rapid growth, driven by demand from Afghanistan and the domestic real estate sector. The country exported 7,708,557 metric tons of cement in 2013, with an installed capacity of 44,768,250 metric tons of cement and 42,636,428 metric tons of clinker. Moreover, in 2012 and 2013, the cement industry emerged as the most profitable sector in Pakistan’s economy.

The textile industry holds a pivotal position within Pakistan’s manufacturing sector, ranking as the eighth-largest exporter of textile products in Asia. It contributes significantly to the GDP, accounting for 9.5%, and offers employment to around 15 million people, constituting approximately 30% of the total workforce. Pakistan stands as the fourth-largest producer of cotton globally, boasting the third-largest spinning capacity in Asia after China and India, contributing 5% to the global spinning capacity. Notably, China serves as the second-largest buyer of Pakistani textiles, primarily importing cotton yarn and cotton fabric. Pakistani textile products are also sought after in international markets, with notable shares in UK, Chinese, US, German, and Indian textile imports. These statistics underscore the significant role of Pakistan’s textile industry in the global market and its vital contribution to the country’s economy.

Services

In the fiscal year 2014–15, the services sector emerged as a dominant force in Pakistan’s economy, constituting 58.8% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and serving as the primary driver of economic growth. Reflecting patterns seen in many developing nations, Pakistani society exhibits a consumption-oriented behavior, with a high marginal propensity to consume. Notably, the growth rate of the services sector surpasses that of agriculture and industry, accounting for 54% of GDP and employing over one-third of the total workforce. This sector also maintains robust linkages with other segments of the economy, providing crucial inputs to both agriculture and manufacturing.

Pakistan’s Information Technology (I.T) sector stands out as one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, with significant strides made in recent years. Recognizing its potential, the World Economic Forum ranked Pakistan 110th among 139 countries on the ‘Networked Readiness Index 2016’. The country boasts approximately 82 million internet users as of May 2020, positioning it as the 9th-largest population of internet users globally. Projections indicate that Pakistan’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) industry is poised to surpass the $10-billion mark by 2020, with the sector currently employing 12,000 individuals and ranking among the top five freelancing nations worldwide.

Furthermore, Pakistan has witnessed notable improvements in its export performance within the telecom, computer, and information services sectors. The share of these exports surged from 8.2% in 2005–06 to 12.6% in 2012–13, outpacing growth seen in countries like China. This upward trajectory underscores the sector’s increasing significance in Pakistan’s economic landscape, signaling promising prospects for future development and global competitiveness.

Tourism Attractions

Kalam Valley Pakistan
Kalam Valley Pakistan

In 2018, Pakistan welcomed approximately 6.6 million foreign tourists, drawn to its rich tapestry of cultures, landscapes, and historical sites. This figure marked a significant decline from the heyday of the 1970s when the country experienced a surge in tourism, particularly along the popular Hippie trail. During the 1960s and 1970s, this trail lured throngs of Europeans and Americans who traversed through Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan en route to India. Despite its decline in recent decades, Northern Pakistan continues to captivate travelers with its breathtaking scenery, including some of the world’s highest peaks. Key destinations along the trail included the Khyber Pass, Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, Swat, and Rawalpindi, though numbers dwindled following events like the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet–Afghan War.

Pakistan boasts a diverse array of tourist attractions spanning from the mangroves in the south to the Himalayan hill stations in the north-east. Visitors can explore ancient Buddhist ruins at Takht-i-Bahi and Taxila or delve into the remnants of the Indus Valley civilization at sites like Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, dating back over 5,000 years. The country’s northern region is a treasure trove of historical fortresses, ancient architecture, and picturesque valleys, including the Hunza and Chitral valleys, home to the unique Kalasha community tracing their lineage to Alexander the Great. Lahore, hailed as Pakistan’s cultural capital, showcases splendid examples of Mughal architecture such as the Badshahi Masjid, Shalimar Gardens, Tomb of Jahangir, and Lahore Fort.

In a bid to bolster tourism post-natural disasters like the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, initiatives like The Guardian’s list of “The top five tourist sites in Pakistan” spotlighted key destinations including Taxila, Lahore, the Karakoram Highway, Karimabad, and Lake Saiful Muluk. Furthermore, Pakistan’s government endeavors to showcase its cultural heritage through various festivals held throughout the year. However, despite these efforts, Pakistan’s tourism sector faces challenges, as reflected in its ranking of 125 out of 141 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report of 2015.

