People The population of the country is 135.28 million (1997 estimates). The current growth rate of 2.82% is the highest among nine most populous countries of the world. Of the four provinces Punjab has 56.5% of the total population, Sindh has 22.6%, NWFP including Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is 15.7%, and Balochistan has 5.1%. Sindh is the urbanized province with 43% of the people living in urban areas including Karachi. The urban population of Punjab is 28% followed by NWFP (21%) and Balochistan (16%). There are about 12 cities with population of 200,000 and above, and about 28 cities with population of 100,000 and above.
Since 1978 Pakistan has also been home to Afghan refugees who fled their country’s civil war. At one time more than 3 million refugees were living in Pakistan; now they are estimated at just over 1 million, many of them living in officially designated camps.
The people of Pakistan speak many languages and dialects, reflecting the country’s ethnic diversity. The main regional languages are Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto, Balochi and Saraiki. Urdu is a national language and its use is encouraged to foster unity. Main official language is English and is used in government and education. Each province is free to use its own regional languages and dialects.
Common dress used in both rural and urban areas is shalwar-qameez. Usually it is made of cotton. It differs for men and women. Men wear solid, plain colors and add a vest or coat for a formal occasion. The women, however, wear bright patterned colours, with more tailoring. Women also wear a dupatta (long scarf). Traditional men also wear a special kind of headdress (turban), and it is often possible to determine a man’s regional identity from the style of his turban. There are many variations in the headdress that include turbans, pillbox-type hats, and karakuli (fez-type) hats. In Pakistan, it is important to dress modestly and conservatively.
The most common way of greeting is handshake and “Assalaam-u-Alaikum” (May peace be upon you). The reply is “Waalaikum assalaam”(And peace also upon you). Although close friends may embrace if meeting after a long time. Women might greet each other with a handshake or hug. It is not appropriate for a man to shake hands with a woman. Items are passed with the right hand or both hands.
The joint family system is quite common. In a joint family system father, mother, children and their families live together in the same household. The presiding male of the family has significant influence over the lives of all family members. The elder members of the family grandfather and grandmother etc. are highly respected.
Arranged marriages are still a standard tradition. First the couples are formally engaged that may last for few months followed by proper wedding. Traditionally marriage is viewed as a union of two families as much as a union of two people. Both families participate in the wedding preparations. Wedding rituals are elaborate, and men and women celebrate separately.
Chapati or roti (an unleavened bread similar to pita bread) is a staple food in Pakistan although rice is also a part of most meals and deserts. The food is generally spicy and oily. The consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden, and there are strict civil laws governing the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Yogurt is a common ingredient in meals. The Meat Dishes include pullaow (lightly fried rice with meat or vegetables) and biryani (rice with meat or vegetables and spices), kofta, mutton or chicken curry, variety of kababs such as shami, siekh, etc., mutton or chicken tikka, and a variety of vegetable and meat curries. A large variety of sweets are also commonly prepared. Vegetables and fruits figure prominently in the diet. Snack foods include samosa (deep-fried pastry triangles filled with vegetables or minced meat) and pakora (floured and deep-fried vegetables). The most popular drink in villages is lassi (yogurt milk). Tea is also a common drink. Whenever possible, the whole family eats together. In large groups such as wedding, men and women eat in separate areas.
There is a long tradition of hospitality in Pakistan. Friends and relatives visit each other frequently. It is considered pride for the host to welcome the guests and entertain them with food. Visitors are usually offered coffee, tea, or soft drinks, and are invited to eat a meal. On special occasions the gifts are also exchanged.