The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was founded on 14 August 1947 upon the end of British colonialism in South Asia. It envisages providing a homeland for the Muslims of South Asia, and hence is composed of more than 90 per cent Muslims with various ethnic backgrounds. About two per cent of Pakistan's population is Christian. Today, Pakistan has a population of roughly 210 Million people, speaking 74 different languages altogether. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca, and English is widely used. Apart from that the four provinces have got their own major languages, widely used as provincial linguae francae: Punjabi & Seraiki in Punjab, Sindhi (rural) and Urdu (urban) in Sindh, Balochi & Brahui in Balochistan, and Pashto and Hindko in Khyber Pakthunkhwa. In 1971, East Pakistan - today's Bangladesh - separated from the geographically remote West Pakistan after a civil war, which was in part based on linguistic and ethnic grievances.
Right at the outset, the founding fathers of Pakistan realized federalism as being an important contributor to national integrity and stability. Yet it was only after the traumatizing separation from Bangladesh, that it was subsequently made a central part of the constitution in 1973, and again strongly reiterated in the landmark 18th Constitutional Amendment of 2010. Having the guiding principle of “Unity in Diversity” in mind, 17 ministries/subjects have been devolved from Islamabad to the provincial capitals – Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta – ever since. However, due to prolonged episodes of political instability and autocratic rule, provincial know-how and capacities have not been developed to their full potential as yet. Hence, the responsible and sustainable development of resources within the federalist structures remains the need of the hour.
Externally, Pakistan’s relations are marked by a strong relationship with the “all-weather friend” China, and Saudi Arabia. Traditionally the United Kingdom as former colonial power as well as the United States have had a good rapport with Islamabad. Germany enjoys a very good reputation, and the European Union is gradually building up ties. Pakistan enjoys increasingly good relations with Russia, Turkey and Iran. Yet regionally, the scene has been dominated by several rivalries, so far hindering regional integration as envisaged in the charter of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) founded in 1985. This in particular applies to Pakistan’s direct neighbours to the East and West, India and Afghanistan respectively. Despite huge cultural and linguistic convergences, and political interests which are principally shared, several latent issues have contributed to simmering conflicts. Soon, some of those may be gradually suppressed through the need for jointly addressing external challenges in the realm of non-traditional security challenges.
Migration features prominently amongst those. Whereas the region has been a transit zone – and melting-pot – for people from Asia and Europe throughout history, several bigger waves have hugely impacted the current setup since 1947. Right at the outset, the separation of the Subcontinent resulted in the relocation of millions of people based on their religious belonging. In 1979, another big wave of refugees entered Pakistan from Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion. Even today, intra-national migration within Pakistan and large-scale urbanization put grave challenges to the social fabric of the country. But Pakistan also hugely benefits from migration: Its national income significantly depends on external remittances from Pakistani diasporas based in the Arabian Peninsula and the United Kingdom.