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Pakistan

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Map of Pakistan (minus disputed Kashmir).
The overturned conviction of a man imprisoned for 18 years highlights just one of many miscarriages of justice stemming from Pakistan’s vaguely worded blasphemy law. Typically, it’s members of religious minorities or other vulnerable communities who are wrongly accused and left unable to defend themselves.
—Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch.[1]

Pakistan (Urdu: پاكستان Pākistān), officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (اسلامی جمہوریۂ پاكستان Islāmī Jumhūriyah-yi Pākistān), is a country located on the western portion of the Indian subcontinent. It is the world's fifth most populous country,[2] and an acknowledged nuclear weapons state. That last bit is unfortunate since its neighbor India is also a nuclear weapons state, and the two countries hate each other over issues like the Kashmir land dispute. The vast majority of Pakistanis are Muslim, and Pakistan's government is a textbook example of what happens when Islamic fundamentalism takes hold of a culture and population. Pakistan's human rights situation is abysmal, with blasphemy carrying a mandatory death sentence, religious minorities mistreated, and freedom of speech suppressed. Pakistan's capital is Islamabad, and its largest city is Karachi.

Like many other dumpster fire states in the region, Pakistan was once home to powerful civilizations. The mysterious Bronze Age Indus River Valley Civilization gave way to various Hindu Indian kingdoms and then the Hellenic successors of Alexander the Great. The invasion of the Arab Umayyad Caliphate and the coming of Islam permanently altered Pakistan's culture as much of its population became devout Sunni Muslims. Pakistan became an important part of the Mughal Empire which stretched across India, but that empire collapsed due to its rulers deciding to become religiously intolerant towards their Hindu subjects.

After the fall of the Mughals, the British Empire stepped in to take their place. British rule in Pakistan saw religious tensions grow further between Hindus and Muslims, and the British responded to this by codifying an early version of Pakistan's current blasphemy laws in 1860.[3] When the time came to consider independence, controversies arose over how exactly this should be accomplished. Following Muhammad Ali Jinnah's "Two-Nation Theory"Wikipedia (basically a declaration that Hindus and Muslims should not live together in the same country) the then-powerful Muslim League, led by Jinnah, demanded a separate state solely for Muslims. The Muslim League got what it wanted in 1947, when the British Empire hastily drew a line between India and Pakistan (and gave Bangladesh to Pakistan). This sparked mass migrations, ethnic cleansing, and genocidal riots, which killed between 200,000‒500,000 people.[4]

As you can see, India and Pakistan thus got off on the wrong foot, and tensions between them have remained high ever since. There have been several wars between the two powers over issues like Kashmir and Bangladeshi independence. Pakistan's government has been characterized by instability and periods of military rule. In 1973, Pakistan adopted its current constitution, which mandates that all laws in Pakistan must conform with the Quran and the Sunnah, effectively turning it into a theocracy.[5] Oh, and if that wasn't enough, Pakistan became a major sponsor of the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.[6] This promptly backfired on them when the Taliban started waltzing across the border to dodge American fury during the Afghanistan War.[7]

Despite Pakistan's authoritarianism, brinksmanship with India, and Islamism, the United States considers Pakistan a major non-NATO ally and an important bulwark against terrorism.[8]

The 22nd and current Prime Minister of Pakistan is Imran Khan.

About the name[edit]

Map of Pakistan's provinces to help with the acronym.
We address this appeal to you, in the name of our common heritage, and on behalf of our thirty million Muslim brethern who live in PAKSTAN by which we mean the five Northern units of India viz: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind, and Baluchistan... Our brave but voiceless nation is being sacrificed on the altar of Hindu Nationalism...
—Choudhary Rahmat Ali, "Now or Never", 1933.[9]

Pakistan's name has a rather interesting origin. Technically, there is no "Pakistani" ethnic group or Pakistani people. Instead, the name is an acronym coined to describe the northwest Indian subcontinent's Muslim-majority areas, first used by Muslim intellectual Choudhary Rahmat Ali in a pamphlet called "Now or Never" published in 1933.[9] In that pamphlet, Ali advocated for the creation of an Islamic state separate from India. He called it "PAKSTAN", drawn from the Punjab region, Afghania (later called the North-West Frontier Province and then Khyber Pakhtunkhwa[10]), Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan.[11] Advocates of the idea later added the "i" for ease of pronunciation. There might not be an "i" in team, but it was best for everyone that there was an "i" in Pakistan. It also helped that the word "pak" in Urdu and Pashto means "pure", making Pakistan the "Land of the Pure."[11] Sadly, Pakistan's Muslim fundamentalists take that part very, very seriously.

Pakistan is also noticeably one of the -stan countries. The suffix "-stan" simply means "land of" in Persian derived languages.[12] Therefore, Pakistan is the land of the pure, Afghanistan is the land of the Afghans, Kazakhstan is the land of the Kazakhs, and so on. Other countries get this treatment too when referred to in the Persian language, like Mongolia being "Mogholestan", India being "Hindustan", Serbia being Serbestân, Hungary being Majarestan, and so on. We'll leave it up to you to puzzle out the meanings of those names. Remember the formula!

