Friday, December 7, 2007

Culture of Pakistan

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The 17th Century Badshahi Mosque built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Lahore
The 17th Century Badshahi Mosque built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Lahore

The society of Pakistan (Urdu: ثقافت پاکستان), although relatively diverse depending on which one of Pakistan's provinces, has been greatly influenced by the cultures of Central Asia and the Middle East. Pakistan is the home of many ancient civilizations, including the Indus Valley Civilization that influenced the cultures of the rest of South Asia. Many cultural practices and monuments have been inherited from the rule of many rulers of the region that have added their cultural traditions to the region. One of the most influenced cultures being the Mughals.

Pakistan has a wealthy cultural and ethnic 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 Aryans (Iranic tribes), Greeks, White Huns, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and various Eurasian groups. And indeed the region has formed a distinct cultural unit within the main cultural complex of South Asia from earlier times.[1] 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 cultural origins come from the civilizations of India and eastern Afghanistan, with significant influences from Persia, Turkestan and Hellenistic Greece. However, it was the first part of the subcontinent to receive the full impact of Islam. Hence it has developed an identity of its own.[1]

Frere Hall - a beautiful structure built during the British Raj
Frere Hall - a beautiful structure built during the British Raj
Diwan-e-Khas: The hall of special audience with the emperor
Diwan-e-Khas: The hall of special audience with the emperor
Bahauddin Zakariya
Bahauddin Zakariya

Ancient sites in Pakistan include Buddhist monuments, Hindu/Buddhist temples, Palaces and Monuments built by Emperors, tombs, pleasure grounds and Anglo-Mogul mansions - some in a state of dereliction which makes their former grandeur more emphatic. Sculpture is dominated by Graeco-Buddhist friezes, and crafts by ceramics, jewellery, silk goods and engraved woodwork and metalwork.

Pakistani society is largely multilingual and multicultural. Though cultures within the country differ to some extenct, more similarities than differences can be found as most Pakistanis are of mainly Aryan heritage. However, over 50 years of integration, a distinctive "Pakistani" Culture has sprung up especially in the urban areas. 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 highly conservative and dominated by regional tribal customs dating back hundreds of years.


  • 1 Literature
    • 1.1 History
    • 1.2 Poetry
  • 2 Performing arts
    • 2.1 Music
    • 2.2 Drama and theatre
  • 3 Recreation and sports
  • 4 Cuisine
  • 5 Festivals
    • 5.1 Chand Raat
    • 5.2 Eid celebrations
    • 5.3 Milaad un Nabi
    • 5.4 Moharram (Ashura)
    • 5.5 Jashn-e-Baharan
    • 5.6 Norouz
    • 5.7 Independence Day
    • 5.8 Defense Day Parade
  • 6 Popular media
    • 6.1 Television
    • 6.2 Radio
    • 6.3 Cinema
  • 7 National Dress
  • 8 Globalization
  • 9 Mercantile culture
  • 10 Sexual conservatism & cultural taboos
  • 11 References
  • 12 See also
  • 13 External links


Iqbal in deep thought; The picture earned him the Famous title of "The Thinker"
Iqbal in deep thought; The picture earned him the Famous title of "The Thinker"
Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan is considered to be the most influential poet of the Urdu language
Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan is considered to be the most influential poet of the Urdu language


Main article: Pakistani literature

Pakistani literature, that is, the literature of Pakistan, as a distinct lite 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.


Main article: Pakistani poetry

The Urdu language has an old tradition of poetry and includes famous poets as Mirza Ghalib, Allama Iqbal and Faiz Ahmad Faiz national Poet of Pakistan. Apart from Urdu poetry Pakistani poetry also has many blends of other languages. Balochi Poetry, Persian poetry, English poetry, Punjabi poetry and Kashmiri poetry have all incoroprated and have influenced the different kinds of poetry in the reg

Performing arts


Main article: Music of Pakistan

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 and Punjabi Pop music. In addition to this are the diverse traditions of folk music, as well as modern styles such as Rock with bands such as Junoon becoming recognized internationally.

Drama and theatre

Main article: Theatre in Pakistan

These are very similar to stage plays in theatres. They are performed by many well-known actors and actresses in the Lollywood industry. The are many types of themes that are brought across with lots of humour. The themes that are bought across ranges from a huge range of events that taken place in ones life.

Recreation and sports

Main article: Sports In Pakistan
Polo is regared as a traditional sport and played widely in the northern areas
Polo is regared as a traditional sport and played widely in the northern areas
Field hockey match between Pakistan and Inda
Field hockey match between Pakistan and Inda

The official and national sport of Pakistan is field hockey, although squash and cricket are also very popular. The national cricket team has won the Cricket World Cup once (in 1992), were runners-up once (in 1999) and co-hosted the games twice (in 1987 and 1996). The team has also won the Australasia Cup in 1986, 1990, and 1994. The country will also be hosting the 2011 Cricket World Cup with India and Bangladesh.

