Pakistan originally comprised two territories - East Pakistan and West Pakistan. In 1971, following another bloody confrontation (do we see a pattern emerging here?), East Pakistan seceded and was renamed Bangladesh.
The word "Pakistan" is derived from the initials of the three regions the state borders - Punjab, Afghanistan, and Kashmir. Pāk means "pure" in Urdu; thus, Pakistan is "the land of the pure."
As if the threat of all-out nuclear war with India weren't enough, Pakistan also has the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to worry about, partly as a result of dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's Islamicisation policies. The entire northwestern state of Pakistan - formerly (and aptly) named the North-West Frontier Province, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - is the main stronghold of the terrorists, but they can strike anywhere: US Embassies and consulates were attcked three times between 2002 and 2010; Shia mosques and holy sites are also frequent targets. Pakistan was encouraged by the US and Britain's MI6 to promote the war against the Soviet backed Afghanistan the 1980s, using the Islamic militants as proxies. These gangs included Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda and were organized under the Benazir Bhutto government. The CIA was later placed in the position of having to buy back "Stinger" ground to air missiles it had supplied to its erstwhile allies for fear that they would be used used against civil airliners. The Islamic fundamentalists have challenged the principle that Pakistan can be both secular and Islamic. They have little popular support outside the tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is mediated through tribal warlords, but are able to achieve a disproportionate effect by their ruthless campaign of bombing and murder.
Technically Pakistan is an ally of the United States in the current war in Afghanistan. This is technical because while the Pakistanis do make several battalions of soldiers available to the cause, the loyalty of the commanders and especially their intelligence service, the ISI, is suspect. Some analysts think this is because of their sheer paranoia about India, while others believe that Islamists have reached high-ranking positions in the military establishment. The Pakistani leadership was apparently "shocked" that Osama bin Laden was living in Abbottabad, the city which houses Pakistan's equivalent of West Point. Pakistan's border regions are frequently targeted by US drone attacks, which leads to widespread anti-Americanism and frequent protests, flag-burning and violence. Ironically there would be no need for drone strikes if the Pakistani military held up their end of the bargain and went after the militants themselves, but they seem to be content to take kickbacks in the form of American military aid and play a double game.
Pakistan is officially a republic, is a democracy at the moment, and is a police state in reality. They were formerly ruled by their benevolent fearless leader, and former general, named Pervez Musharraf, whose first name offers a cornucopia of potentially humorous misspellings.