Historical overview[edit]

Public bath complex of an Indus Valley settlement. Probably not as nice as it used to be.

Indus Valley Civilization[edit]

The Indus Valley Civilization was one of the three earliest human civilizations alongside Ancient Egypt and Ancient Iraq, and it's probably the one about which modern historians know the least. One of the first regions to urbanize, the Indus Valley people had an advanced city life with wells, restroom areas, drainage system, and advanced urban planning.[13] Quality of life here was probably higher than that in either Egypt or most of Mesopotamia. The civilization probably represented a population of around a million people, mostly localized around the Indus River itself.

The main problem with understanding the Indus Valley Civilization is that their writing system has yet to be deciphered.[14] There's probably a Nobel Prize in it for you if you figure it out. Good luck!

Around 1800 BCE, the Indus Valley Civilization started to decline, likely due to drought and drying of their home river, and they were then destroyed by the invasion of Indo-Aryans.[13] The Indo-Aryans gradually settled down into an agricultural lifestyle, and it's theorized by modern historians that many Hindu gods were adapted from deities the Indus Valley people worshiped.

Sadly, one of the major Indus Valley settlements, Harappa, was severely damaged by the British when they used stone from its buildings to assist with the construction of railways.[15] Goddamn limeys.

Indian civilizations[edit]

Depiction of Buddha as a Greek, from a region in Pakistan. Multiculturalism in action!

After moving in, the Indo-Aryans did what conquerors do and started oppressing the shit out of the people who were there before. It's quite possible that this is how the infamous Hindu caste system evolved, as the higher castes were composed of Indo-Aryans while the lower castes and Untouchables were all the indigenous people.[15]

For most of this time, Pakistan was inhabited by a variety of small princely states that warred with each other constantly. This time is now called the Vedic Period, as this was the time in which the Vedas, Hindu scriptures, were composed.[16] Pakistan was home to many significant centers of early Indian civilization. Multan, for instance, was a significant Hindu religious site that attracted pilgrimages.[17]

The spread of Buddhism had major impact here since Pakistan had great numbers of people oppressed under the caste system. Buddhist rejection of the caste system appealed to these people, naturally, and the new religion gained great numbers of adherents even before the Mauryan Empire converted much of the rest of India.[15] Buddhist culture then combined with the Greek influences brought by the invading Alexander the Great to create Greco-Buddhist culture, which spread across Afghanistan and much of Pakistan.[18] This persisted throughout the ages even through various imperial conquests by Hindu empires.

With the contention between Buddhists and Hindus, and popular discontent against the caste system, the Pakistan region was politically turbulent and disunited when the Islamic invaders finally came knocking.

Islam comes knocking[edit]

Muhammad ibn Qasim's invasion of southern Pakistan.

Islam arrived in Pakistan in the Eighth Century when Arab warlord Mohammad Bin Qasim conquered the southern part of the region; many Pakistanis want to declare him their country's founder in order to emphasize their country's Arab identity.[19] He had been dispatched by the Umayyad Caliphate to spread Islam further east, but in this Qasim largely failed. However, although his invasion was a relatively minor event, it did open the way for trade with Islamic states and travel of Islamic scholars into the region. Muslim influence thus gradually increased throughout the centuries.

Islam in the region got a major shot in the arm around 1000 CE when Turkic warlord from Afghanistan Mahmud of Ghazni launched huge raids into Pakistan and northern India to plunder wealth, smash idols, and forcibly convert its population to Sunni Islam on the threat of death.[20] Despite modern Pakistan's reverence for the Arab Qasim, it was Mahmud of Ghazni from Afghanistan who did the real heavy lifting. Unfortunately, Mahmud's violent tactics stained Islam's reputation across India as a whole, leaving Hindus and Buddhists with the perception that Muslims were dangerous barbarians. That legacy remains in the region to this day and forms the root of much antipathy towards Muslims in places like India and Burma.

The Ghaznavid occupation of Pakistan opened the way for further Islamic penetration of the Indian subcontinent. Most notable was the Delhi Sultanate, which came to encompass most of the Indian subcontinent.[21] The Delhi Sultanate brought about something of a cultural renaissance for Indian Islam, as they halted the religious hostility in favor of allowing limited freedom of religion.[22] It's notable that the downfall of the Delhi Sultanate came when they abandoned religious tolerance in favor of oppressing Hindus again.[23]

Mughal Empire[edit]

Badshahi Mosque built in Lahore by the Mughals.

In the wake of the Delhi Sultanate's disintegration, India reverted to the old ways of small warring kingdoms, this time with some good ol' religious war thrown into the mix. Into this mix came Babur, another conqueror from Central Asia who claimed descent from Mongolia's Genghis Khan.[24] In 1526, he swept aside most of the north Indian states to found his own dynasty: the Mughal Empire. It would become the largest and most centralized state in Indian history before the British invasion. Its prosperous rule turned the Pakistani city of Lahore into one of the cultural centers of the Islamic world.[25]

Mughal-built Shalimar Gardens in Lahore.

