NATION BUILDING REMAINS a difficult process in Pakistan. But although the country has undergone a succession of traumatic sociopolitical experiences since achieving independence in 1947, it continues to demonstrate its resilience and its capacity to survive and adapt to changing circumstances. Joining the community of nations as a bifurcated state, with its two wings separated by 1,600 kilometers of foreign soil, Pakistan was faced with the immediate task of absorbing large numbers of refugees from India in the months immediately following partition. The new nation struggled with severe economic disadvantages made acutely painful by a shortage of both administrative personnel and the material assets necessary to establish and sustain its fledgling government. With the death of Mohammad Ali Jinnah--the revered Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader)--only thirteen months after independence, the nation was dealt another severe blow.
Created to provide a homeland for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan was heir to a government structure and a political tradition that were essentially Western and secular. From its inception, Pakistan has worked to synthesize Islamic principles with the needs of a modern state. The young nation was immediately challenged by a host of other factors affecting national development, including ethnic and provincial tensions, political rivalries, and security considerations. The country subsequently survived civil war and the resultant loss of its East Wing, or East Pakistan, which became the independent nation of Bangladesh in December 1971, and has accommodated an influx of refugees resulting from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (December 1979-February 1989), which over the course of the conflict exceeded 3.2 million people.
Pakistan has had difficulty in establishing stable, effective political institutions. The country has experimented with a variety of political systems, has endured periods of martial law, and has had five constitutions, one inherited from the British and four indigenous creations since independence. Its political parties have suffered from regionalism, factionalism, and lack of vision. Power has shifted between the politicians and the civilmilitary establishment, and regional and ethnic forces have threatened national unity. However, the impulse toward cohesion has been stronger than the impetus toward division, and the process of nation building has continued. The return to democracy in 1988, and the peaceful, constitutional transfer of power to new governments in 1990 and 1993 testify to Pakistan's progress in the quest for political stability.
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