Pakistani History/Printable version

Pakistani History

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Modern Pakistan was created at 12 AM on 15 August 1947, when British India was replaced with two new states: the Dominion of Pakistan and the Union of India. The erstwhile British colony was divided along religious lines, with the Muslim majority regions in the East and Northwest going to Pakistan, and the Hindu majority regions going to India, in an event known as the Partition of India. As a result, Muslims in the new Union of India and Hindus from Pakistan migrated en masse to the other country. Over twelve million people moved across the new borders in the largest mass migration in human history. The migration was accompanied by massive outbreaks of inter-religious violence; estimates of casualties range from 500,000 to 1 million.

The movement for the partition of India and the creation of an independent Pakistan was spearheaded by a Lawyer named Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Jinnah believed that in a unified country with a Hindu majority, the interests of the Muslim population would be neglected.


The history of Pakistan is the history of humanity itself. The land of Pakistan stands witness to the early journey of human beings (and other related hominin species) out of Africa. It is a well-established fact that the early migrations of archaic and modern humans out of Africa began nearly 1.8 million years ago − the earliest of which was the exodus of Homo erectus into the Middle East and Asia. A careful study of the human fossils and stone-age artefacts reveal the story of these early migrations of hominini into South Asia and Pakistan.

Early hominin migrationEdit

Early palaeolithic settlementsEdit

Some of the key sites for this early migration out of Africa are Riwat in Pakistan,[1] Ubeidiya in the Levant and Dmanisi in the Caucasus.[2] These early hominini lived in a hunter-gatherer society and utilised fire. They were the first hominin species that lived in small band-societies, hunted in coordinated groups, used complex tools and cared for their weak companions. There is ample evidence suggesting that some of these early hunter-gatherers settled in what are now the Sivalik regions of Pakistan.

From hunter-gatherers to farmersEdit

An ornate statuette figurine from Mehrgarh, c. 3000 BCE.

The earliest evidence of food processing in the region comes from tools and implements found at Mehrgarh in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. Mehrgarh is one of the most important Neolithic sites in archaeology. It is regarded as one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming and herding in South Asia.

Early farming and herdingEdit

The semi-nomadic people that came to occupy this land used plants such as wheat and barley and animals such as sheep, goats and cattle. Their settlements were established with simple mud buildings and most of them had four internal subdivisions. Numerous burials have been found, many with elaborate goods such as baskets, stone and bone tools, beads, bangles, pendants and occasionally animal sacrifices, with more goods left with burials of males.

Neolithic proto-dentistryEdit

In 2001, archaeologists studying the remains of two men from Mehrgarh made the discovery that the people of the Indus Valley Civilization, from the early Harappan periods, had knowledge of proto-dentistry. Subsequently, in April 2006, it was announced in the scientific journal Nature that the oldest (and first early Neolithic) evidence for the drilling of human teeth in vivo (i.e. in a living person) was found in Mehrgarh.[3]

The cradle of civilisationEdit

The notion of prehistory is often derived from the knowledge of society and places reaching an advanced stage of social development and organisation, which is often encompassed in a broader sense by the word ‘civilisation’. Prehistoric Pakistan has been a host to one such remarkable civilisation − the Indus Valley Civilisation.

The Indus Valley Civilisation is one of the oldest known human civilisations and was a contemporary of the ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilisations. It is also one of the first human civilisations to use writing as a form of communication where pictographic writing commenced as early as 3,000 BCE.[4]


  1. Fleagle et al. (2010)
  2. Garcia et al. (2010)
  3. Coppa et al. (2006): Flint tips were surprisingly effective for drilling tooth enamel in a prehistoric population ... eleven drilled molar crowns from nine adults discovered in a Neolithic graveyard in Pakistan that dates from 7,500–9,000 years ago.
  4. Bellwood & Ness (2014, p. 224): "Pictographic writing had commenced by 3000 BCE in the Middle East, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Pakistan, by 1500 BCE in China, and by 100 BCE amongst the Mayas of Mesoamerica."