Infrastructure

In 2016, Pakistan was hailed as the top country for infrastructure development in South Asia during the IWF and World Bank annual meetings, underscoring its strides in this crucial sector. Notably, the nation boasts the Tarbela Dam, the largest earth-filled dam globally, a testament to its engineering prowess and commitment to sustainable energy sources.

Tarbela Dam, the largest earth filled dam in the world, was constructed in 1968
Tarbela Dam, the largest earth filled dam in the world, was constructed in 1968

Regarding nuclear power and energy, Pakistan operates six licensed commercial nuclear power plants, overseen by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and regulated by the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority. These plants contribute approximately 5.8% of Pakistan’s electrical energy, complementing other sources such as fossil fuels, hydroelectric power, and coal. Pakistan’s nuclear program, though not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, maintains international standing through its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Since the 1970s, Pakistan has forged significant partnerships in nuclear technology, notably with Canada and China. The Sino-Pakistani cooperation has been pivotal, with China providing crucial reactors like CHASNUPP-I. Pakistan envisions substantial growth in nuclear power generation, aiming for a capacity of 40,000 MWe by 2050 under its Nuclear Energy Vision 2050.

Furthermore, Pakistan is ramping up efforts in renewable energy, aiming to produce 10,000 megawatts by 2025. With ongoing projects like Chashma-III and Chashma-IV reactors and plans for additional nuclear complexes, Pakistan demonstrates a proactive stance towards meeting its energy needs while prioritizing sustainability.

In the transport sector, accounting for approximately 10.5% of the GDP, Pakistan showcases a robust infrastructure network facilitating economic growth and connectivity within the country and beyond. With ongoing investments and developments, Pakistan’s transport industry continues to play a pivotal role in driving national development and facilitating trade and commerce.

Motorways

The motorways of Pakistan constitute a vital network of high-speed, controlled-access highways, overseen by the National Highway Authority under federal jurisdiction. Currently, as of February 20, 2020, 1882 km of motorways are operational, with an additional 1854 km either under construction or in the planning phase. Each motorway is designated with the letter ‘M’ followed by a unique numerical identifier, such as “M-1”.

These motorways play a crucial role in Pakistan’s National Trade Corridor Project, established to connect the country’s major ports, including Karachi Port, Port Bin Qasim, and Gwadar Port, with the rest of the nation via an extensive network of national highways and motorways. Furthermore, they facilitate connectivity to neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Central Asia, and China to the north. Originally conceived in 1990, this ambitious project has since evolved, with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) aiming to integrate Gwadar Port with Kashgar in China, utilizing Pakistan’s motorways, national highways, and expressways as key components of this transnational trade route.

List of motorways

NameRouteLength (km)LanesCompletion YearStatusRemarks
M-1M-1 MotorwayPeshawar–Islamabad15562007Operational
M-2M-2 MotorwayIslamabad–Lahore36761997Operational
M-3M-3 MotorwayLahore–Abdul Hakeem23062019Operational
M-4M-4 MotorwayPindi Bhattian–Multan3094-62019Operational
M-5M-5 MotorwayMultan–Sukkur39262019Operational
M-6M-6 MotorwaySukkur-Hyderabad30662024Under Construction
M-7M-7 MotorwayDadu–Hub270N/AN/APlanned
M-8M-8 MotorwayRatodero–Gwadar89222022Partially Operational
M-9M-9 MotorwayHyderabad–Karachi13662018Operational
M-10M-10 MotorwayKarachi Northern Bypass5722007Operational
M-11M-11 MotorwayLahore–Sialkot10342020Operational
M-12M-12 MotorwaySialkot–Kharian6942024Under Construction
M-13M-13 MotorwayKharian–Rawalpindi11742024Under Construction
M-14M-14 MotorwayIslamabad–D.I Khan28542022Operational
M-15M-15 MotorwayHasan Abdal–Thakot1806-4-22020Operational
M-16M-16 MotorwaySwabi–Chakdara16042020Operational

National Highways of Pakistan

Highways serve as the vital arteries of Pakistan’s transportation network, encompassing a comprehensive road length of 263,942 kilometers (164,006 miles), which facilitates 92% of passenger and 96% of inland freight traffic. The provision of road transport services is predominantly managed by the private sector. Oversight of national highways and motorways falls under the jurisdiction of the National Highway Authority. The strategic layout of highways and motorways primarily focuses on establishing north–south connections, linking the southern ports with the densely populated provinces of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Despite constituting merely 4.6% of the total road length, this network shoulders the burden of approximately 85% of the nation’s traffic.

