U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Pakistan, March 1995
Bureau of Public Affairs
Official Name: Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Area: 803,943 sq. km. (310,527 sq mi.); about twice the size of
Cities: Capital--Islamabad and adjacent Rawalpindi comprise a national
capital area with a combined population of 1.5 million; Karachi 10
million; Lahore 5 million; Faisalabad 2 million.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Pakistan(i).
Population (1994 est.): 128 million.
Annual growth rate (1993): 3%.
Density: 150 per sq. km. (389 per sq. mi.).
Ethnic groups: Punjabi, Sindhi, Pathan, Baloch, Muhajir (i.e., Urdu-
speaking immigrants from India).
Religions: Muslim 97%; small minorities of Christians, Hindus, and
Languages: Urdu (national and official), English (official), Punjabi,
Sindhi, Pushtu, Baloch.
Education: Literacy (1993)--26%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (1993)--97/1,000. Life expectancy (1993)--
men 59 yrs., women 59 yrs.
Work force: Agriculture--48%. Services--39%. Industry--13%.
Type: Parliamentary in a federal setting.
Independence: August 14, 1947.
Branches: Executive--president with constitutional authority, prime
minister, cabinet. Legislative--National Assembly and Senate and
provincial assemblies. Judicial--provincial high courts, Supreme Court,
Federal Islamic Court.
Political parties: The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan
Muslim League/Nawaz group (PML/N) are the most important on the national
level. Other significant parties include the Pakistan Muslim
League/Junejo group (PML/J), the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), the Awami
National Party (ANP), and the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM). Suffrage:
Universal at 21, except in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and
Northern Areas. Religious minorities vote for reserved seats.
Political subdivisions: Each of the four provinces--Punjab, Sindh,
Northwest Frontier, Balochistan--have a parliamentary system; Northern
Areas and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) enjoy considerable
autonomy; Federal Capital.
GDP (1993-94): $52 billion.
Real annual growth rate 1993-94: 3%.
Per capita GDP (1993-94): $414.
Natural resources: Arable land, natural gas, limited petroleum,
substantial hydropower potential, coal, iron ore.
Agriculture: Products--wheat, cotton, rice, sugarcane, tobacco.
Industry: Types--textiles, fertilizer, steel products, chemicals, food
processing, oil and gas products, cement.
Trade (FY 1993-94): Exports--$6.6 billion: raw cotton, rice, cotton
yarn, textiles, fruits, vegetables. Major partners--Japan, U.S., U.K.,
Saudi Arabia, Germany. Imports--$8.8 billion: wheat, crude oil, cooking
oil, fertilizers, machinery. Major partners--Japan, U.S., Saudi Arabia,
Malaysia, U.K., Sri Lanka.
Official exchange rate (1994): about 31 rupees=U.S.$1.
The majority of Pakistan's population lives along the Indus River
valley, and along an arc formed by the cities of Faisalabad, Lahore,
Rawalpindi/Islamabad, and Peshawar.
Although the official language of Pakistan is Urdu, it is spoken as a
first language by only 9% of the population; 65% speak Punjabi, 11%
Sindhi, and 24% other languages (Pushtu, Saraiki, Baloch, Brahui). Urdu,
Punjabi, Pushtu, and Baloch are Indo-European languages; Brahui is
believed to have Dravidian (pre-Indo-European) origins. English is
widely used within the government, the officer ranks of the military,
and in many institutions of higher learning.
Archeology has revealed impressive ruins of a 4,500-year old urban
civilization in Pakistan's Indus River valley. The reason for the total
collapse of this highly developed culture is unknown. A major theory is
that it was crushed by successive invasions (circa 2,000 B.C. and 1,400
B.C.) of Aryans, Indo-European warrior tribes from the Caucasus region
in what is now Russia. The Aryans were followed in 500 B.C. by Persians
and, in 326 B.C., by Alexander the Great.
Pakistan's Islamic history began with the arrival of Muslim traders in
the 8th century A.D. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Mongols
dominated most of South Asia with an empire marked both by
administrative effectiveness and cultural refinement.
British traders arrived in South Asia in 1601, but the British Empire
did not consolidate control of the region until the latter half of the
18th century. After 1850, the British, or those influenced by them,
governed virtually the entire subcontinent.
