BBC - The
Muslim-majority state of Pakistan occupies an area which was
home to some of the earliest human settlements and where two of
the world's major religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, were
The modern state was born out of the partition of the
Indian sub-continent in 1947 and has faced both domestic political
upheavals and regional confrontations.
Created to meet the demands of Indian Muslims for their own homeland,
Pakistan was originally in two parts.
The east wing - present-day Bangladesh - is on the Bay
of Bengal bordering India and Burma and the west wing - present-day
Pakistan - stretches from the Himalayas down to the Arabian Sea.
War with India over the disputed northern territory of
Kashmir came shortly after independence - the two countries fought again
The break-up of the two wings came in 1971 when the mainly Bengali-speaking
east wing seceded with help from India.
Civilian politics in Pakistan in the last few decades
has been tarnished by corruption, inefficiency and confrontations
between various institutions. Alternating periods of civilian and
military rule have not helped to establish stability.
Pakistan came under military rule again in October
1999 after the ousting of a civilian government that had lost a great
deal of public support.
The coup leader, General Musharraf, pledged to revive
the country's fortunes, but faced economic challenges as well as an
increasing polarisation between Islamist militancy and the modernising
secular wing of Pakistani politics.
Pakistan's place on the world stage shifted after the
11 September 2001 attacks in the US. It dropped its support for the
Taleban regime in Afghanistan and was propelled into the frontline in
the fight against terrorism, becoming a key ally of Washington.
Pakistani forces say they have arrested hundreds of
suspected al-Qaeda and Taleban-linked militants in the rugged, restive
tribal regions along the Pakistani-Afghan border. Tens of thousands of
troops are deployed in the area, which has been the scene of fierce
fighting between security forces and suspected militants.
Tensions with India over Kashmir remain and have
fuelled fears of a regional arms race. However, an ongoing peace process
has brought the two nuclear-armed powers back from the brink of renewed
President: Pervez Musharraf
General Pervez Musharraf seized power in a bloodless
coup in 1999 which was widely condemned and which led to Pakistan's
suspension from the Commonwealth until 2004.
But he shook off his pariah status and gained foreign
acceptance after he backed the US-led campaign against terror following
the attacks on America on 11 September 2001.
Full name: Islamic Republic
161.1 million (UN, 2005)
796,095 sq km (307,374 sq miles), excluding Pakistani-administered
Kashmir (83,716 sq km/32,323 sq miles)
English, Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi
63 years (men), 63 years (women) (UN)
1 Pakistani Rupee = 100 paisa
Textile products, rice, cotton, leather goods
GNI per capita:
US $690 (World Bank, 2006)
International dialling code:
The president has waged a campaign against Islamic
extremists, banning several groups. But his stance against militancy has
not been well received in some quarters; the general has survived a
number of assassination attempts.
In 2002 General Musharraf awarded himself another five
years as president, together with the power to dismiss an elected
parliament. The handover from military to civilian rule came with
parliamentary elections in November 2002, and the appointment of a
civilian prime minister.
He held onto his military role, reneging on a promise
to give up his army post and to become a civilian president.
In October 2007 he won the support of most
parliamentarians in controversial presidential elections. However, the
Supreme Court had earlier ruled that the winner could not be formally
announced before it had ruled on whether General Musharraf was eligible
In early November, the general pre-empted the Supreme
Court's ruling on his eligibility by imposing emergency rule and
dismissing judges opposed to his candidacy, a move that received
widespread condemnation in the international community.
The new Supreme Court confirmed President Musharraf's
right to stand, clearing the way for him to become a civilian leader. He
quit his army post soon afterwards and in mid-December lifted the state
Parliamentary elections were scheduled to take place
on 8 January 2008, but were postponed until 18 February on account of
the unrest caused by the assassination of opposition leader Benazir
President Musharraf denied there'd been any government
security lapse in protecting Benazir Bhutto. He also rejected
allegations that the Pakistani authorities had been complicit in her
President Musharraf was born in Delhi in 1943 and his
family emigrated to Pakistan after the partition of the Indian
His military career began in 1964 and included spells
of training in the UK. He became head of military operations when Ms
Bhutto was prime minister, and then head of the army in 1998.
Caretaker prime minister: Mohammadmian Soomro
President Pervez Musharraf's rule ushered in increased freedom for the
print media and a liberalisation of broadcasting policies.
However, media rules were tightened in 2007 in the
midst of an opposition campaign against the president. The legislation
gave the broadcasting regulator more power to shut down TV stations.
Months later, under emergency rule, broadcasts of
private TV stations via cable were disrupted.
The expansion of private radio and television stations
brought to an end more than five decades of the state's virtual monopoly
Television is the dominant medium, and licences for more than 40 private
satellite TV stations have been awarded, bringing increasing competition
for the state-run Pakistan Television Corporation. But there are no
private, terrestrial TV stations.
Many Pakistanis watch international satellite TV
channels, via a dish or an often-unlicensed cable TV operator.
Indian channels such as Zee TV and STAR TV are popular
with those who can receive them. The channels circumvent censorship in
Pakistan that is far more restrictive than in India.
Around 100 licences have been issued for private FM
radio stations, although not all of them have been taken up. Pakistan's
media regulator has estimated that the country can support more than 800
private radio stations. Private stations are not allowed to broadcast
There are regular reports of private FM stations
operating illegally, particularly in the tribal areas of North-West
Frontier Province. Some of the stations have been accused of fanning
Pakistan and India regularly engage in a war of words
via their respective media, occasionally banning broadcasts from the
The government uses a range of legal and
constitutional powers to curb press freedom. The shutting down of
private TV news channels accompanied the declaration of a state of
emergency in late 2007, and the law on blasphemy has been used against
Nevertheless, Pakistan's print media are among the
most outspoken in South Asia.
The Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan
estimated in March 2007 that there were between three and five million
internet users. The authorities filter some websites. A small but
growing number of bloggers write about political topics.
Daily Jang - Karachi-based,
Urdu-language; largest-circulation daily
Dawn - Karachi-based, largest-circulation
The Nation - Lahore-based,
The Frontier Post -
The News - English-language
daily, published by Jang group
Daily Ausaf - Islamabad-based,
Daily Times - English-language,
publishes in Lahore and Karachi
Pakistan Observer - Islamabad-based
Business Recorder -
Pakistan and Gulf
Economist - business weekly
The Friday Times -
Lahore-based weekly, English-language
Pakistan Television Corporation Ltd
- state TV, operates PTV 1, PTV National, PTV Bolan, PTV World
ATV - semi-private, terrestrial
Geo TV - leading private satellite
broadcaster, owned by Jang publishing group; based in Dubai; services
include Urdu-language Geo News
Dawn News - private satellite
broadcaster, owned by Herald group; first English-language news channel
Aaj TV - private satellite
broadcaster, owned by Business Recorder group
Indus TV - private, via satellite,
runs Indus Vision, Indus Plus, Indus News, Indus Music
ARY Digital - private, via
satellite; services include news channel ARY One World
Radio Pakistan - state-run,
operates 25 stations nationwide, an external service and the
entertainment-based FM 101 network, aimed at younger listeners
Azad Kashmir Radio - state-run
Mast FM 103 - private,
FM 100 - private, music-based
Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)