The word “Pakistan” literally means “land of pure” in Urdu and Persian. It came into being in the name of the religion Islam on 14 August 1947 by their beloved leader Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Before its separate identity, it was a part of the Indian subcontinent. Its population includes 97% Muslims (90% Sunnis, 5-7% Shias), Hindus, Christians.
Location: Southern Asia, bordering Afghanistan 2,430 km, China 523 km, India 2,912 km, Iran 909 km.
States: Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan.
Population: 203 million (2019 est.)
Population Growth rate: 1.45% (2019 est.)
Currency: The Rupee
Time Zone: Pakistan is UTC +5 hours with no daylight saving.
Largest Import: Phone devices including smartphones (2019)
Largest Export: Linens (2019)
Religion and beliefs
About 97% of the people of Pakistan are Muslims (Sunni, Shia) and the remaining 3% are Hindu, Sikh, Christians, and others. The government makes all the legislations, political policies, rules, and regulations according to Islam. Some Islamic obligations include praying five times a day according to the positions of the sun. Friday is a special holy day for Muslims; on this day they especially wear neat and clean clothes; take a bath and entreat a special supplication called Friday’s prayer in the afternoon.
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims in which they fast from dusk till dawn for 30 days. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, using abusive language, and abstaining oneself from physical/sexual needs. After the month of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr which is characterized by eating delicious food, visiting relatives, exchanging gifts, wearing new clothes, and many other customs.
Urdu is the National Language of Pakistan but English is being used as its official language since it came into being. Urdu was formed by the amalgamation of different languages such as Persian, Turkish, and Arabic. In Pakistan, the official number of languages being spoken is 73 to 76 which means language changes within hours of travel or we can say that residents of different areas either speak different languages or speak Urdu with a different accent. However, Urdu is prevalent throughout Pakistan. Some other languages which are being spoken in other valleys and areas are Pasto, Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Saraiki, Hindko dialects, Brahvi. Every language has its way of showing emotions of love, hate, sorrow, fear, drama, and happiness. Every area and valley has its movies, songs, plays, documentaries, poems in its language.
Cultural Similarities and Differences
Pakistan has a rich and unique culture that upholds different norms and traditions. Every region has a diverse culture yet has a strong reflection of Islam. There are over 15 major ethnic groups with their unique physical features, bloodlines, history, dress, music, foods, and customs. But obeying the elders, loving the youth, covering the head with a headdress (for women), giving special respect to women, lowering the gaze when a woman is passing, maintaining a distance when talking to the woman and most importantly helping the people of the nation when the trouble comes are some common traits that can be found in almost all the ethnic groups of Pakistan.
Celebrations and National Holidays
The people of Pakistan have six national holidays: 23rd march- Pakistan Day (the day when its resolution was passed), 1st may- Labor Day (to celebrate workers’ achievement), 14th August- Independence Day (when Pakistan was founded), 6th September- Defense Day (in 1965 India launched its forces to attack Pakistan without a warning, despite this fact Pakistan won over the war), 11th September- Death of Mohammad Ali Jinnah (the founder of Pakistan), 25th December- Birth of Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Other than these National holidays, Pakistan has several religious holidays on which they either enthusiastically celebrate (Eid, the birth of Prophet Mohammad S.A.W.W) or countrywide mourn over the sad incidents (the incident of Qarbala) from the history.
People of Pakistan are very excited spirits, so do their ways of celebrating their special occasions. They are emotional, expressive, chill, creative, and colorful people just like their culture. They like to celebrate every event with huge family gatherings, feasting, giving presents, and throwing parties.
Family System in Pakistan
Pakistani families share a bond that is driven by their hearts and not by their heads. Both their culture and religion promotes good family relations and appreciates collectivism rather than individualism. Families are large as compared to western standards. And family is the most trusted element in a Pakistani’s life. They live with their large families in the same house (the grandparents, siblings, cousins, grandchildren) and help each other out in the hour of need.
This is a reason why people of Pakistan have fewer mental health issues than that of western people. Most of them do not believe in giving personal space as they think that love and family are a solution to all problems. They keep the comfort of others over their pleasure. And do not think before making a sacrifice for their loved ones. For the family is above all the worldly treasures and hence are not selfish in any way. Pakistani families share an exemplary bond that is hard to find elsewhere in the world.
