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Far East Kingdoms

South Asia


Modern Pakistan
AD 1947 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1947-2024), Dominion of the British Commonwealth (1947-1956), First Republic (1956-1962), & Second Republic (1962-On)

The republic of Pakistan was formed on 14 August 1947 following the official handover of power in India by the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the east by India, to the west by Iran, and to the north-west by the long and mountainous border with Afghanistan.

It also borders the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region which has been under China's control since the eighteenth century, but only through its own Pakistan-administered section of Kashmir which India also claims (Pakistan refers to this region as Azad Kashmir). The country forms a north-south ribbon of territory which is focussed on the home of one of humankind's earliest civilisations, that of the Indus Valley. When that collapsed, around 1700 BC, it opened the path to Indo-European migration into India by the Indo-Aryans.

Once this had subsided, the Gandhara civilisation of the pre-Achaemenid period also contributed to human progress in Pakistan's northern regions. That fell to the Persian empire in the sixth century BC, with the Greek empire and then the Mauryans subsequently taking control of the satrapies of Gandhara and Northern Indus (the latter along the upper reaches of the River Indus), immediately to the east of the Hindu Kush mountains. Another satrapy, Southern Indus, formed much of the rest of today's Pakistan.

Since then, and until the twentieth century AD, Pakistan's territory has, for the most part, been a patchwork of tribal states and small kingdoms, along with larger principalities and several empires, usually with varying parties vying for control. These parties ranged from the semi-nomadic Sakas and Kushans, to the Xionites and then Palas, and the domains of the Ghaznavids and Ghurids, followed by control by the Delhi sultanate, and then by the Moghuls.

The arrival of the British East India Company gradually saw much of Indian territory falling under its control, then to be directly administered by the British Vice-Regency until independence.

The modern republic was formed through a 'Direct Action' day, which was called in 1947 by Muslim parties in India (led by Muhammed Ali Jinnah). They demanded a separate homeland for Muslims in modern India. With the vast country already a pressure-cooker of post-independence stresses, Hindus and Sikhs were massacred in Muslim-dominated areas, leading to a bloody Hindu retaliation. Large-scale riots followed and the decision was taken to partition India and create Pakistan as a homeland for Muslims in former north-western India.

Formed initially as a dominion of the British Commonwealth (until 1956), the new country also gained the east of the ancient region of Bengal, which was now named East Pakistan. Indian states which acceded to Pakistan upon its establishment included Junagadh (a princely state), Khayrpur, the territory of the former state of Mirpur, Sind, and Kalat.

In 1947, the frontier states of Chitral, Dir, Hunza, and Swat also came under Pakistani suzerainty, but the First Kashmir War in 1947 vastly complicated the situation regarding Kashmir.

Development in Pakistan has been hampered by Islamist violence and economic stagnation. Relations with its key neighbours, India and Afghanistan, are often fraught. The Himalayan region of Kashmir remains a flashpoint, having been the trigger for no less than four wars with India and countless smaller skirmishes. The government uses legal and constitutional powers to curb press freedom, while the 2015 blasphemy law has been used against journalists.


(Information by Peter Kessler, Abhijit Rajadhyaksha and the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information from Asia in the Modern World, Claude A Buss (Macmillan, 1964), from The Horizon History of the British Empire, Steven W Sears (Ed, American Heritage Publishing Company, 1973), from the BBC series, The Story of India, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between August-September 2007 (covering the Indus Valley culture and the migration of Indo-Europeans into India), from Washington Post (19 July 1993, 23 September 1993, 13 October 1999, & Pakistan's Leader Takes Presidency (21 June 2001)), and from External Links: Pakistan (Rulers.org), and Pakistan (Zárate's Political Collections (ZPC)), and BBC Country Profiles, and Pakistan 'shoots down two Indian jets' over Kashmir (BBC News), and Key events in the life of Benazir Bhutto (The Guardian), and The Latest Kashmir Conflict Explained (United States Institute of Peace), and Asif Ali Zardari elected Pakistan president for second time (The Guardian).)

