The award was established in March 19, 1957, following the proclamation of State of Pakistan as a Parliamentary republic, by the 1956 Constitution. The award is the top decoration in the country, given to a person who has accomplished duty beyond what is assigned to him/her. The person has to show eminence and be outstanding in providing excellent service in a significant field of activity. It means that he/she has to prove that he/she has achieved distinction.
The award may be awarded posthumously and may also be awarded to an individual more than once, though it has not been awarded twice since 1999. Nishan-i-Imtiaz, is an honour given by the Government of Pakistan to both the military officers of the Pakistan Armed Forces and civilians who have outstanding contributions that prompted world recognition of Pakistan. For civilians, it is awarded for distinguished merit, honouring their excellence in their respected fields of literature, arts, sports, medicine, or science. The award is usually given to individuals not groups because the whole purpose of the award is to recognise individual excellence.
For those in the military it is given after distinguished service and is also the highest award that can be awarded to those at the rank of Generals (Army), Air Chief Marshals (Air Force), and Admirals of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines.
Parliament's committee for the Award and Recognition of Services for the State of Pakistan, select individuals and send a final report to the Prime minister of Pakistan. On advice of the Prime Minister, the President organizes a colorful ceremony that is telecast and broadcast nationally.
This award ceremony is held once in a year, nominees are announced on Independence Day and the ceremony takes place on Pakistan Day in a Presidential Palace. Nishan-i-Imtiaz is awarded to the nominees by the President of Pakistan in a colorful public ceremony.
The badge of the Nishan-e-Imtiaz is in the form of pure golden star with light-white enamel, with well polished green emerald circumference to the inside the golden star. Written in gold words around the green emerald, it reads as نشان امتیاز. A golden Jasminum stands between the point of the star. It is worn around the neck with a yellow, bright yellow and white ribbon (for civilians) or bright green and white ribbon (for military officers) with white edge stripes.
A special grade of the award has a larger execution of the same medal design worn as a star on the left chest. In addition, it is worn as a sash on the right shoulder, with its rosette (yellow with white (for civilians) or/ green (Military officers only) with white and yellow edge, bearing the disc of the medal at its center, resting on the left hip. At the ceremony, both medals can be worn at the same time.