AFGHANISTAN

By Sidhanta Mehra

November, 2015

Photo Credit: http://www.bricplusnews.com/

Overview

With a population of 31.6 million, Afghanistan is 41 in population rankings in the world. It was founded when the Pashtun tribes of the region were unified under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747. Since then, it has gone through a tumultuous time, a brief stint with democracy, followed by a coup in 1973, and also a counter-coup in 1978. Afghanistan also became the home base for the Taliban, that were ousted by US-led invasion in 2001 and since then Afghanistan has experienced a more stable period. A new constitution was adopted in 2004, and a new president, Mr. Ashraf Ghani was elected in 2014 in the third presidential poll since the fall of Taliban.

Religion

Afghanistan is 99.7% Muslim with mostly Sunni (84.7-89.7%) and 10-15% Shia. A detailed report on the state of issues related to religion in Afghanistan was published by the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report.

Government

Jamhuri-ye Islami-ye Afghanistan, as it is called locally, is divided into 34 administrative divisions/provinces and is identified as an Islamic Republic. Almost 84 political parties are allowed to compete in Afghanistan, as reported by the CIA as of 2012. For a more nuanced understanding of political parties and participation in Afghanistan, read USIP special report in March 2015, Political Parties in Afghanistan.

The current President of Afghanistan is Mr. Ashraf Ghani and the CEO is Mr. Abdullah Abdullah.

Military

The Afghan National Security Forces include the Afghan National Army, Afghan Air Force, Afghan National Police, and Afghan Local Police. Center for Security Governance reported on the National Security Force of Afghanistan beyond 2014 on whether they will be ready. The Afghan National Security Force is also advised and assisted by NATO Forces and how they do that while NATO officially have withdrawn as the primary security force.

Economy

As of 2014, the reported GDP of Afghanistan is US$ 20.4 million and is classified as a low-income level country. The Asian Development Bank had positive projections for the economic growth of Afghanistan due to the increased stability. Another significant change might be the relationship between the current government and the Taliban. This is important because the country experienced a dip in growth from 3.7% in 2013 to 1.3% in 2014.

Foreign Relations

Afghanistan is going through a period of significant change. At the moment, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Afghanistan “is determined to become a member of the family of pluralistic democracies; and a bridge between the Islamic World and the West, by pursuing a multilateral , cooperative and confident

Foreign Policy.” Afghanistan is also part of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Most recently in terms of their relationship with the United States they “signed the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America, a 10-year strategic partnership agreement (SPA) that reflects a shared commitment to combating terrorism and to promoting peace, democratic values and economic opportunity in Afghanistan and the region.” This was signed in 2012.

Recommended Readings, Audio and Videos

INI9 - Afghanistan after the US Drawout- Takshashila advisor Anand Arni and Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande discuss the situation in Afghanistan after the US drawout. Video is available here.

Byrd, William A., and United States Institute of Peace. Lessons from Afghanistan's History for the Current Transition and beyond. Special Report (United States Institute of Peace) ; 314. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2012.

As we continue to update this country profile, follow current news on Afghanistan and South Asia. 

Bangladesh

By Sidhanta Mehra

November 11, 2015

Photo Credit: Afra Pasha

Overview:

Bangladesh, prior to 1971, was known as East Pakistan. After the partition of 1947, the South Asian subcontinent was divided into two dominions, India and Pakistan. Pakistan was separated on either side of India. With the assistance of India, Bangladesh gained Independence in 1971 after a war with West Pakistan.

Bangladesh is a densely populated country in South Asia with a population of 159.1 million people. It is also classified by the World Bank as a Lower Middle Income Country. The capital of the country is Dhaka. The country has two neighboring nations, India on all sides, and Myanmar on the South-Eastern side. The main language spoken in Bangladesh is Bengali.

Islamist extremism and rising intolerance against secular bloggers and other religious groups  has been a continuing problem in the country.

To get a better understanding of the timeline of Bangladesh’s history, refer to the Bangladesh Profile by BBC News and for more on the Pakistani oppression towards uprising in Bangladesh before 1971 read Bangladesh war: The article that changed history.