Due to ruling most of India, the Mughal state had a very large Hindu majority population. To deal with this problem, Babur and his successors adopted a policy of (for the most part), religious equality, allowing Hindus to earn government posts, and even forbidding the killing of cows due to the offense it caused to Hindus.[26] Babur may have been a descendant of Genghis Khan, but he was no barbarian, instead focusing on patronizing the arts and commissioning grant works of architecture. His successor Akbar was even nicer, believing firmly that all faiths should be honored by rulers. Akbar married Hindu women and ended the extra tax placed on Hindu subjects.[26]

Shah Aurangzeb fights a Hindu rebellion. You know you're fucked when the other side has elephants.

Most famously of all, Shah Jahan ordered the construction of the Taj Mahal in 1631 in order to honor the memory of his favorite wife.[27] The Taj Mahal remains one of India's most famous landmarks.

Tragically, this legacy of religious coexistence came to an abrupt end. The policies of the previous empires had sparked a furious reaction from Sunni fundamentalists, who then manipulated Shah Jahan's son Aurangzeb into following their mold. The hardliners supported Aurangzeb in launching a civil war against Shah Jahan's chosen successor, his more tolerant son Dara Shikoh.[28] Aurangzeb defeated his good brother in war and then had him decapitated in 1662. Once in power, he then imposed discriminatory policies against Hindus meant to harass them into conversion. Instead, this rather predictably sparked an uprising that ruined the empire. By being an Islamic fundamentalist and a discriminatory piece of shit, Shah Aurangzeb had personally destroyed one of the greatest empires in Indian history. Way to go, guy.

As the Mughal Empire decayed, European imperialists from places like Portugal and the Netherlands started buying up chunks of India. The British and French showed up too and started warring with each other over influence in India.

British rule[edit]

Company redcoats battle Punjabis during the Anglo-Sikh Wars.

East India Company[edit]

Throughout the early 1700s, northern India fell back into the old cycle of religious war, this time pitting the rising Afghan Durrani dynasty against the Hindu Maratha Empire.[29] The Mughals, torn apart by Hindu rebellion, were largely irrelevant unless someone decided to push them around. To the north, encompassing much of Kashmir, was the Sikh Empire, which had to keep itself fairly decentralized due to Kashmir's very diverse religious landscape.[30]

Meanwhile, the British East India Company was rampaging through the rest of the Indian subcontinent with its privately hired and financed armies. The Battle of Plassey in 1757 saw the British Company defeat the monarch of Bengal and his French allies, leaving the British capitalists in charge of much of the continent.[31] In 1764, the British smashed the remnants of the Mughal Empire and then turned it into a hollow puppet to be used as a cover to force their rule onto much of the rest of India; this pretense would later be cast aside in 1827.[32] With the British expanding westward and the Russian Empire expanding southward, the independent kingdoms of Pakistan soon started to realize that they might not be independent for too much longer.

Mass execution of Pakistani mutineers in Peshawar, 1857.

Facing the threat of Russian domination, many of those states signed defense agreements with the British, who almost immediately abused those agreements to bring the Pakistani princely states under Company domination.[32] By 1838, eastern Pakistan had become little more than a springboard for the Company's imperialism against Afghanistan. The Punjab region, though, received help from the British in constructing modern irrigation systems in order to turn it into northern India's breadbasket. In gratitude, many Punjabi soldiers would volunteer to serve in British colonial armies.

Indian Uprising[edit]

Things changed in 1857, though, due to the British East India Company's incompetent decision to issue rifle cartridges to their colonial garrisons that had been greased with pig and cow fat.[33] That managed to be religiously offensive to both Muslim and Hindu soldiers, who promptly decided "fuck this" and began a general mutiny that escalated into a war of independence. It was an extremely bloody affair, and the British ended up completely razing major cities across India like Delhi and Lucknow to put the rebellion down.[34] Pakistan also saw significant action, although many Punjabis stayed loyal to the British and helped suppress the rebellion there.[35] British troops also used an especially grotesque form of execution whereby they would lash a native to the mouth of a cannon and fire the weapon, blasting the man to pieces and scattering those pieces everywhere.[33] That was done in public as a means of inflicting terror upon the local population.

As a result of the Company fucking up tremendously and sparking a months-long anti-colonial uprising, the British Parliament liquidated the East India Company in 1858 and placed India under the direct control of the Crown.[36]

"Divide and Rule" strategy[edit]

The Prince of Wales greets loyal Punjabi soldiers in 1876.
‘Divide et impera’ was the old Roman motto and it should be ours... The strong necessity which exists for so dividing and separating into distinct bodies 'the different nationalities and castes,' anything, in short, to divide and so neutralise the strength of the castes and nationalities which compose our armies in the East.
—Lord Elphinstone, Governor of Bombay, 1859.[37]

Having dealt with such a bloody revolution in India, the British decided to take a much more cautious approach towards managing so many people. Victorian administration saw relatively light British presence. At the top would be the Governor General, who was always a white British citizen, but most other administrative posts would be open to natives who could demonstrate their worthiness by passing tough examinations.[38]

It also became official British policy to ensure that Hindus and Muslims would never again unite against the British. The British did everything they could to foster a separate identity between Hindus and Muslims and set them against each other, from promoting violence to establishing separate electorates and segregated and unequally-treated communities.[39]

Pashtun lands (in blue) deliberately divided between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The success in setting religions against each other became obvious in the sharp increase in religious riots and violence after 1857.[40] The British even went so far as to bribe impoverished Hindus and Muslims into talking shit about each others' religions in public. With this kind of verbal and political poison being injected into Indian and Pakistani society for decades, it makes perfect sense that Muslims and Hindus ended up hating each other.