Prehistory/Palaeolithic Age

Lower Palaeolithic AgeEdit

Pakistan can trace its history all the way back to the Palaeolithic or the Old Stone Age. The most notable archaeological site is found at Riwat in Punjab where evidence of the earliest Homo migration and occupation outside Africa can be found. Also present in its vicinity, at the Soan Valley, are traces of one of the major Lower Palaeolithic techno-complexes from the Indian subcontinent.[1]

Riwat (ca. 1.9 million — 45,000 years ago)Edit

Riwat (or Rawat) near Murree is a Lower Paleolithic site in Punjab, Pakistan. This site provides evidences of the earliest Homo occupation outside Africa and dates back to 1.9 million years ago. The site was discovered in 1983. The artefacts found at the site consist of flakes and cores made on quartzite. Another site at Riwat shows a later occupation dating back to around 45,000 years ago.

Soanian culture (ca. 500,000 — 125,000 years ago)Edit

One of the many gorges of the Soan River where prehistoric fossils have been found and recorded.

The Soanian (also spelt Sohanian) culture is spread across sites that are found along the Sivalik region of the present-day Pakistan, India and Nepal.[2] The Sivalik region runs from Bhutan and Bangladesh in the east through southern Nepal, northern India and northern Pakistan at their western extremities, roughly parallel to the Himalayan range. The culture was first identified and named by Dr Hellmut de Terra in 1936.[3]

The ancient Soanian culture is characterised by the various edged pebble tools, like hand axes and cleavers, discovered in the Soan terrace between Adiala and Khasala, situated about 16 km (9.9 mi) from Rawalpindi. The Soanian culture is a contemporary of another Lower Palaeolithic culture, the Acheulean.

Tools dating back 2 million years have been recovered from the Soan terrace. Many fossil-bearing rocks are exposed at the surface in the Soan River gorges. Fossils of gazelles, rhinoceros, crocodiles, giraffes and rodents dating back 14 million years have also been found here. A sample of these fossils are displayed at the Pakistan Museum of Natural History in Islamabad.


Prehistory/Neolithic Age/Mehrgarh Culture

Mehrgarh is the site of the earliest known agrarian settlements in the South Asian subcontinent and lies to the west of the Indus River.[1] Dubbed the Mehrgarh culture, this Neolithic settlement is now considered to be a precursor to the Indus Valley civilisation. The ancient people that settled at Mehrgarh were nomads and preferred cattle-herding over hunting. They soon developed agricultural technologies that let them cultivate crops like wheat, barley and cotton.[2]


The earliest evidence of wheat and barley cultivation comes from the north-western region, which include present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mehrgarh is a 495-acre (2.00 km2) archaeological site located in the Kacchi Plain of Balochistan, Pakistan. It is situated near the Bolan Pass, to the west of the Indus River at the banks of the Bolan River and between the Pakistani cities of Quetta, Kalat and Sibi. Much of what we know about Mehrgarh today comes from its excavation in 1974 by French archaeologists Jean-François Jarrige and Catherine Jarrige.

Archaeological significanceEdit

Mehrgarh is considered to be one of the most important Neolithic sites in archaeology. It is now considered to be a precursor to the Indus Valley Civilisation.[3] Its discovery shed new light on the development of agricultural technologies and agrarian lifestyles of the ancient Stone Age people of South Asia. Many historians regard Mehrgarh to be the first settled village settlement in the world.[4] and certainly the first within Pakistan.[5]


Nearly all the miniature figurines discovered at Mehrgarh depict women with elaborate hairstyles and protuberant breasts. These may or may not be depiction of a fertility goddess.[6] It is only later in time that male figurines make an appearance.
Togau ware A–C: Stylistic depictions of the Togau Ware found at Mehrgarh indicate that potters moved away from using intricate designs and adopted simplistic designs for mass-production purposes.

The ancient Neolithic settlers at Mehrgarh were nomads. They had come from the mountainous regions in the north to settle in the open pastures in the south. Being away from the mountains meant that they had to develop ingenious technologies to replace stone tools. They slowly moved away from a life of hunting-and-gathering and started preferring cattle-herding. They raised sheep, goats and cattle.[7]

The inhabitants of Mehrgarh became agriculturists and began cultivating crops like wheat and barley. It is because of these agricultural pursuits that this period of the South Asian Stone Age is known as the Early Food-Processing Stage (ca. 7000–5500 BCE).