In the early 20th century, South Asian leaders began to agitate for a
greater degree of autonomy. Growing concern about Hindu domination of
the Indian National Congress, the movement's foremost organization, led
Muslim leaders to form the All-India Muslim League in 1906. In 1913, the
League formally adopted the same objective as the Congress--self-
government for India within the British Empire--but Congress and the
League were unable to agree on a formula that would ensure the
protection of Muslim religious, economic, and political rights.
Pakistan and Partition
The idea of a separate Muslim state emerged in the 1930s. On March 23,
1940, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, formally
endorsed the "Lahore Resolution," calling for the creation of an
independent state in regions where Muslims constituted a majority.
At the end of World War II, the United Kingdom moved with increasing
urgency to grant India independence. However, the Congress Party and the
Muslim League could not agree on the terms for a constitution or
establishing an interim government. In June 1947, the British Government
declared that it would bestow full dominion status upon two successor
states--India and Pakistan. Under this arrangement, the various princely
states could freely join either India or Pakistan. Consequently, a
bifurcated Muslim nation separated by more than 1,600 kilometers (1,000
mi.) of Indian territory emerged when Pakistan became a self-governing
dominion within the Commonwealth on August 14, 1947. West Pakistan
comprised the contiguous Muslim-majority districts of present-day
Pakistan; East Pakistan consisted of a single province, which is now
With the death in 1948 of its first head of state, Muhammad Ali Jinnah,
and the assassination in 1951 of its first Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali
Khan, political instability and economic difficulty became prominent
features of post-independence Pakistan. After Pakistan's loss in the
1965 war against India, military leader Ayub Khan's power declined.
Subsequent political and economic grievances inspired agitation
movements which compelled his resignation in March 1969.
During the brief tenure of Gen. Yahya Khan as Martial Law Administrator,
elections were held in 1970 in which the Awami League Party won an
absolute majority in parliament, capturing 167 out of 169 seats from
East Pakistan. Frictions between West and East Pakistan precluded the
convening of parliament and culminated in the 1971 army crackdown in
East Pakistan, including the banning of the Awami League and the arrest
of its leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Many of his aides and several
million Bengali refugees fled to India, where they established a
provisional government. Tensions escalated, and hostilities broke out
between India and Pakistan in November 1971. The combined Indian-Bengali
forces quickly overwhelmed Pakistan's army in the East. By the time
Pakistan's forces surrendered on December 16, 1971, India had acquired
control of a large area of East Pakistan.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whose Pakistan People's Party (PPP) had won a
majority of the seats in West Pakistan in the 1970 elections, replaced
Yahya Khan. East Pakistan became the independent state of Bangladesh.
Bhutto moved decisively to restore national confidence and pursued an
active foreign policy, taking a leading role in Islamic and Third World
forums. Although Pakistan did not formally join the Non-Aligned Movement
until 1979, the position of the Bhutto Government coincided largely with
that of the non-aligned nations.
Domestically, Bhutto pursued a populist agenda and nationalized major
industries and the banking system. In 1973, he promulgated a new
constitution accepted by most political elements and relinquished the
presidency to become prime minister.
Although Bhutto continued his populist and socialist rhetoric, he
increasingly relied on Pakistan's urban industrialists and rural
landlords. Over time the economy stagnated, largely as a result of the
dislocation and uncertainty produced by Bhutto's frequently changing
When Bhutto proclaimed his own victory in the March 1977 national
elections, the opposition Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) denounced the
results as fraudulent and demanded new elections. Bhutto resisted and,
after endemic political violence in Pakistan, arrested the PNA
1977-1985 Martial Law
In the face of increasing anti-government unrest, the army grew restive.
On July 5, 1977, the military removed Bhutto from power and arrested
him, declared martial law, and suspended portions of the 1973
constitution. Chief of Army Staff Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq became Chief
Martial Law Administrator and promised to hold new elections within 3
Zia released Bhutto and asserted that he could contest new elections
scheduled for October 1977. However, after it became clear that Bhutto's
popularity had survived his government, Zia postponed the elections and
began criminal investigations of the senior PPP leadership.
Subsequently, Bhutto was convicted and sentenced to death for alleged
conspiracy to murder a political opponent. Despite international appeals
on his behalf, Bhutto was hanged on April 6, 1979.
Disregarding his promise to hold elections, Zia moved to
institutionalize his own regime. Following the resignation of President
Choudhury in September 1979, he assumed the presidency and called for
elections in November.
