The influx

Founder of Pakistan, MA Jinnah, patiently listening to the complaints of a refugee in Karachi in late 1947. Millions of Muslim refugees poured into the newly created Pakistan from various Indian cities, towns and villages after the partition of India in August 1947. The new country was overwhelmed by the influx.

A majority of the refugees were settled in hastily constructed refugee camps in Sindh and Punjab. By the 1960s, many of the refugee camps (especially in Karachi) had turned into shanty towns with high levels of crime, unemployment and alcoholism. In the 1970s, many of these shanty towns were regularised and provided basic amenities such as water and electricity. They remain to be one of the most congested areas of the city.

The last snap, October 1951

Picture: Abdul Rasheed Muhjal

This picture of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was taken 20 minutes before he was assassinated. Khan was walking towards the podium in Rawalpindi to make a speech when he was shot dead by a radical Pakhtun nationalist, Saeed Akbar. Akbar was shot dead on the spot by the police.

Many theories suggest that Akbar was a hitman who was hired by anti-Liaquat elements within the government and the bureaucracy. However, these claims have never been conclusively substantiated.

The first fissure

A 1952 wall mural in Dhaka, East Pakistan, demanding Bengali to be declared a national language of Pakistan. Violent riots broke out in East Pakistan in 1952, when Bengali politicians and intellectuals demanded that Bengali be made a national language. Many protesters were killed in the rioting. Bengali was finally given the status of a national language (along with Urdu) in 1954.

The anthem man

Author of Pakistani national anthem Hafeez Jalandhri with his wife and daughters in 1954. Jalandhri had penned the anthem in 1952. In 1954, it was officially adopted by the state of Pakistan.

The country got its national anthem almost seven years after its creation. In 1948, when then Indonesian President Sukharno became the first foreign head of state to visit Pakistan, the country had no anthem of its own to play.

The government put pressure on an anthem committee to come up with an anthem before the Shah of Iran’s visit in 1950. The committee couldn’t agree on the words, but it did select a tune composed by Ahmad G Chagla. So between 1950 and 1954, the Pakistani anthem existed as a piece of music only.

Finally, the words that Jalandhri had written in 1952 were approved in 1954 and the complete anthem was played for the first time on radio. The lyrics of the anthem are all in Persian, with only one Urdu word (“ka”).

The last tribe

Picture: My Historical Pakistan

A synagogue in Karachi in 1957. The board reads (in Urdu, Gujarati and Hebrew) “Pakistani Israelite Mosque”. There were about 1,300 Jews residing in Karachi in the 1950s. This particular synagogue was built in 1893, 54 years before Pakistan’s creation.

It was renovated in 1936 by Karachi’s first Jew councilor, Abraham Reuben. The last Jewish family of Karachi is said to have migrated (to Israel) in the late 1960s. The synagogue lasted as a heritage building till 1988. It was finally torn down and a shopping plaza was constructed on the site.

Show of might

Picture: LIFE

Military police emerge on the streets of Karachi during the imposition of the country’s first Martial Law in 1958. The Martial Law was imposed by President Iskandar Mirza with the help of then army chief Ayub Khan.

Both accused the politicians and the bureaucracy of indulging in corruption and using the 1956 Constitution to “peddle Islam for political gains”. They suspended the Constitution and changed the country’s name from Islamic Republic of Pakistan to simply, the Republic of Pakistan.

Within months, Ayub deposed Mirza as well. In 1959, he became President.

Small beginnings

This photograph shows Pakistan’s first television station. Television arrived in Pakistan in 1964. The country’s first TV station was housed in a small bungalow-type building in Lahore. It was set up with the help of technicians and trainers from Japan’s Nippon Corporation.

Nippon and a Pakistani industrialist, Syed Wajid Ali, held the majority shares of the project. The channel was called Pakistan Television Corporation, or PTV, and pilot projects were launched in Karachi and Rawalpindi as well.

PTV was largely a private enterprise till 1972. In January 1972, it was completely nationalised by the ZA Bhutto government and became an entirely state-backed entity. PTV stations in Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi were greatly expanded and in 1974 new ones were built in Quetta and Peshawar. Today, PTV, though still state-owned, has over six channels.

PIA takes off

Picture: Mehmood Juma

This photograph shows air-hostesses of Pakistani airline, PIA, on the runway of the Karachi airport in 1965. Pakistan did not have a national airline until 1955. In 1955, Orient Airways, a private airline, was nationalised and renamed Pakistan International Airline.

PIA became one of the fastest-growing airlines in the 1960s. It was also the first airline to introduce inflight entertainment. The uniforms of PIA stewardesses and air-hostesses were designed by famous French fashion designer, Pierre Cardin.

PIA continued to perform well and hover in the list of top five international airlines across the 1970s. Its fortunes began to decline from late 1980s onward. By the mid-2000s, it was nearly bankrupt.

