Pakistan History, Language and Culture

History of Pakistan

In ancient times, the area that now comprises Pakistan marked the farthest reaches of the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was also the home of Buddhist Ghandaran culture. It was not until 1947, as a result of a violent Partition from India, that Pakistan acquired nationhood. Under pressure from Indian Muslims led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah – considered to be the 'father of the nation' – the British created a separate Muslim state. Originally, it consisted of two parts, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (now a single unitary state), separated from each other by 1600km (1000 miles) of Indian territory. Jinnah, the leading Muslim inside the Indian Congress party that led the independence struggle, became the new country's first president.

In contrast to India, democracy failed to take root and Pakistan suffered prolonged periods of military rule. After decades of revolving-door politics followed by incompetence, nepotism and corruption, tackling Pakistan's huge political and economic problems became tougher than ever and Pakistan remains the third biggest recipient of US aid after Egypt and Israel.

Pakistan is a politically aware country, with a culture broadly based around family, Islam, hospitality and the broad number of different ethnic groups throughout the country. The largest groups are Punjabis, Pashtuns, Sindhis, Baloch and Mohajirs. To give some idea of the number, and population scale of these groups, it is interesting to note that whilst Urdu is the national language, only one in ten Pakistanis can claim this as their mother tongue.

Pakistan Culture


97% Muslim (77% Sunni, 20% Shi'a), the remainder are Ismaili Muslims (who follow the Aga Khan as their spiritual leader), Hindu or Christian.

Language in Pakistan

Urdu is the official language, though it is only used by 8% of Pakistanis. English is widely spoken. Regional languages include Punjabi, which is spoken by 48% of the population, Pashto, Sindhi, Saraiki and Balochi. There are numerous local dialects.