The goal was to keep India dependent on the British and too divided to survive on its own. Unfortunately, the strategy worked.

The Durand line[edit]

In accordance with their stated "Divide and Conquer" policy, the British also sought to ensure that neighboring Afghanistan would never be strong enough to be a threat by separating its people. One of Afghanistan's primary ethnic groups are the tribal Pashtun people, and the British deliberately drew the "Durand line" right through Pashtun tribal lands in order to keep them divided between two different countries.[41] This imposed great hardship on the traditionally nomadic people, as the British then had a good incentive to put an end to their freedom of movement.

Even today, the Durand Line is a flashpoint for tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it's a major reason why the Taliban has proven so hard to defeat (see the article on Afghanistan War.)

Two-Nations Theory[edit]

Leaders of the All-India Muslim League in Lahore, 1940.

The Indian National Congress was founded in 1885 by Hindus to advocate for an end to British colonial rule.[42] Although the Congress attempted to include the Muslim community, the "Divide and Conquer" had been going on for too long, and most Muslim intellectuals distrusted the Hindus. The Muslims then decided to form a league of their own, the All-India Muslim League, in 1906 in order to defend the rights of Muslims and their place in the anti-colonial struggle.[43] Its most notable leader, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, adopted the ideas of Sir Muhammad Iqbal, who pushed for the creation of a separate state for Muslims due to his fear that Muslims would face oppression within a Hindu-ruled India.[44] As mentioned further above in this page, that new country got its name from an acronym coined by Choudhary Rahmat Ali based on an acronym of the provinces this new Muslim country would encompass.

The Muslim League split hard with the Indian National Congress over the issue, as leaders like Mohandas Gandhi hoped to see a secular and united Indian subcontinent. In 1940, Jinnah and the Muslim League held their annual meeting in Lahore, making the partition agenda known and stating that it was nonnegotiable in the "Lahore Resolution".[45] Interestingly, the partition idea got its greatest support from places where Muslims were in the minority, as those were the people who were most afraid of Hindu oppression.[44]

Having made their intentions clear, the Muslim League then won the support of the British by remaining loyal to the Crown during World War II and opposing Gandhi's "Quit India" movement.[46]

Partition from India[edit]

Mountbatten's partition committee. "We can totes finish this in 11 days!"
India is free but she has not achieved unity, only a fissured and broken freedom.... The old communal division into Hindu and Muslim seems to have hardened into the figure of a permanent political division of the country.
—Sri Aurobindo, Indian nationalist and mystic.[47]
Foot caravans of destitute refugees fleeing the violence stretched for 50 miles and more. As the peasants trudged along wearily, mounted guerrillas burst out of the tall crops that lined the road and culled them like sheep. Special refugee trains, filled to bursting when they set out, suffered repeated ambushes along the way. All too often they crossed the border in funereal silence, blood seeping from under their carriage doors
—Nisid Hajari, Indian-American foreign affairs journalist.[48]

Largely thanks to British gratitude to the Muslim League for supporting them in the war, the British sided with them when the time came to decide on how independence could happen. The battered and broke empire could no longer support the demands of ruling such a large colonial territory, and they were eager to get the fuck out as soon as possible. The need for a speedy withdrawal also contributed to the decision to partition India, as Lord Mountbatten, India's last viceroy, decided that partitioning India was simpler than trying to craft a multi-religious Indian government.[49]

Muslim refugee train on the way to Punjab.

Mountbatten set a very short deadline of six months to hash out the complicated issue, so it's no surprise that the British didn't do a great job of it. The Radcliffe Line, drawn by British diplomats with haste and indifference to separate India and Pakistan, left a huge number of Hindus and Muslims stuck on the wrong side.[50] The British hi-fived each other for a job well done and then left in 1947. Welcome to the rest of the story.

The partition caused one of the greatest human migrations in history as millions upon millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims packed their shit and fled their homes in order to reach the country of their chosen religion.[48] Riots and massacres exploded across the subcontinent even before the partition, and British officials departed New Delhi having to step over carpets of corpses to reach the train station.[48] British "Divide and Conquer" reached its inevitable conclusion when ethnic cleansing and near-genocide broke out across the border areas, the violence killing somewhere between 200,000 and two million.[51]

India, once the home of a diverse Muslim and Hindu culture, had changed dramatically. Delhi, India's capital, went from being one-third Muslim to being Muslim-free.[48] Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, went from being nearly half Hindu to being Hindu-free.[48] These dramatic instances of ethnic cleansing had occured in just a matter of months.

Independence and crises[edit]

Zones of Control in Kashmir, basically in place since the first war.

A nation born out of bloodshed and hatred, Pakistan wasn't exactly in the best spot to establish for itself any stable place in the world. Amid horrific violence, a border that was unacceptable to both India and Pakistan stayed put. Trouble started brewing between them almost immediately, as the two countries agreed to allow free movement of people and goods through their borders for a year before immediately breaking the agreement over trade disputes.[52] It also didn't help that India had inherited most of the industry and most of the military and police capability.