National Highways of Pakistan

SignCourseLength (km)LanesCompletion YearStatusRemarks
N-5 National HighwayKarachi – Torkham18194-61952OperationalLongest national highway in Pakistan. Continues as Kabul–Torkham Road in Afghanistan.
N-10 National HighwayKarachi – Gwadar65322003OperationalKnown more popularly as the Makran Coastal Highway.
N-15 National HighwayMansehra – Chilas2402Operational 
N-20 National HighwayKashmore – Ubauro422Operational 
N-25 National HighwayKarachi – Chaman8132OperationalContinues as Kandahar–Spin Boldak Road in Afghanistan.
N-30 National HighwayBasima – Khuzdar1102Operational 
N-35 National HighwayHasan Abdal – Khunjerab Pass130021979OperationalKnown more popularly as the Karakoram Highway. Continues as China National Highway 314 in China.
N-40 National HighwayQuetta – Taftan6102OperationalContinues as Road 84 in Iran.
N-45 National HighwayNowshera – Chitral3092Operational 
N-50 National HighwayKuchlak – Dera Ismail Khan5312Operational 
N-55 National HighwayKotri – Peshawar12642-4OperationalKnown more popularly as the Indus Highway. Runs along the length of the Indus River.
N-60 National HighwayLahore – Sargodha1852-4-6Operational 
N-65 National HighwayQuetta – Sukkur3854Operational 
N-70 National HighwayQila Saifullah – Multan4472-4Operational 
N-75 National HighwayIslamabad – Kohala1384Operational 
N-80 National HighwayIslamabad – Kohat1462Operational 
N-85 National HighwayHushab – Surab4872Operational 
N-90 National HighwayKhwazakhela – Besham642Operational 
N-95 National HighwayChakdara – Kalam1352Operational 
N-105 National HighwayLarkana – Lakhi612Operational 
N-110 National HighwayGharo – Keti Bunder902Operational 
N-115 National HighwayTranda Muhammad Panah – Jalalpur Pirwala662Operational 
N-120 National HighwayHyderabad – Khokhrapar2202Operational 
N-125 National HighwayTaxila – Haripur442Operational 
N-130 National HighwayMianwali – Balkasar1292Operation/UCTakeover by NHA in 2020
N-135 National HighwayMianwali – Muzaffarghar3632Operation/UCProposed 4 lane. Takeover by NHA in 2020
N-140 National HighwayGilgit – Chitral3632Operation/UCTakeover by NHA in 2020
N-145 National HighwayDorah Pass – Chitral82.52Operation/UCTakeover by NHA in 2020
N-155 National HighwayLarkana – Mohenjo Daro282Operational 
N-255 National HighwayLarkana – Nasirabad342Operational 
N-305 National HighwaySakrand – Nawabshah352Operational 
N-455 National HighwayLarkana – Shahdadkot502Operational 
N-655 National HighwayRatodero – Naudero182Operational

Railways

Pakistan Railways, overseen by the Ministry of Railways (MoR), has long been the backbone of the country’s transportation infrastructure. Initially, from 1947 to the 1970s, it served as the primary mode of travel. However, with the advent of nationwide construction of highways and the subsequent rise of the automotive industry, there was a significant shift in transportation trends. By the 1990s, there was a noticeable decline in rail usage, with a growing reliance on highways due to the proliferation of vehicles. Presently, the railway’s share of inland traffic stands at less than 8% for passengers and 4% for freight. Over the years, the total rail track has also decreased, from 8,775 kilometers in 1990–91 to 7,791 kilometers in 2011. Despite these challenges, Pakistan aims to leverage its rail service to enhance foreign trade, particularly with key partners like China, Iran, and Turkey.

 

Airports

As of 2013, Pakistan boasts an estimated total of 151 airports and airfields, encompassing both military and predominantly publicly owned civilian facilities. While Jinnah International Airport serves as the primary international gateway to the country, other key international airports include those in Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad, Sialkot, and Multan, all of which handle substantial volumes of air traffic.

Boeing 737 owned and operated by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) at Skardu International Airport
Boeing 737 owned and operated by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) at Skardu International Airport

The civil aviation sector in Pakistan operates under a hybrid model comprising both public and private entities, a system that was deregulated in 1993. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), a state-owned carrier, remains the dominant player, accounting for approximately 73% of domestic passenger traffic and all domestic freight services. Alongside PIA, private airlines such as airBlue and Air Indus also play significant roles, offering similar services at competitive rates.