1947 - 1948

Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Governor-general of Pakistan for British dominion. Died.

1947 - 1949

The Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-1948 (otherwise referred to as the First Kashmir War) between the dominions of India and Pakistan ignites over Kashmir just two months after they become independent nations. Pakistani militia which is sent into Kashmir to secure it from Indian control is eventually repulsed by the Indian army.

Pakistan partition 1947
The partition of India and Pakistan caused misery for millions and a mass population movement in both directions

Manavadar state joins Pakistan in September 1947, while Bahawalpur state accedes on 7 October 1947. The princely states of Junagadh (Gujarat) and Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), which have Muslim rulers but an overwhelming Hindu population, are taken into India by Indian home minister Vallabhai Patel following a referendum on 24 February 1948.

Manavadar state changes its collective mind just five months after joining Pakistan, switching back to Indian allegiance in February 1948. The frontier state of Amb comes under Pakistani suzerainty in the same year. On 17 March 1948, Pakistan also gains Kharan, Las Bela, and Makran. On 31 March 1948, Kalat also joins.

UN intervention in 1949 ensures that part of Kashmir remains occupied by Pakistan, which it names Azad Kashmir, while India refers to this as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India retains the other half of Kashmir. The UN asks for a plebiscite in the disputed area. Pakistan does not vacate its half of Kashmir, so that plebiscite never takes place.

1948 - 1951

Khwaja Nazimuddin

Governor-general. Muslim League.


Pakistan's first prime minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, is murdered by a hired assassin from Afghanistan. The reason for the assassination is never uncovered, although various theories are expounded.

Pakistan's first prime minister after indepencence, Liaqat Ali Khan
Pakistan's pivotal first prime minister after independence, Liaqat Ali Khan, was assassinated by a hired assassin who also died, moments later, at the hands of the police

1951 - 1955

Ghulam Mohammad

Governor-general. Muslim League.


The states of Kalat, Kharan, Las Bela, and Makran, all of which had acceded to Pakistan in 1948, now form the 'Baluchistan States Union' with the wali of Kalat as its head (khan-e a'zam).

1955 - 1956

Iskander Mirza

Military governor-general of Pakistan. Became president.

1955 - 1956

On 14 October 1955, the states of Bahawalput and Khayrpur are extinguished. Pakistan also extinguishes all of the member states of the 'Baluchistan States Union, terminating the union. In the following year, 1956, Pakistan becomes a self-governing republic and adopts a constitution which remains effective until 1962, heralding the start of the 'First Republic'.

1956 - 1958

Iskander Mirza

First president of an independent Pakistan. Ousted.


A military coup overthrows the country's civilian government. Mirza is deposed and exiled. Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan takes control both as head of state and, as the chief administrator of martial law, the head of the government. In the same year the sultan of Muscat & Oman sells Makran to Pakistan, which incorporates it into the province of Baluchistan (or Balochistan, as the former spelling is often confused with Iran's region of the same name).

Pakistan's General Ayub Khan
General Ayub's dramatic ascent to power in 1958 and his intention to remain firmly in charge came after a decade of political turmoil in Pakistan

1958 - 1969

Ayub Khan

Military dictator. US-style president from 1960. Resigned.


Under the control of its military dictator, Pakistan adopts a new constitution which effectively replaces the 'First Republic' with a new 'Second Republic'. The constitution reflects Khan's personal views of politicians and the restriction against using religion in politics. His presidency restores the writ of government through the promulgated constitution and restores political freedom by lifting martial law which has been in place since 1958.


Pakistan again attacks India over Kashmir - the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Its forces are beaten back on several fronts, however. With Soviet mediation Pakistan agrees to call off the attack.


General Ayub Khan resigns when the military stages the country's second coup. General Yahya Khan assumes the presidency and declares martial law. Amidst a new Cold War equation, Pakistan (along with China) becomes a US ally as India turns to the Soviet Union for military assistance.