Pakistan was also split in two, as it had been granted part of Bengal as an exclave called East Pakistan.[53] With most of the Muslim League's members hailing from the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent, Bengal ended up being an afterthought. Notice that there's no "B" in Pakistan.

Along with the border problems with India, Afghanistan also revived the idea of a united "Pashtunistan", which would require Pakistan to surrender a big chunk of its country.[54] Pakistan predictably told them to fuck off, and a vengeful Afghanistan thus cast the only vote against Pakistan's admission to the United Nations in 1947.[52]

Kashmir War[edit]

Indian infantry advance through Kashmir during the first war.

Worst of all, the various princely states that had served as British vassals throughout the region, were tossed aside and told to pick a side and join either India or Pakistan. Most of those states had no trouble doing this, but Hari Singh, the maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir, hoped to remain independent by playing the big boys off of each other.[55] Pakistan lost its patience and sponsored Muslim militias in an uprising against him, and Singh then reluctantly agreed to join India in exchange for military support against them.

Pakistan wasn't down with that. They rather amusingly claimed that Singh had acceded to India under duress and then used that as a pretext to deploy forces into Kashmir to "protect" him.[56] Cue the first war between India and Pakistan, taking place not even a year after the two countries' independence. Kashmir's mountainous terrain prevented any major military operations, which was significant because most of the war took place there. Fighting gradually settled into World War I-style mountain warfare with static lines and lots of people dying for nothing.

In 1949, this front line was confirmed as the Line of Control, which has remained in place ever since.[57] The Line has taken a dreadful toll on the people of Kashmir, with families separated and religious minorities unable to enter the country of their choice.

Growing pains[edit]

Jinnah delivers a speech via radio.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, for all his efforts put into creating an Islamic state, was a secular man who barely went to mosque services and even ate pork on occasion.[48] He certainly wasn't the kind of Islamic extremist who would come to dominate Pakistan in the following decades. He started off as an effective dictator, but he was determined to transform Pakistan into a parliamentary republic where religious minorities would be treated equally.[58] That was easier planned than done. The Muslim League had been so preoccupied with getting its Pakistan idea implemented that it had never considered what they would do after it became a reality. While the Indian National Congress had drawn up plans on how to build a modern Indian nation, the Muslim League was completely unprepared to cope with the difficult questions of what kind of government they wanted and what role Islam would have in it. Life comes at ya fast.

Women marching in a Bengali Language Movement protest, 1953.

Jinnah's dream of Pakistani democracy thus never really materialized. Amid political instability and public dissatisfaction, the Muslim League increasingly relied on authoritarian laws left over by the British in order to suppress dissent.[58] That tendency could especially be seen in the way Pakistan's government treated East Pakistan, the province which would eventually become the independent Bangladesh. Pakistan's government was dominated by Urdu-speaking people from the western portion of Pakistan, and they wasted no time in declaring their Urdu language the only official language in Pakistan.[59] This infuriated the people of Bangladesh, who realized that they were being intentionally excluded from government.[60] Their protests and rioting were uncontrollable despite being met with bullets from police, and Pakistan's government eventually caved.[61] Unfortunately, things didn't get much better for East Pakistan.

Closer to home, Jinnah's secular instincts were also not shared by the other Pakistani politicians. In 1949, Pakistan's parliament passed the "Objectives Resolution", which proclaimed their intent to devote Pakistan's government to Islamic principles and the "sovereignty of Allah".[62] Uh-oh.

Much of that early Islamic fundamentalism materialized as a result of the high influence Muslim clergy had gained in Pakistani society, especially in urban areas. Thus, they had the ear of most of Pakistan's politicians, and no politician's career could survive if the clergy denounced them as "un-Islamic".[58]

Rather predictably, the parliamentary system collapsed due to a general lack of faith in it. In 1958, Pakistan's president Iskander Mirza suspended the constitution with military support before being ousted and replaced with a military dictator, General Ayub Khan.[63]

1965 Indo-Pakistan War[edit]

Indian soldier poses with a destroyed Pakistani tank.

If all of that wasn't shitty enough, tensions with India also started ramping up through the 1960s. Another unresolved issue between the two countries concerned the Indian state of Gujarat, south of Sindh, which also had a fairly large historical Muslim presence and many Muslims still living there.[64] It also helped that the Rann of Kutch, part of Gujarat, had a shitload of natural gas under it, making the region extremely valuable.[65] Oh, and Kashmir played into it too, as Pakistan launched a huge covert operation in an attempt to spark a Muslim insurgency against India.[66]

Pakistan had cozied up to the United States during the Cold War, and as a result enjoyed significant military aid from the Western Bloc.[67] India, though, still possessed an advantage of numbers and had superior military training. Nonetheless, Pakistan had its own armed forces, and the outbreak of war saw the largest deployment and warfare among armored vehicles since World War II.[68]

The war ultimately resulted in a cease-fire and status quo, as India had beaten back Pakistan's invasion of Gujarat while Pakistan had beaten back India's surprise attack against Lahore.[69] That hasn't stopped both India and Pakistan from claiming victory.

