Pakistan History, Language and Culture

History of Pakistan

The territory of present day Pakistan has witnessed the rise and fall of countless empires, which have contested this land from as early as 550BCE, when the Achaemenid Empire controlled vast swathes of Asia, Arabian and Northern Africa.

By 323BCE the marauding Macedonian, Alexander the Great, had staked his claim to Pakistan, setting a trend for conquering that continued for the next 2000 years.

The Mughal Empire (1526-1857) lasted longest and helped develop the region economically. Agriculture, art and commerce flourished during Mughal rule, which left behind a sophisticated administration and a wealth of architecture that still wows visitors today.

The British arrived in the region in the early 1800s and in 1849 the territory now known as Pakistan was incorporated into British India. 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 - who is considered to be the 'father of the nation' - the British created a separate Muslim state consisting of two parts; East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (now a single unitary state), which were separated by 1,600km (1,000 miles) of Indian territory.

Political and religious disputes between the territories resulted in a civil war, which lasted for most of 1971. It was brought to an end by the intervention of India, which forced Pakistan to surrender and recognise the independence of modern day Bangladesh.

Pakistan’s relationship with India remains fraught. Both nations lay claim to Kashmir and have fought wars over the territory. Pakistan presently occupies one-third of the disputed territory and India occupies the other two-thirds. The Kashmiris themselves have become weary of both sides and there is a growing appetite for independence.

In contrast to India, democracy failed to take root in Pakistan, which 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 remains tougher than ever.

Although the country has struggled to maintain a foothold on political stability, Pakistan remains a politically aware nation, with a culture broadly based around family, Islam and an acceptance of different ethnic groups living throughout the country.

Did you know?
• Pakistan is home to the highest paved road in the world. Perched 4,693m (15,397ft) above sea level, the Karakoram Highway links China with Pakistan.
• The name Pakistan means ‘land of the pure’ in Persian and Urdu.
• Pakistan has the world’s largest volunteer ambulance service, founded by Sattar Edhi.

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.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.