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History of Pakistan part 1


Situated in the northwest corner of the Indian subcontinent, the
Islamic Republic of Pakistan occupies a position of historic impor￾tance. Its strategic location, its role in the birth of civilization, and its
infl uence as a crossroads of political and religious ideologies have kept
it at the forefront of world events. Geographically, present-day Pakistan
has long been a gateway between Eurasia and the subcontinent and
between East and West. Its culture and history have been enriched by
the countless invaders, traders, and settlers who have been a part of
the region’s past. Some, like Alexander the Great and his army, merely
passed through but left a lasting mark. Others, such as the Arab armies
spreading the word of Islam and the British who imposed the ways of
the West, became an integral part of the region’s culture and character.
Some of humankind’s greatest works of art and architecture, of verse
and word, were created here. Today the region again has taken an
outsized role on the world stage: It is a linchpin in the global struggle
against terrorism, a cauldron in the heated confl ict between secular and
theocratic rule, a poster nation for the struggle between autocracy and
democracy, and a nuclear power whose relations with its neighbor India
have made this one of the most unstable regions in the world.
Most Westerners know little about this region or nation. Though an
independent state only since 1947, its homeland has a history unique
from the rest of the subcontinent it shares with India. Here the Indus
Valley Civilization, one of the world’s earliest and greatest, fl ourished
contemporaneously with the Egyptian and Mesopotamian empires. The
region has also been a cradle of spiritual awakening. Here Hinduism was
born in the aftermath of the Aryan migration into the region that began
about 1700–1500 B.C.E. A scant distance away, the Buddha received
enlightenment, founding a religion and philosophy that transformed
the region. Islam, which would have an even greater impact, gained its
foothold in Asia in what is today Pakistan. And the Sikh religion can
trace its roots to the region as well.
One of the most fabled dynasties in history, the Mughals, a regime so
rich and powerful that today its name is synonymous with those attri￾butes, ruled from here, as over the years have robber princes, religious
zealots, and ruthless vagabonds. During the British occupation, what

is now Pakistan became a principal theater in the Great Game played
by the West against Russia for regional dominance. Pakistan’s role as
geopolitical fulcrum grew after independence, alternately aligning itself
with the East, the West, and as an independent in its foreign policy. It
often stood by the United States as an important ally during the cold
war. It was from here in 1960 that the U-2 spy plane shot down by the
Soviet Union took off. Pakistan also helped turn Afghanistan into the
Soviet Union’s Vietnam after their occupation in the 1980s. In the new
century it has become a major battleground in a new global struggle,
pitting terrorism fueled by radical Islam against progressive and secular
social forces.
Politically and economically, Pakistan has had a troubled domestic
history. Periods of civilian rule marked by corruption and political grid￾lock have alternated with years of military dictatorships. Financially
stunted at birth, Pakistan has seen improvements in the economy since,
which though impressive, have still left the vast majority of its citizens
living in poverty. And the dilemma over the role of Islam in government
and society continues to stoke contention.
Today these issues have again brought Pakistan to a crossroads.
How it resolves these dilemmas will have repercussions far beyond the
nation’s own borders. The goal in this work is twofold: to provide an
accessible account of the people and events that have shaped what is
now Pakistan, and to provide a foundation of understanding so readers
can be better informed in considering the next chapter of its history

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