At an international level, Pakistan has competed many times at the Summer Olympics in field hockey, boxing, athletics, swimming, and shooting. Hockey is the sport that Pakistan has been most successful at the Olympics, with three gold medals (1960, 1968, 1984). Pakistan has also won the Hockey World Cup four times (1971, 1978, 1982, 1994).[2] Pakistan has hosted several international competitions, including the SAFG in 1989 and 2004.

A1 Grand Prix racing is also becoming popular with the entry of a Pakistani team in the 2005 season. The Tour de Pakistan, modelled on the Tour de France, is an annual cycling competition that covers the length and breadth of Pakistan. Recently, football has grown in popularity across the country, where traditionally it had been played almost exclusively in the western province of Balochistan. Fifa has recently teamed up with the government to bring football more closer to the northern areas too. Also, it is hoped that Pakistan will fare better in the Football World Cup qualifiers for 2010.


Main article: Cuisine of Pakistan

The culinary art in Pakistan comprises a mix of Middle Eastern, Indian, Persian, and Turkish cuisine that reflects the country's history as well as the variation of cooking practices from across the surrounding regions. Urban centres of the country offer an amalgamation of recipes from all parts of the country whereas food with specific local ingredients and tastes is available in rural areas and villages. Besides the main dishes of curry with or without meat cooked in vegetables or lentils, there are a number of provincial specialties such as karahi, shab degh, sajji etc. served in various forms, flavours and tastes and are eaten alongside Basmati rice or a variety of breads. Breads such as naan, chappatti, roti and etc. There are also local forms of grilled meat or Kebabs, desserts as well as hot and cold drinks.


Chand Raat

After an Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan, just the night before Eid comes, everyone gets ready for Eid. In the night known as Chand Raat, 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.

Eid celebrations

The two Eids, Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha commemorate the passing of the month of fasting, Ramadan, and the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael for God. During these days there are national holidays and many festivals and events take place to celebrate Eid. As Pakistan is a Muslim state, there are three days off for all businesses and Government offices.

On the night before Eid, people search for the new moon to mark the end of ramadan and arrival of Eid ul-Fitr. The day starts with morning prayers, then returning home for a large breakfast with family members. The day is spent visiting relatives and friends and sharing gifts and sweets with everyone. During the evening people hit the town for some partying, going to restaurants or relaxing in city parks.

On Eid ul-Fitr poor people are given some money as a form of charity and as gifts to young children.

Milaad un Nabi

Milaad un Nabi is a known religious festival which is celebrated in many parts of Pakistan.

The Milaad is the celebration for the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Moharram (Ashura)

In Pakistan 10 Days of Moharram from 1st to 10th Moharram observed officially.


Kites on display before Basant festival in Lahore
Kites on display before Basant festival in Lahore
Main article: Basant

Jashn-e-Baharan also referred to as Basant is a pre-Islamic Punjabi festival that marks the coming of spring. Celebrations in Pakistan are centered in Lahore and people from all over the country and abroad come to the city for the annual festivities. Kite flying competitions take place all over the city's rooftops during Basant. The fertile province of Panjab was intimately tied via its agriculture to the different seasons of the year. The arrival of Spring was an important event for all farmers and was welcomed with a celebration, hence the origins of Jashn (celebration) Baharan (spring).


This festival is like Norouz of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. In Northern Pakistan (Chitral, Gilgit and Baltistan) Norouz is celebrated as a socio-religious festival. It is also celebrated with much fervour in Balochistan and in the urban centres of Karachi and Lahore. The day coincides with the Spring Equinox on March 21, but the celeberation continues for weeks. In Baltistan, the main feature of Norouz is gifting of coloured eggs to friends and polo matches. While in Balochistan, the festival is marked with outdoor feasts, and the traditional jumping over a fire to wash away sins and usher in a fresh start. The origins of this festival are pre-Islamic and date back to when Pakistan was part of the Achaemenid/Persian empire for several thousand years.

Independence Day

On August 14, every year all over Pakistan, the people of Pakistan celebrate the day Pakistan gained its independence from the British Raj for an independent state for Muslims. There are lots of celebrations all over the country, the streets are full of joyful people singing and dancing. Concerts are held with many pop and classical singers. Parades are held in the capital city (Islamabad). All over the country people decorate their house with colourful decorations. Flags fly on top of each house. At night, fireworks are done in many cities. On this day people pray for the country and think how proud they are to be Pakistanis.

Defense Day Parade

Main article: Pakistan Defence Day

September 6 is another patriotic day, when the Army of Pakistan is put on display for the general public to show Pakistan arms. All Government officials attend the ceremony and medals and recognitions are awarded to special people for their work. In 2007, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) will put on display the new joint manufactured Chinese-Pakistan aircraft called the JF-17 Thunder. The aircraft will also take part in the fly past during the parade.

