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22

History of Pakistan

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The history of Pakistan can be divided into two parts – pre-independence, before 1947 and post independence. Pakistan was a part of India until the country became independent on August 14, 1947. The history of ancient Pakistan dates back 5,000 years to the amazingly evolved Indus Valley Civilisation. Coexisting during the period of the Mesopotamian civilisation and the habitations of Sumer, this ancient culture still confounds scholars and historians with its well-planned cities, superb artistic skills and social structure. Amongst the greatest mysteries is its sudden disappearance, attributed by some to environmental causes and others to repeated invasions by tribes from Central Asia.

Being the gateway to the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan has withstood many marauding armies who came to pilfer and loot. Notable among the invaders were the Aryans of Central Asia who came around 2000 BC, the Persians in 500 BC, the Greeks led by Alexander the Great in 326 A.D., Muhammad bin Qasim in 711 A.D., Mahmud of Ghazni in 10th century A.D. and Mahmud of Ghori in 12th century A.D. The invaders left behind a signature of their culture and, sometimes, most importantly religion. King Harshvardhana of the Kushana dynasty spread Buddhism in the region in 50 AD. Several stupas and monasteries were built in this period and the city of Taxila became a very important centre of learning. Islam came to Pakistan with the traders of Central Asia, especially when Mohammed Bin Qasim captured the region of Sind and declared it a Muslim state.

The most enduring dynasty was the Mughals, who ruled from 1526 till 1707. This great dynasty saw some of the greatest rulers of the Indian sub-continent, including Akbar the great administrator and Shah Jahan the emperor who built some of the grandest monuments in the empire. Though Mughal rule continued till the British unseated them in 1857, their glorious era lasted only till the beginning of the 18th century. The British Crown formally ruled over the region till 1947.

In June 1947, Britain agreed to grant independence to the two nations of India and Pakistan on the basis of religion. While Pakistan had a Muslim majority population, India had a Hindu majority. Under the agreement, Pakistan became an independent nation on August 14, 1947 while India gained independence a day later. Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) became a part of Pakistan although they were separated by thousands of miles of Indian Territory. The Hindu ruler of Jammu and Kashmir decided to be a part of India, but Pakistan refused to accept the decision, and till today the state is a thorn in its relationship with India.

In the post-Independence period, Pakistan went through serious unrest and hardship. The partition from India brought widespread communal violence in its wake, with thousands of people being killed and millions uprooted from their homes on both sides of the border.

The first government of Pakistan was formed with Liaquat Ali Khan as the Prime Minister and the founder of the nation Quaid-I-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the Governor General. Karachi was chosen as the interim capital before the new capital, Islamabad, could be built. In January 1972, East Pakistan split from Pakistan and became the independent nation of Bangladesh (land of the Bengali people). Since Pakistan’s independence in 1947, the country has had military rule interspersed with democratic governments. Most famous among the military rulers were General Mohammed Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan and Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq. Among the democratically elected were Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and General Musharraf. On March 25, 2008 Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani took oath of the office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan as the country’s 22nd Prime Minister.

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