Society

The Pakistani People - Cultures around the World

Among the oldest known civilizations in human history, the long history of the Pakistani people has been rife with challenges.

5. Description

Pakistanis are for the most part citizens of the modern day nation of Pakistan. Located in South Asia, Pakistan borders India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea (or Persian Sea) to the south, Iran to the southwest, and China in the far northeast. Pakistan is composed of multiple ethnic groups, and is also linguistically diverse as well. With a population of over 199 million, Pakistan has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. The population of Pakistan is comprised in large by those tracing their ancestries to Indo-Aryan groups of people. Indo-Aryans are a set of ethnolinguistically diverse groups of Indo-European peoples, who in turn speak Indo-Aryan languages. Most of the Indo-Aryan languages are native to South Asia, among which Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, and Saraiki are spoken most widely in the country. Punjabis (45%), Pashtuns (15%) and Sindhi (14%) make up the major ethnic groups in the country. Minority ethnic groups include the Hazara People (who trace their ancestry to neighbouring Afghanistan), Pamiri people (originally from Tajikistan, and the Baltis (an ethnic group of Tibetan descent). Alongside Urdu, English enjoys the de facto status of being an official language of Pakistan. Islam is the official religion of the country, with 96 per cent of Pakistan’s population being adherents to its teachings.

4. Architecture

Pakistan’s architecture traces its roots back to the earliest Indus Valley Civilizations, which date back to 7,500 BCE. The Indus Valley Civilizations extended to include neighbouring India and parts of Afghanistan. Considered to be among the world’s oldest, Indus Valley Civilizations are known today for being the forerunners that innovated what would become modern drainage and sanitary systems. The 1st Century AD saw a rise in the Greco-Buddhist style of architecture, with archeological ruins of the Takht-i-Bahi complex remaining the most notable example of that period. The arrival of the Mughal Empire in the 8th Century AD saw a surge in Islamic influences on Pakistani architecture. Some examples of the period include the tomb of Shah Rukn-i-Alam (built in 1320) and the Badhshahi Mosque (built in 1673). British rule in the country saw constructions of notable buildings such as Frere Palace (located in Karachi, built in the 1860s) and Mohatta Palace (located in Karachi, completed in 1927). After Pakistan gained independence from the British in 1947, it strove to showcase its new home rule identity through architectural expression. Notable examples of this period are the Faisal Mosque (located in Islamabad, established in 1987), the Minar-e-Pakistan (literally the “Tower of Pakistan”, located in Lahore, built in 1968), and the Mazar-e-Quaid (located in Karachi, established in 1970). The latter of these, also known as the Jinnah Mausoleum, became the final resting place of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, an important independence advocate for, and founder of, the modern Pakistani state.

3. Cuisine

Pakistani cuisine integrates various cooking traditions from across South Asia. Most notably, both Pakistani cuisine and North Indian cuisine share the most basic foundations of cooking style. This similarity is visible in cuisines of the provinces of Punjab and Sindh, where the food is characterized as well-seasoned and spicy. However, Pakistani cuisine has also incorporated Central Asian and Middle Eastern influences, and is therefore known for a more widespread use of meat than is India. Other provinces and administrative regions of Pakistan, such as Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, showcase distinct culinary practices and regional influences. International cuisine and fast foods have become popular in Pakistan’s metropolises. It is not uncommon to see "fusion cuisine", like Pakistani-Chinese cuisine, being served in the major cities. Throughout the country, flatbreads, especially naan or roti, or rice serve as the staples, complemented by a variety of legumes, vegetables, herbs, spices, oils, fruits, and dairy derivatives. Due to most of the Pakistani people being Islamic, food must be halal. Therefore, alcohol is eschewed, and beef, chicken, mutton, and fish are the favored meats, while pork is abstained from.

2. Cultural Significance

The long history of Pakistan has saw it being ruled by a number of imperial powers and dynasties that arrived in the country from several external pockets of the world. The Indus Valley Civilization, also known as Harappa Civilization, marked the beginning of Pakistan’s history. Counted amongst the oldest civilizations along with those of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilization was the most far-reaching of them all, covering an area of around 777 thousand square miles (1.25 million square kilometers) and, at its peak, govern some 5 million people inhabiting it. The town planning and drainage systems of the Indus Valley Civilization have been regarded as precursors to modern-day infrastructure and urban planning systems. Afterwards, the country was also ruled by a number of Greek rulers, including Alexander the Great. The later medieval period saw the country being ruled by the Islamic Caliphate, and then the Mughal Empire, before the British conquered the whole of Pakistan in the Eighteenth century.

Among the most decisive moments in Pakistan’s history was arguably its partition from India in 1947, the year also marking the country’s severance from the rule of the British, and it thereby becoming an independent, sovereign nation. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, is a revered figure in Pakistan and is widely regarded as the “Father of the Nation”. Muhammad Iqbal is credited as having had inspired the Pakistani movement during the 1930s, and is known for being a prominent figure in Urdu language literature. Apart from being a popular figure throughout much of South Asia, Iqbal’s worldview was praised in the West for having a “universal appeal”. Malala Yousafzai is a young Pakistani advocate of female education, and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. Yousafzai’s advocacy for female education in the country has grown into an international movement. In the 2013, 2014, and 2015 issues of Time magazine, Yousafzai was featured among “The 100 Most Influential People in the World”.

1. Threats

A civil war in the country led to East Pakistan breaking off from Pakistan in the early 1970s, in order to form what is now the nation of Bangladesh, with its predominately Bengali population. Pakistan remains an underdeveloped country today, with its political system marred by internal disputes, and its economy characterized by low levels of foreign investment. Terrorism in Pakistan remains another serious issue as well. Many of its terrorist outfits are said to be homegrown, and have claimed the lives of over 35,000 innocent people since 2001. Among these victims are included those school children who have been specifically targeted by the militants. The ongoing war in North-West Pakistan is being fought between the Pakistani Army and major militant organizations, with ISIS being one of them. This decade-long war, which began in 2004, is seen as a major obstacle in achieving political stability within the country.

More in Society