However, as the elections neared, it became clear that the PNA had
fallen into disarray and the PPP was once again the strongest party
nationwide. Fearful of a PPP victory, Zia banned political activity in
October 1979 and postponed the national elections.
In 1980, most center and left parties, led by the PPP, formed the
Movement for the Restoration of Democracy [MRD]. The MRD demanded Zia's
resignation, an end to martial law, new elections, and restoration of
the constitution as it existed before Zia's takeover. In early December
1984, President Zia proclaimed a national referendum for December 19 on
his "Islamization" program. He implicitly linked approval of
"Islamization" with a mandate for his continued presidency. Zia's
opponents, led by the MRD, boycotted the elections. When the government
claimed a 63% turnout, with more than 90% approving the referendum, many
observers questioned these figures.
President Zia then announced national and provincial assembly elections
on a non-party basis for February 1985. An attempt by the MRD to boycott
these elections largely failed; numerous politicians abandoned their
parties in order to stand for office. The elections were generally
regarded as legitimate because of the 53% voter turnout and relative
absence of fraud. The failure of the boycott accentuated divisions
within the MRD and left Zia's opposition in further disarray.
On March 3, 1985, President Zia proclaimed constitutional changes
designed to increase the power of the president vis-a-vis the prime
minister (under the 1973 constitution the president had been mainly a
figurehead). Subsequently, Zia nominated Muhammad Khan Junejo, a Muslim
League member, as Prime Minister. The new National Assembly unanimously
endorsed Junejo as Prime Minister and, in October 1985, passed Zia's
proposed eighth amendment to the constitution, legitimizing the actions
of the martial law government, exempting them from judicial review
(including decisions of the military courts), and enhancing the powers
of the president.
The Return of Democracy
On December 30, 1985, President Zia removed martial law and restored
constitutional rights safeguarded under the constitution. He also lifted
the Bhutto Government's declaration of emergency powers. The first
months of 1986 witnessed a rebirth of political activity throughout
Pakistan. All parties--including those continuing to deny the
legitimacy of the Zia/Junejo Government--were permitted to organize and
hold rallies. In April 1986, PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, daughter of
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, returned to Pakistan from exile in Europe.
Following the lifting of martial law, Prime Minister Junejo attempted to
make his Pakistan Muslim League (PML) a political party capable of
competing with the PPP and its MRD allies on a national level. His
increasing political independence and differences with Zia over Afghan
policy resulted in tensions between them. Zia was a firm advocate of the
Afghan Resistance, which had been fighting Soviet forces since they
invaded Afghanistan in 1979; Junejo repeatedly expressed his concern
over the effect the conflict and the presence of some 3 million Afghan
refugees had on Pakistan's internal security.
On May 29, 1988, President Zia dismissed the Junejo government and
called for November elections. In June, Zia proclaimed the supremacy in
Pakistan of Shari'a (Islamic law), by which all civil law had to conform
to traditional Muslim edicts.
On August 17, a plane carrying President Zia, American Ambassador Arnold
Raphel, U.S. Brig. Gen. Herbert Wassom, and 28 Pakistani military
officers crashed on a return flight from a military equipment trial near
Bahawalpur, killing all of its occupants. In accordance with the
constitution, Chairman of the Senate Ghulam Ishaq Khan became Acting
Ghulam Ishaq Khan announced that the elections, scheduled for November,
would take place. After winning 93 of the 205 National Assembly seats
contested, the PPP, under the leadership of Benazir Bhutto, formed a
coalition government with several smaller parties, including the Muhajir
Qaumi Movement (MQM). The Islamic Democratic Alliance (IJI), a multi-
party coalition led by the PML and including religious right parties
such as the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), won 55 National Assembly seats.
Differing interpretations of constitutional authority, debates over the
powers of the central government relative to those of the provinces, and
the antagonistic relationship between the Bhutto administration and
opposition governments in Punjab and Balochistan seriously impeded
social and economic reform programs. Ethnic conflict, primarily in Sindh
province, exacerbated these problems. A fragmentation in the governing
coalition and the military's reluctance to support an apparently
ineffectual and corrupt government were accompanied by a significant
deterioration in law and order.
In August 1990, President Khan, citing his powers under the eighth
amendment to the constitution, dismissed the Bhutto Government,
dissolved the national and provincial assemblies, and announced new
elections to be held in October. He appointed opposition leader Ghulam
Mustafa Jatoi as caretaker Prime Minister and appointed caretaker
governments in each of the four provinces.
