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Culture

Nearly all Pakistanis are Muslim, and Islam is the state religion. Christians are the largest minority, followed by Hindus and Parsees, descendants of Persian Zoroastrians.
PTI | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON FEB 01, 2006 05:30 PM IST

Nearly all Pakistanis are Muslim, and Islam is the state religion. Christians are the largest minority, followed by Hindus and Parsees, descendants of Persian Zoroastrians.

The pleasures of Pakistan are ancient: Buddhist monuments, Hindu temples, Islamic palaces, tombs, pleasure grounds and Anglo-Mogul mansions - some in a state of dereliction which makes their former grandeur more emphatic.

Scuplture is dominated by Graeco-Buddhist friezes, and crafts by ceramics, jewellery, silk goods and engraved woodwork and metalwork.

Traditional dances are lusty and vigorous; music is either classical, folk or devotional; and the most patronised literature is a mix of the scholastic and poetic.

Note that dress codes are strictly enforced: to avoid offence invest in a shalwar qamiz - a long, loose, non-revealing garment worn by both men and women.

Cricket is Pakistan's greatest sports obsession and national players are afforded hero status.

Pakistani culture is largely rural yet beset by the problems of hyperurbanization. The cities are more crowded than ever; parts of Karachi and Lahore are more densely populated even than Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

Since its freedom in 1947, Pakistan has enjoyed a robust and expanding economy, but wealth is poorly distributed. Almost one-third of all Pakistanis live in poverty. It is a male-controlled society in which social development has taken a back seat.

"Three things symbolised Pakistan's material culture in the 1990s: videocassette recorders, locally manufactured Japanese Suzuki cars, and Kalashnikov rifles," said an anonymous writer.

Videocassette tapes can be rented in many small villages, where residents also watch Cable News Network (CNN)--censored through Islamabad--on televisions that are as numerous as radios were in the 1970s.

Pakistani food is similar to that of northern India, with a dollop of Middle Eastern influence thrown in for good measure. This means menus peppered with baked and deep-fried breads (roti, chapattis, puri, halwa and nan), meat curries, lentil mush (dhal), spicy spinach, cabbage, peas and rice, and of course that staple of hippies, the sturdy Hunza pie. Street snacks - 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', it does brew its own beer and spirits which can be bought (as well as imported alcohol) from specially designated bars and top-end hotels.

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