Historically Pakistan was not recognised as a separate nation and the people and region were considered to be an integral part of India (named after the Indus River, which divides the two modern states). However, since the large area was heavily populated with a benign climate and rich natural resources different experiences and interests often divided the people. Among the key influenece were the Persian conquest of the western region (Pakistan) and the 711 arrival of the Arab army carrying their Islamic message of Surrender to Allah.

The archaeological record in India (including the modern nations of the Republic of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) shows first traces of Homo sapiens from ca. 34,000 years ago. Bronze Age civilization emerges contemporary to the civilizations of the Ancient Near East, from circa 3300 BC, with the Indus Valley Civilization reaching its mature phase from around 2600 BC. The Vedic period in the Iron Age saw the rise of major kingdoms known as the Mahajanapadas, in which Mahavira and Gautama Buddha were born during the 6th century BC. The Indian subcontinent was first united under the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. After the collapse of the Maurya Empire in the 2nd century BC, numerous kingdoms were formed. Mediaeval India saw a series of Muslim conquests since the 7th century. Most of the Indian subcontinent was later unified again under the Mughal Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries. After the collapse of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century, most of India was conquered by the British East India Company in the 19th century. After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, India was ruled by the British Raj from 1858.

Mehrgarh, was an important Neolithic (7000 BC to 3200 BC) site and lies on the Kachi plain of Baluchistan, a province in Pakistan Mehrgarh is one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming in South Asia.[3] Mehrgarh is located near the Bolan Pass, to the west of the Indus River valley, The earliest settlement at Mehrgarh was a small farming village dated between 7000 BC-5500 BC. The early Mehrgarh people lived in mud brick houses, stored their grain in granaries, made tools with local copper ore, and lined their large basket containers with bitumen (tar). The people farmed six-row barley, einkorn and emmer wheat, jujubes and dates; they also herded sheep, goats and cattle. The later Mehrgarhians (c5500 BC to 2600 BC) put much effort into crafts, including flint knapping, tanning, bead production, and metal working. Mehrgarh was occupied until c2600 BC.

A sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture developed in the Indus Valley Civilization. The quality of municipal town planning suggests knowledge of urban planning and efficient municipal governments which placed a high priority on hygiene. The streets of major cities such as Mohenjo-daro or Harappa were laid out in perfect grid patterns. (Harappa was an ancient city, was occupied 3500-1900 BC, and whose people used writing as found on pottery.[4]) Houses were protected from noise, odors, and thieves. One of the most interesting crops grown by the people of the Harappa culture was cotton, of which a fortunate single find at Moenjo Daro has given conclusive evidence.

Mohenjo-daro ruins in Pakistan


As seen in Harappa, Mohenjo-daro and the recently discovered Rakhigarhi, this urban plan included the world's first 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 house-building in some villages in the region still resembles in some respects the house-building of the Harappans.

The ancient Indus systems of sewerage and drainage that were developed and used in cities throughout the Indus Empire, were far more advanced than any found in contemporary urban sites in the Middle East and even more efficient than those in some areas of Pakistan and India today. The advanced architecture of the Harappans is shown by their impressive dockyards, granaries, warehouses, brick platforms and protective walls. The massive citadels of Indus cities, that protected the Harappans from floods and attackers, were larger than most Mesopotamian ziggurats.

The purpose of the citadel remains debated. In sharp contrast to this civilization's contemporaries, Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, no large monumental structures were built. There is no conclusive evidence of palaces or temples - or of kings, armies, or priests. Some structures are thought to have been granaries. Found at one city is an enormous well-built bath, which may have been a public bath. Although the citadels were walled, it is far from clear that these structures were defensive. They may have been built to divert flood waters.