Sufism, Poetry, and Music
Sufism has a very strong influence on Islam and Pakistan. Experts say that about 60% of the Pakistani people regard themselves as Sufi followers. The word Sufi is derived from the word “Suf”- the woolen clothes are worn by Sufi as a symbol of their dedication to the spiritual world and turning their back towards worldly goods. The basic goal of a Sufi is the union of the soul with God which can be attained by mystical theology, prayers, and in some cases whirling meditation to bring God closer to them. Much of poetry, music, and literature in Pakistan are inspired by Sufism. This music attracts Sufis and no-Sufis alike.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “Sufism was brought to South Asia by its mystics from the Middle East more than eight centuries ago. Its highly mystical, personal approach to Islam, marked by trance-like chants, dancing to pounding drumbeats, and its belief that Sufi saints and descendants known as “pirs” are conduits to God makes it anathema to Muslim fundamentalists, who consider it idolatry. Sufism found widespread popularity, particularly among large segments of the underclass that embrace its emphasis on equality.”
Sufi festivals known as “urs” are held annually to mark the anniversaries of saints’ deaths and their “marriage” to God. They attract thousands of pilgrims. There are singing and dancing. Food and entertainment are offered at the accompanying fairs (“mela”). The fairs are open to anyone, regardless of their beliefs, and many of those in attendance normally don’t set foot in a mosque.
“Qawwali” is a kind of Sufi devotional music with a high-pitched and fast-paced style of singing. It developed in the 13th century when Sufism was becoming popular on the Indian subcontinent. “Qawwali” literally means “philosophical utterance” in Arabic and has come to mean performing Sufi poetry to music. “Qawwali” songs are based on devotional Sufi poems and often have romantic themes that can be interpreted as the love between a devotee and his God or between a man and a woman. Many Qawwali musicians view themselves as religious people entrusted with the responsibility of evoking the name of God.
Sports and other Physical Activities
Pakistan’s national game is Field Hockey. But their love for cricket is undeniable, it is many times famous than hockey among its people. Their love and enthusiasm go to another level when talking about cricket. Their favorite team to be played against is India both on an individual as well as on the national level.
Whenever a new cricket series starts it feels as if a religious festival has started. Big screens are projected everywhere in malls, smalls vendors’ shops, streets; people of all kinds and backgrounds get together there and watch the match with much excitement and love.
The scenes after their victory are quite spectacular. As sweets are being distributed, people are dancing over the beats of drums and everyone has a big smile on their faces. This is the reason why Pakistanis are called “Zinda Dil Log” in Urdu which means “Lively people”. It is very easy to put a smile on Pakistanis’ faces. Other sports such as squash, badminton, football (soccer), and polo are also widely played in Pakistan. Polo has a special place in northern Pakistan too; also it has one of the highest polo grounds in the world. Pakistan has many traditional sports but Kabaddi is the most famous of all which is a contact game that came from South India.
Pakistani people have a rich and unique sense of art, their art is well known around the world which is passed through the generations and its artists have shown the world the finest and unbeatable masterpieces. Pakistani Calligraphy in multiple languages (especially in Arabic) has its mark around the world using copper wire, paints, and craved wood. Calligraphy has its roots in Islam and it takes years to learn this amazing art used to adorn famous buildings, ornaments, homes. Many artists every year showcase their artwork which is then distributed around the world.
Natasha is one of the most unique forms of art of Pakistanis which is usually done on ceilings, walls, floors; it came to the subcontinent with the Mughal emperors as they were the great admirers of art. During their times, this form of art was highly promoted. Under the rule of Mughals, many buildings and historical buildings were built that were embellished with this art form. However, today people including Pakistanis do not know much about this art form. Still, this art is preserved in many buildings of those times.
Among the famous handicrafts is pottery. This art has its roots in Indus valley now to the left of Indus valley in Sindh province; there is a little town that is a home for kasha artists in Hala who are carrying this beautiful art since ancient times. The handmade pieces of art are very famous and are highly demanded both in the Middle East and Europe. Each piece goes through a long process that has almost 20 steps. This pottery is made in various shapes and sizes and is famous for hand-painted designs imprinted on them. Using the signature colors cobalt blue, turquoise, mustard, purple, blue, and white.
Pakistani truck art is also worldwide famous. The most beautiful thing about all these forms of art is that they are all done with great delicacy working on every craft with hands.