The October elections, observed by several international organizations,
confirmed the political ascendancy of the IJI. In addition to a two-
thirds majority in the National Assembly, the alliance acquired control
of all four provincial parliaments and enjoyed the support of the
military and of President Khan. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, as leader of the
PML, the most prominent party in the IJI, was elected Prime Minister by
the National Assembly.
Sharif emerged as the most secure and powerful Pakistani Prime Minister
since the mid-1970s. Under his rule, the IJI achieved several important
political victories. The implementation of Sharif's economic reform
program, involving privatization, de-regulation, and encouragement of
private sector economic growth, greatly improved Pakistan's economic
performance and business climate. The passage into law in May 1991 of a
Shariat bill, providing for widespread Islamization, legitimized the IJI
government among much of Pakistani society. The military's participation
in the Allied forces during the Gulf War improved Pakistan's relations
within the world community.
However, Nawaz Sharif was not able to reconcile the different objectives
of the IJI's constituent parties. The largest fundamentalist party,
Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), abandoned the alliance because of its perception
of PML hegemony. The regime was weakened further by the military's
suppression of the MQM, which had entered into a coalition with the IJI
to contain PPP influence, and allegations of corruption directed at
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wanted to place his own candidate in the
vacant chief of army staff position, against the wishes of both the army
and the president. Considering Sharif's intentions a direct threat to
his political authority, President Khan used his constitutional
privilege as commander-in-chief effectively to place his candidate,
General Waheed, in the position.
Despite this setback, Nawaz Sharif intensified his political
confrontation with Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The prime minister appealed for
the renunciation of the eighth constitutional amendment (created under
Zia in 1985), which conferred upon the president the power to dismiss
the government. Khan, hopeful for a second five-year term, argued that
the eighth amendment was an important barrier to the ambitions of the
After PML Chairman Junejo's death in March 1993, Sharif loyalists
unilaterally nominated him as the next party leader. Consequently, the
PML divided into the PML Nawaz (PML/N) group, loyal to the prime
minister, and the PML Junejo group (PML/J), supportive of the president.
In April 1993, President Khan, citing "maladministration, corruption,
and nepotism" and espousal of political violence, dismissed the Sharif
Government. The consequent interim government led by Balakh Sher Mazari
experienced a problem of credibility because of allegations of
corruption against its members.
The Supreme Court reinstated the Sharif regime in May 1993. However,
President Khan continued his efforts to subvert the government of Prime
Minister Sharif by engineering the dissolution of the Punjab and NWFP
assemblies. The continued confrontation between Sharif and Khan
polarized Pakistani politics and threatened to undermine government
institutions. Finally, under a compromise brokered by the military, both
President Khan and Prime Minister Sharif resigned in July 1993. Wasim
Sajjad, who was serving as Senate Chairman, was appointed interim
An interim government, headed by Moeen Qureshi, a former World Bank vice
president, took office with a mandate to hold national and provincial
parliamentary elections in October. Despite its brief term, the Qureshi
Government adopted political, economic, and social reforms that
generated considerable domestic support and foreign admiration.
In the October 1993 elections, the PPP won a plurality of seats in the
National Assembly and Benazir Bhutto was asked to form a government.
However, because it did not acquire a majority in the National Assembly,
the PPP's control of the government depended upon the continued support
of numerous independent parties, particularly the PML/J. The unfavorable
circumstances surrounding PPP rule--the imperative of preserving a
coalition government, the formidable opposition of Nawaz Sharif's PML/N
movement, and the insecure provincial administrations--presented
significant difficulties for the government of Prime Minister Bhutto. On
the other hand, the election of Prime Minister Bhutto's close associate,
Farooq Leghari, as President in November 1993 gave her a stronger power
During the past 15 months in office, Prime Minister Bhutto's government
has set out clear policies to deal with key Pakistani priorities, such
as the economy, narcotics, and human rights. The government's economic
plan received strong support from the international community in the
form of an extended fund facility from the IMF in 1994. Pakistan
promulgated comprehensive counter-narcotics legislation in early 1995
and stepped up efforts to eradicate poppy production in the NWFP. In an
effort to improve respect for human rights, the Government created a
human rights cell in the Ministry of Interior.