Most of the city people appear to have been traders or artisans, who lived in groups with others pursuing the same occupation in well-defined neighborhoods. Materials from distant regions were used in the cities for constructing seals, beads and other objects. Among the artifacts discovered were beautiful beads of glazed stone called faïence. The seals have images of animals, gods and other types of inscriptions. Some of the seals were used to stamp clay on trade goods and most probably had other uses

Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization included the area of modern Pakistan and spread from Kashmir in the region, claimed by the successor states of both Pakistan and India, to the Arabian Sea. The fertile Indus River valley is still the main area of agriculture for Pakistan.  

The Indus Valley is one of the world's three locations in which civilization separately began. People gathered in this temperate climate from c3300–1700 BC, and society flourished there in c2600–1900 BC.[2] As implied by the name, people developed a civilization along the Indus and and the adjoining Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys in what is now Pakistan and northwestern India. Another name for this civilization is the Harappan Civilization, after the first excavated city of Harappa. The Indus Valley people developed an early trade and might have been known to the Sumerians as Meluhha, however, he modern world discovered it only in the 1920s as a result of archaeological excavations.

Although some houses were larger than others, Indus Civilization cities were remarkable for their apparent egalitarianism. All the houses had access to water and drainage facilities. This gives the impression of a society with low wealth concentration.

Indus Valley: c2000 BC


The people of the Indus Civilization achieved great accuracy in measuring length, mass and time. They were among the first to develop a system of uniform weights and measures. Their measurements were extremely precise. Their smallest division, which is marked on an ivory scale found in Lothal, was approximately 1.704mm, the smallest division ever recorded on a scale of the Bronze Age. Harappan engineers followed the decimal division of measurement for all practical purposes, including the measurement of mass as revealed by their hexahedron weights. These brick weights were in a perfect ratio of 4:2:1 with each unit weighing approximately 28 grams, similar to the English Imperial ounce or Greek uncia. Smaller objects were weighed in similar ratios with the units of 0.871. The weights and measures later used in Kautilya's Arthashastra (4th century BC) are the same as those used in Lothal.

Unique Harappan inventions include an instrument which was used to measure whole sections of the horizon and the tidal dock. In addition, Harappans evolved new techniques in metallurgy and produced copper, bronze, lead and tin. The engineering skill of the Harappans was remarkable, especially in building docks after a careful study of tides, waves and currents. In 2001, archaeologists studying the remains of two men from Mehrgarh, Pakistan made the discovery that the people of the Indus Valley, from the early Harappan periods, even had knowledge of proto-dentistry. Various sculptures, seals, pottery, gold jewelry and anatomically detailed figurines in terra cotta, bronze and steatite have been found at the excavation sites. A number of gold, terra cotta and stone figurines of girls in dancing poses reveal that these people enjoyed the dance.

In c1800 BC, Indo-European tribes from Central Asia or the Russian steppes migrated into the region. They settled between the Kabul River and the Upper Ganges-Yamuna rivers. The resulting Vedic culture lasted until c500 BC.

The Aryans

The Aryans swept over Persia with lightening speed, and spread across the northern river plains of India.[5] Their nature as a warlike, conquering people is preserved in Vedic religion, the foundation of Hinduism. They called themselves superior or noble, in contrast to the people they conquered. Their name is derived from the Indo-European root word, ar, meaning noble. In Sanskrit, they were called the Aryas (Aryans). The root, ar, is found in the name of the conquered Persian territories, Iran. This basic concept of nobility may also appear in Ireland's name: Eire.

The prosperous and flourishing Indus Valley civilization was brought to an end by the invasions of the Aryans in c1700 BC. The Aryans were a tribal and nomadic people, probably from the Russian steppes. Their tribal war-chief was called raja, Their culture was oriented around warfare, and they were very good at it. They were superior on horseback and rushed into battle in chariots. These warlike nomads crushed the sophisticated Indus Valley civilization.

