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Cities in PAKISTAN



State structure

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a federal parliamentary democracy, although in recent years the military has had an important role.

The president is elected for a five-year term by the Senate, the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies.

The four provinces (states) are Punjab, Sindh, North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baluchistan. In addition, Pakistan comprises the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the Northern Areas and the federal capital Islamabad. The autonomous territory of Azad Kashmir - whose borders have never been defined due to the 1947 conflict with India over Pakistan's partition - is not formally part of the Pakistani state structure, but is in practice fully under Pakistani influence.

The Parliament, the Majlis-i-Shura, consists of a 100-member Senate and a 342-member National Assembly. Of these 342 members, 272 are directly elected. Of the remaining seats, 60 are reserved for women and 10 for religious minorities, namely four for Christians, four for Hindus, one for the Sikh, Buddhist and Parsi communities and one for Ahmadis. Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and persons from the Buddhist and Parsi communities can elect their representatives through the general election list. Parliamentary seats for minorities and women are allocated to political parties on a pro-rata basis according to the election results.

There are no seats reserved for minorities in the Senate, but there are in the four provincial parliaments (out of a total of 728 seats, 23 seats are reserved for minorities).

Elections to the National Assembly take place every five years. The 100 members of the Senate are elected indirectly for a six-year term (22 from each of the provincial parliaments, 8 from the FATA and 4 from the federal capital). The Prime Minister is elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term.

The Supreme Court is Pakistan's highest federal court. The President appoints the Chief Justice and they both decide on other appointments within the judiciary. Each province has a High Court whose judges are appointed by the President after consultation with the Chief Justice, the provincial Governor and the provincial Chief Justice.


The main political parties are the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam) or PML(Q), the PML (Nawaz) or PML(N), the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA, consisting of an alliance of six religious parties including Jamaat-i-Islami and Jamaat-i-Ulema-i-Islam). In addition, the best known are the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Awami National Party (ANP) and the National Alliance.

On 30 April 2002, a presidential referendum was held in which 98% of the voters (in a low turnout) voted to extend President Musharraf's term of office for a further five years. Parliamentary and provincial elections were held in October 2002. Since these elections, Musharraf has relied on political support from the PML-Q and the MQM.

The Pakistan Muslim League (PML) was split in two after the expulsion of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, with the marginalised PML-N (19 seats) remaining loyal to its Sharif brethren, while the PML-Q (117 seats) led by the conservative Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein gives its support to Musharraf and is the dominant ruling party.

The MQM is a small party, formed to look after the interests of Muslims who fled/expelled from India. The political home of this party is Karachi. The government can also count on the support of a number of MPs from former Prime Minister Benzir Bhutto's PPP, now known as PPP-P (Patriots).

The main secular opposition party is the PPP (Pakistan People's Party, 80 seats). The PPP is handicapped by the absence of party leader Benazir Bhutto. Her husband, Asif Zardari, returned to Pakistan in 2005. The PPP and the PML-N cooperate in the ARD (Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy). The MMA (60 seats) is also part of the opposition. However, the MMA has a disproportionately large influence on government policy, partly because the PML-Q often relies on the MMA's political support and partly because of the MMA's ability to organise (violent) protests. The MMA's strength lies in NWFP and Baluchistan, in both of which provinces the MMA has provincial governmental responsibility.

Since taking office, President Musharraf has initiated a number of reforms to improve the macroeconomic situation, support the democratisation process and counteract corruption and favouritism. Examples are the reform of local government, the introduction of reserved seats for women and the abolition of separate electoral lists for religious minorities. In addition, policies were developed in the areas of poverty reduction (PRSP), education and environment. Results of these reforms are already showing (much improved macro-economic situation, cautious legislative changes in the field of human rights). Musharraf has also taken a number of initiatives to curb terrorism and extremism in the country.

Internally, however, fundamentalist religious social and political groups have developed into an important power block. Important risks to the country's modernisation also lie in the persistent threat of instability arising from internal tensions, including sectarian violence between different population groups (notably Sunni and Shiite Muslims), terrorist resistance by former jihadis to Musharraf's reform policies and disagreements between the provinces (notably Baluchistan) and the Federation over the distribution of natural resources.

Regional tensions, particularly with neighbouring India and Afghanistan, also pose a risk. The political force field in which Musharraf operates, or in which he operates, is characterised by fundamentalist Islamic parties on the one hand, and traditional parties on the other, mainly from Pakistan's feudal, mostly conservative religious elite. In this force field, substantial reforms have little chance.

The current political situation is described in the history section.


Reforms in the areas of debt restructuring, liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation have had good macro-economic results. The assistance provided by the United States (aid package and debt relief) and the IMF has been particularly important in this respect. The macro economic figures are good, trade is increasing and the stock exchange is flourishing. However, the trickle-down effect on the poorer sections of the population is still lacking. In order to achieve sustainable economic growth, more (structural) reforms and investments are necessary.

Since 2003, annual economic growth has consistently exceeded 5%. In recent years, growth has slowed down. In 2017, growth was 5.4%. However, this growth is heavily dependent on the textile and garment sectors. The biggest threat to Pakistan's economy is high inflation, which has been above 7% per year since 2004. Although the central bank has raised interest rates, real interest rates are hardly positive. The low interest rate environment has contributed to higher investment, but growth is mainly driven by consumer spending.

Looking at the composition of Pakistan's exports, a small part of them are technology-intensive products. The latter exposes a longstanding government policy of insufficient investment in education and little investment in research and development from either government or industry. In addition, Pakistan's industrial and agricultural sectors will have to adapt to the demands of globalisation. This means that Pakistan's economic growth and well-being will largely depend on the international competitiveness of its business sector.

Improving the business environment to support SMEs in particular is an important part of the Pakistani government's anti-poverty measures and is part of the PRSP. SMEs contribute 30% of GDP, and outside the agricultural sector they provide 99% of employment.

A factor that hinders positive developments is security. Threats against Western individuals, institutions and companies are not uncommon in Pakistan, and this has a negative impact on the country's image, business climate and level of foreign investment.

The GDP per capita is $5,400 per year (2017).


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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