Airports Civilian list

CityICAOIATAAirport NameUsageCoordinates
Islamabad/RawalpindiOPISISBIslamabad International AirportPublic33°33′56.7″N 72°49′32.34″E
KarachiOPKCKHIKarachi Jinnah International AirportPublic24°54′24″N 067°09′39″E
LahoreOPLALHELahore Allama Iqbal International AirportPublic31°31′17″N 074°24′14″E
Dera Ghazi KhanOPDGDEADera Ghazi Khan International AirportPublic29°57′39″N 070°29′09″E
FaisalabadOPFALYPFaisalabad International AirportPublic31°21′54″N 072°59′41″E
GwadarOPGDGWDGwadar International AirportPublic25°13′56″N 062°19′38″E
MultanOPMTMUXMultan International AirportPublic30°12′12″N 071°25′09″E
PeshawarOPPSPEWPeshawar Bacha Khan International AirportPublic33°59′38″N 071°30′53″E
QuettaOPQTUETQuaid-e-Azam International AirportPublic30°14′24″N 066°56′24″E
Rahim Yar KhanOPRKRYKShaikh Zayed International AirportPublic28°23′02″N 070°16′47″E
SialkotOPSTSKTSialkot International AirportPublic32°32′08″N 074°21′50″E
SukkurOPSKSKZBegum Nusrat Bhutto International Airport SukkurPublic27°43′19″N 068°47′30″E
TurbatOPTUTUKTurbat International AirportPublic 
Islamkot  Mai Bakhtawar International Airport (under construction)Public24°50′50″N 70°05′47″E
SkarduOPSDKDUSkardu International AirportPublic35°20′08″N 075°32′10″E
AbbottabadOPAB Abbottabad AirportPublic34°09′N 073°13′E
BannuOPBNBNPBannu AirportPublic32°58′19″N 070°31′27″E
BahawalpurOPBWBHVBahawalpur AirportPublic29°20′53″N 071°43′04″E
Chashma  Chashma AirportVVIP32°25′28″N 071°27′30″E
ChilasOPCLCHBChilas AirportPublic35°25′37″N 074°05′06″E
ChitralOPCHCJLChitral AirportPublic35°52′54″N 071°47′53″E
DalbandinOPDBDBADalbandin AirportPublic28°52′30″N 064°24′16″E
Dera Ismail KhanOPDIDSKDera Ismail Khan AirportPublic31°54′33″N 070°53′47″E
GilgitOPGTGILGilgit AirportPublic35°55′07″N 074°20′01″E
Gujrat GRTGujrat AirportPublic non-commercial32°37′44″N 74°03′59″E
HyderabadOPKDHDDHyderabad AirportPublic25°19′06″N 068°22′00″E
JacobabadOPJAJAGJacobabad Airport / PAF Base ShahbazPublic / military28°17′03″N 068°26′59″E
JiwaniOPJIJIWJiwani AirportPublic25°04′04″N 061°48′20″E
Kadanwari gas fieldOPKWKCFKadanwari AirportPrivate27°12′23″N 069°09′23″E
KhuzdarOPHZKDDKhuzdar AirportPublic27°47′40″N 066°38′25″E
LahoreOPLH Walton AirportPublic31°29′41″N 074°20′46″E
ManglaOPMAXJMMangla AirportPublic / military33°03′00″N 073°38′18″E
Mohenjo-daroOPMJMJDMoenjodaro AirportPublic27°20′07″N 068°08′35″E
MuzaffarabadOPMFMFGMuzaffarabad AirportPublic34°20′21″N 073°30′31″E
NawabshahOPNHWNSBenazirabad AirportPublic26°13′10″N 068°23′24″E
OrmaraOPORORWOrmara Airport/Naval Air Station OrmaraPublic25°16′29″N 064°35′10″E
PanjgurOPPGPJGPanjgur AirportPublic26°57′17″N 064°07′57″E
ParachinarOPPCPAJParachinar AirportPublic33°54′10″N 070°04′17″E
Pasni CityOPPIPSIPasni AirportPublic / military25°17′26″N 063°20′43″E
RawalakotOPRTRAZRawalakot AirportPublic33°50′59″N 073°47′54″E
Saidu SharifOPSSSDTSaidu Sharif AirportPublic34°48′48″N 072°21′10″E
Sawan Gas FieldOPSWRZSSawan AirportPrivate26°57′34″N 068°52′26″E
Sehwan SharifOPSNSYWSehwan Sharif AirportPublic26°28′23″N 067°43′02″E
SibiOPSBSBQSibi AirportPublic29°34′28″N 067°50′35″E
SindhriOPMPMPDSindhri AirportPublic25°41′02.6″N 069°04′30.9″E
JuzzakOP35 Juzzak AirportPublic / military29°02′27″N 061°38′51″E
SuiOPSUSULSui AirportPublic28°38′43″N 069°10′37″E
Tarbela DamOPTATLBTarbela Dam AirportPublic33°59′10″N 072°36′41″E
ZhobOPZBPZHZhob AirportPublic31°21′30″N 069°27′49″E
Mansehra HRAMansehra AirportPublic