The people of Mehrgarh initially built small circular or rectangular houses with mud and reed.[8] Living close to the Indus River meant that when the river flooded, the water would wash away the mud houses. Thus, the people ingeniously devised a way to fashion their houses out of mud brick. The Mehrgarh residents were avid agriculturists and valued their produce.

Much of the success of their agrarian lifestyle comes down to the fact that they stored their grains in granaries for later consumption. In fact, they progressed so quickly that by 4000 BCE, the people of Mehrgarh were living in two-storey homes.[9] The people of Mehrgarh also used pottery wheels to create elaborate vases and vessels.

Tools and technologyEdit

The Mehrgarh people were ingenious craftsmen who fashioned their tools from the local copper ore and also used the ore as pigment. At a nearby archaeological site at Nausharo, a pottery workshop was discovered dating back to 4500 years ago. Unearthed here were 12 blades or blade fragments that were made with copper indentors and functioned as potter's tool to trim and shape unfired pottery.[10] The residents also lined their large baskets with bitumen.

Amongst its most characteristic tools are borers and geometric microliths such as lunates, triangles, trapezes, etc.[11] The presence of turquoise and Lapis Luzili at Mehrgarh indicate that the region had long distance contact with western and central Asia.[12]


The people of Mehrgarh were good at making fine, wheel-made pottery (usually 20–25 cm in diameter), with a knife-edge rim, slipped in red and painted in black. Archaeologists classify the Mehrgarh pottery as ‘Togau Ware’ and see continuum in its various designs from Togau A to Togau D. The Togau A were early pottery which had intricate designs of animals on their inner rims; however as time progressed, these intricate designs became more and more simplistic. It was a clear indication that the people of Mehrgarh started producing pottery in small numbers but, as demand grew for their wares, they indulged in a mass-production effort.[13]

Transitioning into the Bronze AgeEdit

The small settlement of people at Mehrgarh were the first to witness the transition from the Neolithic to the Chalcolithic phase by the fifth millennium BC.[14]


  1. Reddy (2006, p. A20) ..the earliest known agrarian settlements in the Indian subcontinent come from the west of the Indus system...
  2. "Stone age man used dentist drill". BBC News. 6 April 2006. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  3. Ahmed (2014, p. 315)
  4. Stanton et al. (2012, p. 32) Mehrgarh, an example of the early stage of the Indus Valley civilization, is considered to be the first village of the world,
  5. Sarkar & Ghosh (2003, p. 32) But the process of food producing economy and village formation was a revolutionary discovery, excavated by the French Archaeological Mission at Mehrgarh in Baluchistan. This process culminated in the gradual development of first urban settlement in Pakistan.
  6. Singh (2008, p. 130) It is indeed possible that some were either images that were worshipped or votive offerings that were part of some domestic cult or ritual. However, not all female figurines necessarily had such a function.
  7. Stanton et al. (2012, p. 32) Studies of zoo fauna from Mehrgarh showed that the inhabitants switched from hunting and gathering to raising sheep, goats, and cattle, along with settled agriculture, cultivating wheat and barley.
  8. Reddy (2006, p. A20) While the early Neolithic people were primarily cattle-herders and had a pastoral economy, the later Neolithic settlers gradually became agriculturists, cultivating different crops and living in circular or rectangle houses made of mud and reed.
  9. Stanton et al. (2012, p. 32) They progressed quickly, and by 4000 B.C.E., the citizens of Mehrgarh were living in two-story homes and using pottery wheels.
  10. Méry, S; Anderson, P; Inizan, M.L.; Lechavallier, M; Pelegrin, J (2007). "A pottery workshop with flint tools on blades knapper with copper at Nausharo (Indus civilisation ca. 2500 BC)". Journal of Archaeological Sciences 34 (7): 1098–1116. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2006.10.002. 
  11. Sarkar & Ghosh (2003, p. 32)
  12. Tosi & Vidale (1990, p. 89)
  13. Ahmed (2014, p. 393)
  14. Reddy (2006, p. A20)


Prehistory/Bronze Age

The Bronze Age in South Asia begins around 3000 BC, and towards the end gives rise to the Indus Valley Civilization, which had its (mature) period between 2600 BC and 1900 BC. It continues into the Rigvedic period, the early part of the Vedic period. It is succeeded by the Iron Age in South Asia, beginning in around 1000 BC.