Military dictatorship[edit]

Ayub Khan with US president JFK in Maryland.

After taking over the government following President Iskander Mirza's attempted coup, General Ayub Khan suspended the parliamentary system and ruled Pakistan as its military dictator. According to him, he did this to restore "order". Khan imposed martial law in order to crack down on crime, and he also flipped the civil service upside down to root out corruption.[70]

Although he ruled like a typical autocrat, the Ayub Khan years were, by the standards of military dictatorships, relatively benign. The army maintained low visibility, most government affairs were left in the hands of the civil service, and Khan himself understood the need for good public relations and thus maintained a high public profile and even expanded Bengali involvement in government.[70] Women also benefited, as Khan implemented some humane policies restricting their unfair treatment in marriage while cracking down on any religious authorities who objected. The Ayub Khan years had their bright points, but still sucked for all the people who got tossed in jail for mouthing off to him. Despite his authoritarianism, Khan made a point of cozying up to the United States for most of his reign, only seeking other benefactors after the US sanctioned him for attacking India.[71]

Things eventually went south for Ayub Khan after the failure to win any territory in the 1965 war, along with the general economic downturn resulting from it.[72] He also had Bengali activist Shiekh Mujibur Rahman arrested on trumped-up charges, resulting in significant social unrest in Bangladesh.[73] These factors together weakened his political position and allowed him to be overthrown by a much nastier personality: Yahya Khan.

Bangladesh war and genocide[edit]

Brutal treatment towards Bengali freedom fighters.
Kill three million of them, and the rest will eat out of our hands.
—Yahya Khan orders genocide against Bangladesh.[74]

Yahya Khan's cruel personality proved to be just the wrong leadership quality at the wrong time. He put Pakistan under martial law again after holding elections in 1970 that favored a Bengali independence party.[73] He also started sending troops into East Pakistan hoping to forcefully prevent any dissent from the Bengalis. As the Bengali Language Movement showed, though, the Bengalis didn't tend to react well to this kind of coercion.

Deciding that he needed to get serious, Yahya Khan ordered the Pakistani military to begin a massive state terror campaign against the Bengali people, killing hundreds of Bengalis and capturing Mujib.[75] To hide their atrocities, Pakistan detained foreign journalists and then expelled them from Pakistani soil. Some reporters evaded the censorship net and estimated that between 300,000 to 1,000,000 Bengalis died during the year 1971.[75]

Indian airstrike on West Pakistan.

The war quickly escalated to the point where Yahya Khan basically decided to commit what amounted to genocide against the Bengali people. In the first phase of the slaughter, Pakistan targeted young men, academics, and Hindus. Later, Pakistani forces went after women. Modern historians estimate that at least 200,000 women were raped by the Pakistani forces, many of them in "rape camps".[74] Many tens of thousands of refugees fled the violence into neighboring India.

In the end, India became Bangladesh's saving grace. Anthony Mascarenhas, a British-Pakistani reporter published the truth about the horrific atrocities committed by Pakistan in a UK newspaper, decisively turning global opinion against Pakistan.[76] Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had already been considering attacking Pakistan due to the refugee crisis,[77] was personally shocked at the article's contents and resolved to intervene militarily.

Seeing that India was mobilizing, Pakistan tried to launch a preemptive air strike against Indian bases, hoping that the strategy would work for them the way it had worked for Israel in the then-recent Six-Day War.[78] It didn't, and India was really, really pissed off. Since the Pakistanis had been waging what was basically a counter-insurgency and massacre war, their military was not at all prepared to defend themselves against the overwhelming invasion India committed against both sides of Pakistan.[79] Pakistan surrendered shortly thereafter and agreed to Bengali independence, while India smugly strutted around after having humiliated their enemy and stopped a genocide.[80]

Modern Pakistan[edit]

Bhutto with Richard Nixon in the White House.

Reconstruction and new constitution[edit]

After Pakistan got its shit pushed in by India, Yahya Khan resigned the presidency in disgrace to be replaced by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto under intense public pressure. Bhutto was smart enough to realize that things had to change, so he instituted some quasi-socialist policies to repair Pakistan's economy and then went about repairing the country's image.[81] Most importantly, though, Bhutto decided that Pakistan needed a way to deter any foreign invasions. Yep, this is when Pakistan began developing its nuclear capabilities, first with nuclear power plants and eventually escalating to weapons experiments.[82]

In 1972, Bhutto lifted martial law and re-convened parliament in order to build a new constitution to ensure democratic rule in Pakistan. The constitution, while creating a democratic framework, also ended up with multiple sections ensuring that Pakistan's laws would be Islamic in character and dedicated to religion.[83] The constitution was promulgated in 1973 and remains in force today.

The constitutional process had exposed serious divisions between Bhutto's leftist faction and the conservative Muslims, and political tensions exploded into a bloodless coup led by conservative military leader Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.[84] Bhutto was later put on a show trial and executed.

More dictatorship[edit]

Zia-ul-Haq meets with Ronald Reagan and the US Secretary of State to coordinate anti-Soviet strategies.

Zia banned political activity and had hundreds of journalists and politicians arrested in order to secure his power. Although he never suspended the constitution, he did use the "doctrine of necessity" to claim that he was taking action to defend the constitution against disorder.[85] The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled with him.