Religion:

Islam is designated as the state religion and the constitution also declares it a secular state. In Bangladesh, according to the 2014 International Religious Freedom Report, 90 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, 9.5 percent is Hindu, and the rest is Christian and Theravada-Hinayana Buddhist, while there is a small number of Shia Muslims, Bahais, animists, and Ahmadiyya Muslims.

Government:

People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy. It has seven administrative divisions-- Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Sylhet. The Bangladesh government website can be accessed here. The legislative branch comprises of a unicameral National Parliament or Jatiya Sangsad (300 seats including 45 reserved for women).

The chief of state is the President, the post currently held by Mr. Abdul Hamid. The head of government is the Prime Minister, the post currently held by Ms. Sheikh Hasina.

Military:

The Bangladesh Defense Force comprises of the Bangladesh Army (Sena Bahini), Bangladesh Navy (Noh Bahini, BN), Bangladesh Air Force (Biman Bahini, BAF).

Economy:

GDP of Bangladesh, reported by the World Bank, is 173.8 Billion as of 2014. An update on the potential and the challenges facing the Bangladeshi economy can be followed here.

An important part of the Bangladeshi economy is the large garment industry. 90% of Bangladeshi exports, that valued to about $28 Billion came from export of clothes. However, the industry has also been criticized for the poor conditions for workers and there have been recent factory related incidents including fires (Tazreen Fashions Factory Fire) and building collapses (Rana Plaza Collapse) that have made international news.

Foreign Relations:

Bangladesh is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). It is also the founder of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). More on foreign relations. In 2014, Bangladesh was the largest contributor to the UN Peacekeeping Forces.

Recommended Readings, Audio and Videos:

Hariprasad, Sanjana. Is Bangladesh doing enough to protect the freedom of speech of its citizens?. South Asia at Hudson Institute.

Karim, Lamia., and Ebrary Provider. Microfinance and Its Discontents : Women in Debt in Bangladesh. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

Raghavan, Srinath, and Ebrary. Provider. 1971 : A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh. 2013.

Riaz, Ali. Congressional Testimony. “Bangladesh in Turmoil: A Nation on the Brink?” http://tinyurl.com/pzwbynb

Varanasi, Lakshmi. An Increasingly Isolated Bangladesh. South Asia at Hudson Institute.

As we continue to update this country profile, follow current news on Bangladesh and South Asia.

BHUTAN

By Sanjana Hariprasad

February 5, 2015

Photo Credit - Tamara Carlier

Overview

Bhutan is a small landlocked nation in the Himalayas in Southern Asia, between India and China. Most Bhutanese call their country Druk-yul meaning "Land of the Thunder Dragon”.  Bhutan’s capital city is Thimphu, which is located in the west-central part of the country. The population is around 740,000. Bhutan is spread over 47,000 square kilometers, 70% of which is under forest cover. The official language of this small mountainous country is Dzongkha, and there are several dialects spoken throughout the country.

Bhutan is well known for it’s Gross National Happiness Index, an index whose philosophy is based on the “peace and happiness of our (Bhutanese) people and the security and sovereignty of our (Bhutan) nation”. To read more click here.

Religion

Bhutan is the only official Buddhist kingdom. The state religion of the country is Kagyupa Buddhism, which is a branch of Tibetan Buddhism. The basis of Bhutanese culture is said to be Himalayan Buddhism. Hinduism is also a recognized religion and Hindu festivals are celebrated by the royal family.

Government

The country shifted from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy and public-part democracy in 2008. In 2006, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck stepped down after 34 years on the throne in favor of his son, the current King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. This new democratic system has a National Council and a National Assembly. The most recent  Bhutanese National Assembly Elections were held in 2013, which resulted in the victory of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Tshering Tobgay, the leader of PDP, is currently Bhutan’s second Prime Minister.

Military

The Bhutanese army is known as the Royal Bhutan Army, which includes the Royal Bodyguard and Royal Police. Since Bhutan is a landlocked country, it does not have a navy.

Economy

Bhutan’s GDP in 2014 was $1.959 Billion (current U.S $). According to the World Bank, Bhutan’s income level is ‘lower middle income’. The 2015 Asian Development Outlook (ADO) by the Asian Development Bank indicates a 6.7 GDP growth.

