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Pakistan - SOCIETY

Pakistan - Society


PAKISTANI SOCIETY IS ETHNICALLY DIVERSE yet overwhelmingly Muslim. It is largely rural yet beset by the problems of hyperurbanization. Since its independence in 1947, Pakistan has enjoyed a robust and expanding economy--the average per capita income in the mid-1990s approached the transition line separating low-income from middle-income countries--but wealth is poorly distributed. A middle-class is emerging, but a narrow stratum of elite families maintains extremely disproportionate control over the nation's wealth, and almost one-third of all Pakistanis live in poverty. It is a male-dominated society in which social development has lagged considerably behind economic change, as revealed by such critical indicators as sanitation, access to health care, and literacy, especially among females. Increasing population pressure on limited resources, together with this pattern of social and economic inequity, was causing increased disquietude within the society in the early 1990s.

Pakistan was created in 1947, as a homeland for Muslims in South Asia, and about 97 percent of Pakistanis are Muslim. The founders of Pakistan hoped that religion would provide a coherent focus for national identity, a focus that would supersede the country's considerable ethnic and linguistic variations. Although this aspiration has not been completely fulfilled, Islam has been a pervasive presence in Pakistani society, and debate continues about its appropriate role in national civic life. During the 1990s, Islamic discourse has been less prominent in political controversy, but the role that Islamic law should play in the country's affairs and governance remains an important issue.

There is immense regional diversity in Pakistan. Pakhtuns, Baloch, Punjabis, and Sindhis are all Muslim, yet they have diverse cultural traditions and speak different languages. Ethnic, regional, and--above all--family loyalties figure far more prominently for the average individual than do national loyalties. Punjabis, the most numerous ethnic group, predominate in the central government and the military. Baloch, Pakhtuns, and Sindhis find the Punjabi preponderance at odds with their own aspirations for provincial autonomy. Ethnic mixing within each province further complicates social and political relations.

Expectations had been raised by the return of democracy to Pakistan in 1988 after the death of Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, by the continued economic expansion in the 1990s, and by some observable improvement in the volatile relations among ethnic groups that had so divided the country in years past. Also in the early 1990s, previously peripheralized social movements, particularly those concerning women and the environment, assumed a more central role in public life. As bilateral and multilateral development assistance has dwindled, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) committed to economic and social development have emerged and begun to take on important responsibilities. Nonetheless, the problems that confront Pakistan pose a significant threat to its cohesion and future.

Sociologists speak of a loss of a sense of social contract among Pakistanis that has adversely affected the country's infrastructure: the economy, the education system, the government bureaucracy, and even the arts. As population pressure increases, the failure of the populace to develop a sense of publicly committed citizenship becomes more and more significant. The self-centeredness about which educator Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi complained soon after independence is increasingly noticeable in many areas of social life. Although many people once imagined that economic development would by itself improve the quality of life, few any longer believe this to be true.

Family or personal interest and status take precedence over public good in Pakistan. Thus traffic laws are often enforced solely according to a person's political clout rather than due process, and admission to school depends more upon connections or wealth than on ability. Salaries, as compared with bribes, are so inconsequential a privilege of employment that people sometimes plead to be given appointments without pay.

Failure to develop civic-minded citizenship is also evident in public administration and imbalanced government spending. For example, military expenditures vastly exceed combined expenditures on health and education. The bureaucracy, a legacy of the British colonial period, has not modernized sufficiently to incorporate new technologies and innovations despite efforts by the government staff colleges.

Although in the mid-1980s the World Bank forecast the advancement of Pakistan to the ranks of middle-income countries, the nation had not quite achieved this transition in the mid-1990s. Many blame this fact on Pakistan's failure to make significant progress in human development despite consistently high rates of economic growth. The annual population growth rate, which hovered between 3.1 and 3.3 percent in the mid-1990s, threatens to precipitate increased social unrest as greater numbers of people scurry after diminishing resources.

An anonymous Pakistani writer has said that three things symbolized Pakistan's material culture in the 1990s: videocassette recorders (for playing Hindi films), locally manufactured Japanese Suzuki cars, and Kalashnikov rifles. Although the majority of the people still reside in villages, they increasingly take social cues from cities. 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. The cities are more crowded than ever; parts of Karachi and Lahore are more densely populated even than Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. In many areas, tiny Suzuki automobiles have replaced the bicycles and motorcycles that were in great demand merely a decade earlier. Whereas urban violence was traditionally related to blood feuds, it has become more random and has escalated dramatically.

<>Men and Women, Gender Relations
<> The Status of Women and the Women's Movement


Pakistan - Population


In early 1994, the population of Pakistan was estimated to be 126 million, making it the ninth most populous country in the world. Its land area, however, ranks thirty-second among nations. Thus Pakistan has about 2 percent of the world's population living on less than 0.7 percent of the world's land. The population growth rate is among the world's highest, officially estimated at 3.1 percent per year, but privately thought to be closer to 3.3 percent per year by many planners involved in population programs. Pakistan's population is expected to reach 150 million by 2000 and to account for 4 percent of the world's population growth between 1994 and 2004. Pakistan's population is expected to double between 1994 and 2022.

These figures are estimates, however, because ethnic unrest led the government to postpone its decennial census in 1991. The government felt that tensions among Punjabis, Sindhis, muhajirs (immigrants or descendants of immigrants from India), Pakhtuns, and religious minorities were such that taking the census might provoke violent reactions from groups who felt they had been undercounted. The 1991 census had still not been carried out as of early 1994. The 1981 census enumerated 84.2 million persons.

Population Distribution and Density

Pakistan's people are not evenly distributed throughout the country. There is an average of 146 persons per square kilometer, but the density varies dramatically, ranging from scarcely populated arid areas, especially in Balochistan, to some of the highest urban densities in the world in Karachi and Lahore.

