State and politics
The state of Pakistan emerged through the division of the
British colonial empire in 1947 as a federal democracy based
on Islam, thought to be a kind of home for the Muslims of
the Indian subcontinent. The country's character of
religious state has been given varying weight during
different political stages. In recent years, religious
forces have tended to advance their positions.
Before the summer 2018 elections, the army and the
security service had once again strengthened their influence
over both the mass media and the Supreme Court. The election
was won by Imran Khan, the former cricket star, and his
conservative party Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI,
'Pakistani Justice Movement'), who captured 149 of 342 seats
in the National Assembly. Khan took office as prime minister
in August 2018 and PTI also took the lead in Punjab, the
politically and economically dominant province, while
retaining the provincial leadership of Khyber Paktunkhwa,
which it has held since 2013. PTI, which was responsible for
changing the traditional political game and struggle against
the corruption, many voices gathered in particular the very
large youth generation. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how PK can stand for Pakistan.
With reference to corruption charges, the Supreme Court
dismissed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a year before the 2018
election and deprived him of the right to hold political
office for life. Shortly before the election, Sharif and his
daughter Maryam Nawaz (born 1973) were jailed, but they were
released in the absence of evidence shortly after the
election. Their party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz
(PML-N), stepped back heavily in the elections and lost
about half of its seats, and Nawaz Sharif's brother Shahbaz
Sharif (born 1951) assumed the role of opposition leader in
parliament. Bhutto Family Pakistan Peoples Party
(PPP) led by Benazir Bhutto's widow Asif Ali Zardariand son
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (born 1988), had to settle for 54
seats. The formerly influential, secular party MQM, which
gathered Urdu-speaking voters with roots in India, split and
lost its leading position. The traditional religious parties
also went back to the elections, which radically drew on
Pakistan's political map.
The country consists mainly of four provinces: Punjab,
Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. In addition,
there is the federally administered capital of Islamabad, a
number of provincially administered clan areas as well as
seven federally administered clan areas, Federally
Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), along the border with
The FATA area was established by the British as a buffer
zone on the western outskirts of the colonial empire and is
still partly self-governing. The border is called the Durand
Line after the British diplomat who established it,
originally as a provisional. The border is thus not
internationally established and is not recognized by the
Kabul government. Certain self-government also applies, in
different forms, to those parts of the disputed Kashmir area
that ended up in Pakistan, ie Azad Kashmir ('Free Kashmir')
and Gilgit-Baltistan. Here, waiting for the Kashmir issue,
in accordance with the UN decision, to obtain a political
solution that determines the status of the area. A large
part of Pakistan's borders in both the West and the East are
thus of a temporary nature, which contributes to an
uncertain situation in the country.
The division of power between the country's president and
its parliament has varied over the years, but through the
18th constitutional amendment in 2010, parliamentary
democracy was restored, with the prime minister as the
country's political leader.
Parliament consists of two chambers: the Senate and the
National Assembly. The former has 104 members elected in six
years (half is replaced every three years); 17 places are
reserved for women, 17 for experts in Islamic theology and
jurisprudence and four for non-Muslim minorities. Of the 342
members of the National Assembly, 272 are elected by
majority vote in one-man constituencies every five years.
Quota is applied to women (60 reserved places) and to
religious minorities (ten places).
The president, who has a mainly ceremonial role, is
elected by both parliamentary chambers and provincial
parliaments, while the prime minister is elected by the
National Assembly. Both the president and the prime minister
must be Muslim. The provincial governors are appointed by
the president while the provincial parliaments appoint the
governors of the provinces, led by a chief minister.
Official languages are Urdu and English.
However, the democratic system has found it difficult to
take root, and the country has been ruled over time by
military regimes that seized power through coups, sometimes
welcomed by a population tired of the corruption and
inefficiency of civilian rule.
Since Pakistan is a mosaic of diverse language groups and
ethnicities, it has been difficult to anchor the idea of a
Pakistani nation state. The only truly cohesive element is
the Islamic religion. Only a few percent of the population
is made up of religious minorities. However, within the
Muslim population, there is an estimated 10-20 percent
Shiite minority, while the majority are Sunni Muslims.
In addition, at the time of the state's birth, Pakistan
consisted of two geographically white parts; West Pakistan,
with Punjabi as the dominant people group, and East
Pakistan, populated mainly by Bengals. After a war in 1971,
East Pakistan broke loose and formed Bangladesh. The
problems of holding together the country have continued,
inter alia through recurring separatist riots in the
province of Baluchistan.
The feudal economic structure, especially in the
countryside, helps to polarize the population (see
Business), and the national institutions often work poorly,
not least in the education system. Illiteracy is widespread,
especially among women, who generally have a weak position.