Seaports

Key seaports in Pakistan are primarily located in Karachi, Sindh, including the Karachi Port and Port Qasim. However, since the 1990s, there has been a strategic expansion of seaport operations into Balochistan, with the establishment of Gwadar Port, Port of Pasni, and Gadani Port. Notably, Gwadar Port is recognized as the deepest sea port globally. Over the years, Pakistan’s port infrastructure has seen improvements, as indicated by the increase in quality ratings from 3.7 to 4.1 between 2007 and 2016, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.

Port of Karachi is one of South Asia's largest and busiest deep-water seaports, handling about 60% of the nation's cargo (25 million tons per annum)
Port of Karachi is one of South Asia's largest and busiest deep-water seaports, handling about 60% of the nation's cargo (25 million tons per annum)

Metro Train and Bus

The Orange Line Metro Train in Lahore is an advanced rapid transit system, serving as the inaugural route of the Lahore Metro project. Stretching over 27.1 km (16.8 mi), the line includes 25.4 km (15.8 mi) of elevated track and 1.72 km (1.1 mi) underground. With an estimated cost of 251.06 billion Rupees ($1.6 billion), it boasts 26 stations and has a capacity to transport over 250,000 passengers daily. The line commenced operations on October 25, 2020.

Lahore Metrobus, launched in February 2013, is a pioneering bus rapid transit system in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metrobus spans 48.1 km (29.9 mi) and connects the twin cities, with its first phase inaugurated in June 2015 and the second stage operational since April 18, 2022.

Multan Metrobus, operational since January 24, 2017, serves as a swift bus transit system in Multan. Similarly, the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (Peshawar BRT) system, inaugurated on August 13, 2020, offers efficient transportation in the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The Green Line Metrobus, the initial segment of the Karachi Metrobus project, commenced operations on December 25, 2021. Predominantly funded by the Government of Pakistan, construction for the Green Line began on February 26, 2016.

Furthermore, Faisalabad is set to witness rapid transit developments, with proposed projects including a shuttle train service and the Faisalabad Metrobus. These initiatives form part of the larger China–Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

Other Systems

  • The Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) is a regional public transit system serving the Karachi metropolitan area. It was fully operational from 1969 to 1999 and efforts to restore and restart the system began in 2001. In November 2020, partial operations of the KCR were revived.
  • Karachi also had a tramway service that commenced in 1884 but was discontinued in 1975 due to various reasons. The Sindh Government is now planning to reintroduce tramway services in collaboration with Austrian experts.
  • In October 2019, the Punjab Government signed a project for the construction of a tramway service in Lahore. This project, set to be launched under a public-private partnership, involves European and Chinese companies partnering with the Punjab transport department.

Flyovers and underpasses

Numerous flyovers and underpasses dot the major urban landscapes across Pakistan, effectively managing traffic flow. Karachi boasts the highest concentration of such infrastructure, closely followed by Lahore. Other cities equipped with flyovers and underpasses to regulate traffic include Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan, Peshawar, Hyderabad, Quetta, Sargodha, Bahawalpur, Sukkur, Larkana, Rahim Yar Khan, and Sahiwal, among others.

Among these, the Beijing Underpass in Lahore holds the title of Pakistan’s longest underpass, stretching approximately 1.3 km (0.81 mi). Meanwhile, the Muslim Town Flyover, also in Lahore, takes the crown as the country’s lengthiest flyover, spanning around 2.6 km (1.6 mi).