About 68 percent of the population lived in rural areas in 1994, a decrease of 7 percent since 1970. In contrast, the number of people living in urban areas has risen substantially, resulting in an urban growth rate of 4.6 percent between 1980 and 1991.

More than half of Pakistan's population is below the age of fifteen; nearly a third is below the age of nine. For cultural reasons, enumerating the precise number of females has been difficult--and estimates of the percentage of females in the population range from 47.5 percent in the 1981 census to 48.3 percent in the 1987-88 Labour Force Survey. Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world with an inverse sex ratio: official sources claim there are 111 men for every 100 women. The discrepancy is particularly obvious among people over fifty: men account for 7.1 percent of the country's total population and women for less than 5 percent. This figure reflects the secondary status of females in Pakistani society, especially their lack of access to quality medical care.

Population Planning Policies and Problems

Pakistan's extremely high rate of population growth is caused by a falling death rate combined with a continuing high birth rate. In 1950 the mortality rate was twenty-seven per 1,000 population; by 1990 the rate had dropped to twelve (estimated) per 1,000. Yet throughout this period, the birth rate was fortyfour per 1,000 population. On average, in 1990 each family had 6.2 children, and only 11 percent of couples were regularly practicing contraception.

In 1952 the Family Planning Association of Pakistan, an NGO, initiated efforts to contain population growth. Three years later, the government began to fund the association and noted the need to reduce population growth in its First Five-Year Plan (1955-60). The government soon combined its population planning efforts in hospitals and clinics into a single program. Thus population planning was a dual effort led by the Family Planning Association and the public sector.

In the mid-1960s, the Ministry of Health initiated a program in which intrauterine devices (IUDs) were promoted. Payments were offered to hospitals and clinics as incentives, and midwives were trained to treat patients. The government was able to attract funding from many international donors, but the program lost support because the targets were overly ambitious and because doctors and clinics allegedly overreported their services to claim incentive payments.

The population planning program was suspended and substantively reorganized after the fall of Mohammad Ayub Khan's government in 1969. In late December 1971, the population was estimated at 65.2 million. In an attempt to control the population problem, the government introduced several new programs. First, the Continuous Motivation System Programme, which employed young urban women to visit rural areas, was initiated. In 1975 the Inundation Programme was added. Based on the premise that greater availability would increase use, shopkeepers throughout the country stocked birth control pills and condoms. Both programs failed, however. The unmarried urban women had little understanding of the lives of the rural women they were to motivate, and shopkeepers kept the contraceptives out of sight because it was considered mannerless to display them in an obvious way.

Following Zia ul-Haq's coup d'état in 1977, government population planning efforts were almost halted. In 1980 the Population Division, formerly under the direction of a minister of state, was renamed the Population Welfare Division and transferred to the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development. This agency was charged with the delivery of both family planning services and maternal and child health care. This reorganized structure corresponded with the new population planning strategy, which was based on a multifaceted community-based "cafeteria" approach, in cooperation with Family Welfare Centres (essentially clinics) and Reproductive Health Centres (mostly engaged in sterilizations). Community participation had finally became a cornerstone of the government's policy, and it was hoped that contraceptive use would rise dramatically. The population by 1980 had exceeded 84 million.

In preparing the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1983-88), the government projected a national population of 147 million in the year 2000 if the growth rate were to be a constant at 2.8 percent per year, and of 134 million if the rate were to decline to the desired 2.1 percent per year by then. By the Seventh Five-Year Plan (1988-93) period, the multipronged approach initiated in the 1980s had increased international donor assistance and had begun to enlist local NGOs. Efforts to improve maternal and child health were coupled with education campaigns. Because of local mores concerning modesty, the government avoided explicit reference to contraceptive devices and instead focused its public education efforts on encouraging couples to limit their family size to two children.

The key to controlling population growth, according to activists in the women's movement, lies in raising the socioeconomic status of women. Until a woman's status is determined by something other than her reproductive capabilities, and especially by the number of sons she bears, severe impediments to lowering population growth rates will persist.

Migration and Growth of Major Cities

Pakistan's cities are expanding much faster than the overall population. At independence in 1947, many refugees from India settled in urban areas. In the 1950s, more than one-half of the residents of several cities in Sindh and Punjab were muhajirs. Some refugee colonies were eventually recognized as cities in their own right.

Between 1951 and 1981, the urban population quadrupled. The annual urban growth rate during the 1950s and 1960s was more than 5 percent. This figure dropped slightly in the 1970s to 4.4 percent. Between 1980 and early 1994, it averaged about 4.6 percent. By early 1994, about 32 percent of all Pakistanis lived in urban areas, with 13 percent of the total population living in three cities of over 1 million inhabitants each--Lahore, Faisalabad, and Karachi.

The key reason for migration to urban areas has been the limited opportunity for economic advancement and mobility in rural areas. The economic and political control that local landlords exercise in much of the countryside has led to this situation.

The urban migrant is almost invariably a male. He retains his ties with his village, and his rights there are acknowledged long after his departure. At first, the migration is frequently seen as a temporary expedient, a way to purchase land or pay off a debt. Typically, the migrant sends part of his earnings to the family he left behind and returns to the village to work at peak agricultural seasons. Even married migrants usually leave their families in the village when they first migrate. The decision to bring wife and children to the city is thus a milestone in the migration process.

As cities have grown, they have engulfed surrounding villages, bringing agriculturists into the urban population. Many of these farmers commute to urban jobs from their original homes. The focus of these individuals' lives remains their family and fellow villagers. Similarly, migrants from rural areas who have moved to the cities stay in close touch with relatives and friends who have also moved, so their loyalties reflect earlier patterns. The Pakistani city tends to recreate the close ties of the rural community.