The Pakistan constitution of August 1973, amended substantially in 1985
under Zia, provides for a president (chief of state) elected for a five-
year term by an electoral college, consisting of the Senate, National
Assembly, and the members of the four provincial assemblies; and a prime
minister (head of government) elected by the National Assembly in a
special session. After the election, the president invites the prime
minister to create a government. The constitution permits a vote of "no
confidence" against the prime minister by a majority of the entire
National Assembly, provided that it is not in the annual budget session.
The National Assembly--217 members (10 of whom represent minorities)
elected directly by universal adult suffrage--has a 5-year term subject
to dissolution by the president. In 1990, a constitutional provision
which established 20 reserved seats for women expired and has not been
renewed. The Senate, not subject to dissolution, consists of 87 members
elected indirectly for 6 years (19 from each of the provincial
assemblies; 8 from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas; and 3 from
the Federal Capital Area). One-third of the Senate members stand for
reelection every 2 years.
Two lists--federal and concurrent--designate jurisdiction on legislative
subjects; all residual powers belong to the provinces. According to the
1973 constitution, the president, after consulting with the prime
minister, appoints provincial governors, who act on the advice of the
cabinet or chief minister of the province.
The Supreme Court is Pakistan's highest court. The president appoints
the Chief Justice, and they together determine the other judicial
appointments. Each province has a high court, the justices of which are
appointed by the president after conferring with the Chief Justice of
the Supreme Court, the provincial governor, and the provincial Chief
Justice. During the martial law period, the powers and autonomy of the
civilian judiciary were curtailed. Several martial law decrees extended
the jurisdiction of military tribunals and prohibited the civilian
judiciary from reviewing the procedures and decisions of military
Pakistan's 800,000-member armed forces, the world's 8th largest, are
well trained and disciplined. Pakistan operates military equipment from
several foreign sources, among which the United States, China, France,
and the United Kingdom are the most significant. Much of this equipment
is obsolete. The government's extensive efforts to modernize Pakistan's
defense capability are frustrated by the country's limited industrial
base and fiscal resources.
Until 1990, a portion of U.S. aid to Pakistan was used to help modernize
Pakistan's conventional defensive capability. The United States
allocated about 40% of its assistance package to Pakistan to
nonreimbursable credits for military purchases; the remainder of the
program was devoted to economic assistance. U.S. Government military and
economic transfers to Pakistan, excepting counter-narcotics assistance
and disaster relief, were suspended in October 1990 due to the
administra- tion's inability to certify under the Pressler Amendment
that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear weapons program.
Principal Government Officials
President--Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari
Prime Minister--Benazir Bhutto
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs--Sardar Assef Ali
Ambassador to the U.S.--Maleeha Lodhi
Ambassador to the UN--Ahmad Kamal
Pakistan maintains an embassy in the United States at 2315 Massachusetts
Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-939-6200).
Extreme poverty and underdevelopment in Pakistan obscure the reality of
a country which has the resources and entrepreneurial skill to support
rapid economic growth. In fact, the economy averaged an impressive 6.2%
per year during the 1980s and early 1990s and grew by 3% in FY 1993-94.
However, the economy is extremely vulnerable to Pakistan's external and
internal shocks, such as in 1992-93, when devastating floods and
political uncertainty combined to sharply depress economic growth.
Since the early 1980s, the government consistently pursued market-based
economic reform policies. Market-based reforms firmly took hold in
1988, when the government launched an ambitious IMF-assisted structural
adjustment program in response to chronic and unsustainable fiscal and
external account deficits. Since that time, the government has
successfully removed barriers to foreign trade and investment, begun to
reform the financial system, eased foreign exchange controls, and
privatized dozens of state-owned enterprises. Progress on reducing the
budget and current-account deficits has been mixed, however. In 1993,
for example, during a period of extreme political instability,
Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves were almost completely drawn down,
and the budget deficit reached nearly 8% of GDP.
However, macroeconomic stability and sound fiscal policies were restored
during the second half of 1993 under the interim Government of Prime
Minister Moeen Qureshi. Largely as a result, Pakistan was able to secure
a $1.3 billion financing package from the IMF in February 1994. The
government's FY 1994-95 budget was designed to broaden structural
reforms and reduce the budget deficit through tax reform and other
revenue mobilization measures. It also seeks to contain defense
spending, which together with debt servicing, has consumed as much as
two-thirds of all government revenue in recent years.