Gender Roles and Segregation
In Pakistan, there is a clear reflection of Islam when talking about gender roles, segregation, and rights. As marked by the Islamic tradition and culture women mostly stay home as the caretaker of the household and children. However, according to Islam and Pakistan’s legislation; women are free to do business or jobs and can opt. any profession of their own choice. It is worth noting that in Pakistan women and men are considered to be equal. Or we can say that because of Islam, Pakistan’s people consider women superior to men, as they consider women respectable and delicate than men they provide them with security and respect. Because Muslims believe that beautiful and fragile things need to be protected yet they are no less worthy than anyone in society.
Women have been working and are highly appreciated in almost all the field even as the government representatives. It is not a modern-day story; Pakistan has always been very liberal since day one as Benazir Bhutto was elected as the prime minister of Pakistan in 1988- the first female leader elected to lead an Islamic country. But it is considered to be very bad if opposite gender hug or kiss publicaly because, in Islam, Haya (modesty) is a part of faith.
Taboos in Pakistan
Many subjects in Pakistan are considered to be taboos but still needs to be addressed:
Honor Killing is a threat that still exists in rural areas of Pakistan. When a girl chose to do something which her family thinks she should not be doing, she is killed by her family members in the name of honor. There is an immense need to preach that “there is no honor in killing”.
An older woman cannot marry a younger man
“An older woman cannot marry a younger man in Pakistan” is one of the most common taboos in today’s society. There is no compulsion that an older woman cannot marry a younger man, but it is considered to be a very shameful act. And a woman who does that is brutally bullied and ridiculed as if she has committed a serious crime. It is a need of the time for the society to take a look at the Islamic history in which Prophet Mohammad S.A.W.W got married at the age of 23 with his beloved wife Khadija R.A when she was 40. Then why people get offended when they see the same thing in society?
Discussing Mental Health
“Discussing mental health” does not mean that someone is seeking attention or is somehow “Pagal” (mentally unstable). Mental health issues are prevailing throughout the globe, but in Pakistan, there is a great need to break this social stigma so that the people could freely talk about it and can be cured.
Discussing Rape or Sexual Abuse
Talking about rape or sexual abuse; a large number of women is facing harassment and sexual abuse at their workplace, educational institutes, and even in their houses. But they are compelled to keep quiet and not to address this issue in order not to bring shame to their family. There is also a very common behavioral disease in our society that is when a woman claims to be sexually abused she is the one who is blamed for whatever happens to her. And different people blame her differently. Some say “you must have seduced him somehow!” and the others say “you dress up like that, that is why such a thing happened to you!” and sometimes they come up with even more accusing remarks.
Divorce, even in this age it is being thought to the daughters that their husbands are their worldly Gods and can treat them in the way they want. That is where the problem starts, “they prefer dead daughter over a divorced one”. And this perspective urges the women to stay with their husbands no matter how worthlessly they might treat them. A woman stays with her husband no matter how much abuse he might be because once she gets divorce neither the society nor the family would accept her.
Pakistani food is rich in spices, flavor, and aroma. And surely has an influence of Islam in it. The food there is Halal and thus pork is forbidden. Pakistanis are considered to be foodie people and their food speaks it all by itself. They usually take three meals a day; breakfast, lunch, and evening meal (dinner). Pakitani Cuisine are famous around the world.
Also check out Top 10 Traditional Pakistani Dishes
Dining in Pakistan is a family affair. Also, Pakistan’s people are die-hard Chai (tea) lovers. They consume tea as people consume alcohol in the West. Pakistan is the third-largest importer of tea, although some tea also grows locally. And it is such an important part of their day that some people cannot even start their day without it. Many people also enjoy high tea in five-star hotels. Pakistan’s way of making tea is a little different than the rest of the world; they make their tea strong and sweet in either milk or diluted milk depending upon their liking. They also add cardamom and other spices on special occasions.
Kofte, Korma, Pulao or Pilaf, Sajji, Biryani, Haleem, Karahi are the most famous dishes in Pakistan. These dishes are served with Roti or Naan, Raita and Salad. And the best thing about Pakistan is that the food is not as expensive as one can get the same dish from a well-reputed restaurant or either from a small food stall.
Pakistani people are very hospitable. Guests are always welcomed with open arms whether local or international. Culture and religious beliefs encourage them to show love and respect towards guests. In Islam especially, guests are the blessing of God. They serve their guests with their traditional food, sweets, and sometimes people also present their guests with gifts. They are known for their hospitality worldwide.
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