Administrative Units:
Islamic Republic of Pakistan
CategoryFederated state
Location Pakistan
Least, most:
Smallest, largest:

The administrative units of Pakistan comprise four provinces, one federal territory, and two disputed territories: the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan; the Islamabad Capital Territory; and the administrative territories[Note 1] of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan.[Note 2][4][5] As part of the Kashmir conflict with neighbouring India, Pakistan has also claimed sovereignty over the Indian-controlled territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh since the First Kashmir War of 1947–1948, but has never exercised administrative authority over either region. All of Pakistan's provinces and territories are subdivided into divisions, which are further subdivided into districts, and then tehsils, which are again further subdivided into union councils.[6]

History of Pakistan

Early history

West Pakistan (pale yellow) as it was at the time of independence, with the independent princely states of 1947 in purple

Pakistan inherited the territory comprising its current provinces from India following the Partition of India on 14 August 1947. Two days after independence, the Muslim-majority Murshidabad district in Bengal was moved out of the Dominion of Pakistan and put within the Dominion of India due to a boundary adjustment by the Radcliffe Commission which was aimed at keeping the Hooghly River entirely within India.[7][8] At its inception, Pakistan consisted of two wings, which were separated from each other by around 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) of Indian territory. The western wing consisted of a merger of the North-West Frontier Province, West Punjab, Sind Province, and Baluchistan CCP. The eastern wing consisted of East Bengal. What later became the Princely states of Pakistan chose at first to remain independent.

In 1948, Karachi was separated from Sind Province to form the Federal Capital Territory. In 1950, the North-West Frontier Province absorbed the princely states of Amb and Phulra while West Punjab (designated 'West' to distinguish it from India's Punjab in the east) was renamed to simply Punjab. In 1952, the four princely states in the southwest formed the Baluchistan States Union.

In 1955, the One Unit policy was launched by then-Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra, whereby all the provinces and princely states of the western wing were merged to form the provincial wing of West Pakistan, with Lahore serving as its provincial capital. Simultaneously, East Bengal was redesignated as East Pakistan, with Dacca serving as its provincial capital. The One Unit policy aimed to reduce expenditure and to eliminate provincial prejudices, but the military coup of 1958 brought difficulties when the first military President, Ayub Khan, abolished the office of the Chief Minister of West Pakistan in favour of Governor rule.

On 7 September 1958, after four years of negotiations (including six months of intense negotiations), Pakistan purchased the enclave of Gwadar from Oman for ₨.5.5 billion (US$3 million; approximately $22,410,311.42 in 2017).[9] Gwadar formally became a part of Pakistan on 8 December 1958, ending 174 years of Omani rule. In 1960, the federal capital was moved from Karachi to Rawalpindi and in 1961, the Federal Capital Territory was also merged into West Pakistan. In 1966, the capital was again moved to the newly constructed city of Islamabad. In 1962, Dacca was made the legislative capital of the country due to East Pakistan's high population.[10] Following the 1963 Sino–Pakistan Agreement, a part of the Gilgit Agency (controlled by Pakistan since the First Kashmir War) was formally relinquished by Pakistan to the People's Republic of China (the Trans-Karakoram Tract/Shaksgam Valley in northeastern Kashmir) with the provision that the settlement was subject to the final solution of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.

Since 1970

In 1970, the second military President, Yahya Khan, abolished the political structure of West Pakistan and established four new provinces: Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and the North-West Frontier Province. In 1971, the Bengali-majority wing of East Pakistan seceded from the Pakistani union following the Bangladesh Liberation War, consequently forming the independent People's Republic of Bangladesh. In 1974, the remaining princely states of Hunza and Nagar were abolished and their territories merged into the Gilgit Agency, following which the Northern Areas were formed. In 1975, portions of the districts of Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan were separated to form the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In 1981, the region surrounding Islamabad was separated from Punjab province, and renamed to the Islamabad Capital Territory.

In August 2000, divisions were abolished as part of a plan to restructure local governments, followed by elections in 2001. Many of the functions previously handled at a provincial level had been transferred to individual districts and tehsils. In 2008, the government restored the former divisions and appointed commissioners.