A large number of ancient skeletons found in Harappa, Meonjo Daro suggest vicious fighting, and there are wide traces of cultural devastation. A scorched earth policy seems to have been followed which extinguished almost all traces of civilization in the region. The evidence extends to Baluchistan, Sind and the Punjab.[4] The Aryan advent was in fact the arrival of barbarians into a regional empire based on a long established tradition of literate urban culture. Having destroyed the Indus Valley civilisation, the Aryans controlled Pakistan from c1500-1000 BC, and then migrated into India.

The Persians

Persian Empire: 550-330 BC


Darius I the Great (522-486 BC) made Pakistan a province of the Achaemenian Empire. Darius affirmed this in inscriptions at Persepolis and Naksh-e-Rustam mentioning Hapta Hindva as a province of his Empire. The conquered provinces of the Punjab and Sind were considered to be the richest and most populous satrapy of the Empire, to the revenues of which they were required to pay the enormous tribute of a million sterling. This Satrapy covered almost the same area as modern Pakistan. It must have comprised the the Indus from Kalabagh to the sea, including the whole of Sind, and perhaps included a considerable portion of the Punjab east of Indus. Again the north-west was separate from central, northern, and eastern India. The fact seems clearly to have facilitated Alexander's invasion and to have furthered the later split between the north-west and the rest of the subcontinent.

A later Pakistani contingent fought in Xerxes I Achaemenid's army in his expedition to Greece.  Herodotus mentions that the Indus satrapy supplied cavalry and chariots for the Persian army; and also that the Indus people were protected with cotton, and carried bows and arrows of cane covered with iron. Herodotus further states that in 517 BC Darius sent an expedition under Scylax to explore the Indus. As part of the Persian Empire, Pakistan developed a flourishing economy; inter-regional trade developed considerably and several caravan cities sprang up.

The Greeks

The Indus plains formed the most populous and richest satrapy of the Persian Achaemenid Empire for almost two centuries, starting from the reign of Darius I the Great 522-485 BC. Persian heritage influenced the region by adoption of Aramaic script, which the Achaemenids used for the Persian language; but after the end of Achaemenid rule, Aramaic and Greek became more popular. Herodotus stirred interest in remote India and Pakistan by noting that men wore clothing made from wool trees (cotton was then unknown in the West). The interaction between Hellenistic Greece and Buddhism began when Alexander the Great overthrew the Achaemenid empire in 334 BC, and marched eastwards. Eventually, after defeating King Porus in the fierce Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC, he conquered much of the Punjab. Alexander moved southwest along the Indus valley, and then west across the Makran desert towards Iran. Alexander founded several Macedonian settlements in Gandhara and Punjab.

During his campaigns on the Indus plain, Alexander had found an ally in Chandragupta Maurya, a fugitive general from Magadha empire of the Nandas, who later raised his own military force and ultimately overthrew the Nanda Dynasty - using Macedonian tactics - and founded the Mauryan dynasty in Magadha, that lasted about 180 years. After Alexander's death in 323 BC, his diadochi (generals) divided the empire, and Seleucus I established the Seleucid Kingdom, which included the Indus plain. Chandragupta Maurya took advantage of this fragmentation of Greek power and captured the Punjab and Gandhara. Later, the eastern part of the Seleucid Kingdom broke away to form the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom in 312-363 BC. Chandragupta's grandson, Ashoka the Great, 273-232 BC expanded the Mauryan empire to its greatest extent covering most of South Asia. He converted to Buddhism after feeling remorse for his bloody conquest of Kalinga in eastern India.

Greco-Buddhism prevailed in the area of modern Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Indo-Greek Menander I reigned in 155-130 BC and drove the Greco-Bactrians out of Gandhara and beyond the Hindu Kush. Menander's territories covered Panjshir and Kapisa in modern Afghanistan and extended into the Punjab. The last known Indo-Greek ruler was Theodamas, known as Su Theodamas (Su was the Greek transliteration of the Kushan royal title Shau - shah or king).