Science and Technological Advancements

AspectDetails
International Engagement in Science– The Pakistan Academy of Sciences and the government host the International Nathiagali Summer College on Physics annually.
 – Pakistan hosted the “Physics in Developing Countries” seminar in 2005 for the International Year of Physics.
 – Pakistani theoretical physicist Abdus Salam won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the electroweak interaction.
Contributions in Various Scientific Fields– Salimuzzaman Siddiqui brought the therapeutic constituents of the neem tree to the attention of natural products chemists.
 – Neurosurgeon Ayub Ommaya invented the Ommaya reservoir for treatment of brain tumors and other brain conditions.
 – Abdul Qadeer Khan, founder of Pakistan’s atomic bomb project, made significant contributions in molecular morphology, physics, and other fields.
Scientific Research and Development– Universities, national laboratories, science parks, and industries play pivotal roles in scientific research and development.
 – Pakistan was ranked 43rd in the world for published scientific papers in 2010.
 – The Pakistan Academy of Sciences influences science policy recommendations for the government.
 – Pakistan ranked 88th in the Global Innovation Index in 2023, up from 107th in 2020.
Space Program– SUPARCO led an active space program in the 1960s, achieving significant advances in rocketry, electronics, and aeronomy.
 – Pakistan became the first South Asian country to launch a rocket into space in the 1960s.
 – Pakistan launched its first space satellite in 1990, becoming the first Muslim and second South Asian country to do so.
Nuclear Program– Pakistan developed atomic weapons in the aftermath of the 1971 war with India, conducting underground nuclear tests in 1998.
 – Nuclear weapons were partly motivated by fear and to prevent foreign intervention.
Antarctic Research Presence– Pakistan maintains two summer research stations and one weather observatory in Antarctica since 1991.
 – Plans are underway to establish another permanent base in Antarctica.
Computer and Internet Usage– Energy consumption and usage of computers have increased since the 1990s, with Pakistan having about 82 million Internet users as of 2020.
 – Pakistan ranks among the top countries for high growth rate in Internet penetration.
 – Considerable progress has been made in supercomputing and domestic software development, with emphasis on e-government projects.
Government Investment in Information Technology– The government reportedly spends ₨ 4.6 billion on information technology projects, focusing on e-government, human resources, and infrastructure development.

Education System

Pakistan’s constitution mandates free primary and secondary education for all citizens. NUST, located in Islamabad, stands as one of the premier engineering universities in Pakistan. When Pakistan was founded, Punjab University in Lahore was the sole institution of higher learning. Subsequently, the government established public universities in each province: Sindh University (1949), Peshawar University (1950), Karachi University (1953), and Balochistan University (1970). The country boasts a robust network of public and private universities, with collaborations aimed at fostering research and higher education opportunities. However, concerns persist regarding the quality of education in newer institutions.

NUST in Islamabad is a top ranked Engineering University
NUST in Islamabad is a top ranked Engineering University

The education system in Pakistan spans six main levels: nursery, primary, middle, matriculation, intermediate, and university programs leading to graduate and postgraduate degrees. Additionally, there is a network of private schools offering a curriculum set by the Cambridge International Examinations. Some students opt for O-level and A-level exams administered by the British Council. Pakistan hosts 439 international schools, according to the International Schools Consultancy.

In 2007, the government made English medium education compulsory across all schools. The global advocate for female education, Malala Yousafzai, gained international attention after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012. She later became the youngest Nobel laureate for her advocacy work. Reforms in 2013 mandated Chinese language courses in educational institutions in Sindh to reflect China’s increasing influence.

As of 2018, Pakistan’s literacy rate stands at 62.3%, with male literacy at 72.5% and female literacy at 51.8%. Regional disparities persist, with tribal areas reporting lower female literacy rates compared to Azad Jammu & Kashmir. The government launched initiatives in 1998 to eradicate illiteracy and ensure basic education for all children, with the aim of achieving 100% enrollment and an 86% literacy rate by 2015. However, Pakistan’s education spending, currently at 2.3% of GDP, remains one of the lowest in South Asia, according to the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences.

Demographics

Pakistan’s population stood at 241,492,197 or 241.49 million according to the final results of the 2023 Census, inclusive of its four provinces – Punjab, Sindh, KPK, and Balochistan, along with the Islamabad Capital Territory. The census data for AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan is pending approval by the CCI Council of Pakistan. This places Pakistan as the world’s fifth most populous country.

From 1951 to 2017, Pakistan’s population expanded over sixfold, from 33.7 million to 207.7 million. The country sustains a relatively high growth rate, although declining, driven by high birth rates and low death rates. The average annual population growth rate between 1998 and 2017 stood at +2.40%. Rapid social transformations have fostered urbanization, giving rise to two megacities: Karachi and Lahore. Urban population tripled between 1981 and 2017, rising from 23.8 million to 75.7 million, while Pakistan’s urbanization rate increased from 28.2% to 36.4%. Despite this, the country’s urbanization rate remains one of the world’s lowest, with over 130 million Pakistanis, nearly 65% of the population, residing in rural areas as of 2017.