In the same year, on 28 July 1969, the frontier states of Amb, Chitral, Dir, and Swat are incorporated into the country (Hunza and Nagar are added in 1974, on 25 September).

President Richard M Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was elected president of the United States in November 1968, assuming office in January 1969, but from the beginning his administration was plagued by leaks to the press

1969 - 1973

Yahya Khan

Military president. Stepped down after handing over power.


An attempt at the genocide of the Bengali-speaking Muslims of East Pakistan is made by the Punjabi-dominated army of West Pakistan. A large-scale exodus of East Pakistanis into India is triggered, leading to a humanitarian crisis, all of which is collectively termed the Bangladesh Liberation War.

India intervenes by assisting the Bengali revolutionary group, Mukti Bahini, which is led by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. Pakistan launches a pre-emptive strike on eleven Indian airbases, starting the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. This war lasts just thirteen days. Following this, East Pakistan secedes from West Pakistan (on 16 December 1971) to become Bangladesh.

1971 - 1973

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

President. Pakistan People's Party. Became prime minister.

1973 - 1978

Fazal Elahi Chaudhry

President. Pakistan People's Party. Removed.


General Zia ul Haq launches a military coup, overthrowing Prime Minister Bhutto (former president Bhutto), who is hanged in 1979. Zia assumes command of Pakistan, but President Chaudhry is allowed to remain in post until 1978, after which the general replaces him.

President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan
Former president, and then prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed in an alleged murder case after a controversial trial in the Zia era, which the Pakistan People's Party often dubs a 'judicial murder'

1978 - 1988

Zia ul Haq

Military dictator. Killed (assassinated?) in plane crash.


An Islamic penal code is established by Zia and Islamic Wahabi fundamentalism is encouraged. The country sees the birth of Pan-Islamism as Jihadi Mujahideen (warriors willing to martyr themselves for their faith) are recruited from all over the world (with US help) to overthrow the Soviet-sponsored communist government in Afghanistan. India accuses Pakistan of supporting terrorism in Punjab.

1988 - 1990

When General Zia ul Haq meets an untimely end in a plane crash, Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of the late president and prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, becomes prime minister herself under the new military president, only to be dismissed by the new president in 1990 (she returns in 1993-1996).

1988 - 1993

Ghulam Ishaq Khan

Military president (acting Aug-Dec 1988). No party. Resigned.


Nawaz Sharif leads the new government following the dismissal of Benazir Bhutto, with it enforcing Islamic Shariah law in 1991. India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir.


Wasim Sajjad

Interim president (Jul-Nov). Pakistan Muslim League.

1993 - 1997

Farooq Leghari

President (from Nov). Pakistan People's Party. Resigned.

1997 - 1998

Wasim Sajjad

Interim president for a second time. PML.

1998 - 2001

Rafiq Tarar

President. Pakistan Muslim League. Powerless from 1999.

1998 - 1999

India conducts nuclear tests amidst reports of a secret Pakistani nuclear programme which is supported by the Chinese. The following year, Pakistan launches an operation in Kargil (supposedly to internationalise the issue of Kashmir) after its soldiers occupy some unmanned border posts disguised as irregulars.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1999
The fourth major conflict between India and Pakistan in 1999 was known to Indian ground forces as 'Operation Vijay', while the Indian air force named it 'Operation Safed Sagar'

This becomes the Indo-Pakistani War of 1999. The Indian army successfully repulses the attacks and reoccupies the posts. The USA intervenes (fearing an escalation of the conflict between two nuclear powers) and Pakistan is compelled to call back its men.


Nawaz Sharif, returned to the office of prime minister in 1996, is overthrown in a military coup by General Pervez Musharraf after Sharif had attempted to fire the general. Musharraf then assumes command of the country. Both Sharif and Benazir Bhutto are exiled, while President Tarar is allowed to retain his office until his dismissal in 2001.

