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The Dominion of Pakistan was a federal country in South Asia that was established in 1947 as a result of the partition of British India into two sovereign dominions: the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. The Dominion of Pakistan, which included modern-day Pakistanmarker and Bangladeshmarker, was intended to be a homeland for the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent. The Dominion of Pakistan became the Islamic Republic of Pakistanmarker in 1956, and the People's Republic of Bangladeshmarker became an independent state in 1971.


The Dominion of Pakistan was formed on 14 August 1947 pursuant to the Indian Independence Act 1947, which created the independent dominions of Pakistan and the Union of India and received the Royal Assent on 18 July 1947.

The monarch of Pakistan was represented by the Governor-General, who was uniquely not a ceremonial figure, having very strong executive powers. The first Governor-General of Pakistan was Mohammed Ali Jinnah, president of the Muslim League. After the British granted independence to the dominions in India in mid-August 1947, the two nations joined the British Commonwealth as self-governing dominions.

The partition entailed an exodus of millions of Muslims from various parts of India to Pakistan and the exodus of non-Muslims from the newly formed Dominion of Pakistan to India. On "the sub-continent as a whole, some 14 million people left their homes and set out by every means possible — by air, train, and road, in cars and lorries, in buses and bullock carts, but most of all on foot — to seek refuge with their own kind."


Dominion of Pakistan was a federation of five regions or Provinces: East Bengal (later to become Bangladeshmarker), West Punjabmarker, Balochistanmarker, Sindhmarker, and the North-West Frontier Provincemarker (NWFP). In addition, those princely states (which were free after the partition to join either country) that were geographically inalienable to Pakistan joined the federation. These included the Princely States of Bhawalpur, Khairpur, Swat, Dir, Hunza, Chitral, Makranand and the Khanate of Kalat. All Provinces had their own Governor, who was appointed by the Governor-General of Pakistan.

Radcliffe Line

The controversial Radcliffe Award, not published until 17 August 1947, specified the Radcliffe Line which demarcated the border between India and Pakistan. The Radcliffe Boundary Commission sought to separate the Muslim-majority regions in the northeast and northwest from the rest of India with a Hindu majority. This entailed the partition of two provinces which did not have a uniform majority — Bengalmarker and Punjab. The western part of Punjab became West Punjabmarker and the eastern part became the Indian state of Punjabmarker. Bengal was similarly divided into East Bengal (in Pakistan) and West Bengalmarker (in India).

Conflicts and Disputes

The partition left Punjab and Bengalmarker, two of the biggest provinces, divided between India and Pakistan. In the early days of independence, millions of people migrated across the new border and more than one hundred thousand died in a spate of communal violence. In Punjab alone, "in an area measuring about 200 miles by 150 miles (320×240 km), roughly the size of Scotland, with some 17,000 towns and villages, 5 million Muslims were trekking from east to west, and 5 million Hindus and Sikhs trekking in the opposite direction. Many of them never made it to their destinations." Many of them were slaughtered by an opposing side, some starved or died of exhaustion, while others were afflicted with "cholera, dysentery and all those other diseases that afflict undernourished refugees everywhere". fuelling a violent reaction amongst the populations of the newly founded nations.

Disputes arose over several princely states with a Muslim-majority, including Jammu and Kashmirmarker, whose ruler had acceded to India. The Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, wanted to remain an independent principality and tried to avoid accession to either country. When British forces withdrew, the Maharaja decided that Kashmir would accede to India, whereupon the Government of India recognized the accession of the erstwhile princely state to India, which they considered the new Indian state of Jammu and Kashmirmarker, and sent Indian troops into the state to defend it against the invading forces. Disputes and territorial conflict led to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, which ended with Pakistan gaining control of roughly two-fifth of the state. This portion of the state is called Azad Kashmirmarker (Independent Kashmir), however Indians prefer to call it Pakistan Occupied Kashmirmarker (POK), the rest of Kashmir is referred to as Indian occupied Kashmirmarker (IOK) by Pakistanis.

See also


  • Read, A. and Fisher, D. (1997). The Proudest Day: India's Long Road to Independence. New York: Norton.


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