Pakistani cities are diverse in nature. The urban topology reflects the varied political history within the region. Some cities dating from the medieval era, such as Lahore and Multan, served as capitals of kingdoms or small principalities, or they were fortified border towns prior to colonial rule. Other precolonial cities, such as Peshawar, were trading centers located at strategic points along the caravan route. Some cities in Sindh and Punjab centered on cottage industries, and their trade rivaled the premier European cities of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Under colonial rule, many of the older administrative cities declined. Where the British located a trading post (factory) near an existing administrative center, the city was typically divided into old and new, or European, sections. New towns and cities also emerged, especially in the expanding canal colonies, Faisalabad (formerly Lyallpur) is such a city. The town of Karachi expanded rapidly to become a center of rail and sea transport as a consequence of British rule and as consequence of the opening of massive irrigation projects and the increase in agricultural exports. Thus, Pakistan's two largest cities, Karachi and Lahore, illustrate how differing regional and sociocultural histories have shaped the variations among Pakistan's cities.

Karachi absorbed tens of thousands of muhajirs following independence in 1947, grew nearly two and one-half times from 1941 to 1951, and nearly doubled again in the following decade. Karachi is by far Pakistan's largest city and is still rapidly growing. In the early 1990s the population exceeded 10 million.

Karachi's rapid growth has been directly related to the overall economic growth in the country. The partition of British India into the independent states of Pakistan and India prompted an influx into Pakistan of Muslim merchants from various parts of the new, Hindu-majority India. These merchants, whom sociologist Hamza Alavi refers to as salariat, had money to invest and received unusual encouragement from the government, which wanted to promote the growth of the new state.

Karachi at first developed in isolation. Relatively few people from outlying areas were engaged in running its factories, and the city had little impact on Pakistan's cultural fabric. But when the economies of southern Sindh and parts of Punjab began to expand, large numbers of migrants flooded the city in search of work (generally low-paying jobs), and Karachi become the hub of the nation's commerce. The city, however, also has serious problems. It has the poorest slums in the country, and it suffers from serious interethnic conflict as a consequence of the influx of many competing groups. It was the site of considerable violence in the late 1980s as muhajirs solidified their local power base vis-ŕ-vis the Pakhtuns and native Sindhis.

Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city, contrasts markedly with Karachi. With just under half the population of Karachi, it is regarded as the cultural nucleus of Punjab. Residents of Lahore take special pride in their city's physical beauty, especially in its Mughal architecture, which includes the Badshahi Mosque, Shalimar Gardens, Lahore Fort, and Jahangir's tomb. In the earliest extant historical reference to the city, in A.D. 630 the Chinese traveler Xuan Zang described it as a large Brahmanical city. A center of learning by the twelfth century, Lahore reached its peak in the sixteenth century, when it became the quintessential Mughal city--the "grand resort of people of all nations and a center of extensive commerce."

The economy and the population expanded greatly in the 1980s in a number of other cities. The most important of these are Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Wazirabad, and Sialkot in Punjab; Hyderabad in Sindh; and Peshawar and Mardan in the North-West Frontier Province.

The nation's capital was situated in Karachi at independence. General Mohammad Ayub Khan, who assumed power in 1958, aspired, however, to build a new capital that would be better protected from possible attack by India and would reflect the greatness of the new country. In 1959 Ayub Khan decided to move the capital to the shadow of the Margalla Hills near Pakistan's third largest city, Rawalpindi. The move was completed in 1963, and the new capital was named Islamabad (abode of Islam). The population of Islamabad continues to increase rapidly, and the official 1991 estimate of just over 200,000 has probably been much exceeded.

Impact of Migration to the Persian Gulf Countries

Pakistan had a severe balance of payments deficit in the 1970s. To deal with this deficit, as well as to strengthen ties with the Islamic states in the Middle East, the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto encouraged both skilled and unskilled men to work in the Persian Gulf countries. The government set up a program under the Ministry of Labour, Manpower, and Overseas Pakistanis to regulate this migration and also seconded military troops to many of the Gulf states.

By the mid-1980s, when this temporary migration was at its height, there were estimated to be more than 2 million Pakistanis in the Persian Gulf states remitting more than US$3 billion every year. At the peak, the remittances accounted for almost half of the country's foreign-exchange earnings. By 1990 new employment opportunities were decreasing, and the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War forced many workers to return quickly to Pakistan. Workers have only slowly returned to the Gulf since the war ended.

The majority of the emigrants are working-class men, who travel alone, leaving their wives and children behind with their extended families in Pakistan. These men are willing to sacrifice years with their families for what they see as their only chance to escape poverty in a society with limited upward mobility. A study in the old quarter (the inner walled city) of Lahore in 1987 suggested that half of all working-class families had at least one close relative working in the Gulf. Families generally use the remittances for consumer goods, rather than investing in industry. The wage earner typically returns after five to ten years to live at home.

Although this migration has had little effect on Pakistan demographically, it has affected its social fabric. While a man is away from his family, his wife often assumes responsibility for many day-to-day business transactions that are considered the province of men in this traditional male-dominated society. Thus for the women involved, there is a significant change in social role. Among the men, psychologists have identified a syndrome referred to as "Dubai chalo" ("let's go to Dubai"). This syndrome, which manifests itself as disorientation, appears to result from social isolation, culture shock, harsh working conditions, and the sudden acquisition of relative wealth. Men often feel isolated and guilty for leaving their families, and the resultant sociopsychological stress can be considerable.