A staunch religious fundamentalist, Zia quickly set about erasing secularism and replacing it with firm Islamism. He established courts based on sharia to assign punishments for crimes like drinking alcohol, prostitution, fornication, and adultery.[85] He even tried in 1985 to make religious law supreme over the constitution, but this attempt luckily failed when parliament refused to consider it.

Zia also closely cooperated with the United States and the Ronald Reagan administration, especially at the outbreak of the Soviet-Afghan War. The dictator even took some ideological ideas from Reagan and declared himself the defender of "Islamic [[conservatism".[86] Reagan in turn declared Pakistan a "front line" US ally against Soviet communism. Both the US and Pakistan heavily involved themselves in propping up the Islamist mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet invaders.[87] Pakistan also hosted religious schools funded by Saudi Arabia to further radicalize the Afghans.[88] Pakistan even gave preferential treatment to the more radical mujahideen fighters when doling out military aid.[89] Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province became a vital base of operations for Afghan jihad, largely due to its large Pashtun population.[90] That would be a problem later.

The dictator later perished in a suspicious but still mysterious airplane crash in 1988, opening the way for a resumption of democratic rule.[85]

Instability and nuclear tests[edit]

Pakistan's first underground nuclear test, 1998.

Following Zia's death, elections saw Benazir Bhutto take office as Pakistan's first female prime minister.[91] Although secular and well-meaning, her time in office was plagued by further conflict between leftists and hardline Islamists, a political conflict that took a toll on Pakistan's economy.[92]

During this period, anger between India and Pakistan started rising again. India had beat Pakistan to the bomb, testing their first weapon in 1974[93] and then testing more bombs in 1998.[94] This scared the fuck out of Pakistan, as well as the US, whose intelligence agencies had somehow completely failed to predict any of this. Pakistan sprinted to the finish line and tested its first weapon in 1998 underneath mountains in Baluchistan, later releasing photographic evidence in the hopes of shocking the world.[95] The world was indeed shocked, and the United Nations Security Council officially condemned the tests and later sanctioned both parties.[96] Nonetheless, Pakistan did another round of tests, apparently just to flip India the middle finger.[97] Surely nothing bad could come of all this brinksmanship, right?

Kargil War[edit]

Indian soldiers bury slain Pakistanis in the Kashmir mountains.

Amid rising tensions, Pakistan tried launching a covert operation to infiltrate Indian-controlled Kashmir again, a bad idea that predictably resulted in open war. While Pakistan insisted that it was simply providing basic aid to help "freedom fighters" survive, India retaliated by bombing the shit out of all Pakistani personnel found past the Line of Control.[98]

The Kargil War was unique mainly for its altitude. The war was fought in the Kashmiri portion of the Himalaya mountain range, a tactical situation that posed difficult challenges.[99] Many thousands of refugees on both sides of the line were driven out of their homes by the fighting, and many haven't been able to return.

After three months and hundreds of war deaths, both sides eventually agreed to a cease-fire as harsh winter set in and people started freezing to death in the inhospitable Himalayas.[100] Once again, both sides claimed victory, and both sides still glare at each other over the Line of Control just waiting for another conflict to break out.

Dealing with the Taliban[edit]

Taliban militants in Pakistan.
See the main article on this topic: Taliban

More than just about any power (the US is close), Pakistan is responsible for turning the Taliban into the terrorist menace that it is today. Under the Zia dictatorship, Pakistan provided aid and radicalization to the mujahideen factions, many of which would become the Taliban. Even after the war, Pakistan strategically aided the Taliban faction in Afghanistan's inter-mujahideen civil war. Why would they do this? Control. Pakistan wanted more than anything else a nice, stable border with Afghanistan so that they could focus their military might on defending their eastern frontier against India.[101] The idea was that the Taliban would be dependent on aid from Pakistan and would therefore be a useful and docile proxy.

However, there were a few factors that Pakistan didn't consider. First, the Taliban were mostly Pashtun, and Pashtun tribespeople tend to feel loyalty to their own over any distant government.[102] Secondly, the Taliban were considerably more radical and less pragmatic than was the government in Islamabad.[citation NOT needed] Long story short, the Taliban took over Afghanistan, established a brutal theocracy, and then surprised the shit out of everyone by harboring Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks.

Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan before the raid.

At the outbreak of the Afghanistan War, the old Durand line problem came into play. With Pashtun populations on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the Taliban were able to hop back and forth across the border in order to seek refuge from the Americans and launch attacks. As a result, the whole area has become a lawless hub of terrorism, criminality, and good ol' fashioned drug-smuggling[103] Pakistan actually tried to restore order across the border, but the Taliban managed to fight them off and force Pakistan to sign an agreement effectively conceding their autonomy.[104]

Meanwhile, Pakistan has been softly trying to sabotage the American campaign in Afghanistan, while the US tolerates it and allows the Taliban to operate from Pakistani soil because the alliance with Pakistan is apparently too valuable to risk.[105] Even with continuing Pakistani support for the Taliban, a Taliban-aligned terrorist group has emerged in Pakistan to begin launching attacks due to anger at Pakistan's alliance with the US.[106]

Also, Osama bin Laden somehow managed to find refuge on Pakistani soil, and Pakistan's government was furious when the US launched a raid to kill him without informing them.[107]

Government[edit]

Pakistan Supreme Court building in Islamabad.