Popular media


Main article: List of Pakistani television and radio channels

Traditionally, the government-owned Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) has been the dominant media player in Pakistan. The PTV channels are controlled by the government and oppositional views are not given much time. However, past decade has seen emergence of several private TV channels (news , entertainment) such as the GEO TV, AAJ TV, ARY Digital, Indus Vision, HUM, MTV Pakistan and a dozen or so more channels. Traditionally the bulk of TV shows have been plays or soap operas---some of them critically acclaimed. Various American, European, Asian TV channels and movies are available to a majority of the population via Cable TV.


Main article: Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation

After independence, Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) was the sole radio channel in Pakistan during 1947. The Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation was formed on 14th August 1947 when Pakistan became independent. It was a direct descendant of the Indian Broadcasting Company which later became All India Radio. At independence Pakistan possessed three radio stations at Dhaka, Lahore and Peshawar. A major programme of expansion saw new stations opened at Karachi and Rawalpindi in 1948, and a new broadcasting house at Karachi in 1950. This was followed by new radio stations at Hyderabad (1951), Quetta (1956), a second station at Rawalpindi (1960) and a receiving centre at Peshawar (1960). During the 1980s and 1990s the corporation expanded its network to many cities and towns of Pakistan to provide more to the local people. Today, there are over a hundred radio stations due to more liberal media regulations.


Zibahkhana, also known as Hell's Ground, is a Pakistani Horror Film
Zibahkhana, also known as Hell's Ground, is a Pakistani Horror Film
Main articles: Cinema of Pakistan, Pollywood, and Kara Film Festival

An indigenous movie industry exists in Pakistan, and is known as "Lollywood" as it is based in Lahore, producing over forty feature-length films a year. In contrast, Indian movies are popular in Pakistan despite a ban since the Pakistan-India War in 1965, however due to the massive film piracy industry in Pakistan, bollywood films (and American hollywood films) have made it to Pakistani movie shelves and home videos for over thirty years. The Lollywood industry used to produce many Urdu films however as Lahore became the headquarters of the film industry, slowly the number of Urdu films decreased with the same rate of Punjabi language rising.

Pakistan also has another film industry based in Peshawar, North West Frontier Province that produced Pashto language films. As demand for films has increased, Karachi has its own version of film festivals, which includes the Kara Film Festivals where many film producers, actors and film staff get together to celebrate achievements in the industry. ugg;ku;ggb

National Dress

Main articles: Shalwar kameez, Dupatta, Sherwani, Achkan, and Karakul (hat)

One of the most familiar sights in Pakistan, is that traditionally Pakistani men wear Shalwar Kameez. They come in many different styles, fabrics, colours and patterns that may make them look really stylish. Pakistani women also wear Shalwar kameez no matter what province they are from. However, many women from the Sindh province wear ghagra varying from different styles and colours. Pakistani women wear an elaborate and heavily embroidered dress known as gharara on their wedding days.

The Sherwani or Achkan with Karakuli hat is the national dress of Pakistan for men, as it is not specifically associated with any of the provinces. Most government officials wear the formal black Sherwani on state occasions.


Increasing globalization has amplified the influence of "Western culture" in Pakistan. Pakistan ranks 46th in the world on the Kearney/FP Globalization index.[3] Many Western restaurant chains have established their franchises in Pakistan, and are found in the major cities and towns.

A large Pakistani diaspora exists in the West. Whereas Pakistanis in the United States, Canada and Australia tend to be professionals, the majority of them in the United Kingdom, Germany and the Scandinavia originally came from a rural background belonging to the working class. A large number of Pakistani expatriates are also living in the Middle East. These emigrants and their children influence Pakistan culturally and economically, keeping close ties with their roots by travelling to Pakistan and especially by returning or investing there.

Mercantile culture

See also: Economy of Pakistan and Economy of Karachi

Pakistan's service sector accounts for 53% of the country's GDP. Wholesale and retail trade is 30% of this sector. Shopping is a popular pastime for many Pakistanis, especially among the well-to-do and the thirty-million strong middle class. The cities of Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Islamabad, Faisalabad and Quetta are especially known for the great contrast in shopping experiences - from burgeoning bazaars to modern multi-story shopping malls. In particular, Lahore and Karachi are peppered with colourful shopping plazas.

Over 1,081 patent applications were filed by non-resident Pakistanis in 2004 revealing a new found confidence

Sexual conservatism & cultural taboos

The direct translation of Pakistan's name means land of the pure, implying spiritual purity. The roots of this spirituality would be based on the Islamic faith, which prescribes strict sexual conservatism, especially when compared to the west. Therefore, the following norms of a western society are usually strict cultural taboos in Pakistan:

  • Public displays of affection, even by married couples. This however varies from place to place.
  • Consumption of alcoholic beverages. (Having alcohol in public is illegal. But wine shops, especially in Karachi in the Sindh province and Islamabad operate. However, there are not many bars. Pakistan does have a few notable companies making local alcohol beverages out of which beer made by Murree Brewery, is the most popular).

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