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Pakistan, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, nation state on the Indian subcontinent. Pakistan covers about 307,374 sq mi (796,095 sq km) and is bordered on the west by Iran, on the northwest by Afghanistan, on the southeast by India, and on the south by the Arabian Sea.

Land and climate

Pakistan is dominated by the mountains of the Hindu Kush in the north, but there are fertile valleys in the northwest. The west is arid, but there is arable land in the east, drained by the Indus River.


Most of the people of Pakistan are Punjabis, but other groups include the Pathans and the Baluchi. The people are overwhelmingly Muslim and the official language is Urdu. The capital is Islamabad. Most Pakistanis live in small villages.


Pakistan's is primarily an agricultural economy. Wheat is the main subsistence crop, and fruit and livestock are important in the north. Pakistan is not yet self-sufficient in food production. Its diverse mineral resources have yet to be fully developed, but low-grade coal and iron ore, chromite, gypsum, and limestone are being mined. Deposits of natural gas and oil are potentially large. Pakistan exports wool and cotton textiles and leather goods and has a growing industrial base.


Presentday Pakistan was once at the center of the ancient Indus Valley civilization. It was subsequently invaded by Aryans, Persians, Greeks, and Arabs and became part of the Mughal Empire in the eighteenth century. Dominated for a time by the Sikhs, the area came under British control as part of its Indian empire. The modern state was formed with the partition of India in 1947 into India and Muslim East and West Pakistan under Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his Muslim League. The partition was accompanied by terrific bloodshed and, almost immediately, the new states of Pakistan and India fought bitterly over Kashmir. Separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory, tensions grew between Bengali East and Punjabi West Pakistan, in 1958 Gen. Muhammad Ayub Khan seized power and instituted a reform program. He was replaced in 1969 by Gen. Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan. In 1969, East Pakistan took its first formal steps toward self government and in 1971 declared its independence. In the ensuing civil war, Indian troops took the side of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, and West Pakistan was defeated in the fighting. Pakistan formally recognized Bangladesh in 1974, but the loss was a considerable blow to Pakistan's economy and prestige. After the war, separatist violence broke out in the western province. Zulfigar Ali Bhutto succeeded Yahya Khan, and was reelected in 1977. But opposition to his government was intense, the vote was declared fraudulent, and in the ensuing disorder Bhutto was overthrown and Gen. Muhammad Zia al-Haq took control of the government. Bhutto was subsequently tried for treason and other charges and executed in 1979. After postponing elections and constitutional reform, Gen. Zia formally ended military rule in January 1986, but no formal elections were held. Following his death in a plane crash, Gen. Zia was succeeded by Benazir Bhutto, Ali Bhutto's daughter, who was elected prime minister in 1988. In August 1990, Bhutto's government was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, amidst charges of corruption and abuse of power. Following elections that November, Nawaz Sharif took office. However, Bhutto returned to her position as prime minister in 1993, but had to step down in 1996, as a result of accusations of corruption and maladministration. In December 1997 the president stepped down following a conflict with prime minister Sharif. He was succeeded by Mohammed Rafiq Tarar. Like India, Pakistan carried out some nuclear tests in 1998. As a result, tensions between the two countries increased.


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