Panesar was included as the second spinner ahead of Samit Patel, with Bopara the back-up batsman and Steven Davies the reserve wicketkeeper.
Eoin Morgan, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan have all returned to the squad after injuries.
Chris Tremlett and Steve Finn are also included in a five-man pool of seamers.
Left-arm spinner Panesar has not played Test cricket since the start of the 2009 Ashes series but has been included on the strength of a successful domestic season with Sussex in which he took 69 County Championship wickets at an average of 27.24.
Nottinghamshire's Patel was left out despite some promising all-round displays in the October one-day series in India, with Durham leg-spinner Scott Borthwick also overlooked.
Geoffrey BoycottFormer England batsman and BBC Test Match Special summariser
“I don't think anybody expected any big changes. England have a settled side - Eoin Morgan will probably bat at six, Matt Prior at seven and they will probably go with two seamers and two spinners. I have always liked Monty Panesar and I'm sure he will get a chance to prove he can still be effective for England”
With the pitches for the Tests in Dubai and Abu Dhabi likely to be receptive to turn, Panesar could be asked to operate in tandem with off-spinner Graeme Swann.
"Monty had a super season with Sussex and could play a very big part in the series," said national selector Geoff Miller.
"But we will wait and see what the wickets are like and, if we need two spinners, they are there."
The inclusion of Bopara in place of Paul Collingwood, who retired from Test cricket in January, is the only change from England's squad for the triumphant 2010-11 Ashes series in Australia.
The Essex batsman, who replaced the injured Jonathan Trott for the last two Tests of the summer, got the nod ahead of emerging players like Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow.
"Ravi Bopara has another opportunity to show his growth as a Test player, and we believe he will continue to add depth to our batting stocks for what promises to be a highly competitive series," said Miller.
The Pakistan series will be England's first since they rose to number one in the world Test rankings in August after a 4-0 series victory over India and the first between the teams since the
which overshadowed Pakistan's 2010 series in England.
The tour, taking place in the UAE because of security concerns in Pakistan, will also include four one-day internationals and three Twenty20 games.
Pakistan v England 2012
First Test, Dubai
Second Test, Abu Dhabi
Third Test, Dubai
First ODI, Abu Dhabi
Second ODI, Abu Dhabi
Third ODI, Dubai
Fourth ODI, Dubai
First T20, Dubai
Second T20, Dubai
Third T20, Abu Dhabi
"Pakistan are used to playing in the UAE and are playing very good cricket at the moment," said Miller.
"To be best in the world is all about beating opposition not only at home but away as well. But we are quietly confident that we have players who can perform in all conditions with bat or ball."
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board announced on Friday that the Decision Review System will be used in both the Tests and one-day internationals.
"There is no point in selecting the Test squad yet, we want to make sure that the players in Bangladesh are given every opportunity to impress ahead of the matches against England," he said.
AJ Strauss (Middlesex, capt), JM Anderson (Lancashire), IR Bell (Warwickshire), RS Bopara (Essex), TT Bresnan (Yorkshire), SCJ Broad (Nottinghamshire), AN Cook (Essex), SM Davies (wkt, Surrey), ST Finn (Middlesex), EJG Morgan (Middlesex), MS Panesar (Sussex), KP Pietersen (Surrey), MJ Prior (wkt, Sussex), GP Swann (Nottinghamshire), CT Tremlett (Surrey), IJL Trott (Warwickshire).
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