Pakistan was created as a homeland for Indian Muslims during the 1947 partition of the Indian sub-continent. It formed two parts: West Pakistan, bordering Iran, Afghanistan and India, and East Pakistan, which is today Bangladesh.
In the trauma following the 1971 war, when Bangladesh separated from Pakistan, the government emphasised religious uniformity. The 1973 constitution made Islam the state religion.
Two of the three India–Pakistan wars have been over the disputed northern territory of Kashmir, and fears persist because of the nuclear capabilities of both states.
Pakistan became a key US ally in the ‘war on terror’ following the September 11 attacks in 2001. Meanwhile, much of Pakistan’s internal insecurity is caused by the vast division between rich and poor, and between different regions and classes.
Pakistan is vulnerable to many hazards, both natural and human-induced, such as cyclones, floods, droughts, earthquakes, landslides, oil spills, pollution and conflict. In October 2005, an earthquake hit Kashmir and North West Frontier Province, killing 73,000 people, injuring another 70,000 and leaving 3.3 million homeless. Over the summer of 2010, devastating floods swamped much of the country and affected 20 million people.
Literacy is low, especially among women, and is estimated at 54 per cent. Uneducated women share an unfair burden of poverty as they take on an increased workload but receive less food and nutrition.