A beginner’s guide
The first thing to know about Pakistan is that it is a God-given country (mumlikat e khudaadaad in Urdu). Some people argue that it is God-run as well.
Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world – Pakistanis number in excess of 200 million. Pakistan is one of only five Islamic republics, the other being Afghanistan, Gambia, Iran and Mauritania. There was a time when Pakistanis were relatively less-known internationally. Now they are positively infamous.
The official religion of Pakistan is Islam – no less than 97% of the population is Muslim. According to traditional textbooks taught at schools, Pakistan was quite literally brought to you by Islam. Jinnah, the father of the nation, urged Pakistanis to cultivate three character traits: unity, faith, and discipline. Copious amounts of each can be seen at CNG stations.
Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Hindko and Saraiki are some of the major languages spoken in Pakistan; Arabic is used in Friday sermons and prayers; the official language is English; while the national anthem is in Persian. But the national language is Urdu. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has recently ordered the government to adopt Urdu as the official language.
According to a public poll conducted in the eighties, the preferred emigration destination of most Pakistanis was the US. According to the same poll, the country most despised was also the US. Much of the country’s foreign policy is based on the same love-hate relationship. Another constant in the foreign policy is that of seeking prosperity in return for giving a route or an airfield to a foreign power, whether it is ‘cooperation’ in SEATO/CENTO, the Afghan war, or the recent war against terror. Traditionally it used to be the US, now it’s China and the CPEC; but the piggyback policy is quite unchanged.
Pakistan has been at the forefront of the two great wars since Vietnam: the Cold War culminating in the defeat of godless communists, and the ongoing war against terror. It is hoped that we will be in the vanguard come the next Great War as well. Pakistan is, after all, the only Muslim country with the A-bomb.
Food, patriotism, religion, wedding-hall and IPP businesses count amongst the most lucrative in Pakistan. Prominent national pastimes include gossip, political analysis, and hurling stones at dogs and other animals.
Pakistanis are extremely friendly. The down side of this friendliness is that many have great difficulty differentiating between private and public affairs. Why are you still a bachelor, when will you get married, and why haven’t you ‘started a family’ despite being married, are not your private affairs in Pakistan. Ditto for how well you did in your last exam, and what your chances of landing a good job are. Although found in all countries, Pakistani ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ are in a league of their own.
Pakistanis are very uncompromising when it comes to family life. Take, for example, their untiring demand for ‘family’ channels, ‘which the whole family can watch together’. It’s moving that the whole family, which doesn’t even eat together, wants to watch TV together. Banning contraceptive ads and the like is but a small price to pay for preserving the innocence of our teens.
Pakistan has its fair share of difficulties, the energy sector being an obvious example. While the government has been unable to end load-shedding, it is nice to know that Khawaja Asif, in his capacity as the Minister for Power, occasionally comes up with original suggestions such as an appeal to the citizenry to pray for rain. In his capacity as the Minister of Defence however, for some reason he doesn’t say much.
The twin cities of Rawalpindi/Islamabad house the military GHQ and the parliament. Karachi, the financial hub, used to be called the city of lights before becoming more famous for its exploits in the field of violence. Lahore is famous for well… being Lahore. It is Chiniot however – with gold deposits worth billions of dollars – where the future of Pakistan lies.
There have traditionally been two political systems in Pakistan: democracy and military rule. People get tired of the same old faces, so every few years there is a swap, followed by much jubilation and distribution of sweets.
There have been many differences amongst Pakistanis but one thing on which there has never been any disagreement is Pakistan’s geostrategic importance. Out of all the Muslims, Pakistanis are the only ones who still believe in the Muslim ummah, a testimony to their undying optimism.
Pakistanis usually go for one of two types of marriage. Love marriages yield many children. Arranged marriages also result in many children, for love ultimately develops in arranged marriages too. Less than 1% of Pakistanis practice polygamy – one wife proves to be quite enough for most men.