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The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a heavily populated country in South Asia. Bordered by Afghanistan, China, India, and Iran, it is separated from Tajikistan by a narrow stretch of Afghanistan, and from Oman by the Gulf of Oman.

As a nation, Pakistan's history began in 1947, and it has included periods of instability, military rule, and wars with India. Although its economy is growing, and it has the sixth-largest military in the world, Pakistan continues to face problems with corruption, terrorism, overpopulation, and poverty.

Archaeologists suggest that the region known as Pakistan was inhabited as early as 500,000 years ago, and there was a city there in 7000 BC. The Indus Valley Civilization, a Hindu culture, included a network of cities along the Indus River around 3000 BC. Zoroastrianism came to the region around 500 BC with the Persian Empire, which ruled over a large portion of what would later become Pakistan, although the Pakistani region was hardly the center of the empire. The armies of Alexander the Great ruled the region around 300 BC, establishing settlements. Then came the Seleucid Kingdom, the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, the Kushan Empire, the Hindu Gupta Empire, and the Greco-Buddhist Hephthalite Empire, prior to the Islamitization of the region in the 600s AD.

In the years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, Arab armies conquered much of the Middle East, and ruled over most of Pakistan since 712 AD. There were challenges from the Hindu kingdoms in the east, who ruled parts of Pakistan for a while, but Pakistanis began converting to Islam. Although rulers changed from time to time, Pakistan has been Muslim ever since.

For about fifty years, from 1799 to 1849, a Sikh Empire ruled over Punjab, a region in what is now northwestern India and Pakistan. The Sikhs were defeated by the British between 1843 and 1849, who took control of the Punjab, Kashmir, and what is now Khyber-Pukhtoonkhwa.

British interest in the region was related to the expansion of the British East India Company, whose rule largely relegated the native populations to second-class citizens. The Indian Mutiny took place as a result of rumors that British forces were greasing their bullets with cow and pig fat, which was an affront to the Hindu and Muslim populations. When the East India Company was dissolved in 1858, India came under the direct control of the British, and Pakistan's territory came under British rule in 1876.

In the early 1900s, calls for independence became stronger, with Mohandas Gandhi representing the region's Hindu interests, while Muhammad Ali Jinnah led the Muslim constituency. While the two factions were originally working together for an independent India, they parted ways and, in 1940, he led the demand for a separate Muslim state north of India.

In 1946, Britain was preoccupied with World War II. With violence threatening in India, which then included Pakistan, Britain decided to grant independence, and it was decided to partition the Indian subcontinent into the separate states of India and Pakistan, based largely on religion. Indian provinces with a majority Muslim population were to become part of Pakistan, while those dominated by Hindus would join India.

This wasn't without difficulties, because Muslims were not only the majority population in the northwest, but also in the northeastern region of Bengal, and millions of Muslims in central northern India were outnumbered by Hindus. Additionally, Christians, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, and others were given no consideration whatsoever.

As millions of Muslims from Hindu-dominated areas migrated toward Pakistan, and millions of Hindus moved in the opposite direction, violence broke out at the places where they came together. In 1947, Britain gave up control of Pakistan and India. By then, more than 100,000 had been killed and more than two million were displaced.

According to the original boundaries, Pakistan was divided into two parts, which were separated by more than 600 miles of Indian territory. Most of the institutions of government were in Indian territory, while Pakistan had to start with very little. During this time, Pakistan suffered a coup, which was followed by a series of military regimes, as well as wars with India, largely over land and boundary issues, which yet remain unresolved.

Today, Pakistan is a parliamentary federal republic with Islam as a state religion. More than 95% of Pakistanis are Muslim, largely Sunni. The largest minority religion in Pakistan is Hinduism, followed by Christianity.

The culture in Pakistan is mostly hierarchical, with an emphasis on traditional Islamic values, which govern the personal and political life of the Pakistani people.

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