Pakistan: A Land Of Cultural Diversity

(Faryal Waheed, Karachi)

Pakistan has a rich cultural diversity as the society is largely multilingual, multi-ethnic and multicultural. The Pakistani society comprises various diverse cultures and ethnic communities that majorly involve Punjabi, Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun, Seraiki, Mohair, Kashmiri, Makrani, and the ancient Wakhi and Burusho groups in the north.

Pakistan is in general linguistically heterogeneous, and no single language can be said to be common to the whole population. Each of its principal languages has a strong regional focus. The languages claimed as mother tongue include Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Seraiki, Kashmiri, Brahui, Hindko and Potohohari. Urdu is the national language and one of two official languages of Pakistan (the other being English). Although only about 8% of Pakistanis speak it as their first language, it is spoken as a second and often third language by almost all citizens of Pakistan.

Pakistan is a special interest destination as its main attraction includes adventure tourism in the Northern Areas, cultural and archaeological tourism as found at Taxila, Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa and Swat, and early Mughal and Muslim heritage of Multan, Lahore, Thatta and Peshawar. From the mighty Karakorams in the North to the vast alluvial delta of the Indus River in the South, Pakistan remains a land full of adventures and natural beauties having peaceful general masses.
The enthusiasm for poetry exists at a regional level as well, with nearly all of Pakistan’s provincial languages continuing the legacy. Poetry is a highly respected art in Pakistan. Since the independence of the country in 1947 and establishment of Urdu as the national language, poetry is mostly written in the Urdu as well as regional languages. The Urdu language has a rich tradition of poetry and Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal is regarded as the National Poet of Pakistan. Apart from Urdu poetry, Pakistani poetry also has blends of other regional languages. Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Seraiki, and Pashto poetry have all incorporated and influenced Pakistani poetry.

The variety of Pakistani music ranges from diverse provincial folk music and traditional styles such as Qawali and Ghazal Gayeki to modern forms fusing traditional and western music, such as the synchronization of Qawali and western music by the world renowned Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. In addition, Pakistan is home to many famous folk singers such as the late Alam Lohar, who is also well-known in the Indian Punjab.

Folk dances are still popular in Pakistan and they vary according to region. The folk dances of Punjab are Bhangra, Luddi and Sammi, while Jhoomar is the folk dance of Seraiki region. Lewa and Chap are the most popular folk dances of Balochistan. The folk dances of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are Attan, Khattak dance and Chitrali dance. While Dhammal and Ho Jamalo are the popular folk dances mostly performed in Sindh.

Although Western-style clothing is worn in Pakistan, the national dress, shalwar-qameez, is more common in both rural and urban areas. Made of cotton, the shalwar-qameez differs for men and women. Men wear solid, plain colour, and add a coat for formal occasions. For women, the colours are brighter and patterns bolder, with more tailoring common. Women wear a dupatta (scarf) around their heads and sometimes another long scarf around their shoulders. Men only wear shorts for athletic events and women never do.

A handshake is the most common greeting, although close friends may embrace if meeting after a long time. It is not appropriate for a man to shake hands with a woman. A title and last name are used when addressing someone.

Visiting between friends and relatives is a very important social custom and occurs as often as possible. Hospitality is important and guests are made to feel welcome. In small groups, each person is greeted individually. Personal rapport is important. The family is the center of social life and support. Although increased modernization has brought many women into public life, the male continues to reign as head of the home. It is common for the extended family, a father and mother, their sons, and the son’s family to live together in the same household. The presiding male of the family has significant influence over the lives of all family members, although women are increasingly taking on active decision making roles. The elderly are highly respected.

Pakistani cuisine is as diverse as its people. Pakistani diet, whereas vegetables and beans are as important. The mainstay of the Pakistani diet is chapati or roti. Pakistani food is generally hot and spicy. Rice is part of most meals and desserts. Tea is the most popular drink. Meat plays a much more dominant role in Pakistani food, compared to other South Asian cuisines. Of all the meats, the most popular are mutton, and chicken. Beef is also eaten, and is particularly sought after as the meat of choice for Kabab dishes.

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