Industrial boom

Here Ayub Khan is inspecting a manufacturing plant in 1964. During the first six years of Ayub’s rule, Pakistan enjoyed an impressive 8.51% growth in manufacturing. It was one of the highest among various Asian economies at the time. The country also enjoyed a consistent economic growth of 6% between 1959 and 1967.

Bottoms up

A neon sign of Pakistani beer brand, Murree, on top of a building in Lahore in 1966. Murree is made by Murree Brewery which was established in the late 19th century by a colonial British family. In the 1940s, its shares were bought by a Zoroastrian business family who had also supported Jinnah’s call for a separate country.

In the 1950s, Muree Beer and whisky (Lion) competed with imported German beer brand Beck’s and Jonnie Walker Whiskey. In the 1960s, Murree Brewery become a major tax-paying contributor to Pakistan’s economy. It added rum, gin and vodka to its range of products in the 1970s.

Sale of alcohol (to Muslims) was banned in Pakistan in 1977. Murree survived the ban by catering to non-Muslim customers through licensed wine shops in Sindh and Balochistan.

Murree Brewery remains one of the biggest tax-paying enterprises in Pakistan and the Sindh government earns revenues up to Rs 4 billion annually from the wine shops. The shops have also kept the growth of bootleggers and moonshiners in check.


An anti-Ayub rally passes through Karachi’s Clock Tower area in 1968. The Ayub regime had managed to sustain robust economic growth in the first seven years of his rule. But much of the wealth was said to have ended up in the hands of just 22 families.

The 1965 war with India (which ended in a stalemate) negatively impacted the economy, and by 1968 the gaps between the rich and the poor had greatly widened. A popular uprising forced Ayub to resign in 1969.

Last show of solidarity

Picture: TIME

Pakistani flags being sold in Dhaka, East Pakistan, during the 1970 general elections. The Bengali nationalist party, Awami League, swept the polls in East Pakistan and Bhutto’s PPP won in the two largest provinces of West Pakistan.

Civil War erupted in East Pakistan in 1971 when Pakistani dictator Yahya Khan failed to transfer power to Awami League. The PPP chairman too refused to accept being the second largest party in Parliament. The Civil War was extremely vicious. East Pakistan separated and became Bangladesh.

New man on the block

Bhutto’s PPP won the election in West Pakistan. By late December 1971, he became the head of state and government.

Renaming the country

Picture: Sharmila Faruqui

This is a photograph of one of the original copies of the 1973 Constitution. This was Pakistan’s third constitution. It was jointly passed by the PPP government and the opposition in the National Assembly. It renamed the country as Islamic Republic of Pakistan after its name had been changed to the Republic of Pakistan by the Ayub regime.

This Constitution is still in force in Pakistan even though it has gone through numerous amendments, many of them rather controversial.

The popular gateway

A shot from a plane of the old Karachi Airport in 1974. In the 1970s, the Karachi Airport was one of the busiest airports in Asia and a main station for all international airlines flying in and out of South and East Asia and the Middle East.

PIA had already established itself as a leading international airline. It also owned and operated a lavish café/restaurant and bar inside the airport and a hotel (Hotel Midway House) near the airport.

The airport was built by the British in 1943. It began to rapidly grow in the 1960s and became one of the busiest in Asia. Two more terminals were added to accommodate the growing number of passengers flying in and out of Karachi.

In 1994, it was turned into an airport to handle cargo planes only and a new airport (Jinnah International) was built. However, by then, air traffic to Karachi had already begun to decline due to the growth of the Dubai International Airport and increasing political instability in Pakistan.

Good times

This photograph shows a leaf from a 1974 tourism brochure on Karachi’s nightlife. The country’s tourism industry enjoyed a two-fold growth in the 1970s.

The government greatly expanded the Tourism Board which, at the time, was headed by famous Zoroastrian businessman Ardeshir Cowasjee. Karachi’s nightlife at the time revolved around nightclubs, live music, bars, cinemas, restaurants and cafes (mainly in the Saddar, Tariq Road and Old Clifton areas).

Nightclubs were ordered to close down in April 1977 when Bhutto was cornered by a violent movement started by a right-wing alliance of nine parties. Sale of alcohol was banned in restaurants and cafes and on PIA flights. By the 1980s, many cinemas too closed down. The tourism industry began its gradual decline, and by 1990s it had hit rock-bottom. The situation has remained the same ever since.

Sneaking up from behind

Picture: Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi

The photograph shows Bhutto followed by his military chief, Ziaul Haq (first left) in 1976. The chief would soon topple his boss in a military coup.

After overthrowing Bhutto in July 1977, Zia insisted that Pakistan was destined to become a theological state and that only those parties which believed this would be allowed to participate in the new elections.

The new elections never took place until 11 years later, when Zia died in a controversial plane crash. Bhutto was hanged through a sham trial in April 1979.

Disco wars

Picture: Nuashad Khalid

Brother and sister duo Nazia and Zoheb during their meeting with Ziaul Haq in Islamabad in the early 1980s. The singing duo’s first album Disco Dewane had sold millions of copies and the duo had become instant superstars.