With a per capita GDP of about $415, Pakistan is considered a low-income
country by the World Bank. Only about 26% of adults are literate, and
life expectancy at birth is about 59 years. The population, currently
about 128 million, is growing at about 3% per year, and is expected to
double within 20 years. Relatively few resources have been devoted to
socio-economic development or infrastructure projects. Inadequate
provision of social services and high population growth have contributed
to a persistence of poverty and unequal income distribution.
Consequently, the government recently launched the social action program
(SAP), which provides a framework for the provision of basic social
services, primary education, health care, family planning, and rural
water supply and sanitation.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
The country's principal natural resource is arable land (25% of the
total land area is under cultivation). It boasts one of the largest
irrigation systems in the world. Agriculture accounts for about 26% of
GDP and employs more than 45% of the labor force. The most important
crops include wheat, cotton, and rice, which together account for almost
70% of the value of total crop output. Intensive farming practices have
enabled Pakistan to become a net food exporter. Pakistan exports rice,
fish, fruits, and vegetables, and imports wheat, vegetable oil, and
The economic importance of agriculture has declined significantly since
independence (when its share in GDP was around 53%). Moreover, in recent
years, severe environmental pressures (floods, droughts, and crop
disease) have diminished agricultural production; in 1993, crop output
declined by 3.9%. As a result, the government introduced agriculture
assistance policies, such as increasing support prices for many
agricultural commodities, expanding the availability of agricultural
credit, and providing incentives for the import of agricultural
Pakistan has extensive energy resources, including fairly sizable
natural gas reserves, some proven oil reserves, and large hydropower
potential. However, the exploitation of energy resources has been slow
due to a shortage of capital and domestic political constraints. For
instance, domestic petroleum production totals only about half the
country's oil needs. Moreover, despite plans to build several large
power plants in the coming years, Pakistan's energy grid is unable to
meet the country's growing needs, creating an energy gap which
represents a major bottleneck to economic growth. The need to import oil
also contributes to Pakistan's persistent trade deficits and the
depletion of foreign exchange. Consequently, the government has made
development of the energy sector its first economic priority. In 1993,
21% of the total public sector development budget was allocated to
energy. The latest policy aims to develop new thermal and hydropower
generation capacity through private sector investment.
Pakistan's industry accounts for about 19% of its GDP. Cotton textile
production and apparel manufacturing are Pakistan's largest industries,
accounting for about 50% of total exports (FY 1993). Other major
industries include cement, fertilizer, edible oil, sugar, steel,
tobacco, chemicals, machinery, and food processing. The public sector
produced about 30% of FY 1991 manufacturing output. However, its share
is on the decline because of ongoing government efforts to privatize
large-scale parastatal units. In the face of an increasing trade
deficit, the government hopes to diversify the country's industrial base
and bolster export industries.
Foreign Trade and Aid
Weak world demand for its exports, combined with disastrous floods and
domestic political uncertainty in 1993 weakened Pakistan's balance of
payments, which had improved significantly by 1992. In 1993, the current
account deficit increased to $3.7 billion, compared to $1.5 billion in
1991, but declined again to about $2.4 billion in 1994. Pakistan's
exports continue to be dominated by cotton textiles and apparel, despite
government diversification efforts. Major imports include petroleum and
petroleum products, edible oil, wheat, chemicals, fertilizer, capital
goods, industrial raw materials, and consumer products. Amortization of
Pakistan's large, but manageable, external debt (about $19.2 billion)
consumed about 23% of export earnings in 1993.
Pakistan receives about $2 billion per year in loan/grant assistance
from international financial institutions (e.g., the IMF, the World
Bank, and Asian Development Bank) and bilateral donors. However, all new
U.S. economic assistance to Pakistan was suspended after October 1990,
when then-President Bush could no longer certify under the Pressler
amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act [Section 620E(e)] "that Pakistan
does not possess a nuclear explosive device and that the proposed
assistance package reduces significantly the risk that Pakistan will
possess a nuclear explosive device." Increasingly, the composition of
assistance to Pakistan has shifted away from grants toward loans
repayable in foreign exchange.
Pakistan is a non-aligned country, a prominent member of the
Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and an active member of
the United Nations. In 1989, Pakistan rejoined the British Commonwealth.
Its foreign policy encompasses historically difficult relations with
India, a desire for a stable Afghanistan, long-standing close relations
with China, extensive security and economic interests in the Persian
Gulf (including cordial relations with Iran), and wide-ranging bilateral
relations with the United States and other western countries.