Bhutan’s economy is largely based on hydropower, agriculture, and forestry. It’s economy is also closely aligned with India’s due to trade and monetary links. For more detailed information on Bhutan’s economy, click here.

Foreign Relations

Bhutan became a member of the United Nations (UN)  in 1971 and does not have any diplomatic relations with any of the permanent members of the UN security council. Bhutan is also a member of prominent international organizations such as World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

To read more on Bhutan’s foreign relations, click here.

Recommended Readings, Audio, Video

As we continue to update this country profile, follow current news on BHUTAN and South Asia. 

 

INDIA

By Joya Scarlata

November 6, 2015

Photo Credit: Sandeep Santra

Overview:

India is the world’s largest democracy with 1.25 Billion inhabitants which boasts of over 800 million people eligible to vote. It is the second largest populous country, and one of the fastest growing economies. It is a country with enormous ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity.

India shares land borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. India is bounded by the Indian Ocean in the South, the Arabian Sea in the South-West, and the Bay of Bengal in South-East.

The country is home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. In the early 18th century, India was administered by the British East India Company and eventually by the United Kingdom in 1858. India finally received independence in 1947.

Religion

The Indian subcontinent is considered the birthplace of some of the world’s major religions – Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. Click on the religions to read more about the connection India has had with these religions. Religion has and continues to play an important role in shaping India’s culture and identity. According to the latest census taken in 2011, “Hindu population is 96.63 crore (79.8 percent); Muslim 17.22 crore (14.2 percent); Christian 2.78 crore (2.3 percent); Sikh 2.08 crore (1.7 percent); Buddhist 0.84 crore (0.7 percent); Jain 0.45 crore (0.4 percent), Other religions and persuasions (ORP) 0.79 crore (0.7 percent) and religion not stated 0.29 crore (0.2 percent).

Government

India is a constitutional democracy, made up of 29 states and seven union territories. Parliament is bicameral, consisting of the Lok Sabha or ‘Lower House’ and the Rajya Sabha or ‘Upper House.’

The Lok Sabha consists of 543 members, known as Members of Parliament (MPs). MPs are elected by universal suffrage and a first-past-the-post system to represent their respective constituencies. The Rajya Sabha, on the other hand, is limited to a maximum 250 members by the Constitution, with most members indirectly elected by state and territorial legislatures.

The current President of India is Mr. Pranab Mukherjee; he is the formal head of the executive and legislature of India and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

The 2014 National Elections:

The 2014 national elections saw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) form a new government with its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners. The BJP alone won 31% of all votes and 282 seats in the Lok Sabha, while the NDA took 336 seats. The leader of the BJP, Mr. Narendra Modi, was sworn in as Prime Minister of India on May 26, 2014.

Military

The Indian Armed Forces consists of three services – the Indian Army, the Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force – led by the President. The Armed Forces is also supported by three paramilitary organizations – the Assam Rifles, the Indian Coast Guard, and the Special Frontier Force.

India has one of the world’s largest military forces. Since 1947, the Indian Armed Forces were involved in a number of military operations, the most major including four wars with Pakistan wars of 1947, 1965, and 1971, and 1999 Kargil War, and one war with China in 1962. Click on the years to find out more about the conflicts. For more information on the 1965 War, Hudson Institute held a panel event to understand more about the relationship between India and Pakistan 50 years since the war.

Economy

India’s economy after independence was heavily regulated. Domestic policy leaned towards protectionism, with emphasis on a government-run public sector, central planning, economic interventionism, and business planning. By the mid-1950’s, many major industries were nationalized.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, which in turn, lead to a massive balance-of-payments crisis in India, Prime Minister, Mr. Narasimha Rao and his Finance Minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh, launched a number of economic reforms in 1991. These reforms ignited a process of economic liberalization, transforming India into a more market-based economy.

India’s main economic sectors include agriculture, manufacturing, and services (such as IT, education, healthcare, software, and retail).

Foreign Relations

After independence, India’s influence on the world stage varied over the years. Influenced by its own colonial experience and struggle for independence, India became a leading proponent of the Non-Alignment Movement during the Cold War. During the 1960s and the 1970s, India became closer to the Soviet Union, signing the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in 1971. This lead to India receiving substantial military and economic aid from the Soviet Union.