In 1982, they were banned by the Zia regime because some of Zia’s ministers believed “the duo was distracting young Pakistanis from performing their religious duties”.

However, after Nazia and Zoheb managed to arrange a meeting with the dictator, he agreed to lift the ban. The ministers who had imposed the ban weren’t amused.


Karachi’s Shahrah-i-Faisal in 1982. Unprecedented US and Saudi aid and new free-market policies boosted the country’s economy in the 1980s. New buildings and roads began to emerge to meet increasing urban needs and to accommodate the growing traffic.

The economic boom was paralleled by a ballooning “black economy” which was dominated by drug barons and mafias. It was during this period that many European countries stopped giving visas-on-arrival to Pakistanis due to the increasing inflow of heroin coming from Pakistan.

Winning ways

The Pakistan Hockey team wins its second Olympic hockey title in 1984. Pakistan had also won the 1971, 1978 and 1982 Hockey World Cup titles. Its supremacy in international hockey lasted until the early 1990s before beginning to slide.

The cover-up

This image shows a newscaster reading the 9 o’clock news on PTV in 1984. The Zia regime would often issue new dress codes for women appearing on TV. Sometimes, men were not allowed to appear in western clothes, unless they were playing negative roles in TV plays.

Women were asked to drape themselves with dupattas. Such instructions would suddenly be imposed and then as suddenly withdrawn, only to reappear with even more force. This took place on TV throughout the Zia regime.

The first blast

A newspaper report on a bomb blast in Karachi’s Saddar area in 1987. It was the first major act of terror of this kind against civilians in Pakistan.

Two time-bombs fitted inside cars in the middle of Karachi’s congested shopping area of Empress Market went off killing dozens. The government blamed Afghanistan’s now defunct intelligence agency, KHAD, of planting the bombs.

The very next year, the plane Zia was travelling on blew up mid-air, killing him.

Democracy returns

Benazir Bhutto leading an election rally in Lahore just before the 1988 general election. PPP won the 1988 election, following which Benazir became PM.

In 1990, her government was removed by the president on charges of corruption and incompetence. She was re-elected in 1993 only to be removed again in 1996 on similar charges. She was well on her way to become the country’s prime minister for a third time when she was assassinated in 2007.

Street dancing days

A pop festival at Karachi’s KMC Stadium in 1993. The 1990s saw an unprecedented explosion of Pakistani pop bands and acts. The phenomenon lasted until the early 2000s before disappearing due to the country’s worsening law and order situation.

A historic win in squash

Squash champion Jansher Khan playing a World Open final against his compatriot Jahangir Khan in 1993. Jansher and Jahangir took Pakistan squash to the top of world rankings. Pakistan’s standing began to decline rapidly after both retired from the game.

Being the centre of cricket

A helicopter helps groundsmen dry the field at Lahore’s Qadhafi Stadium during the 1996 Cricket World Cup. The event was jointly held with India and Sri Lanka.

Pakistan and India also hosted the 1987 Cricket World Cup. Pakistan lost in the semi-finals of the 1987 event and in the quarterfinal of the 1996 event. It won the cup in Australia in 1992.

The angry prime minister

Nawaz Sharif speaking on TV in 1993 after he was advised to step down by the military-establishment. In 1993, Sharif’s first government was dismissed on charges of corruption by President Ishaq. The Supreme Court restored the regime, but a deadlock occurred between the restored regime and President Ishaq who still had the power to dismiss Nawaz.

The military-establishment devised a way out by asking both Nawaz and Ishaq to resign. Nawaz was re-elected in 1997. But by then, the economy had nose-dived and sectarian violence witnessed a manifold increase in the Punjab. Nawaz bungled the situation and tried to oust his military chief, Parvez Musharraf but Musharraf toppled him in 1999. Nawaz became PM again in 2013.

In the land of the foe

Pervez Musharraf and his wife in India in 2001. Musharraf became “Chief Executive” of Pakistan and then president. Relations between Pakistan and India improved during his regime. So did the economy.

Musharraf regime’s downfall

An apartment building split in the middle in Islamabad during the devastating 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. Everything began to go downhill for the Musharraf regime after the earthquake.

The economy began to slide, opposition to his rule began to grow and eventually, after 2007, terrorist groups greatly increased their attacks in the country. Musharraf was forced to resign in 2008. The PPP formed the new government after winning the 2008 election.

The popular General

An early 2016 drawing of former Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, which appeared in the monthly magazine, Herald. Gen Raheel was made chief of Army staff by Nawaz Sharif after the latter became prime minister in 2013.

Gen Raheel pushed the government and the Parliament to initiate a forceful military operation against extremist groups in the north and against criminal mafias in Karachi. The operation greatly reduced incidents of terrorism in the country. Gen Raheel’s popularity skyrocketed. In late 2016, he retired after completing his three-year-term as chief of Army staff.

This article first appeared on Dawn.