The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is located on the edge of the Middle East, between the Arab Sea, Afghanistan, Iran, India and China. It is the sixth most populous country in the world with a population of over 161 million, 96% of them Muslim. This makes it the second most populous Muslim country.
The country is comprised of four primary provinces: Northwest Frontier Province, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. As with many countries in the region, Pakistan has a history rich in culture and heritage, as well as a tumultuous one, with warfare raging for centuries.
Pakistan has a long history of being conquered and ruled by outsiders, which has included the Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Turks, Afghans, and Mongols. Most recently, the region was part of British India before gaining independence in 1947. The Indus Region has been home to ancient cultures, settled as early as 2500 to 1500 BCE. Because the country has not always been a state, the common history of India, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan run into each other, and they share a related ancestry and culture. The Silk Road, a major trade route in its time, ran through the region, spreading religion and culture.
On important development in the country's history is when, in 712 CE, Muhammad bin Qasim, an Arab general, conquered much of the region. He ushered in the beginning of several succeeding Muslim empires and opened up the area to an Islamic conversion.
In the 19th century, the British East India Company gained a foothold in the region, and what is now Pakistan, was under British control up through the early 20th century. Muslim opposition mounted throughout the occupation, and in 1930, there was a call to create a separate state from India for Muslims. This concept was labeled the “Two Nation Theory.” On 14 August 1947, Pakistan was created, and many Muslims migrated into the area, while many Sikhs and Hindus remained or moved to India.
Pakistan’s relationship with India has been a tumultuous one, and there have been several wars and struggles in the region since the country’s infancy, including the First Kashmir War, the Bangladesh War of Independence, when Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan, and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Politically, the country is a semi-presidential republic, although it has gone through a period of military rule. It has had two constitutions, but it is the second, the Constitution of 1973 which was suspended from 1977 to 1991, which dictates the current rules of governance.
Pakistan is a large country — 310,403 square miles (803,940 sq. km) in size. Its geography is extremely varied, with miles of coastline, lagoons, mangrove swamps, forests, and mountains. It has 108 snow-covered mountain peaks that are higher than 23,000 feet (7,000 m) tall—some of which are a huge tourist attraction. Its climate and flora and fauna are as diverse as its geography.
Although its capital is Islamabad, the city of Karachi is the country's financial center and the most populous city. Among its top industries are telecom, software and aerospace as well as tourism. The region is not known for its stability, but its financial outlook is considered strong and continues to grow at a good rate.