Prehistory/Bronze Age/Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization was a Bronze Age civilisation in the northwest Indian subcontinent encompassing most of modern-day Pakistan and some regions in northwest India and northeast Afghanistan. The civilisation flourished in the basins of the Indus River wherefore it derives its name. Although some scholars speculate that since the civilisation also existed in the basins of the now dried up Sarasvati River, it should be aptly called the Indus-Sarasvati Civilization, while some call it the Harappan Civilization after Harappa, the first of its sites to be excavated in the 1920s. Archaeologists have since discovered more than 1052 sites.

It was one of the three early civilisations of the Old World alongside Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and was also the largest and most widespread of the three with an area covering an expanse of 1.25 million km2. Although its mature phase came around 2600–1900 BCE, archaeologists have discovered that the Harappan people had well-established trade links with Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians as early as 3500 BCE.

Discovery of the Indus Valley CivilizationEdit

The Harappan legendEdit

In the late 1820s, a British East India Company soldier and explorer, James Lewis, visited the small village of Harappa of which he later wrote an account of in the book Narrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan, the Panjab, & Kalat written under his pseudonym Charles Masson. Therein, he described seeing a “ruinous brick castle”.[1] He recalled a local tradition affirming the existence of a considerably large city that was brought down by providence due to “the lust and crimes of [its] sovereign”.[2] Lewis drew a sketch of the fortified ruins at Harappa which was lost while “the paper was handed from one to the other”.[3]

Lost to the railroadEdit

Some years later in 1856, Sir Alexander Cunningham visited Harappa but the ruins had been knocked down and all that was left was huge mound of stone and rubble. Cunningham, who later became the director general of the archaeological survey of northern India, was told about Harappa by two British engineers John and William Brunton who were laying the East Indian Railway Company line connecting the cities of Karachi and Lahore. John wrote: “I was much exercised in my mind how we were to get ballast for the line of the railway”. They were told of an ancient ruined city near the lines, called Brahminabad. Visiting the city, he found it full of hard well-burnt bricks, and, “convinced that there was a grand quarry for the ballast I wanted”, the city of Brahminabad was reduced to ballast.[4] A few months later, further north, John's brother William Brunton's “section of the line ran near another ruined city, bricks from which had already been used by villagers in the nearby village of Harappa at the same site. These bricks now provided ballast along 93 miles (150 km) of the railroad track running from Karachi to Lahore”.[4]

Harappan peopleEdit

The Harappans were a peaceful people. Most city dwellers appear to have been traders or artisans, who lived with others pursuing the same occupation in well-defined neighbourhoods.


The Harappan language is not directly attested and its affiliation is uncertain since the Indus script is still undeciphered. A relationship with the Dravidian or Elamo-Dravidian language family is favoured by a section of scholars, while others suggest an Austroasiatic language related to Munda.

Urban culture and architectureEdit

The Indus Valley Civilization had some of the most sophisticated and technologically advanced urban centres in ancient history. The quality of municipal town planning is evident from the various excavated cities which show that the Harappans had considerable knowledge of urban planning and efficient municipal governments which placed a high priority on hygiene.

In the excavated cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, the urban plan included building structures lined along perpendicular streets and had the world’s first known urban sanitation systems. Within the city, individual homes or groups of homes obtained water from wells. From a room that appears to have been set aside for bathing, waste water was directed to covered drains, which lined the major streets. Houses opened only to inner courtyards and smaller lanes.

The sewerage and drainage systems developed and used in ancient Indus cities were far more advanced than any found in contemporary urban sites in the Middle East or Europe, and even more efficient than those in many areas of Pakistan and India today. The Harappan architecture also incorporate impressive dockyards, granaries, warehouses, brick platforms, and protective walls. The massive walls of Indus cities most likely protected the Harappans from floods and may have dissuaded military conflicts.