With end of the Cold War and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, India was forced to reassess its foreign policy. It started to improve relations with a number of countries, to include the United States, France, Japan, Germany, and Canada.

India is viewed as a major player in South Asia. India’s strategic interests has traditionally focused on South Asia. Over the years, however, it has been broadening its interests and tilting towards East and South-East Asia.

India has been a founding member of several international organizations, to include the UN and the Asian Development Bank. India is also an influential member of the WTO and the IMF. Regionally, it is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). India is currently seeking a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

Recommended Readings:

Wonder That Way India by A.L. Basham

India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha

India: A History by John Keay

The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru

As we continue to update this country profile, follow current news on India and South Asia. 

MALDIVES

By Sanjana Hariprasad

February 5, 2015

Photo Credit - Steph2

Overview

The Maldives is a chain of 1,200 islands which lie off the Indian sub-continent. Most of these islands are inhabited. The capital of Maldives is Male, which is the most populous of all the islands. The Maldives was a British colony until 1965. Most of the islands are not more than 1.8 meters above sea level, currently making the country quite vulnerable to rising and changing sea levels due to global warming.

Maldives covers a total area of 298 sq km (115 sq miles). Its current population, as of 2014, was 401,000. The official language of the country is Divehi and currency is Rufiyaa.

Maldives is known, foremost, as a luxury tourist destination and tourism is its largest industry. Several of its islands are developed for the tourist market. The Maldivian culture is said to be influenced by Indians, Sri Lankans, Arabs and North Africans.

Religion

The state religion of Maldives is Islam, and majority of the population practices Sunni Islam. Maldivian law prohibits its citizens of practicing any religion other than Islam. Foreigners who aren’t Muslim are only allowed to practice their religions in private. To read more about religion freedom in Maldives click here

Government

The Maldivian government is set up in the framework of a presidential representative democratic republic. The current President of Maldives is Abdulla Yameen, hence he is also Head of State and Government and the Commander-in-Chief of the Maldivian Armed Forces. Mr Yameen became president in 2013.

Military

The Maldivian military is known as the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) which includes the Marine Corps, Security Protection Group and the Coast Guard.

Economy

According to the World Bank in 2014 the GDP of Maldives was $3.062 billion (current U.S $) and the GDP growth is 6.5%. As mentioned earlier, tourism is Maldives’ largest economic activity accounting for almost 30% of its GDP. In 2014, the Maldives Parliament passed a bill in regards to special economic zones, to help increase economic diversity away from tourism. To read more about Maldives’ economy  click here.

Foreign Relations

The Maldives is one of the few countries that does have have a professional career foreign service. According to the Maldives Foreign Ministry, the country retains diplomatic relations with 135 countries and has 13 resident missions with several countries and international organizations such as the United Nations.

Recommended Readings, Audio, Video

As we continue to update this country profile, follow current news on Maldives and South Asia. 

 

NEPAL

By Lakshmi Varanasi

November 19, 2015

Photo Credit: Mark Nelson

Overview:

Nepal, formally the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, claims a population of over 35 million people making it the 42nd most populous country in the world. It categorized as a developing country, ranking 145th out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index. Despite its relatively steep levels of hunger and poverty, the Nepali government has pledged advance the country from its current status as least developed country by 2022.

For more information on Nepal’s demography please visit the Government of Nepal’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

Geography:

Nepal’s unique geographical profile merits study in that it has social, political, and economic implications for the country. In its northern reaches Nepal houses much of the Great Himalayan Mountain Range, including the infamous Mt. Everest. These mountains not only obstruct Nepal from harsh Central Asian winds in the winter, but also form a northern limit to wind patterns during the monsoon season. The varying levels of elevation in Nepal give rise to an array of habitats ranging from tropical savannas that line the Indian border, to coniferous forests that dot the Himalayas.

Religion:

Approximately 87% of the Nepali population identifies as Hindu. An additional 5-7% identify as Buddhist, and  2-3% as Muslim. Although a Buddhists are minority in Nepal’s religious landscape, the country home to many sites of Buddhist pilgrimage. This is because the country is believed to be the birthplace of Buddha himself.