Other Invaders

Regional Kingdoms


The Indo-Scythians were descended from the Sakas (Scythians) who migrated from southern Siberia to Kashmir and Arachosia from the middle of the 2nd century BC to the 1st century BC. They displaced the Indo-Greeks and ruled a kingdom that stretched from Gandhara to Mathura and Scythian tribes spread further into northwest India and the Iranian plateau.

The Parni were a nomadic Central Asian tribe who overthrew the Persian Seleucids and annexed much of the Indus region. Following the decline of the central Parthian authority after clashes with the Roman Empire, a local Parthian leader, Gondophares established the Indo-Parthian Kingdom in the 1st century CE. The kingdom was ruled from Taxila and covered much of modern southeast Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwestern India.

The Kushan kingdom founded by King Heraios, and greatly expanded by his successor, Kujula Kadphises. Kadphises' son, Vima Takto conquered territory now in India, but lost much of the west of the kingdom to the Parthians. The fourth Kushan emperor, Kanishka I, in c127 had a winter capital at Peshawar and a summer capital at Bagram. The kingdom linked the Indian Ocean maritime trade with the commerce of the Silk Road through the Indus valley. At its height, the empire extended from the Aral Sea to northern India, encouraging long-distance trade, particularly between China and Rome. Kanishka convened a great Buddhist council in Kashmir, marking the start of the pantheistic Mahayana Buddhism and its scission with Nikaya Buddhism. The art and culture of Gandhara are the best known expressions of the interaction of Greek and Buddhist cultures, which continued over several centuries until the fifth century White Hun invasions.

Over the next few centuries, the White Huns, Indo-Parthians, and Kushans shared control of the Indus plain while the Persian Sassanid Empire dominated the south and southwest. The mingling of Indian and Persian cultures in the region gave rise to the Indo-Sassanid culture, which flourished in Baluchistan and western Punjab. The Gupta Empire arose in northern India around the second century AD and included much of the lower Indus area as a province. The Gupta era was marked by a local Hindu revival, whose impact was felt in distant Punjab/Sindh region, although Buddhism continued to flourish. According to Arab chroniclers, the Rai Dynasty of Sindh (c.489-632), established a great kingdom with Ror (modern Sukkur) as its capital and, at its zenith, under Rai Diwaji (Devaditya), ruled over the Sindh region and beyond. Devadittya was a great patron of Buddhism, which flourished. This kingdom was taken over by Brahman dynasties, whose unpopularity among Buddhist subjects contributed towards the consolidation of Arab conquerors' base in Sindh.

The White Huns

The particular branch of the Huns from the Oxus Valley invaded Pakistan and was known as the Epthalite or White Huns.[6] They were accompanied by a number of other tribes including Gurjaras. They started coming in wave after wave from c450 and very soon became rulers of Pakistan.

The mass immigration of Huns and Gurjaras extending over the 5th and the 6th centuries constitutes a turning point in the history of Pakistan and of northern India both politically and socially. Politically because henceforth, till the arrival of Muslims, they were the ruling class in Pakistan and in most of northern India. Socially because the origin of majority of the tribes of Pakistan and those of Rajputana is traceable to them. "No authentic family or class traditions go back beyond the Hun invasion. All genuine tradition of the earlier dynasties has been absolutely lost. The history of the Mauryas, Kushans and Guptas, so far as it is known has been recovered laboriously by the researches of scholars, without material help from living tradition." (Ibid). Many of Afghan-Pathan tribes and most of the Rajput and Jat clans of the Punjab and Sind are, according to modern scholars, descended from the Epthalites i.e., White Huns.

During this 500-year period, again, Pakistan was under quite independent Rajput kingdoms separate from those of India. Even the Gurjara-Pratihara Empire of northern India which was one of the most important formed during this period did not include Pakistan, not even during the days of its greatest and most powerful king Raja Bhoja.