Materials from distant regions were used in the cities for constructing seals, beads and other objects. Among the artefacts discovered were glazed faïence beads. Steatite seals have images of animals, people (perhaps gods), and other types of inscriptions, including the yet undeciphered writing system of the Indus Valley Civilization. Some of the seals were used to stamp clay on trade goods and most probably had other uses as well.


  1. Masson (1844, p. 452) A long march preceeded our arrival at Haripah, through jangal of the closest description... When I joined the camp I found it in front of the village and ruinous brick castle.
  2. Masson (1844, p. 453) Tradition affirms the existence here of a city, so considerable that it extended to Chicha Watni, thirteen cosses (about 25 miles) distant, and that it was destroyed by a particular visitation of Providence, brought down by the lust and crimes of the sovereign.
  3. Masson (1844, p. 457) When at Haripah I had also sketched the old fort. The paper was handed from one to the other, and I have now to regret its loss.
  4. a b Davreau, Robert (1976). "Indus Valley". in Reader's Digest. World's Last Mysteries. 


Prehistory/Iron Age

The Iron Age in South Asia, succeeds the Late Harappan (Cemetery H) culture, also known as the last phase of the Indus Valley Tradition. The main Iron Age archaeological cultures of South Asia are the Painted Grey Ware culture (1200-600 BCE) and the Northern Black Polished Ware (700-200 BCE).

Prehistory/Iron Age/Vedic period

In the history of South Asia, the Vedic period (or the Vedic age; ca. 1500–500 BCE) was the period during which the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, were composed.

During the early part of the Vedic period, the Indo-Aryans settled into northern India, bringing with them their specific religious traditions. The associated culture (sometimes referred to as Vedic civilization) was initially a tribal, pastoral society centred in the northwestern parts of the Indian subcontinent (which is now Pakistan); it spread after 1200 BCE to the Ganges Plain, as it was shaped by increasing settled agriculture, a hierarchy of four social classes, and the emergence of monarchical, state-level polities.

Mughal Empire

The Mughal Empire (Urdu: مغلیہ سلطنت‎, Mug̱ẖliyah Salṭanat)[1] or Mogul Empire,[2] self-designated as Gurkani (Persian: گورکانیان‎, Gūrkāniyān, meaning "son-in-law"),[3] was a Persianate[2][4] empire extending over large parts of the Indian subcontinent and ruled by a dynasty of Chagatai Turco-Mongol origin.[5][6][7]

The beginning of the empire is conventionally dated to the founder Babur's victory over Ibrahim Lodi, the last ruler of the Delhi Sultanate in the First Battle of Panipat. The Mughal emperors were Central Asian Turco-Mongols belonging to the Timurid dynasty, who claimed direct descent from both Genghis Khan (founder of the Mongol Empire, through his son Chagatai Khan) and Timur (founder of the Timurid Empire). During the reign of Humayun, the successor of Babur, the empire was briefly interrupted by the Sur Empire. The "classic period" of the Mughal Empire started in 1556 with the ascension of Jalaludin Mohammed Akbar ("Akbar" loosely translates to "Great") to the throne. Under the rule of Akbar and his son Jahangir, India had a period of economic progress as well as religious harmony, and the monarchs were interested in local religious and cultural traditions. Akbar was a successful warrior. He also forged alliances with several Hindu Rajput kingdoms. Some Rajput kingdoms continued to pose a significant threat to Mughal dominance of northwestern India, but they were subdued by Akbar. All Mughal emperors were Muslims. However, Akbar founded a new religion called Din-i-Ilahi ( "religion of God"), the principles of which were taken from all the major indian religions of the time. ( Ain-e-Akbari and Dabestan-e Mazaheb.[8])

The Mughal Empire did not interfere in the prevalent societies' culture and traditions during most of its existence, but rather balanced and pacified them through new administrative practices[9][10] and diverse and inclusive ruling elites,[11] leading to more systematic, centralised, and uniform rule.[12] Newly coherent social groups in northern and western India, such as the Marathas, the Rajputs, and the Sikhs, gained military and governing ambitions during Mughal rule, which, through collaboration or adversity, gave them both recognition and military experience.[13]