Government:

Nepal is classified as a federal democratic republic; a result of its adoption of a new constitution on September 20, 2015. While the roles of both Nepal’s president and vice president are largely ceremonial, they are, effectively, the heads of the Nepali government. As of October 2015 the president of Nepal is Bidhya Devi Bhandari, accompanied by vice president Nanda Kishor Pun.  Under the president and vice president’s jurisdiction the Nepali is further subdivided into three sections: executive, legislative, and judiciary. The executive branch consists of the Prime Minister and his three appointees—these appointees form the Council of Ministers. Much of the Nepal’s political power is vested in the prime minister. Current prime minister of Nepal is Khadga Prasad Sharma. The legislative section is currently maintained by a unicameral constituent assembly. This assembly consists of 601 constituents that are either directly or indirectly elected, or appointed. The judicial section is further subdivided into three levels: the Supreme Court of Nepal, the Court of Appeals, and District Courts.

Military:

The Nepali Army, which also includes the Nepali Army Air Service, is the military backbone of the country.

Economy:

For the past several years, about 25% of Nepal’s population has been caught in the throes of poverty. This is the result of a consistent failure to implement economic reforms. Nepal has thereby barely graduated above the “repressed category” for economic freedom. At present Nepal’s GDP hovers just above $42 million.  Approximately 70% of this figures is derived from agricultural production— Nepal’s main exports include: pulses, jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain. One of the key challenges to Nepal’s economic growth has been its geographical position as a landlocked country. Without adequate access to ports, Nepal has been unable to engage in levels of trade sufficient for economic development.

Foreign Relations:

Nepal is a member of the following international organizations: Asian Development Bank; International Monetary Fund; World Bank; South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Recommended Readings, Audio, Video:

Whelton, John. A History of Nepal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Alexopoulos, Maria & Michael Goertzen. Nepal: In the Mountain’s Shadow. Film. 2009. Canada. DVD.

Hariprasad, Sanjana. Nepal's First Female President: Moving away from Patriarchy? South Asia at Hudson.

As we continue to update this country profile, follow current news on Nepal and South Asia.

Sri Lanka

By Sanjana Hariprasad

November 13, 2015

Photo Credit: Dhammika Heenpella

Overview:

Sri Lanka is an island located in South Asia, to the south of the Indian Subcontinent. It officially called the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. It was known as Ceylon until 1972, and changed its name to Free Sovereign Independent Republic of Sri Lanka and in 1978 it changed it to its current official name. Sri Lanka was colonized by the British from 1833 until it gained independence in 1948.

The capital city is Colombo and its legislative capital is Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. It has a population of 20.64 million as of 2014. It’s currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee (SLR).

The ethnic makeup of the region includes a majority Sinhalese population and minority Sri Lankan Moors, Indian Tamils and Sri Lankan Tamils populations.

While Sinhala is the major language spoken on the island by the majority Sinhalese population, the official languages are Sinhala and Tamil.

Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the north-west and Maldives to the south-east.

Religion:

The major religions in the region are Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. More than two thirds of the population are Theravada Buddhists.

Government:  

Sri Lanka is one of the oldest democracies in the South Asia. It is a Unitary state and is governed by a semi presidential system - a combination between presidential and parliamentary system. Similar to other democracies Sri Lanka’s government has three branches - the  executive, the judiciary, and the legislative.

There are two major political parties in the country - the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

Ranil Wickremesinghe is the country’s Prime Minister and Maithripala Sirisena is its President. Sirisena was sworn in as prime minister after his victory over Mahinda Rajapaksa, in the January 2015 elections.

Armed Forces:

The Sri Lankan Armed forces include its the Sri Lankan Army, Navy and Airforce.  

Civil War:

The Tamil Tigers or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was a separatists group that fought against the Sri Lankan government for close to three decades. It was one of the longest civil wars in Asia. The LTTE agitated for the Tamil minority in the country and for an independent Tamil State . The Sri Lankan government defeated the LTTE in 2009, in which Velupellai Praphakaran, the LTTE leader, was killed by Sri Lankan Forces.  