The map illustrates the resident population of each district in Pakistan based on the final official results of the 2017 Pakistan Population & Housing Census. Detailed data for the four provinces and ICT can be accessed here, while information for Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan is available here and here respectively. Note that only approximate data (to the nearest ten thousand) is provided for seven districts in Gilgit-Baltistan, with the remaining districts being newly created or experiencing border changes, thus data is not yet available. However, the overall population for Gilgit-Baltistan is included in the national total displayed. The legend denotes population ranges from over 7 million to under 200,000. This image will be updated with data for the pending seven districts upon release.
The map illustrates the resident population of each district in Pakistan based on the final official results of the 2017 Pakistan Population & Housing Census. Detailed data for the four provinces and ICT can be accessed here, while information for Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan is available here and here respectively. Note that only approximate data (to the nearest ten thousand) is provided for seven districts in Gilgit-Baltistan, with the remaining districts being newly created or experiencing border changes, thus data is not yet available. However, the overall population for Gilgit-Baltistan is included in the national total displayed. The legend denotes population ranges from over 7 million to under 200,000. This image will be updated with data for the pending seven districts upon release.

With a high fertility rate estimated at 3.5 in 2022, Pakistan boasts one of the world’s youngest populations. The 2017 census indicated that 40.3% of the population was under 15 years old, while only 3.7% were aged 65 or older. The median age of the country was 19, with a sex ratio of 105 males per 100 females. Pakistan’s demographic history, from the ancient Indus Valley civilization to the modern era, is characterized by the arrival and settlement of diverse cultures and ethnic groups from Eurasia and the nearby Middle East. As a result, Pakistan enjoys a multicultural, multilingual, and multiethnic society. While Urdu serves as the lingua franca, estimates suggest the presence of 75 to 85 languages spoken in the country. In 2017, the three largest ethnolinguistic groups were the Punjabis (38.8% of the total population), Pashtuns (18.2%), and Sindhis (14.6%). Additionally, Pakistan is believed to host the world’s fourth-largest refugee population, estimated at 1.4 million in mid-2021 by the UNHCR.

Ethnicity and Languages

Pakistan is a diverse nation, characterized by a rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and ethnicities. Estimates suggest that between 75 to 85 languages are spoken across the country. The official languages of Pakistan are Urdu and English. Urdu, serving as a symbol of Muslim identity and national unity, is widely understood by over 75% of Pakistanis and serves as the lingua franca. However, it is the primary language for only 7% of the population. English is predominantly utilized in official government affairs, business transactions, and legal matters, with the local variant known as Pakistani English.

2017 To 2020

Punjabi 50.57%
Pashto 18.24%
Sindhi 14.57%
Urdu 7.08%
Balochi 3.02%
Hindko 2.44%
Brahui 1.24%
Kashmiri 1.24%
Others 2.26%

The emphasis on Urdu as the sole official language, to the detriment of other major languages, has faced criticism. According to the 2017 national census, the largest ethnolinguistic groups in Pakistan were Punjabis (38.8%), Pashtuns (18.2%), Sindhis (14.6%), Saraikis (12.19%), Muhajirs (7.08%), and Balochs (3.02%). Additionally, the population includes various ethnic minorities such as Brahuis, Hindkowans, the diverse peoples of Gilgit-Baltistan, Kashmiris, Sheedis (of African descent), and Hazaras. Karachi also hosts scattered speakers of Gujarati.

Furthermore, Pakistan boasts a significant diaspora, exceeding seven million individuals, making it the sixth-largest diaspora globally.

Immigration

Following the partition in 1947, the migration of Indian Muslims to Pakistan persisted throughout the 1950s and 1960s, with settlements primarily established in Karachi and other towns in the Sindh province. The conflict in neighboring Afghanistan during the 1980s and 1990s led to a massive influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan. However, the Pakistan census does not include the 1.41 million registered Afghan refugees, who predominantly reside in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal belt, with smaller communities in Karachi and Quetta. Pakistan hosts one of the world’s largest refugee populations. Besides Afghans, approximately 2 million Bangladeshis and half a million undocumented individuals, purportedly from Myanmar, Iran, Iraq, and Africa, also reside in Pakistan. In October 2023, the Pakistani government issued an order for the expulsion of Afghan refugees from the country.