Repercussions of the War in Afghanistan

The presence of large numbers Afghan refugees has had a weighty impact on the demographics of Pakistan. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, refugees began streaming over the borders into Pakistan. By 1990 approximately 3.2 million refugees had settled there, a decrease of about 90,000 from 1989. Previously uninhabited areas of the North-West Frontier Province and Balochistan had been settled by refugees during the 1980s. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that in 1990 there were 345 Afghan refugee villages. Of these, 68.5 percent were in the North-West Frontier Province, 26.0 percent in Balochistan, and 5.5 percent in Punjab. Each village housed an average of 10,000 people, and women and children accounted for 75 percent of the refugee population.

The influx of refugees has had profound social consequences, and the population of desert areas has also had an effect on the environment. Initially, Pakistanis wanted to help their neighbors in a time of need, but difficulties slowly led many to think that their friendship had gone far enough. Among the problems were inflation, a dearth of low-paying jobs because these were taken by refugees, and a proliferation of weapons, especially in urban areas. The escalation of animosity between refugees and Pakistanis, particularly in Punjab, caused the government to restrict the refugees' free movement in the country in the mid1980s .

To assist Pakistan in preventing conflict by keeping the refugees separate from the local population, the UNHCR placed restrictions on disbursements of food and other goods in its refugee camps in the North-West Frontier Province and in Balochistan. Since the 1989 end of the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, the UNHCR, the Pakistan government, and an array of NGOs have encouraged the refugees to return home, but until internecine fighting in Afghanistan stops, many will elect to remain in Pakistan. In early 1994, the number of Afghan refugees still residing in Pakistan was estimated at 1.4 million, according to Amnesty International. More than 2 million Afghan refugees also remained in Iran.

<>Traditional Kinship Patterns
<>Linguistic and Ethnic Groups

Updated population figures for Pakistan.


Pakistan - Traditional Kinship Patterns


Pakistani social life revolves around family and kin. Even among members of the most Westernized elite, family retains its overarching significance. The family is the basis of social organization, providing its members with both identity and protection. Rarely does an individual live apart from relatives; even male urban migrants usually live with relatives or friends of kin. Children live with their parents until marriage, and sons often stay with their parents after marriage, forming a joint family.

The household is the primary kinship unit. In its ideal, or extended, form, it includes a married couple, their sons, their sons' wives and children, and unmarried offspring. Sons establish separate households upon their father's death. Whether or not an extended household endures depends on the preferences of the individuals involved. Quarrels and divisiveness, particularly among the women (mother-in-law and daughters-in-law), can lead to the premature dissolution of a joint household.

Descent is reckoned patrilineally, so only those related through male ancestors are considered relatives. The biradari, or group of male kin (the patrilineage), plays a significant role in social relations. Its members neither hold movable property in common nor share earnings, but the honor or shame of individual members affects the general standing of the biradari within the community. A common proverb expresses this view: "One does not share the bread, but one shares the shame."

In theory, members of a biradari are coresidents of a single village. In some areas, however, land fragmentation and generations of out-migration have led to the dispersal of many members of the biradari among various villages, regions, and cities. Patrilineal kin continue to maintain ties with their natal village and enjoy the legal right of first refusal in any biradari land sale.

Members of a biradari celebrate the major life events together. Patrilineal kin are expected to contribute food and to help with guests in the ceremonies accompanying birth, marriage, death, and major religious holidays. The biradari has traditionally served as a combined mutual aid society and welfare agency, arranging loans to members, assisting in finding employment, and contributing to the dowries of poorer families.

There is considerable pressure for patrilineal kin to maintain good relations with one another. Biradari members who quarrel will try to resolve their differences before major social occasions so that the patrilineage can present a united front to the village. People with sons and daughters of marriageable age keenly feel the necessity to maintain good relations because a person whose family is at odds with his or her biradari is considered a poor marriage prospect.

Although descent is reckoned patrilineally, women maintain relations with their natal families throughout life. The degree of involvement with maternal kin varies among ethnic groups and among regions of the country. The tie between brother and sister is typically strong and affectionate; a woman looks to her brothers for support in case of divorce or widowhood early in her marriage. In those regions where families maintain considerable contact with maternal kin, children, even though they are members of their father's patrilineage, are indulged by their mother s kin. Just as a family's relations with its biradari are considered in evaluating a potential spouse, so in these regions may the mother's kin be assessed.

Marriage is a means of allying two extended families; romantic attachments have little role to play. The husband and wife are primarily representatives of their respective families in a contractual arrangement, which is typically negotiated between two male heads of household. It is fundamentally the parents' responsibility to arrange marriages for their children, but older siblings may be actively involved if the parents die early or if they have been particularly successful in business or politics. The terms are worked out in detail and are noted, by law, at the local marriage registry.

Marriage is a process of acquiring new relatives or reinforcing the ties one has with others. To participate fully in society, a person must be married and have children, preferably sons, because social ties are defined by giving away daughters in marriage and receiving daughters-in-law. Marriage with one's father's brother's child is preferred, in part because property exchanged at marriage then stays within the patrilineage. The relationship between in-laws extends beyond the couple and well past the marriage event. Families related by marriage exchange gifts on important occasions in each others lives. If a marriage is successful, it will be followed by others between the two families. The links thus formed persist and are reinforced through the generations. The pattern of continued intermarriage coupled with the occasional marriage of nonrelatives creates a convoluted web of interlocking ties of descent and marriage.

A woman's life is difficult during the early years of marriage. A young bride has very little status in her husband s household; she is subservient to her mother-in-law and must negotiate relations with her sisters-in-law. Her situation is made easier if she has married a cousin and her mother-in-law is also her aunt. The proper performance of all the elaborate marriage ceremonies and the accompanying exchange of gifts also serve to enhance the new bride's status. Likewise, a rich dowry serves as a trousseau; the household goods, clothing, jewelry, and furniture included remain the property of the bride after she has married.