Since partition, relations between Pakistan and India have been
characterized by rivalry and suspicion. Although many issues divide the
two countries, the most sensitive one since independence has been the
status of Kashmir.
At the time of partition, the princely state of Kashmir, though ruled by
a Hindu maharajah, had an overwhelmingly Muslim population. When the
maharajah hesitated in acceding to either Pakistan or India in 1947,
some of his Muslim subjects, aided by tribesmen from Pakistan, revolted
in favor of joining Pakistan. In exchange for military assistance in
containing the revolt, the Kashmiri ruler offered his allegiance to
India. Indian troops occupied the eastern portion of Kashmir, including
its capital, Srinigar, while the western half came under Pakistani
India addressed this dispute in the United Nations on January 1, 1948.
One year later, the UN arranged a cease-fire along a line dividing
Kashmir but leaving the northern end of the line undemarcated and the
Vale of Kashmir (with the majority of the population) under Indian
control. India and Pakistan agreed to hold a UN-supervised plebiscite to
determine the state's future, but India did not fulfill this commitment.
Full-scale hostilities erupted in September 1965, when India alleged
that insurgents trained and supplied by Pakistan were operating in
India-controlled Kashmir. Hostilities ceased 3 weeks later, following
mediation efforts by the UN and interested countries. In January 1966,
Indian and Pakistani representatives met in Tashkent, U.S.S.R., and
agreed to attempt a peaceful settlement of Kashmir and their other
Following the 1971 Indo-Pak conflict, President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and
Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi met in the mountain town of Simla,
India, in July 1972. They agreed to a line of control in Kashmir
resulting from the December 17, 1971, cease-fire, and settlement of
bilateral disputes through peaceful means. In 1974, Pakistan and India
agreed to resume postal and telecommunications linkages and measures to
facilitate travel. Trade and diplomatic relations were restored in 1976,
after a hiatus of 5 years.
India's self-proclaimed "peaceful nuclear explosion" in 1974 generated
great uncertainty in Pakistan, and is generally acknowledged to have
been the impetus for Pakistan's nuclear weapons research program. In
1983, the Pakistani and Indian Governments accused each other of aiding
separatists in their respective countries, i.e., Sikhs in India's Punjab
State and Sindhis in Pakistan's Sindh Province. Indian and Pakistani
troops engaged in combat in the remote Siachen Glacier region.
Meanwhile, the Indian Government intensified its criticism of Pakistan's
clandestine nuclear weapons program.
Tensions diminished after Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister in November
1984 and after a group of Sikh hijackers was brought to trial by
Pakistan in March 1985. In December 1985, President Zia and Prime
Minister Gandhi pledged not to attack each other's nuclear facilities. A
formal "no attack" agreement was signed in January 1991. In early 1986,
the Indian and Pakistani governments began high-level talks to resolve
the Siachen Glacier border dispute and to improve trade.
Bilateral tensions increased in early 1990, when Kashmiri militants
challenged the authority of the Indian Government. Subsequent high-level
bilateral meetings relieved the tensions between India and Pakistan, but
relations worsened again after the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque by
Hindu extremists in December 1992 and terrorist bombings in Bombay in
March 1993. Talks between the foreign secretaries of both countries in
January 1994 were inconclusive. Therefore, tensions remain, particularly
over Kashmir, nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation and other
defense and internal security matters, communal concerns, and economic
issues. Until the Kashmir dispute is resolved, bilateral relations will
Following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Pakistani
Government played a vital role in supporting the Afghan Resistance
movement and assisting Afghan refugees. After the Soviet withdrawal in
February 1989, Pakistan, with cooperation from the world community,
continued to provide extensive support for displaced Afghans. The United
States has provided nearly $500 million in humanitarian assistance for
Afghan refugees in Pakistan, mainly through multilateral organizations.
In 1994, more than 1.4 million Afghan refugees remained in Pakistan, as
fighting between rival factions kept large parts of the country in a
state of warfare.
The Former Soviet Union
Under military leader Ayub Khan, Pakistan sought to improve relations
with the Soviet Union; trade and cultural exchanges between the two
countries increased between 1966 and 1971. However, Soviet criticism of
Pakistan's position in the 1971 war with India weakened bilateral
relations; and many Pakistanis believed that the August 1971 Indo-Soviet
Treaty of Friendship, Peace and Cooperation encouraged Indian
belligerency. Subsequent Soviet arms sales to India, amounting to
billions of dollars on concessional terms, reinforced this argument.