The Arabs

In 711, the Arab general Muhammed Bin Qasim led 6,000 Syrian Arabs eastwards along the desolate Makran coast in Baluchistan and conquered Sind.[7] In 712, Muhammed Bin Qasim captured Sind's major sea port Daibul, 40 miles east of Karachi in the Indus Delta. Caliph Walid bin Abdul malik control stretched from Central Asia to Spain; and Pakistan and India would be divided by religion.

Sind was then ruled by Brahmin King Dahir who had established Brahmanism over Buddhism. Qasim continued his advance and conquered Niran near Hyderabad, crossed the Indus River by a boat-bridge, defeated and Dahir's army. The Arabs continued north and captured Dahir's capital city Brahmanabad (Brahmin city), and then Multan. Multan had so much gold the Arabs stayed for 300 years. Many Sind tribes were converted to Islam, among them the Somra Rajputs; apparently the Arabs did not impose Islam and they respected other religions. The natives were encouraged to do business freely with the Muslims, despite religious differences.

The Ommayids were succeeded by the Abbasids who became the new rulers of Sind. From 750 the Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad sent their governors to rule. Being a prosperous land, Sind paid substantial revenue to Baghdad. Deep interactions began between the Middle East and the South Asian subcontinent. The Arabic language made deep inroads into Sind, which has the longest tradition of Arabic scholarship in the whole region, and scholars from the Indus valley were welcomed in Baghdad. Many Sindi works on medicine, mathematics, astronomy and philosophy were translated into the Arabic language. Islam also made inroads from Afghanistan into the north western regions of Pakistan; and Islamic missionaries spread Islam among the tribes.

The Mughals

Shah Jahan's Shalimar Gardens


Mughal is the Persian word for Mongol and was generally used to refer to Central Asian nomads who claimed descent from the Mongol warriors of Genghis Khan. In 1526, Babur, a Timurid (Turco-Persian) descendant of Timur, swept across the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal Empire, which lasted for over 200 years. The Mughal Dynasty ruled most of the Indian subcontinent by 1600; it went into a slow decline after 1707 and was finally defeated during the Indian rebellion of 1857. This period marked vast social change in the subcontinent as the Hindu majority were ruled over by the Mughal emperors, some of whom showed religious tolerance, liberally patronising Hindu culture, and some of whom destroyed historical temples and imposed taxes on non-Muslims. During the decline of the Mughal Empire, which at its peak occupied an area slightly larger than the ancient Maurya Empire, several smaller empires rose to fill the power vacuum or themselves were contributing factors to the decline. The Mughals were perhaps the richest single dynasty to have ever existed.

Babur's son Humayun succeeded him in 1530 but suffered major reversals at the hands of the Pashtun Sher Shah Suri and effectively lost most of the fledgling empire before it could grow beyond a minor regional state. From 1540 onwards, Humayun became a ruler in exile, reaching the Court of the Persian Safavid ruler in 1542 while his forces still controlled some fortresses and small regions. But when the Afghans fell into disarray with the death of Sher Shah Suri, Humayun returned with a mixed army, raised more troops and managed to reconquer Delhi in 1555.

Humayun's son Akbar was an infant when Humayun decided to cross the rough terrain of Makuran with his wife, and so was left behind to keep him from the rigors of the long journey. Since he did not go to Persia with his parents, he was eventually transported from the fortress in the Sind where he was born to be raised for a time by his uncle Askari Mirza, Khan in the rugged country of Afghanistan. There Akbar became an excellent outdoorsman, horseman, hunter and learned how to be a warrior.

After the resurgent Humayan conquered the central plateau about Delhi, he was killed a few months later in an accident, leaving an unsettled realm still involved in war. Akbar (1556-1605) succeeded his father on 14 February 1556, while in the midst of a war against Sikandar Shah for the reclamation of the Mughal throne. Akbar soon recorded his first victory as a 13-year old, while his support began to grow. Akbar was a wise ruler, set fair but steep taxes based on the production in each area and set at 33% of the agricultural produce. Akbar also set up an efficient bureaucracy and was tolerant of religious differences which softened the resistance by the conquered.

