Background: The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world and dating back at least 5,000 years, spread over much of what is presently Pakistan. During the second millennium B.C., remnants of this culture fused with the migrating Indo-Aryan peoples. The area underwent successive invasions in subsequent centuries from the Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Arabs (who brought Islam), Afghans, and Turks. The Mughal Empire flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries; the British came to dominate the region in the 18th century. The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan (with West and East sections) and largely Hindu India was never satisfactorily resolved, and India and Pakistan fought two wars - in 1947-48 and 1965 - over the disputed Kashmir territory. A third war between these countries in 1971 - in which India capitalized on Islamabad's marginalization of Bengalis in Pakistani politics - resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. In response to Indian nuclear weapons testing, Pakistan conducted its own tests in 1998. India-Pakistan relations have been rocky since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, but both countries are taking small steps to put relations back on track. In February 2008, Pakistan held parliamentary elections and in September 2008, after the resignation of former President MUSHARRAF, elected Asif Ali ZARDARI to the presidency. Pakistani government and military leaders are struggling to control domestic insurgents, many of whom are located in the tribal areas adjacent to the border with Afghanistan.
Location: Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea, between India on the east and Iran and Afghanistan on the west and China in the north
Area land: 770,875 sq km
Area water: 25,220 sq km
Coastline: 1,046 km
Country name conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Country name conventional short form: Pakistan
Country name former: West Pakistan
Population: 187,342,721 (July 2011 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 35.4% (male 34,093,853/female 32,278,462); 15-64 years: 60.4% (male 58,401,016/female 54,671,873); 65 years and over: 4.2% (male 3,739,647/female 4,157,870) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: 1.573% (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 24.81 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 6.92 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.17 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 1.09 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.92 male(s)/female; total population: 1.07 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 63.26 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 66.52 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 59.85 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.);
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 65.99 years; male: 64.18 years; female: 67.9 years (2011 est.);
Total fertility rate: 3.17 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 98,000 (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 5,800 (2009 est.);
Nationality: noun: Pakistani(s); adjective: Pakistani;
Ethnic groups: Punjabi 44.68%, Pashtun (Pathan) 15.42%, Sindhi 14.1%, Sariaki 8.38%, Muhajirs 7.57%, Balochi 3.57%, other 6.28%;
Religions: Muslim 95% (Sunni 75%, Shia 20%), other (includes Christian and Hindu) 5%;
Languages: Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Siraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashtu 8%, Urdu (official) 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English (official; lingua franca of Pakistani elite and most government ministries), Burushaski, and other 8%;
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 49.9%; male: 63%; female: 36% (2005 est.);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $451.2 billion (2010 est.); $439.4 billion (2009 est.); $421.2 billion (2008 est.);
GDP (official exchange rate): $174.8 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 2.7% (2010 est.); 4.3% (2009 est.); 3.6% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $2,400 (2010 est.); $2,400 (2009 est.); $2,400 (2008 est.);
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 21.8%; industry: 23.6%; services: 54.6% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: 24% (FY05/06 est.);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 3.9%; highest 10%: 26.5% (2005);
Labor force: 55.77 million;
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 43%; industry: 20.3%; services: 36.6% (2005 est.);
Unemployment rate: 15% (2010 est.); 14% (2009 est.);
Budget: revenues: $25.33 billion; expenditures: $36.24 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: textiles and apparel, food processing, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, paper products, fertilizer, shrimp;
Industrial production growth rate: 4.9% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 90.8 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 72.2 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2008 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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(Urdu-language daily), Islamabad
(English-language), Karachi, Lahore
(Independent - Urdu-language daily), Lahore
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Regrettably, the tragic death of Benazir Bhutto has resulted in a new stage of Bhutto family feudal leadership of the P.P.P., only this time absent the charisma, talents and experience of Benazir.
About a third of all marriages in rural Pakistan take place on a watta satta basis, according to research. In some parts of the country, like Sindh province, the rate is even higher.
While there has been a new wave of threats to female teachers and girls' schools recently, such incidents are linked to attacks that have taken place over the past few years, say observers.
The violence in Waziristan is only one complication caused by the widespread availability of arms across the North-West Frontier Province.