Marriage also involves a dower, called haq mehr, established under Islamic law, the sharia. Although some families set a symbolic haq mehr of Rs32 in accordance with the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, others may demand hundreds of thousands of rupees.

A wife gains status and power as she bears sons. Sons will bring wives for her to supervise and provide for her in her old age. Daughters are a liability, to be given away in an expensive marriage with their virginity intact. Therefore, mothers favor their sons. In later life, the relationship between a mother and her son remains intimate, in all likelihood with the mother retaining far more influence over her son than his wife has.



Pakistan - Linguistic and Ethnic Groups


Language is an important marker of ethnic identity. Among the more than twenty spoken languages in Pakistan, the most common ones--Punjabi, Sindhi, and Urdu--as well as Pakhtu or Pashto, Balochi, and others, belong to the Indo-Aryan branch of the IndoEuropean language family. Additional languages, such as Shina and other northern-area languages, are related to the Dardic branch of Indo-European and the early Dravidian language family. Brahui is one such language; it is spoken by a group in Balochistan.

The Indo-Aryan vernaculars stretch across the northern half of the Indian subcontinent in a vast range of related local dialects that change slightly from one village to the next. Residents of fairly distant communities typically cannot understand one another. Superimposed on this continuum are several types of more standardized literary or commercial languages. Although based on the vernaculars of their representative regions, these standardized languages are nonetheless distinct.

Nearly half of all Pakistanis (48 percent) speak Punjabi. The next most commonly spoken language is Sindhi (12 percent), followed by the Punjabi variant Siraiki (10 percent), Pakhtu or Pashto (8 percent), Balochi (3 percent), Hindko (2 percent), and Brahui (1 percent). Native speakers of other languages, including English, Burushaski, and various other tongues account for 8 percent.

Although Urdu is the official national language, it is spoken as a native tongue by only 8 percent of the population. People who speak Urdu as their native language generally identify themselves as muhajirs. A large number of people from educated backgrounds (and those who aspire to upward mobility) speak Urdu, as opposed to their natal languages, in their homes, usually to help their children master it.

The Urdu language originated during the Mughal period (1526- 1858). It literally means "a camp language," for it was spoken by the imperial Mughal troops from Central Asia as they mixed with speakers of local dialects of northern India. Increasingly, elements of Persian, the official language of the Mughal administration, were incorporated until Urdu attained its stylized, literary form in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Devanagari script (used for Sanskrit and contemporary Hindi) was never adopted; instead, Urdu has always been written using the Persian script. These two literary languages, Urdu and Hindi, arose from colloquial Hindustani, the lingua franca of modern India before partition.

South Asian Muslims have long felt that Urdu symbolizes their shared identity. It has served as a link among educated Muslims and was stressed in the Pakistan independence movement. Christopher Schackle writes that "Urdu was the main literary vehicle of the Muslim elite of India." At independence, the Muslim League (as the All-India Muslim League was usually referred to) promoted Urdu as the national language to help the new Pakistani state develop an identity, even though few people actually spoke it. However, because many of the elite were fluent in English, English became the de facto national language. The push to elevate Urdu was unpopular in East Pakistan, where most of the population speaks Bengali (officially referred to as Bangla in Bangladesh since 1971) and identifies with its literary heritage. Language riots in Dhaka occurred in the early 1950s, leading to the elevation of Bengali as a second national language with Urdu until the secession of East Pakistan in 1971; when Bangladesh became independent, Bangla was designated the official language.

Instruction in the best schools continued to be in English until the early 1980s. Mastery of English was highly desirable because it facilitated admission to good universities in Britain, the United States, and Australia. Then, in a move to promote nationalism, the government of Zia ul-Haq declared Urdu to be the medium of instruction in government schools. Urdu was aggressively promoted via television, radio, and the education system. Private schools in urban centers (attended by children of the elite) were allowed to retain English, while smaller rural schools could continue to teach in the provincial languages.

Punjabi, spoken by nearly half of the population, is an old, literary language whose early writings consist chiefly of folk tales and romances, the most famous being the eighteenth-century Punjabi poet Waris Shah's version of Heer Ranjha (the love story of Heer and Ranjha). Although Punjabi was originally written in the Gurmulki script, in the twentieth century it has been written in the Urdu script. Punjabi has a long history of being mixed with Urdu among Muslims, especially in urban areas. Numerous dialects exist, some associated with the Sikhs in India and others associated with regions in Pakistan. An example of the latter is the variant of Punjabi spoken in Sargodha in central Punjab.

The ethnic composition of Pakistan in the mid-1990s roughly corresponds to the linguistic distribution of the population, at least among the largest groups: 59.1 percent of Pakistanis identify themselves as Punjabis, 13.8 percent as Pakhtuns, 12.1 percent as Sindhis. 7.7 percent as muhajirs, 4.3 percent as Baloch, and 3 percent as members of other ethnic groups. Each group is primarily concentrated in its home province, with most muhajirs residing in urban Sindh.



Pakistan - Punjabis


Most Punjabis trace their ancestry to pre-Islamic Jat and Rajput castes. However, as they intermarried with other ethnic groups who came to the area, certain qaums (clan or tribal groups) came to predominate, especially Gujjars, Awans, Arains, and Khokkars in northern Punjab, and Gilanis, Gardezis, Qureshis, and Abbasis in the south. Other Punjabis trace their heritage to Arabia, Persia, Balochistan, Afghanistan, and Kashmir. Thus, in contrast with many other areas, where people often remained isolated, Punjabis had very diverse origins. The extent of this diversity facilitated their coalescence into a coherent ethnic community that has historically placed great emphasis both on farming and on fighting.

