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Last Updated: Friday, 15 February 2008, 12:54 GMT
Pakistan: Key facts

Eid prayers at a mosque, Christian children, pie charts showing ethnic and religious breakdown, and country map

Pakistan is a country of 158 million people of diverse ethnic origins. More than half of the population live in Punjab, one of the country's four provinces.

This imbalance has had implications for regional job quotas and development patterns and has led to perpetual inter-ethnic tensions.

This is exacerbated by the domination of the country's political system by the military, which is predominantly drawn from Punjab and is perceived to have benefited the Punjabi and the Urdu speaking elites at the cost of smaller groups.

More than 95% of Pakistanis are Muslims. There was a mass exodus of Hindus and Sikhs at the time of the Indian partition in 1947. The Catholic population has continued to drop as a consequence of migration to Western countries. Falling religious diversity and the Islamisation of state policies are cited as reasons for public acceptance of religious extremism.

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