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ABOUT PAKISTAN:

ABOUT PAKISTAN: Pakistan is unlike most other countries It is one of the two nations-the other being Israel-founded on the basis of religion Although it was created to provide a homeland for the Muslim community of British India, in its original form it was able to accommodate only about half of the people of Islamic faith who lived in the subcontinent Pakistan’s birth in 1947 resulted in one of the largest movements of people in human history when some 14 million people left their homes, with 8 million Muslims leaving India for Pakistan and 6 million people moving in the opposite direction This was the first large-scale incidence of ethnic cleansing the world was to witness Within a matter of months, the proportion of Muslims in what is today’s Pakistan increased from about 75 percent of the population to 95 percentThere were other population movements that deeply influenced Pakistan’s history Among them was the migration of millions of people from the country’s northern areas to build Karachi, the first capital of Pakistan In 50 years, Karachi’s size increased 40-fold, from a small port city of 250,000 in 1947 to a mega-city of more than 10 million people in 1997 By the end of 2005, the city’s population was estimated at 13 million This explosion brought a number of ethnic and linguistic groups that could not be accommodated socially, politically, and economically in the expanding city



Karachi’s institutional development did not keep pace with its demographic expansion Karachi consequently became one of the most violent cities in the worldDemographic convulsion also brought four million Afghan refugees to Pakistan in the 1980s and later more than a million Kashmiris displaced by the earthquake in October 2005 There was also an outward movement of people from Pakistan to the Middle East, Great Britain, and North America that created three large Pakistani diasporas that began to interact in several different ways with the homeland For the last several years, members of the diaspora began to remit annually $3 to $4 billion to Pakistan, equivalent to 5 percent of the country’s GDP This helped to ease the country’s resource constraints However, not all the interactions were benign For instance, three of the four suicide bombers who attacked London’s transport system in July 2005 belonged to families of Pakistani origin Many members of the diaspora sent their children for education to Pakistani madrassas, some of which give training in radical Islam and the pursuit of jihad This became a matter of concern for the countries that had large Pakistani communitiesPakistan is also unique among developing countries in having split into two almost equal halves as a result of ethnic tensions

Founded on the basis of religion, Islam did not provide a strong enough glue to hold together the two wings of the country on either side of India While religion proved to be a weak nation-building device, it has had another kind of impact The ethnic cleansing of 1947 “Muslimized” the country enough to make it a center of Islamic radicalism that shook the world on 11 September 2001 with lethal attacks on the United States The war between Islamic extremists on the one side and the West led by the United States on the other became intense in the first few years of the 21st centuryPakistan also lies on several fault lines in the Muslim world It is in Pakistan that Arab Islam meets South Asian Islam, the first much more conservative than the second It is also in Pakistan, with the second largest Shia community in the world, that the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam are attempting to coexist And it is in the northern areas of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan that Central Asian Islam is seeking to define its future-to accommodate itself in the non-Muslim worlds of South Asia and Europe or to move towards Islamic extremismUnder General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s fourth military president, the country is attempting to wean itself away from radical and political Islam and move towards what the country’s president calls “enlightened modernization” Whether the country succeeds in achieving this goal will depend on both domestic policies, particularly in the sector of education, as well as the way the West deals with the Muslim world A series of demographic convulsions, the Muslimization of the country at the time of independence, the rise of radical Islam inside the coun-ry’s borders as well as in the Muslim world around it have all brought volatility to Pakistan

If all this energy is channeled into productive endeavors, Pakistan could follow India-another populous South Asian country-and become a dynamic part of the global economic and political systems If these forces are allowed to destabilize the country, Pakistan could become the epicenter of an earthquake that would rock the rest of the world

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