Islamic republic[edit]

Similar to Iran, Pakistan declares itself to be an "Islamic republic" with Islam as the official state religion. Although Pakistan is far more genuinely democratic than Iran, religion still holds great influence over public affairs. The president, for instance, is elected with universal suffrage, but the constitution stipulates that he must be a Muslim.[108] Although religious minorities may gain office in the parliament, the president holds significant power over the legislature and may dismiss it and call for elections at will. The president is advised by the Council of Islamic Ideology, which makes recommendations on how to bring Pakistan's laws further into accordance with Islamic tenets.[109]

There is also the Federal Shariat Court, which is charged with ensuring that Pakistan's laws be consistent with Islamic religious laws. At least three of the justices need to be top-level Islamic scholars, called ulama.[108]

Foreign relations[edit]

Pakistan has a rather unique place in the world. It's a close ally of the United States, theoretically cooperating with the US on counterterrorism operations.[110] The alliance has more recently been strained over issues like the US killing bin Laden on Pakistani soil and Pakistan's continuing covert aid to factions in the Taliban.

Despite being strategically aligned with the US, Pakistan is an even closer ally with China. China's support for Pakistan has been uncompromising for decades since the two countries stand together against India, and Pakistan benefits significantly from Chinese development aid and trade.[111] Perhaps strangest of all, Pakistan maintains close relations with Iran, making it one of the only Sunni-majority nations to do so.[112]

Human rights[edit]

Benazir Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state. She was assassinated by religious extremists in 2007.[113]

Violence and honor killing[edit]

Early in 2020, the Independent Pakistan Human Rights Commission released a 264-page report condemning Pakistan's government for failing to protect its vulnerable people from widespread violence targeted against them.[114] Examples of violence include "honor" killings, forced conversions of Hindus, abuse of women, and continued use of the death penalty for blasphemy.

"Honor" killings in Pakistan are especially bad. That term refers to murders of family or community members (who are usually women) by people who think that the victim has somehow dishonored them.[115] Pakistan has a long cultural history of honor killings, and today Pakistan has by far the highest number of incidents per capita.[116] Horrific stories from Pakistan include a woman named Saba Maqsood shot and dumped in a river for marrying a man of her choice, Farzana Iqbal being beaten to death by her father and cousins and even police with bricks also for marrying for love, and Ayat Bibi being bludgeoned to death on the orders of a local cleric after being accused by a male family member of fornication.[117] As you can see, religious fundamentalism in Pakistan has a disturbing ability to turn family members against each other to the point of brutal murder.

Women's rights[edit]

Women face extreme persecution and inequality in Pakistan, largely due to culture and religious law. Despite laws against it, forced child marriage of young girls is still widely practiced in Pakistan, and girls subjected to this effectively become slaves.[118] It's often done to settle blood feuds, and refusal from the girls can be met, as you've seen above, with extreme violence. Local authorities also have the ability to force child marriage even without the family's consent, as demonstrated in 2012 when the Ashari village council forced the Roza family to marry off their 6 year-old daughter to settle a feud.[119]

Dowry or bride-price is common in Pakistan too, and this can result in murder or torture of the woman over dowry disputes by the husband's family.[120] Pakistan has the worst dowry murder rates in the world. Some of the worst cases involve women being burned alive or stuffed in stoves by their in-laws in retaliation for their family refusing to pay additional dowry.[121] Police tend to chalk these murders up as suicide, even in the face of obvious evidence.

Rape is also a serious danger women face, as women who attempt to report rape face disbelief and scorn from Pakistani authorities, especially in cases where police officers are the perpetrators, which are common.[122] Pakistani law also allows marital rape, does not define any statutory rape, and disallows women from testifying in rape cases for many reasons.[123]

Freedom of speech[edit]

Death warrant for a Pakistani blasphemer.

Pakistan's local and federal governments intentionally foster an atmosphere of fear in order to prevent journalists from reporting on their abuses. Journalists face threats from government-aligned militant groups, and media outlets are ordered to not report on government abuses.[124] People who continue in spite of this are often abducted and then beaten up.

Blasphemy law[edit]

Pakistan is also notorious for its extremely draconian blasphemy laws, which criminalize a variety of "offenses" against Islam or clergy. Originally based on colonial-era restrictions, Pakistan has repeatedly expanded the scope of the laws to cover mouthing off to religious authorities and questioning the Prophet Muhammad.[3] Far from policing religious issues, the blasphemy laws are more often used as a bludgeon to settle personal grievances, as people like to falsely accuse their enemies.[3] Just an accusation can get someone in trouble.

Even when people aren't sentenced to death, those accused face extreme risk of mob violence and even vigilante murder as religious fanatics want to ensure that they be properly "punished".[125] In fact, the Pakistani state rarely has to get its hands dirty. This is because vigilantes who murder accused blasphemers or religious minorities are basically immune from prosecution and are instead treated as heroes by the public and even government officials.[126]

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

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