In censuses taken in British India, Punjabis were typically divided into "functional castes" or "agricultural tribes." The word caste, however, is grounded in the Hindu notions of reincarnation and karma; Muslims totally reject these religious connotations and use the term qaum instead. Tribal affiliation, based on descent and occupational specialization, tends to merge in Punjab into a qaum identity. An occupational group typically claims descent from a single ancestor, and many tribes traditionally followed a single occupation. The traditional occupation gives the group its name as well as its general position in the social hierarchy.

An important aspect of Punjabi ethnicity is reciprocity at the village level. A man's brother is his friend, his friend is his brother, and both enjoy equal access to his resources. Traditionally, a person has virtually free access to a kinsman's resources without foreseeable payback. This situation results in social networks founded on local (kinship-based) group needs as opposed to individual wants. These networks in turn perpetuate not only friendly relations but also the structure of the community itself. There is great social pressure on an individual to share and pool such resources as income, political influence, and personal connections. Kinship obligations continue to be central to a Punjabi's identity and concerns. Distinctions based on qaum remain significant social markers, particularly in rural areas.

Punjabis predominate in the upper echelons of the military and civil service and in large part run the central government. This situation is resented by many Pakhtuns, Baloch, and, particularly by Sindhis, whose numbers and wealth are comparatively small and who are proportionately underrepresented in public positions. Particularly galling to Sindhis is the fact that the muhajirs, who live mainly in their province, are the only overrepresented group in public positions, which is generally traceable to better education in India prior to migrating in 1947. In the early 1980s, tensions mounted between Punjabis and Sindhis because the latter group was feeling alienated from the state. The capital had been moved from Karachi (in Sindh) to Islamabad (in northern Punjab) and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (from Sindh) was not only ousted but hanged. Of the three most prominent national politicians in the 1980s and early 1990s, two were Punjabis: President Zia ul-Haq and Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif. Only Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan People's Party leader and prime minister from October 1993, is Sindhi.



Pakistan - Pakhtuns


The North-West Frontier Province is closely identified with Pakhtuns, one of the largest tribal groups in the world. The Pakhtuns predominate in Balochistan and are also the major group in southern Afghanistan. The West has long been fascinated with the Pakhtuns, one of the few peoples able to defeat the advances of British imperialism. Authors as diverse as Rudyard Kipling and contemporary Pakistani anthropologist Akbar S. Ahmed wrote about them. More is written about Pakhtun norms, values, and social organization than any other ethnic group in Pakistan.

Central to identity as a Pakhtun is adherence to the malecentered code of conduct, the pakhtunwali. Foremost in this code is the notion of honor, nang, which is articulated in a starkly black-and-white, all-or-nothing manner. Without honor, life for a Pakhtun is not worth living. Honor demands the maintenance of sexual propriety. Complete chastity among female relatives is of the essence; only with the purity and good repute of his mother, daughters, sisters, and wife (or wives) does a man ensure his honor. Thus women are restricted to private, family compounds in much of the province. Census takers, invariably male, are constrained not to ask about the women in another man's home, and the number of men in a household is often overstated because sons and brothers are a source of strength. Accurate enumeration of the population hence is not possible.

Closely related to the notion of honor is the principle of revenge, or badal. Offenses to one's honor must be avenged, or there is no honor. Although minor problems may be settled by negotiation, murder demands blood revenge, and partners in illicit sexual liaisons are killed if discovered. Even making lewd innuendos or, in the case of women, having one's reputation maligned may mean death. The men involved sometimes escape to other regions, where they may well be tracked down by the woman's kin. When a woman is killed, the assailant is, almost without exception, a close male relative. Killings associated with sexual misconduct are the only ones that do not demand revenge. Even the courts are accustomed to dealing leniently in such cases. Vendettas and feuds are an endemic feature of social relations and an index of individual and group identity.

Another major dimension of pakhtunwali is hospitality, or melmastia. Commensalism is a means of showing respect, friendship, and alliance. A complex etiquette surrounds the serving of guests, in which the host or his sons, when serving, refuse to sit with those they entertain as a mark of courtesy. Closely related to melmastia is the requirement of giving refuge to anyone, even one's enemy, for as long as the person is within the precincts of one's home. These codes, too, are related to the concept of honor, for the host gains honor by serving his guest, and the person who places himself under another's protection is weak, a supplicant. Refuge must extend to the point of being willing to sacrifice one's own life to defend one's guest, but a person who demeans himself so much as to plead for mercy should be spared.

Observers credit the relatively minimal tension that initially existed between Pakistani Pakhtuns and the large number of Pakhtun refugees from Afghanistan to the deeply felt obligation of Pakhtuns to obey the customary dictates of hospitality. However, Pakistani Pakhtuns' frustration with the refugees escalated after the Soviet army withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Many Pakistani Pakhtuns were upset that the internecine violence resulting from warring clans in conflict in Afghanistan was overflowing into Pakistan. In 1994 Pakistani Pakhtuns were as eager as other Pakistanis to see the refugees return to Afghanistan.

Pakhtuns are organized into segmentary clans (called khels), each named for a first migrant to their area to whom they trace their ancestry. Membership is tied to landownership as well as to descent. A person who loses his land is no longer treated as a full (adult) member of the community. He no longer may join or speak in the tribal jirga, or council of tribal leaders, at which issues of common interest are debated. But because brothers divide property among themselves, rivalry builds among the children of brothers who may have to subdivide increasingly unequal portions of an original estate. Hence, a man's greatest rival for women, money, and land (zan, zar, and zamin, respectively) is his first cousin--his father's brother's son--even though the same man may be his staunchest ally in the event of attack from the outside. Lineages themselves have a notable tendency to fragment; this tendency has contributed to the existence of a number of well-established clans among the Pakhtuns. At every level of Pakhtun social organization, groups are split into a complex and shifting pattern of alliance and enmity.