In 2009, the Northern Areas were renamed to Gilgit-Baltistan, and retained its formal status as an autonomous territory.[11][12] In 2010, the North-West Frontier Province was formally renamed to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[13] In 2018, the National Assembly of Pakistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Assembly passed the historic FATA Merger Bill with the Twenty-Fifth Constitutional Amendment. On 31 May 2018, the final step in the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was completed, as then-President Mamnoon Hussain signed the 25th Constitutional Amendment Bill into law. The amendment's signing abolished the Federally Administered Tribal Areas as a separate political entity and merged them into the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[14][15][16]

Tiers of governance

The diagram below outlines the six tiers of government:

(i.e. Pakistan)
(e.g. Punjab Province)
(e.g. Rawalpindi Division)
(e.g. Jhelum District)
(e.g. Sohawa Tehsil)
Union Council
(e.g. Domeli U.C.)


The Provinces and administrative territories of Pakistan are subdivided into administrative "divisions", Divisional Commissioner is the administrative head of a division. Divisional Commissioner is appointed by the government of Pakistan from Pakistan Administrative Service


The District Coordination Officer is the administrative head of the District Administration. They have wide-ranging responsibility for overseeing, improving and directing the approved plans of the District Government.[17]

The Zila Nazim used to be the executive head of the District Administration until 2010 when the government gave their powers to the District Coordination Officers also. Their role is similar to district governor or prefect, with responsibility for implementing government strategy and developing initiatives arising out of it.[18]

In order to decentralize administrative and financial authority to be accountable to Local Governments, for good governance, effective delivery of services, and transparent decision making through institutionalized participation of the people at grassroots level, elections to the local government institutions are held after every four years on none party basis by the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan.


Among the three tiers of local government, tehsil government is the second tier. It is where the functions, responsibilities, and authorities of districts government are divided into smaller units, these units are known as "tehsils". The tehsils are used all over Pakistan except Sindh province where the word "taluka" is used instead, although the functions and authorities are the same. The head of the Tehsil government is "Tehsil Nazim" who is assisted by the tehsil Naib-Nazim. Every tehsil has a Tehsil Municipal Administration, consisting of a tehsil council, Tehsil Nazim, tehsil/taluka municipal officer (TMO), chief officer and other officials of the local council.[19]

Union council

Members of the union council including Union Administrator and Vice Union Administrator are elected through direct elections based on adult franchise and on the basis of joint electorate. However, for the election to the reserved seats for women in Zila Council proportionately divided among tehsils or towns shall be all members of the union councils in a tehsil or town. It is the responsibility of the Chief Election Commissioner to organize and conduct these elections.

Current administrative units

Name (English) Name (Urdu) Abbr. Capital and
largest city
Emblem Flag Map Map Key Population
March 2017
March 2023
Azad Jammu and Kashmir[a] آزاد جموں و کشمیر AJK Muzaffarabad 6 4,045,366 13,297 304.23
Balochistan بلوچستان BA Quetta 1 12,335,129 14,894,402 347,190 35.53
Gilgit-Baltistan[a] گلگت بلتستان GB Gilgit 7 1,492,924 72,496 20.59
Islamabad Capital Territory اسلام آباد دار الحکومت IS / ICT Islamabad N/A N/A 5 2,003,368 2,363,863 906 2,211.22
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa خیبر پختونخوا KP / KPK Peshawar 2 35,501,964 40,856,097 101,741 348.94
Punjab پنجاب PB Lahore 3 109,989,655 127,688,922 205,345 535.63
Sindh سندھ SD Karachi 4 47,854,510 55,696,147 140,914 339.60
Pakistan پاکستان PAK Islamabad 213,222,916 241,499,431 (a) 881,889 241.78

Note: (a) 2023 Population total excludes Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltisan

Proposed provinces

See also


  1. ^ Proclaimed as autonomous by the Government of Pakistan.
  2. ^ In November 2020, erstwhile Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan announced that Gilgit–Baltistan would attain "provisional provincial status" after the 2020 assembly election.[1][2][3]
  1. ^ a b Disputed with India.


