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Culture & Identity of Pakistan

WARNING: Terrorist threats continue in Pakistan, please read this travel warning before going!

Introduction

Pakistani Culture - Karachi
Kids on a beach in Karachi

The culture and way of life in Pakistan is heavily dependent on agriculture and Islam. The people's Muslim faith is that united the people to gain independence from India and for many people Islam is the central pillar of their lives, dictating much of their lives. Agriculture is also important as nearly half of the working population is employed in this field.

Traditionally, and today, life in Pakistan was heavily based on the rural lifestyle. Through much of history the people of Pakistan have united on a small scale as local communities have always been important. For these farmers life is still dependent on the community, but the daily schedule is more heavily dependent on weather, the sun, and the seasons. This occupation takes up a lot of time and during busy times of year help is needed, help in the form of family and neighbors.

Islam, especially in more rural areas, is another factor that dictates the culture and way of life in Pakistan. Many people pray five times a day and a large number of people participate in Friday afternoon prayers. Additionally, Islam helps give direction to the people in terms of dress, diet, and behavior.

In contrast to rural Pakistan, urban Pakistan is quite different in many ways. Although in the cities Islam is still very important to many people and the prayer cycle dictates the daily schedule for many, the pulse of the city does a great deal in dictating the way of life.

For many urbanites the jobs are in the industrial or services sectors and most jobs have regular working hours, typically from about 8:00 or 9:00 am to about 4:00 or 5:00 pm. However, Friday afternoons tend to be off for prayer, but Pakistan recognizes the Saturday-Sunday weekend like much of the world.

School is also an important factor in Pakistan, but the importance to which school is viewed vastly differs. For some extremists only boys should attend schools and many people, particularly in rural areas, believe classrooms should be segregated by sex. None-the-less, school is important to most people and giving their children a good education is of utmost importance to many people. In Pakistan family is incredibly important and this often means setting your children up for success, both personal and financial success. To achieve this, many Pakistanis place great importance on education, especially in the cities where most jobs require an education.

In fact, family is considered the most important part of life to most Pakistanis, although what the path is to giving their children the best life varies greatly. Despite the differences in opinion, family and religion tend to be at the center of life in the country, not economic success or gaining a better job.

Identity

The people of Pakistan who identify as "Pakistani" define themselves and this identity primarily in a political sense, dating back to the country's separation from India in the late 1940s. This split was primarily done in order to give the Muslims a separate political entity. In this way, the Pakistani identity is more than just a political identity, it is also a religious identity strongly tied to being a Muslim. However, there are few Pakistanis who are devout Muslims and the state was formed in part to prevent the people from being ruled by Hindus. Despite this, the identity of "Pakistani" is now tied to being Muslim, even if many people are Muslim in name only and don't practice the religion regularly.

While most people in Pakistan identify as Pakistani on some level, most people primarily identify based on their individual ethnicity; Pakistan is home to hundreds of ethnicities. Although nearly all of these ethnic identities consider Islam a part of their identity, each has a distinct language, foods, dress, and other cultural aspects, which makes each group fairly unique.

This page was last updated: May, 2014