Pakistan Monument Islamabad
Pakistan Monument Islamabad

Migration of Bengalis and Burmese (Rohingya) to Pakistan began in the 1980s and continued until 1998. Shaikh Muhammad Feroze, chairman of the Pakistani Bengali Action Committee, indicates the presence of 200 Bengali-speaking settlements in Pakistan, with 132 located in Karachi, along with others in areas like Thatta, Badin, Hyderabad, Tando Adam, and Lahore. The large-scale migration of Rohingyas to Karachi has made it one of the major population centers of Rohingyas globally. The Burmese community in Karachi is dispersed across 60 slum areas, including Burmi Colony in Korangi, Arakanabad, Machchar Colony, Bilal Colony, Ziaul Haq Colony, and Godhra Camp.

Thousands of Uyghur Muslims have sought refuge in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan to escape religious and cultural persecution in Xinjiang, China. Since 1989, numerous Kashmiri Muslim refugees have fled to Pakistan, alleging rape and displacement by Indian soldiers.

Urbanisation

Since gaining independence after the partition of India, urbanization in Pakistan has experienced significant growth, driven by various factors. The southern region, particularly along the Indus River, boasts Karachi as its bustling commercial hub, hosting the largest population in the country. In the eastern, western, and northern regions, an arc of cities including Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, and others form dense population centers. Between 1990 and 2008, urban dwellers constituted 36% of Pakistan’s population, making it the most urbanized nation in South Asia. Over 50% of Pakistanis reside in towns with populations exceeding 5,000. Migration, both internal and external, plays a pivotal role in Pakistan’s urbanization trend. The partition of India in the 1940s spurred significant migration, particularly of Urdu-speaking Muslims, to cities like Karachi, now the country’s largest metropolis. Immigration from neighboring countries further fuels urban growth. However, rapid urbanization poses new challenges of political and socio-economic nature. Apart from migration, economic shifts like the green revolution and political dynamics also contribute to the urbanization process.

Largest cities or towns in Pakistan

RankNameProvincePopulation
1KarachiSindh14,916,456
2LahorePunjab11,126,285
3FaisalabadPunjab3,204,726
4RawalpindiPunjab2,098,231
5GujranwalaPunjab2,027,001
6PeshawarKhyber Pakhtunkhwa1,970,042
7MultanPunjab1,871,843
8HyderabadSindh1,734,309
9IslamabadCapital Territory1,009,832
10QuettaBalochistan1,001,205
11BahawalpurPunjab762,111
12SargodhaPunjab659,862
13SialkotPunjab655,852
14SukkurSindh499,900
15LarkanaSindh490,508
16SheikhupuraPunjab473,129
17Rahim Yar KhanPunjab420,419
18JhangPunjab414,131
19Dera Ghazi KhanPunjab399,064
20GujratPunjab390,533

Role of Religion in Society

Islam holds the status of the state religion in Pakistan, as enshrined in its constitution. However, the constitution also guarantees freedom of religion to all citizens, allowing them to profess, practice, and propagate their faith within the bounds of law, public order, and morality.

Islam 96.47%
Hinduism 2.14%
Christianity 1.27%
Ahmadiyya (0.09%) 1%
Others (0.02%) 1%

The vast majority of Pakistan’s population identifies as Muslim (96.47%), with Hinduism (2.14%) and Christianity (1.27%) representing the largest religious minorities. Additionally, smaller communities adhere to Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism (Parsi). The Kalash people, a unique community within Pakistan, follow their distinct animistic and ancestor-worshipping practices.

Hinduism, particularly associated with Sindhis, is celebrated through events like the Hinglaj Yatra pilgrimage, with Hindu temples dotting the landscape of Sindh. However, many Hindus in Pakistan voice concerns about religious violence and discrimination, prompting some to migrate to India or other countries.

Furthermore, there is a segment of the population in Pakistan that identifies as non-religious, including atheists and agnostics. According to the 1998 census, individuals who did not specify their religious affiliation accounted for 0.5% of the population.

Islam

Islam is the predominant religion in Pakistan, with approximately 96.47% of the population identifying as Muslim according to the 2017 Census. Pakistan ranks second globally in terms of Muslim population, home to around 10.5% of the world’s Muslims. The majority adhere to Sunni Islam, with a significant portion also following Sufism, estimated between 75 and 95%. Shia Muslims make up a smaller yet notable percentage, ranging from 5% to 25%. In 2019, the Shia population in Pakistan was estimated at 42 million out of a total population of 210 million. Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, boasts the largest Muslim population worldwide.