History of Pakistan
Early and medieval age
Some of the earliest ancient human civilizations in South Asia originated from areas encompassing present-day Pakistan. The earliest known inhabitants in the region were Soanian during the Lower Paleolithic, of whom stone tools have been found in the Soan Valley of Punjab. The Indus region, which covers most of present-day Pakistan, was the site of several successive ancient cultures including the Neolithic Mehrgarh and the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilisation (2,800–1,800 BCE) at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
The Vedic period (1500–500 BCE) was characterized by an Indo-Aryan culture; during this period the Vedas, the oldest scriptures associated with Hinduism, were composed, and this culture later became well established in the region. Multan was an important Hindu pilgrimage center. The Vedic civilisation flourished in the ancient Gandhāran city of Takṣaśilā, now Taxila in Punjab, which was founded around 1000 BCE. Successive ancient empires and kingdoms ruled the region: the Persian Achaemenid Empire (around 519 BCE), Alexander the Great’s empire in 326 BCE and the Maurya Empire, founded by Chandragupta Maurya and extended by Ashoka the Great, until 185 BCE. The Indo-Greek Kingdom founded by Demetrius of Bactria (180–165 BCE) included Gandhara and Punjab and reached its greatest extent under Menander (165–150 BCE), prospering the Greco-Buddhist culture in the region. Taxila had one of the earliest universities and centers of higher education in the world, which was established during the late Vedic period in the 6th century BCE. The school consisted of several monasteries without large dormitories or lecture halls where the religious instruction was provided on an individualistic basis. The ancient university was documented by the invading forces of Alexander the Great and was also recorded by Chinese pilgrims in the 4th or 5th century CE.
At its zenith, the Rai Dynasty (489–632 CE) of Sindh ruled this region and the surrounding territories. The Pala Dynasty was the last Buddhist empire, which, under Dharmapala and Devapala, stretched across South Asia from what is now Bangladesh through Northern India to Pakistan.
The Arab conqueror Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh in 711 CE. The Pakistan government’s official chronology claims this as the time when the foundation of Pakistan was laid but the concept of Pakistan came in the 19th century. The Early Medieval period (642–1219 CE) witnessed the spread of Islam in the region. During this period, Sufi missionaries played a pivotal role in converting a majority of the regional Buddhist and Hindu population to Islam. These developments set the stage for the rule of several successive Muslim empires in the region, including the Ghaznavid Empire (975–1187 CE), the Ghorid Kingdom, and the Delhi Sultanate (1206–1526 CE). The Lodi dynasty, the last of the Delhi Sultanate, was replaced by the Mughal Empire (1526–1857 CE).
The Mughals introduced Persian literature and high culture, establishing the roots of Indo-Persian culture in the region. From the region of modern-day Pakistan, key cities during the Mughal rule were Lahore and Thatta, both of which were chosen as the site of impressive Mughal buildings. In the early 16th century, the region remained under the Mughal Empire ruled by Muslim emperors. By the early 18th century, increasing European influence contributed to the slow disintegration of the Mughal Empire as the lines between commercial and political dominance became increasingly blurred.
During this time, the English East India Company had established coastal outposts. Control over the seas, greater resources, technology, and British military protection led the Company to increasingly flex its military muscle, allowing the Company to gain control over the subcontinent by 1765 and sideline European competitors. Expanding access beyond Bengal and the subsequent increased strength and size of its army enabled it to annex or subdue most of the region by the 1820s. Many historians see this as the start of the region’s colonial period. By this time, with its economic power severely curtailed by the British parliament and itself effectively made an arm of British administration, the Company began more deliberately to enter non-economic arenas such as education, social reform, and culture. Such reforms included the enforcement of the English Education Act in 1835 and the introduction of the Indian Civil Service (ICS). Traditional madrasahs—primary institutions of higher learning for Muslims in the subcontinent—were no longer supported by the English Crown, and nearly all of the madrasahs lost their financial endowment.
The gradual decline of the Mughal Empire in the early 18th century enabled the Sikh Empire to control larger areas until the British East India Company gained ascendancy over South Asia. A rebellion in 1857 called the Sepoy mutiny of Bengal was the region’s major armed struggle against the British Empire and Queen Victoria. Divergence in the relationship between Hinduism and Islam created a major rift in British India that led to motivated religious violence in British India. The language controversy further escalated the tensions between Hindus and Muslims. The Hindu renaissance witnessed an awakening of intellectualism in traditional Hinduism and saw the emergence of more assertive influence in the social and political spheres in British India. A Muslim intellectual movement, founded by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan to counter the Hindu renaissance, envisioned, as well as advocating for the two-nation theory, and led to the creation of the All-India Muslim League in 1906. In contrast to the Indian National Congress’s anti-British efforts, the Muslim League was a pro-British movement whose political program inherited the British values that would shape Pakistan’s future civil society. In events during World War I, British Intelligence foiled an anti-English conspiracy involving the nexus of Congress and the German Empire. The largely non-violent independence struggle led by the Indian Congress engaged millions of protesters in mass campaigns of civil disobedience in the 1920s and 1930s against the British Empire.
The Muslim League slowly rose to mass popularity in the 1930s amid fears of under-representation and neglect of British Muslims in politics. In his presidential address of 29 December 1930, Allama Iqbal called for “the amalgamation of North-West Muslim-majority Indian states” consisting of Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind, and Baluchistan. The perceived neglect of Muslim interests by Congress-led British provincial governments during the period of 1937–39 convinced Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan to espouse the two-nation theory and led the Muslim League to adopt the Lahore Resolution of 1940 presented by Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Haque, popularly known as the Pakistan Resolution. In World War II, Jinnah and British-educated founding fathers in the Muslim League supported the United Kingdom’s war efforts, countering opposition against it whilst working towards Sir Syed’s vision.
The 1946 elections resulted in the Muslim League winning 90 percent of the seats reserved for Muslims. Thus, the 1946 election was effectively a plebiscite in which the Indian Muslims were to vote on the creation of Pakistan, a plebiscite won by the Muslim League. This victory was assisted by the support given to the Muslim League by the support of the landowners of Sindh and Punjab. The Congress, which initially denied the Muslim League’s claim of being the sole representative of Indian Muslims, was now forced to recognize the fact. The British had no alternative except to take Jinnah’s views into account as he had emerged as the sole spokesperson of Entire British India’s Muslims. However, the British did not want British India to be partitioned, and in one last effort to prevent it, they devised the Cabinet Mission plan.
As the cabinet mission failed, the British government announced its intention to end the British Rule in 1946–47. Nationalists in British India—including Jawaharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad of Congress, Jinnah of the All-India Muslim League, and Master Tara Singh representing the Sikhs—agreed to the proposed terms of transfer of power and independence in June 1947 with the Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten of Burma. As the United Kingdom agreed to the partitioning of India in 1947, the modern state of Pakistan was established on 14 August 1947 (27th of Ramadan in 1366 of the Islamic Calendar), amalgamating the Muslim-majority eastern and northwestern regions of British India. It comprised the provinces of Balochistan, East Bengal, the North-West Frontier Province, West Punjab, and Sindh.
In the riots that accompanied the partition in Punjab Province, it is believed that between 200,000 and 2,000,000 people were killed in what some have described as a retributive genocide between the religions while 50,000 Muslim women were abducted and raped by Hindu and Sikh men and 33,000 Hindu and Sikh women also experienced the same fate at the hands of Muslims. Around 6.5 million Muslims moved from India to West Pakistan and 4.7 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from West Pakistan to India. It was the largest mass migration in human history. The dispute over Jammu and Kashmir led to the First Kashmir War in 1948.