  1. ^ "Fifth province". Fifth province | The Express Tribune. The Express Tribune. 2 November 2020. Archived from the original on 9 November 2020. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  2. ^ "Pakistani PM says he will upgrade status of part of Kashmir, angering India". Reuters. 1 November 2020. Archived from the original on 2 November 2020. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  3. ^ "Gilgit-Baltistan to get provisional provincial status post-election: PM Imran". The News International. Karachi. 2 November 2020. Archived from the original on 14 November 2020. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  4. ^ Tikkanen, Amy; Gorlinski, Virginia; Javed, Murtaza; Tesch, Noah, eds. (20 July 1998). "Azad Kashmir | quasi-state, Kashmir region, India-Pakistan". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 12 October 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  5. ^ "Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan: Between the Kashmir conflict and China". Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan: Between the Kashmir conflict and China. Archived from the original on 4 November 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  6. ^ "List of Districts, Tehsils/Talukas" (PDF). Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. July 2014. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 October 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  7. ^ "Murshidabad Govt Website". Archived from the original on 16 July 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  8. ^ Chatterji, Joya (2007). The Spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947–1967. Cambridge University Press. p. 59. ISBN 9781139468305. Archived from the original on 24 June 2021. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  9. ^ Harris, Matt (11 February 2019). "Who Purchased Gwadar?". CPIC Global. Archived from the original on 26 January 2021. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
  10. ^ Pakistan Affairs. Information Division, Embassy of Pakistan. 1968. p. 19. Archived from the original on 23 December 2019. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  11. ^ "Northern Areas renamed Gilgit-Baltistan Poll for assembly, CM in Nov Regional groups unhappy: Autonomy package for NAs approved". DAWN. 30 August 2009. Archived from the original on 8 May 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Disputed Northern Areas renamed as Gilgit-Baltistan". Hindustan Times. 30 August 2009. Archived from the original on 3 November 2019. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  13. ^ "From NWFP to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa". DAWN. 1 April 2010. Archived from the original on 8 May 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  14. ^ "New dawn for FATA as K-P approves merger - The Express Tribune". 27 May 2018. Archived from the original on 27 May 2018. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  15. ^ Hayat, Arif (27 May 2018). "KP Assembly approves landmark bill merging Fata with province". Archived from the original on 27 May 2018. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  16. ^ Wasim, Amir (31 May 2018). "President signs KP-Fata merger bill into law". Archived from the original on 31 May 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  17. ^ DCO job description Archived 2013-04-30 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Zila Nazim job description Archived 2007-07-04 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Ebel, Robert E. (January 2006). "Administrative Structure of the Tehsil Municipal Administration". Research Gate. Archived from the original on 11 July 2021. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  20. ^ "Area, Population, Density and Urban/Rural Proportion by Administrative Units". Population Census Organization, Government of Pakistan. Archived from the original on 22 December 2010.
  21. ^ "A new province in south Balochistan?". Retrieved 12 September 2021.
  22. ^ Zaidi, S. Akbar (11 January 2014). "Karachi as a province". Archived from the original on 13 May 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  23. ^ Correspondent, The Newspaper's (22 May 2018). "TSH to shut Hazara after Eid". Archived from the original on 22 May 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  24. ^ "Treasury benches demand appreciation, opposition criticize govt for ignoring development -". 8 May 2018. Archived from the original on 20 June 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  25. ^ Singh, Pallavi (29 April 2010). "Gilgit-Baltistan: A question of autonomy". The Indian Express. Archived from the original on 20 March 2017. Retrieved 27 December 2016. But it falls short of the main demand of the people of Gilgit- Baltistan for a constitutional status to the region as a fifth province and for Pakistani citizenship to its people.
  26. ^ Shigri, Manzar (12 November 2009). "Pakistan's disputed Northern Areas go to polls". Reuters. Archived from the original on 27 December 2016. Retrieved 27 December 2016. Many of the 1.5 million people of Gilgit-Baltistan oppose integration into Kashmir and want their area to be merged into Pakistan and declared a separate province.
  27. ^ Babakhel, Mohammad Ali (16 January 2019). "New provinces?". DAWN.COM. Archived from the original on 16 June 2020. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  28. ^ "A new provincial map of Pakistan?". The Express Tribune. Archived from the original on 24 June 2021. Retrieved 5 January 2021.