Economy:

The GDP (current US $) in 2014 was 74.95 billion. According to the Asian Development Bank the economy grew by “4.4% in the first quarter of 2015 and 6.7% in the second quarter (base year 2010).” The World Bank categorizes Sri Lanka as a ‘lower middle income country’.

Sri Lanka is said to have a strong economic growth since the end of its 26 year conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Since the civil war the Sri Lankan government has pursued several reconstruction and development projects all over the country.

Foreign Relations:

The newly elected prime minister, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe, has been working towards revising the country’s foreign policy. Here is more information on Sri Lanka’s changing foreign policy. Sri Lanka is one of the seven members of the South Asian Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

Recommended Readings, Audio and Videos:

KM De Silva. A History of Sri Lanka - http://tinyurl.com/pfkfrlu

Patrick Peebles. The History of Sri Lanka - http://tinyurl.com/oqshgkm

Murugar Gunasingam. Tamils in Sri Lanka - http://tinyurl.com/nt9m6t3

John Clifford Holt. The Sri Lanka Reader - http://tinyurl.com/nah9tlc

Saman Kelegama. Development Under Stress: Sri Lankan Economy in Transition - http://tinyurl.com/pkbz474

As we continue to update this country profile, follow current news on Sri Lanka and South Asia.

PAKISTAN

by Joya Scarlata

March 1, 2016

Photo Credit: Tahir Ansari 

Overview:

Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is bordered by India to the east,  Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southeast, and China in the northeast.

The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, spread over much of what is known as Pakistan today. The area was ruled by a number of empires and dynasties, including the Persians, Mughals, and the British.

In 1947, the separation of British India lead to the creation of Pakistan (with East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh in 1971). Pakistan has fought two wars with India (in 1947-49 and 1965) over the hotly disputed area of Kashmir.

In 2013, Nawaz Sharif took office as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, marking the first time a democratically elected government finished a full term.

Religion:

Islam is the state religion of Pakistan, practiced by the majority of the population. The majority of Muslims practice Sunni Islam, while the rest are Shias and Ahmadi Muslims. Other religions, such as Christianity and Hinduism, are also practiced.

Government:

The current government is represented by the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), which holds a majority of seats in the Pakistan’s National Assembly. The current Prime Minister is Nawaz Sharif, while the President is Manoon Hussain. The constitution provides for a federal parliamentary system, with a president as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of the government. The president is elected for a five-year term by an electoral college, consisting of members of the Senate and National Assembly, as well as member of the provincial assemblies.

The National Assembly, or lower house, has 342 seats. The majority of the seats are elected on a first-past-the-post basis, with seats reserved for women and non-Muslim minorities. The Senate, or upper house, consists of 104 senators. The next Senate elections are due to be held in 2018.

Military:

Pakistan’s armed forces were created in 1947 when Pakistan received independence from the British Empire. The Pakistan Armed Forces comprise of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Marines – along with a number of paramilitary forces as well as the Strategic Plans Division forces. Pakistan has one of the world’s largest military forces. Since 1947, the Pakistan Armed forces have been involved in a number of military operations, to include the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1947, 1965, and 1971.

Economy:

By the end of 2014, Pakistan’s GDP stood at $243.6 billion, with a GDP growth rate of 4.7%. Economic expansion for FY 2015 was led by services as manufacturing growth slowed down. There have been plans recently announced to build an economic corridor linking the Pakistani port of Gwadar to Kasghar in China. This could help boost private investment and growth in the upcoming years. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave a speech in which he expects Pakistan’s economy to grow more than 5% this current fiscal year due to bold economic reforms.

Foreign Relations:

Pakistan is the second most populous country of the Muslim world and its only state with nuclear weapons – therefore making Pakistan an important member of the international community. Pakistan’s foreign policy can be characterized as extremely protective and fiercely independent, especially when it comes to matters related to its nuclear weapons and issues pertaining to its national interests. Pakistan is a founding member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).

Additional Reading:

*Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven

*The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan by Yasmin Khan

*Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military by Ambassador Husain Haqqani

*The Future of Pakistan by Stephen P. Cohen