Most Pakhtuns are pious Sunni Muslims, and effective religious leaders often acquire a substantial following. However, there is a basic ambivalence on the whole toward mullahs, who have a formal role in leading prayers and in taking care of the mosque.

An intensely egalitarian ethos exists among Pakhtun men in a clan; the tribal leader is considered the first among equals. No man willingly admits himself less than any other's equal. Nor will he, unless driven by the most dire circumstances, put himself in a position of subservience or admit dependency on another. This sense of equality is evident in the structure of the men's council, composed of lineage elders who deal with matters ranging from disputes between local lineage sections to relations with other tribes or with the national government. Although the council can make and enforce binding decisions, within the body itself all are considered equals. To attempt or to appear to coerce another is to give grave insult and to risk initiating a feud.

To facilitate relations with Pakhtuns, the British appointed maliks, or minor chiefs. Agreements in which Pakhtuns have acceded to an external authority--whether the British or the Pakistani government--have been tenuous. The British resorted to a "divide and conquer" policy of playing various feuding factions against one another. British hegemony was frequently precarious: in 1937 Pakhtuns wiped out an entire British brigade. Throughout the 1930s, there were more troops stationed in Waziristan (homeland of the Wazirs, among the most independent of Pakhtun tribes) in the southern part of the North-West Frontier Province than in the rest of the subcontinent.

In tribal areas, where the level of wealth is generally limited, perennial feuding acts as a leveler. The killing, pillaging, and destruction keep any one lineage from amassing too much more than any other. In settled areas, the intensity of feuds has declined, although everyone continues to be loyal to the ideals. Government control only erratically contains violence--depending on whether a given government official has any relationship to the disputants. The proliferation of guns-- including clones of Uzis, and Kalashnikovs--has exacerbated much of the violence.

Since the 1980s, many Pakhtuns have entered the police force, civil service, and military and have virtually taken over the country's transportation network. A former president of Pakistan, Ghulam Ishaq Khan (1988-93), is a Pakhtun, as are many highranking military officers. The government of Pakistan has established numerous schools in the North-West Frontier Province- -including ones devoted exclusively to girls--in an effort to imbue Pakhtuns with a sense of Pakistani nationalism.

A growing number of development projects in the North-West Frontier Province have provided diverse employment opportunities for Pakhtuns. Notably, the government has set up comprehensive projects like building roads and schools as a substitution for cultivating opium poppies. Incentives for industrial investment have also been provided. However, the government lost much credibility when it proposed in 1991 (a proposal soon withdrawn) to build up the local infrastructure in the Gadoon-Amazai area of the North-West Frontier Province and to encourage it as a target for tax-free investment. Observers attributed the government's withdrawal of the incentive package to local unrest.



Pakistan - Sindhis


During the British Raj, Sindh, situated south of Punjab, was the neglected hinterland of Bombay. The society was dominated by a small number of major landholders (waderas). Most people were tenant farmers facing terms of contract that were a scant improvement over outright servitude; a middle-class barely existed. The social landscape consisted largely of unremitting poverty, and feudal landlords ruled with little concern for any outside interference. A series of irrigation projects in the 1930s merely served to increase the wealth of large landowners when their wastelands were made more productive. Reformist legislation in the 1940s that was intended to improve the lot of the poor had little success. The province approached independence with entrenched extremes of wealth and poverty.

There was considerable upheaval in Sindh in the years following partition. Millions of Hindus and Sikhs left for India and were replaced by roughly 7 million muhajirs, who took the places of the fairly well-educated emigrant Hindus and Sikhs in the commercial life of the province. Later, the muhajirs provided the political basis of the Refugee People's Movement (Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz--MQM). As Karachi became increasingly identified as a muhajir city, other cities in Sindh, notably Thatta, Hyderabad, and Larkana, became the headquarters for Sindhi resistance.

In 1994 Sindh continued to be an ethnic battlefield within Pakistan. During the 1980s, there were repeated kidnappings in the province, some with political provocation. Fear of dacoits (bandits) gave rise to the perception that the interior of Sindh was unsafe for road and rail travel. Sectarian violence against Hindus erupted in the interior in 1992 in the wake of the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, India, by Hindu extremists who sought to rebuild a Hindu temple on the contested site. A travel advisory recommending that foreigners avoid the interior of the province remained in effect in early 1994.



Pakistan - Baloch


The final major ethnic group in Pakistan is the Baloch. A comparatively small group, the Baloch, like the Pakhtuns, are a tribal population whose original territory extends beyond the national borders. Over 70 percent of the Baloch live in Pakistan, with the remainder in Iran and Afghanistan. The Baloch trace their roots to tribes migrating eastward from around Aleppo, in Syria, before the Christian era. Sometime between the sixth century and the fourteenth century, they migrated to the region of present-day Balochistan.

Baloch speak Balochi, part of the Iranian group of Indo- European languages. Linguistic evidence indicates the origin of Balochi to be in the pre-Christian Medean or Parthian civilizations. The modern form has incorporated elements from Persian, Sindhi, Arabic, and a number of other languages. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, Baloch intellectuals used Persian and Urdu scripts to transcribe Balochi into written form. Since Pakistan's independence and with the rise of Baloch nationalism, Baloch have favored the Nastaliq script, an adaptation of Arabic script.

The land of Balochistan is exceedingly inhospitable; geologists have even compared the landscape with Mars. A Pakhtu expression, reflecting on ethnic relations as well as on geography, describes Balochistan as "the dump where Allah shot the rubbish of creation." Subsistence is hard in this environment and is achieved by pastoral nomadism, dryland and irrigated agriculture, and fishing. Dryland farming is marginal, although it is a mainstay for many seminomadic herders. The Baloch plant drought-resistant grains in earthen embankments where scanty rainfall has accumulated.