During the 1980s, tensions increased between the Soviet Union and
Pakistan, because of the latter's key role in organizing political and
material support for the Afghan rebel forces. The withdrawal of Soviet
forces from Afghanistan and the collapse of the former Soviet Union have
resulted in significantly improved bilateral relations.
People's Republic of China
In 1950, Pakistan was among the first countries to recognize the
People's Republic of China (P.R.C.). Following the Sino-Indian
hostilities of 1962, Pakistan's relations with China became stronger,
and the two countries since have regularly exchanged high-level visits
resulting in a variety of agreements. China has provided economic,
military, and technical assistance to Pakistan.
Favorable relations with China have been essential to Pakistan's foreign
policy. The P.R.C. strongly supported Pakistan's opposition to Soviet
involvement in Afghanistan and is perceived by Pakistan as a regional
counterweight to India and Russia.
Iran and the Persian Gulf
Historically, Pakistan has had close geopolitical and cultural-religious
linkages with Iran. Although the two countries enjoy cordial relations,
Pakistan's relations with Iran are tempered by its extensive relations
with Saudi Arabia and other Arab Persian Gulf states.
Despite popular support for Iraq in 1991, the Pakistani Government
supported the coalition against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and sent
11,600 troops to defend Saudi Arabia. Pakistan provides military
personnel to strengthen Gulf state defenses and to reinforce its own
security interests in the area. Nevertheless, Pakistan pursues an active
diplomatic relationship with Iran.
The United States and Pakistan established diplomatic relations in 1947.
The U.S. agreement to provide economic and military assistance to
Pakistan and the latter's involvement in the Baghdad Pact/CENTO and
SEATO strengthened relations between the two nations. However, the U.S.
suspension of military assistance during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war
generated a widespread feeling in Pakistan that the United States was
not a reliable ally. Even though the U.S. suspended military assistance
to both countries involved in the conflict, the suspension of aid
affected Pakistan much more severely. Gradually, relations improved and
arms sales were renewed in 1975.
In November 1979, false rumors that the United States had participated
in the seizure of the grand mosque in Mecca provoked a mob attack on the
U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. The slow reaction of police authorities
allowed time for the embassy to be burned. Six persons died, four of
them U.S. nationals. The American cultural centers in Rawalpindi and
Lahore also were destroyed. At the time of the incident, U.S. assistance
to Pakistan also had been suspended because of concerns about Pakistan's
nuclear program. Consequently, relations between the countries weakened
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 highlighted the
common interest of Pakistan and the U.S. in peace and stability in South
Asia. In 1981, the U.S. and Pakistan agreed on a $3.2 billion military
and economic assistance program aimed at helping Pakistan deal with the
heightened threat to security in the region and its economic development
Recognizing national security concerns and accepting Pakistan's
assurances that it did not intend to construct a nuclear weapon,
Congress waived restrictions (Symington amendment) on military
assistance to Pakistan. In March 1986, the two countries agreed on a
second multi-year (FY 1988-93) $4 billion economic development and
security assistance program. Since October 1, 1990, the United States
has suspended all economic and military assistance to Pakistan because
of concerns about the development of Pakistan's nuclear program. Since
then, despite constraints resulting from the U.S. sanctions against
Pakistan's nuclear capabilities, both countries continue to cooperate in
areas of common interest such as contributing to UN peace-keeping
missions in Somalia and toward achieving a political settlement in
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--John C. Monjo
Deputy Chief of Mission--John C. Holzman
Defense Attache--Col. John B. Longenecker
Defense Representative--Frederick R. Wilhelm
Director, USAID Mission--John S. Blackton
Counselor for Political Affairs--Eric Kunsman
Counselor for Economic Affairs--Rafael L. Marin
Public Affairs Officer--Ray Peppers
Consul--June H. Kunsman
Consul General, Karachi--Mary Gin Kennedy
Consul General, Lahore--Eric Tunis
Principal Officer, Peshawar--Richard Smyth
The U.S. embassy is located at the Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5,
Islamabad [tel. (92)-(51)-826161 through 79; telex 82-5-864].
Published by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Public
Washington, DC April 1995
Managing Editor--Peter A. Knecht
Department of State Publication 7748
Background Notes series
This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without
permission; citation of this source is appreciated.
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, DC 20502
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