Pakistan is thus largely characterized by gaps - between
civil and military, poor and rich, urban and rural, women
Moreover, this fragile state formation is located in one
of the world's most unstable regions and has been greatly
influenced by the rivalry with Hindu (and much larger)
India, as well as the recurrent and protracted conflicts in
Afghanistan. The uncertain situation has helped to give the
Pakistani army a very strong position in the country, with
not only security policy but also major economic interests.
The army has taken on the role of a kind of chief judge,
prepared to intervene when the political situation is deemed
to be about to derail, and in particular, the security
service, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has
developed in the direction of a state in the state.
However, the elections in relatively good order in 2008
and 2013 have strengthened democratic development. A free
press and an open social climate have also helped to
revitalize democracy, but are counteracted by, among other
things, increasing religious extremism, often with sectarian
signs. The Supreme Court has also, during certain periods,
played a prominent role in Pakistani politics, sometimes as
counterbalance to the army, sometimes rather as the army's
The official legal order in Pakistan is based on British
legal tradition, expanded with elements of Islamic law (Sharia).
The Supreme Court of the country (Supreme Court of
Pakistan) is the highest judicial body and can also
raise human rights issues on its own initiative. Especially
during periods of military rule, the Supreme Court has
emerged as a counterbalance to the military's exercise of
power; during other periods, it has approached the army and
rather its affairs.
Next to the Supreme Court there is an Islamic supreme
court whose task is to check that laws and regulations are
in accordance with Islamic injunctions and values and to be
the highest court in cases judged in accordance with Sharia
law. In addition, in every provincial capital as well as in
Islamabad there are superior courts (High Courts)
and under them a comprehensive system of local courts as
well as a variety of special courts for different types of
The partially autonomous areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and
Azad Kashmir have a separate legal order, which is similar
to the one in the Pakistani provinces. In the FATA area of
north-west Pakistan, until 2018, there was a legal system
with roots in the British colonial era, which applied, among
other things, collective punishments. This was formally
abolished when a decision was made to integrate FATA into
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
As a whole, the judiciary works poorly, with widespread
corruption and very long processing times. It is not
uncommon for it to take more than a decade to come up with a
verdict and that this will benefit the party that has paid
the most for the table. It is also not uncommon for the
police to refuse to register reports of, for example, sexual
abuse. For women, it can also be difficult or even risky to
try to report a crime at all. Consequently, the dark numbers
for gender-based crime are judged to be very high.
In addition to the regular judicial system, local
mechanisms remain that resolve disputes in accordance with a
traditional view of justice. In rural areas, it is often the
oldest or similar parishioners who settle disputes. This
system is more effective and less corrupt than the official
but clan-based and legally insecure, especially for women,
who are not represented in these sentencing assemblies.
The death penalty is included in the scale. A moratorium
on executions was introduced in 2008 but at the end of 2014
it was claimed for terrorist offenses and a few months later
also for other offenses. Since then, the number of
executions has again risen sharply. The development is
criticized, among other things, in the light of the fact
that torture is routinely occurring at the police stations
and that the verdict is to a large extent based on
recognition rather than evidence. The executions are done by
hanging. In the irregular application of the law, the death
penalty is even more common, especially for so-called honor
crimes. The number of women murdered in this way is
estimated by human rights groups to hundreds per year; even
men fall victim.
A particularly controversial feature of the Pakistani
rule of law is the so-called blasphemy laws, which have been
incorporated into various sections of the Criminal Code.
Among other things, the death penalty is for abusing the
Prophet Muhammad's name. The law is designed in a way that
allows it to be used to avenge or harm its neighbor, and the
country's religious minorities are particularly vulnerable.
The country is lacking in a number of human rights
issues. Involuntary disappearances, torture and
extrajudicial murders occur to a large extent. The sectarian
violence increased between 2010-15 and the northern parts of
the country have become a haven for members of Taliban
forces and other Islamist extremist groups from Afghanistan.
Religious minorities such as Shia Muslims, Hindus and
Christians are subjected to violence while the impunity is
widespread and the rule of law is lacking.
Violence and sexual violence against children and women
in the home are common. Sexual harassment, acid attacks and
harmful traditional practices occur to a large extent. Honor
killings occur, and according to human rights organizations,
1,000 are murdered each year based on honorary beliefs.
Human trafficking is widespread and children are
particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
Freedom of speech and press are guaranteed by law but are
not complied with. Journalists and their family members are
subjected to threats, harassment and outright murders, which
is reflected in Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom
Index for 2015 where the country gets a bottom rating. Of
180 countries surveyed, Pakistan has 159 seats.
Heads of State
||Mohammad Ayub Khan
||Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan
||Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
||Fazal Elahi Chaudhri
||Mohammad Zia ul-Haq
||Ghulam Ishaq Khan
||Farooq Ahmed Leghari
||Mohammad Rafiq Tarar
||Asif Ali Zardari