Contact with Europeans and British Rule
India’s Malabar Coast (from the state of Goa southward) was the heart of the spice trade. In 1498, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama and his ships travelled from Lisbon, Portugal, down the African coast and around the Cape of Good Hope (discovered earlier by fellow Portuguese Bartolomeu Dias), through the Indian Ocean, and landed in this coast, thus discovering a sea route that helped Portugal cut their middlemen in the spice trade. Portugal grew wealthy from this direct trade, establishing trading posts in India. Other Western powers–the Dutch and the French–followed shortly.
The British began trade with India through the (English) East India Company in 1600. What began as a monopolistic trading company became involved in politics and acted as an agent of the British Empire in its eventual domination of India in the 18th century.
British rule was acquired through a series of many wars. The Seven Years’ War was a conflict that involved all of the greatest powers in Europe and spanned the globe. France, Austria, Saxony, Sweden, and Russia formed one alliance and opposing them were Great Britain with Prussia and Hanover; it was France and Great Britain who headed the war. The Anglo-French conflict was largely played out in North America and India for resource control. The British navy was superior to the French and they defeated several French bases, including Pondicherry (Puducherry), India in 1761. The British allies won the war, and as a result, gained Canada and India as colonies. In India, this meant that they held a monopoly over the highly fertile and exotic lands for trade to Europe.
This did not, however, mean that they had full control over India yet. Following this international dispute, several wars resulted from revolutions against British domination. The last Mughal, Bahādur Shah II, reigned from 1837 to 1857, and was exiled by the British to Myanmar for his role in the Indian Mutiny of 1857 against British rule, ending the 300-year rule of the Mughal dynasty. Several wars were fought in India at the end of the Mughal empire’s reign as the subcontinent transitioned into a British colony. You can read our full account here.
All India Muslim League
The British government abolished the East India Company after the Indian Mutiny, and control of the colony was given to a British Governor-General who reported to the British Parliament. In 1906, the Indian National Congress, a political party formed in 1885 opposing British rule, began to split in half between those calling for dominion status (autonomous state within the British Empire) and complete independence for India.
Among Indian Muslims, conviction grew as well that they had to preserve their separate identity rather than be amalgamated into the majority Hindu Indian nation, which historically had been more open to adopt British ways and the British style of education. The All India Muslim League was founded, also in 1906, to safeguard Muslim interests.
World War I broke out, and the British Empire included India in the British war effort without first consulting Indian officials. Tens of thousands of British Indian citizens died fighting under the flag of Britain. Resentment of British rule grew, which strengthened the Indian movement for independence. Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi became a force in Indian politics, but his Hindu approach alienated Muslims, especially the leader of the All India Muslim League, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Jinnah opposed Gandhi’s policy of noncooperation and withdrew from Congress.
The Pakistan Resolution
The relationship between Hindus and Muslims continued to deteriorate, with eruptions of sectarian violence. When the British government once again announced without prior consultation that India was now at war with Germany under the British Empire in World War II, an angry Congress began calling for Britain to quit India.
In March 1940, Jinnah and the Muslim League passed a resolution calling for the creation of a sovereign Muslim state called Pakistan (“Land of the Pure”) composed of the Muslim majority areas of India. This resolution was later called the “Pakistan Resolution”. At first ridiculed by Congress, Jinnah insisted on this partition in his negotiations with the British government. The state of Pakistan was formed on August 14, 1947, with Jinnah as its first head of state. Hundreds of thousands died in the violence that erupted as populations moved across an India that was suddenly free of foreign rule, but was divided into two.
West and East Pakistan
Pakistan itself consisted of two parts in 1947: West Pakistan (northwestern India) and East Pakistan (eastern Bengal province), separated by 1,600 kilometres of land under sovereign Indian territory.
Immediately following partition, it became clear that the wealth and resources of British India went to the now sovereign state of India. India and Pakistan went to war over the contested territory of Kashmir, a conflict made complicated by the mass migration of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims across the new borders that led to violence and death on a large scale.
Jinnah died only a year after the creation of Pakistan, leaving behind a power vacuum and further conflict. Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liquat Ali Khan was assassinated in 1951. In 1952, a series of riots sprang in East Pakistan against the attempt of the Muslim League to make Urdu the only national language of the state when Bengali, the predominant language of East Pakistan, was spoken by a larger population.
This rift would only worsen. After a long period of military rule, Pakistan held its first national elections in 1970. The Awami League of Mujibur Rahman, who served as a voice of the Bengali population, won an electoral majority and demanded greater autonomy for East Pakistan. As Mujib won majority, he was entitled to form the national government as Prime Minister, but he was blocked by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of the Pakistan People’s Party, arguing that the Awami League did not win a single seat in the western provinces. (The PPP, on the other hand, gained a majority in the West.) Mujib called for greater autonomy for East Pakistan, resulting in a civil war in 1971, in which the Indian army supported the Bengalis against Pakistani forces. Pakistan was forced to withdraw.
East Pakistan declared itself as the independent state of Bangladesh (“Land of the Bengals”), and West Pakistan became modern-day Pakistan.
Travel to Pakistan with Odyssey Traveller
If you want to learn more about Pakistan’s history, join us on a small group tour. Our Pakistan tours are designed to give travellers who are open to a unique Pakistan travel experience to have a deeper understanding of the history and culture of this country.
Odyssey Traveller has a 16-day tour of Pakistan that begins in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and ends in its vibrant capital, Islamabad. Our small group tour travels from the south, on the coast of the Arabian sea, and weaves north to the capital, in the foothills of the Himalayas near the Pakistani border with India. Along the way, we visit ancient ruins of the Indus Civilisation, medieval capitals, and Pakistan’s pre-Muslim temples in Thatta, Hyderabad, Larkana, Lahore, and Peshawar.
Our 22-day tour begins much like our 16-day tour of Pakistan, with a six-day extension that allows us to further explore the northern parts of the country. The focus of the final six days of the tour is the region of Gilgit-Baltistan, located near the Pakistani border with China. The region’s central valley, Skardu Valley, shares similarities in culture, lifestyle, and architecture with Tibet. Three mountain ranges meet in this region–the Karakoram, the Himalaya, and the Hindu Kush–and promises majestic views to the adventurous senior or mature-aged traveller.
These Pakistan tours with Odyssey are composed of leisurely drives with frequent stops to places of interest along the way, allowing us to experience and learn about various sights at our own pace. Similar to other Odyssey tours, the group will be fully escorted by an Odyssey Program Leader and various local Pakistani guides who will share their knowledge about the ancient cities and monuments we will be visiting. Just click through the links to read the full itineraries and sign up.