Points of View

Timeline of Pakistani History

About This Resource

As a backdrop for Kamila Shamsie’s novel Broken Verses, published in 2005, the timeline lists major events in the political history of Pakistan, created in 1947 with the partition of India at the time of its independence from British colonial rule. The independent nation of Bangladesh was formerly part of Pakistan, but separated from it after a brief war of independence in 1971. Since independence, Pakistani society has been ruled by alternating military and civilian rule, with other branches of government affected by the threat of military coup. The map shows India under British colonial rule in 1909, including today's nations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Burma.




British colonial rule ends with partition of the subcontinent into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan and East Pakistan. Pakistan and India dispute boundaries of mountainous region of Kashmir. 


Pakistan’s first constitution establishes the country as an “Islamic Republic.”


Following a period of political instability, army chief General Ayub Khan intervenes to declare himself president.


General Yahya Khan assumes presidency after Ayub Khan resigns, declaring martial law and dissolving parliament.


Secession and military conflict result in East Pakistan gaining independence as the new state of Bangladesh. Zulfikar Bhutto leads the PPP, a leftist party, to victory in Pakistani elections.


General Zia ul-Haq seizes power amid corruption charges against Bhutto (later executed), declaring martial law and a sweeping program of “Islamization.”


Zia killed in airplane crash. Subsequent election brings Benazir Bhutto—daughter of the former prime minister—to power.


Bhutto’s rival Nawaz Sharif wins elections.


Bhutto regains power.


Amidst ongoing political uncertainty, Sharif ascends to the prime ministership again.


Sharif’s army chief, Pervez Musharraf, seizes power in a coup.


With Musharraf’s position weakened, former rivals Bhutto and Sharif return from exile to challenge him. Bhutto is assassinated.


President Musharraf resigns after coalition parties agree to launch impeachment proceedings against him. Parliament elects Pakistan People's Party's (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated former PM Benazir Bhutto, president.


The Supreme Court acquits opposition leader Nawaz Sharif of hijacking charges dating from 1999 army coup, removing ban on his running for public office.


Parliament approves constitutional reforms, including transfer of key powers from office of president to prime minister.


The founder of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, is killed by American forces inAbbottabad, Pakistan.


Court orders the arrest of Gen. Pervez Musharraf over imposition of house arrest on judges in 2007. Gen. Musharraf returns from British exile to contest parliamentary elections.


Nawaz Sharif’s opposition party wins elections, returning him to power.


Oxford University Press. The Desk Encyclopedia of World History. Oxford University Press, 2006; "BBC News - Pakistan Profile - Timeline", n.d. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12966786. Image credit: “Map of the British Indian Empire,” Imperial Gazetteer of India. Oxford University Press, 1909.

How to Cite This Page

"Muslim Journeys | Item #141: Timeline of Pakistani History", June 20, 2024 http://bridgingcultures-muslimjourneys.org/items/show/141.


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