Culture and identity
Pakistan’s culture is very diverse as throughout its history the country has been invaded and occupied by many different groups.
However, the Muslim culture is evident in everyday life from the conservative dress and veiled women to the muezzin’s call to prayer five times a day. Western influences, especially among the affluent, cause tensions, in particular within more conservative groups.
The national dress for both men and women is the salwar kameez. It consists of baggy trousers with a loose, knee-length, long-sleeved tunic and a scarf, although western-style clothing is common for the upper classes.
Music ranges from traditional devotional styles, such as qawali, to a modern mix of traditional and western music. The local film industry, known colloquially as Lollywood, produces over 40 feature-length films a year.
Pakistan is famous for its glass, silver, wooden furniture, pottery and marble goods. Highly decorated buses are a new form of folk art.
The most popular sport in Pakistan is cricket but hockey, football, squash, badminton and wrestling also attract great interest.
Pakistan has a number of cultural sites that are World Heritage listed. The archaeological ruins at Moenjodaro date back to the third millennium BCE and as well as being an important Buddhist learning centre, the city of Taxila experienced influences from Persia, Greece and Central Asia as it developed between the fifth century BCE and the second century CE.
In 2009 the average life expectancy was 65 years and in 2010 the infant mortality rate was 70 per 1,000 live births. Most of the population uses an improved drinking water source.
Preventive healthcare has improved access to immunisation, family planning service, safe drinking water and sanitation, although progress in poorer rural areas is limited.
Religion and beliefs
The majority of the population is Muslim and there are a small number of Christians and Hindus. The Hindu caste system and dowry payment have had some influence on the way Islam is practised in Pakistan.
Food and shelter
Pakistani food is a mix of northern Indian and Middle Eastern. Chicken, mutton or shrimps are cooked in hot and spicy curry sauces and accompanied by a wide choice of vegetables, rice and baked flat breads (roti, chapattis, puri, halwa and nan). The main course may be followed by milky sweets. Paan, a mixture of tobacco paste, spices and betel nut spread on a betel leaf, is a common way of ending a meal and is believed to help digestion. The main drinks are chai, or tea, which is usually boiled with milk, cardamom, nutmeg and sugar; lassi, a yogurt drink, and sugarcane juice. Food must be halal or lawful according to Islam rules.
Wealthy and middle-class families live in single-storey houses or large apartment buildings. Poorer people live with their extended families in two- or three-room houses. Wood or kerosene stoves are commonly used for cooking and tandoor ovens are used for baking breads. The common household furniture is charpoy, a wooden-framed, string-laced bed.