1999 - 2001

Pervez Musharraf

Military dictator and true power in Pakistan.

2001 - 2008

Pervez Musharraf

Official president after dismissing Tarar. Forced to step down.


The USA seeks logistical support from Pakistan in its 'war against terror' in Afghanistan. Pakistan has to turn against its long term allies, the Taliban, in order to appease the US, but is accused of playing a double game by many international agencies. US pressure on Musharraf forces him to crack down on a section of Islamic militants. There is large-scale opposition within Pakistan against Musharraf and the US in light of their perceived anti-Islamic policies.


Musharraf declares a state of emergency but has to retract it amidst international and local pressure. In the same year, Benazir Bhutto returns to Pakistan, allegedly with support from the USA, in order that she can contest elections. She is assassinated in a suicide bombing while being transported in her motorcade.

Former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto
Former prime minister and recent exile, Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in 2007 to campaign again for the office of prime minister, only to be murdered while out on the campaign trail in the same year


Pakistan is generally accepted to be the source of a terrorist attack on the Indian city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Islamic terrorists rampage through the city, killing hundreds of people including several foreign nationals (US and Israeli citizens are singled out for murder). The Pakistani state is accused of sponsoring the terrorists, all but one of whom is killed.


Mohammadmian Soomo

Acting president (Aug-Sep). Pakistan Muslim League.


With Musharraf having been forced to resign, Benazir Bhutto's controversial husband, Asif Ali Zardari, becomes president and Gilani the prime minister, although the international community and worldwide media still allege that the main power in Pakistan lies with General Kiyani and the army.

2008 - 2013

Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani

Unproven military power behind the 'throne'. Retired.

2008 - 2013

Asif Ali Zardari

President (from 9 Sep). Pakistan People's Party.


Massive floods in Pakistan kill or displace millions. In the same year, long-time ally China announces that it will set up nuclear stations in Pakistan similar to those of the India-US civilian nuclear deal amidst international condemnation considering Pakistan's nuclear proliferation record.

Pakistan floods 2010
The floods in Pakistan in 2010 displaced millions of people and starvation was a very real threat for many of the survivors

2013 - 2018

Mamnoon Hussain

President (from 9 Sep). Pakistan Muslim League. Died 2021.


A four-day attack in January on an Indian air base in Pathankot leaves dead seven Indian soldiers and six militants. In September an attack on an army base in Uri in Indian-administered Kashmir kills nineteen soldiers. India's retaliation occurs at the end of the month when it carries out what it calls 'surgical strikes' on militants in Pakistani Kashmir.


Former international cricket star Imran Khan becomes prime minister on 18 August 2018. He pledges to end corruption and dynastic politics, but his frequently controversial position (especially in regards the Taliban) sees him being removed from office in 2022 through a no-confidence motion.

2018 - 2024

Arif Alvi

President (from 9 Sep). Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).


A militant attack by one or more Pakistani groups takes place in Indian Kashmir. It kills forty Indian troops - the deadliest to take place during the three-decade-long insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir, albeit with long periods of peace during that time.

India retaliates and the situation becomes increasingly unstable. At least one air force plane appears to be lost by either side (reports vary and officials are keen to deny any losses at all), and artillery shelling takes place on the ground.

Indian troops and security measures in Kashmir
Barbed-wire placed by security personnel stretched across a Srinagar street in Indian-controlled Kashmir on 11 August 2019

2023 - 2024

Arif Alvi's five-year term of office ends on 8 September 2023. He remains in that office, however, thanks to the lack of any electoral college which is a requirement for electing his successor. He finally steps down on 8 March 2024.

2024 - On

Asif Ali Zardari

President for the second time. PML-N.


The new president is Asif Ali Zardari, widow of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto. He secures a large majority of votes over his opponent (411 to 181), Mehmood Khan Achakzai, who is backed by the party of imprisoned former prime minister, Imran Khan.

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