The reign of Shah Jahan, the fifth emperor, was the golden age of Mughal architecture. He erected several large monuments, the most famous of which is the Taj Mahal at Agra, as well as the Moti Masjid, Agra, the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid, Delhi, and the Lahore Fort. The Mughal Empire reached the zenith of its territorial expanse during the reign of Aurangzeb and also started its terminal decline in his reign due to Maratha military resurgence under Shivaji Bhosale. During his lifetime, victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to more than 3.2 million square kilometres (1.2 million square miles), ruling over more than 150 million subjects, nearly 1/4th of the world's population, with a combined GDP of over $90 billion.[14][15]

By the mid-18th century, the Marathas had routed Mughal armies, and won over several Mughal provinces from the Punjab to Bengal,[16] and internal dissatisfaction arose due to the weakness of the Mughal Empire's administrative and economic systems, leading to the break-up of the empire and declaration of independence of its former provinces by the Nawabs of Bengal, Oudh, the Nizam of Hyderabad, Shah of Afghanistan and other small states. In 1739, the Mughals were crushingly defeated in the Battle of Karnal by the forces of Nader Shah, the founder of the Afsharid dynasty in Persia, and Delhi was sacked and looted, drastically accelerating their decline. During the following century Mughal power had become severely limited and the last emperor, Bahadur Shah II, had authority over only the city of Shahjahanabad. He issued a firman supporting the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and following the defeat was therefore tried by the British East India Company for treason, imprisoned, exiled to Rangoon.[17] The last remnants of the empire were directly taken over by the British, and Queen Victoria formally assumed the title as the Empress of India. through the Government of India Act 1858 which led the British Crown assuming direct control of India, marking the start of the new British Raj.


  1. Balfour, E.G. (1976). Encyclopaedia Asiatica: Comprising Indian-subcontinent, Eastern and Southern Asia. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications. S. 460, S. 488, S. 897. ISBN 978-81-7020-325-4. 
  2. a b John Walbridge. God and Logic in Islam: The Caliphate of Reason. p. 165. "Persianate Mogul Empire." 
  3. Zahir ud-Din Mohammad (10 September 2002). Thackston, Wheeler M.. ed. The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor. New York: Modern Library. p. xlvi. ISBN 978-0-375-76137-9. "In India the dynasty always called itself Gurkani, after Temür's title Gurkân, the Persianized form of the Mongolian kürägän, 'son-in-law,' a title he assumed after his marriage to a Genghisid princess." 
  4. John Barrett Kelly. Britain and the Persian Gulf: 1795–1880. p. 473. 
  5. Richards, John F. (1995), The Mughal Empire, Cambridge University Press, p. 6, ISBN 978-0-521-56603-2,, retrieved 31 July 2013 
  6. Schimmel, Annemarie (2004), The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture, Reaktion Books, p. 22, ISBN 978-1-86189-185-3,, retrieved 31 July 2013 
  7. Balabanlilar, Lisa (15 January 2012), Imperial Identity in Mughal Empire: Memory and Dynastic Politics in Early Modern Central Asia, I.B.Tauris, p. 2, ISBN 978-1-84885-726-1,, retrieved 31 July 2013 
  8. Roy Choudhury, Makhan Lal. The Din-i-Ilahi:Or, The Religion of Akbar. 
  9. Asher & Talbot 2008, p. 115.
  10. Robb 2001, pp. 90–91.
  11. Metcalf & Metcalf 2006, p. 17.
  12. Asher & Talbot 2008, p. 152.
  13. Metcalf & Metcalf 2006, pp. 23–24.
  14. Richards, John F. (18 March 1993). Johnson, Gordon; Bayly, C. A.. eds. The Mughal Empire. The New Cambridge history of India: 1.5. I. The Mughals and their Contemporaries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1, 190. ISBN 978-0-521-25119-8. 
  15. Warrior Empire: The Mughals. [DVD]. The History Channel. 31 October 2006. 
  16. An Advanced History of Modern India By Sailendra Nath Sen, p. Introduction 14
  17. Delhi, the Capital of India By Anon, John Cappe, p.28-29