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Country, southern Asia. Area: 307,374 sq mi (796,096 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 174,579,000. Capital: Islamabad
. The population is a complex mix of indigenous peoples who have been affected by successive waves of migrations of Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Pashtuns, Mughals, and Arabs. Languages: Urdu (national), English, Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi. Religions: Islam (official; predominantly Sunni); also Christianity, Hinduism. Currency: Pakistani rupee. Pakistan may be divided into four regions: the northern mountains, the Balochistan Plateau, the Indus Plain, and the desert areas. The Himalayan and Trans-Himalayan ranges form the great mountain areas of the northernmost part of the country; some of the highest peaks are K2
and Nanga Parbat
. The country has a developing mixed economy based largely on agriculture, light industries, and services. Remittances from Pakistanis working abroad are a major source of foreign exchange. Pakistan is a federal republic with two legislative houses; its head of state is the president, and its head of government is the prime minister. The area has been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BCE. From the 3rd century BCE to the 2nd century CE, it was part of the Mauryan and Kushan kingdoms. The first Muslim conquests were in the 8th century CE. The British East India Co.
subdued the reigning Mughal dynasty
in 1757. During the period of British colonial rule, what is now (Muslim) Pakistan was part of (Hindu) India. The new state of Pakistan came into existence in 1947 by act of the British Parliament. The Kashmir
region remained a disputed territory between Pakistan and India, with tensions resulting in military clashes and full-scale war in 1965. Civil war between East and West Pakistan in 1971 resulted in independence for Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) in 1972. Many Afghan refugees migrated to Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s and remained there during the Taliban
and post-Taliban periods. Pakistan elected Benazir Bhutto
, the first woman to head a modern Islamic state, in 1988. She and her party were ousted in 1990, but she returned to power in 1993–97. Conditions became volatile during that period. Border flare-ups with India continued, and Pakistan conducted tests of nuclear weapons. Political conditions worsened, and the army carried out a coup in 1999.