Pakistani society is largely multilingual and multicultural. As a result, cultures differ so much that they may be more alien to each other than to foreign ones. However, over 50 years of integration, a distinctive “Pakistani” Culture has sprung up especially in the urban areas.
Religious practices of various faiths are an integral part of everyday life in society. Education is highly regarded by members of every socio-economic stratum. The traditional family values are highly respected and considered sacred, although urban families have grown into a nuclear family system, owing to the socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional joint family system.
The past few decades have seen emergence of a middle class in cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Hyderabad, Quetta, Faisalabad, Sukkur, Peshawar, Abbottabad and Multan. The North-western part of Pakistan bordering with Afghanistan is being dominated by regional tribal customs dating back hundreds of years.
Pakistan has a very rich cultural and traditional background going back to Indus Valley Civilization, 2800 BC–1800 BC. The region of Pakistan has been invaded in the past, occupied and settled by many different people, including Dravidians, Aryans, Greeks, White Huns, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and various Eurasian groups. There are differences in culture among the different ethnic groups in matters such as dress, food, and religion, especially where pre-Islamic customs differ from Islamic practices. The basic origin of Pakistanis however comes from the civilizations of North India and eastern Afghanistan, with significant influences from Persia, Turkestan and Hellenistic Greece.
Pakistani literature, that is, the literature of Pakistan, as a distinct literature came into being when Pakistan gained its nationhood as a sovereign state in 1947. The common and shared tradition of Urdu literature and English literature of the South Asia was inherited by the new state. Over a period of time, a body of literature unique to Pakistan has emerged in nearly all major Pakistani languages, including Urdu, English, Punjabi, Pushto and Sindhi.
The Urdu language has a rich tradition of poetry boasting such renowned poets as Mirza Ghalib, Allama Iqbal who is the national poet of Pakistan) and Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Pakistani poetry also has many blends of other languages not just Urdu poetry. Persian poetry, English poetry, Punjabi poetry and Kashmiri poetry have all incorporated and have influenced the different kinds of poetry in the region.
Pakistani music is represented by a wide variety of forms. It ranges from traditional styles (such as Qawwali) to more modern forms that try to fuse traditional Pakistani music with western music. A famous Pakistani musician, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was internationally renowned for creating a form of music which synchronized Qawwali with western music. Popular forms of music also prevail, the most notable being Film music and Urdu Pop music. In addition to this are the diverse traditions of folk music.
Drama and Theatre
These are very similar to stage plays in theatres. They are performed by many well-known actors and actresses in the Lollywood industry. They are many types of themes that are brought across with lots of humor; the themes that are bought across ranges from a huge range of events that taken place in ones life.
Pakistani food is similar that of northern India, with a dollop of Persian, Turkish and Middle Eastern influences thrown in for good measure. This means menus peppered with baked and deep-fried breads (roti, chapattis, puri, halwa and nan), vegetables, meat curries, lentils (dhal), spicy spinach, cabbage, peas and rice, and of course that staple of hippies, the sturdy Hunza pie. Street snacks are popular in cities — samosas and tikkas (spiced and barbecued beef, mutton or chicken) — are delicious, while a range of desserts will satisfy any sweet tooth. The most common sweet is barfi (it pays to overlook the name), which is made of dried milk solids and comes in a variety of flavours. Though Pakistan is officially ‘dry’ (alcohol-free), it does brew its own beer and spirits which can be bought (as well as imported alcohol) from designated bars and hotels.
After an Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan, just the night before Eid comes, everyone gets ready for Eid. Girls put henna on their hands. Most people have parties at their house. People go out for the last minute shopping for gifts and sweets that will be given to friends and families. Even outside at the malls and the plazas, there are many colourful lights. There are large crowds in the city center to celebrate the beginning of Eid.
The two Eids, Eid- ul- Fitr and Eid ul-Adha commemorate the passing of the month of fasting, Ramadan, and the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Prophet Ishmael for Allah. During these days there are national holidays and many festivals and events take place to celebrate Eid.
One of the most familiar sights in Pakistan is that traditionally Pakistani men wear Shalwar Qameez. They come in many different styles, fabrics, colours and patterns that make them look really stylish. Pakistani women also wear Shalwar Qameez but the designs differ.
Urdu is the only official language of Pakistan. English is the lingua franca of the Pakistani elite and most of the government ministries.
Urdu is closely related to Hindi but is written in an extended Arabic alphabet rather than in Devanagari. Many other languages are spoken in Pakistan, including Punjabi, Siraiki, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Hindko, Brahui, Burushaski, Balti, Khawar, Gujrati and other languages with smaller numbers of speakers. Arabic and Persian are still taught as classical languages albeit to a small number of students.