During the Mughal era, the dominant political forces consisted of the Mughal Empire, its tributaries, and later on the rise of its successor states, including the Maratha confederacy, who fought an increasingly weak and disfavoured Mughal dynasty.The Mughals, while often employing brutal tactics to subjugate their empire, had a policy of integration with Indian culture, which is what made them successful where the short-lived Sultanates of Delhi had failed. Akbar the Great was particularly famed for this. Akbar declared "Amari" or non-killing of animals in the holy days of Jainism. He rolled back the Jazia Tax for non-Muslims. The Mughal Emperors married local royalty, allied themselves with local Maharajas, and attempted to fuse their Turko-Persian culture with ancient Indian styles, creating unique Indo-Saracenic architecture. It was the erosion of this tradition coupled with increased brutality and centralisation that played a large part in their downfall after Aurangzeb, who unlike previous emperors, imposed relatively non-pluralistic policies on the general population, that often inflamed the majority Hindu population.

The British Raj

The British Honourable East India Company (HEIC) had been given permission by the Mughal emperor Jahangir Padshah in 1617 to trade in India. Gradually their increasing influence led the Mughal emperor Farrukh Siyar to grant them dastaks or permits for duty free trade in Bengal in 1717. The Nawab of Bengal Siraj Ud Daulah, the ruler of the Bengal province, opposed British attempts to use these permits. This led to the Battle of Plassey in 1757, in which the HEIC army, led by Robert Clive, defeated the Nawab. This was the first political foothold that the British acquired in India. Clive became the first Governor of Bengal in 1757. After the Battle of Buxar in 1764, the Company acquired the civil rights of administration in Bengal from the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, beginning its formal rule in India. The East India Company monopolized the trade of Bengal. They introduced a land taxation system called the Permanent Settlement which introduced a feudal like structure in Bengal. By the 1850s, the East India Company controlled most of the Indian sub-continent, which included present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh. Their policy was often summarised as Divide and Rule, taking advantage of the enmity between various princely states and social and religious groups. The British, of course, resolved their problem by leaving.


1         Adapted from Grahame Clark, World Prehistory, In New Perspective, pp. 250-287; and History of Pakistan at,; Pakistan, Ahmad Hasan Dani, PAKISTAN - History through the Centuries at,, PAKISTAN - CRADLE OF CIVILIZATIONS: COMMON HISTORY at,; Achaemenid Empire at,;;.; Images from Wikipedia; Maps from Wikipedia and

2       Maps are from Darius: the list of satrapies at,; and Israel Science and Technology Homepage, the University of Oregon Historical Atlas Resource at,; and Image:World 2000 BC at,

3        Modern Pakistan is divided into the four provinces of: Baluchistan and Sind in the south, and the North-West Frontier and Punjab in the north. Baluchistan borders Iran, and Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier both border Afghanistan; and Sind and Punjab both border India. The North-West Frontier borders China. Additional territories and regions govern the capital, Islamabad, and the contested northern and Kashmir Indian border areas. Sind(h), Punjab, and Baluchistan are historic, former kingdoms. This is a tough neighbourhood!

4         See BBC report by David Whitehouse, Sci/Tech 'Earliest writing' found,, dated 4 May 1999. (The claim for earliest writing has since moved on. See BBC Report, Chinese writing '8,000 years old',, dated 18 May 2007.)

5        This discussion is based on Pakistan, Ahmad Hasan Dani, COMING OF THE ARYANS at,; Richard Hooker, World Civilizations, Ancient India, The Aryans, at

6        See Pakistan, Ahmad Hasan Dani,  WHITE HUNS (Hephthalites) at,

7        Pakistan, Ahmad Hasan Dani,  ARAB RULE OF SINDH/PAKISTAN at,

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