Irrigated farming is concentrated near oases in two kinds of systems: open channels that bring water from a few riverbeds, and subsurface drains (karez) that channel groundwater downward to planted fields. However, such irrigation and cultivation are extremely limited, forcing most Baloch to eke out a living by herding or farming in the marginal hinterland.

Sheep and goats are the main herd animals. The herder typically consumes the dairy products these animals produce and sells the meat and wool. Pastoralists organize themselves around water sources; wells are the property of specific camps.

Kinship and social relations reflect the exigencies of dealing with the harsh physical environment. Like other Pakistanis, Baloch reckon descent patrilineally. Lineages, however, play a minimal role in the lives of most Baloch. They are notably flexible in arrangements with both family and friends. Ideally, a man should maintain close ties with relatives in his father's line, but in practice most relations are left to the discretion of the individual, and there is wide variation. It is typical for lineages to split and fragment, often because of disputes with close kin over matters such as inheritance and bad relations within marriages. Most Baloch treat both mother's and father's kin as a pool of potential assistance to be called on as the occasion demands. Again, the precariousness of subsistence favors having the widest possible circle of friends and relatives.

Marriage patterns embody this kind of flexibility. As in many parts of West Asia, Baloch say that they prefer to marry their cousins. Actually, however, marriage choices are dictated by pragmatic considerations. Residence, the complex means of access to agricultural land, and the centrality of water rights, coupled with uncertain water supply, all favor flexibility in the choice of in-laws. The plethora of land tenure arrangements tends to limit the value of marrying one's cousin, a marriage pattern that functions to keep land in the family in other parts of Pakistan.

The majority of Baloch are Hanafi Sunnis, but there is a community of an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 Zikri Baloch, who live in the coastal Makran area and in Karachi. The Zikris believe in the Messiah Nur Pak, whose teaching supersede those of the Prophet Muhammad. Their beliefs, considered heretical, have led to intermittent Sunni repression of their community since its founding in the fifteenth century.

Only among the coastal Baloch is marriage between cousins common; there, nearly two-thirds of married couples are first cousins. The coastal Baloch are in greater contact with non- Baloch and manifest a concomitantly greater sense of group solidarity. For them, being "unified amongst ourselves" is a particularly potent cultural ideal. Because they are Zikris, they have a limited pool of eligible mates and do not generally marry outside of the group of Zikri Baloch.

Baloch society is stratified and has been characterized as "feudal militarism." The significant social tie is that between a leader, the hakim, and his retinue, consisting of pastoralists, agriculturists, lower-level leaders, and lower- level tenant farmers and descendants of former slaves (hizmatkar). Suprafamily groups formed through patrilineal descent are significant mostly for the elite hakim, whose concern for rivalry and politics is not shared by other groups.

The basic exchange traditionally underlying this elaborate system was the hakim's offer of booty or property rights in return for support in battle. In more modern times, various favors are generally traded for votes, but the structure of the system--the participation of the lower-level leaders and the hizmatkar through patron-client ties--remains much the same.

In common with the neighboring Pakhtuns, Baloch are deeply committed to maintaining their personal honor, showing generous hospitality to guests, and giving protection to those who seek it of them. However, the prototypical relationship is that between the leader and his minions. A Baloch suffers no loss of status in submitting to another. Although competition for scarce water and land resources characterizes social relations between minor leaders and hizmatkar, competition coexists with a deeply held belief in the virtues of sharing and cooperation. Sharing creates networks of obligation among herders, mutual aid being an insurance policy in the face of a precarious livelihood.

Baloch tribal structure concentrates power in the hands of local tribal leaders. The British played local rivals against each other in a policy of indirect rule, as they did with the Pakhtun tribes to the north--and virtually throughout the subcontinent. In essence, the British offered local autonomy and subsidies to rulers in exchange for access to the border with Afghanistan. In the early 1990s, local leaders maintained this policy to a large extent, continuing to exploit the endemic anarchy, whether local, provincial, or national.

There have been sporadic separatist movements in Balochistan since independence. Baloch have long been accustomed to indirect rule, a policy that leaves local elites with a substantial measure of autonomy. The 1970s saw a precipitous deterioration in relations between Balochistan and the central government, however. The violent confrontation between Baloch insurgents and the Pakistani military in the mid-1970s was particularly brutal. The conflict touched the lives of most Baloch and politicized those long accustomed to accepting the status quo. Original demands for greater regional autonomy escalated into a full-scale movement aimed at restructuring the government along confederal lines. By the mid-1980s, traditional cleavages among hakim, minor leaders, and hizmatkar had declined in importance as the Baloch increasingly thought of themselves as a unified group in opposition to Pakistani, or Punjabi, hegemony.

Zia ul-Haq's overthrow of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1977 was welcomed by many in Balochistan, in contrast to popular sentiment in the rest of the country, which was appalled by the extraconstitutional act. As relations with the central government began to smooth out, however, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, placing nearly the entire northern border of Balochistan on alert as a frontline area.

Balochistan's landscape in the 1980s changed markedly as Afghan refugee camps were established throughout the northern parts of the province. In many instances, temporary mud housing eventually became transformed into concrete structures. The refugees also caused the demographic balance to change as ethnic Pakhtuns--many refugees from Afghanistan--came to settle in Balochistan.

Although social conditions in rural areas have changed little for most Baloch, two scandals in the early 1990s caused the region to receive much attention. The first grew out of reports that some owners of brick kilns in remote parts of the province had labor practices that resembled slavery, complete with indenturing workers to loans that were passed down through generations. The second was the charge that young boys were being recruited from the most remote parts of the province to be "camel boys" in races in the Persian Gulf states. The screaming of the young boys, who are tied to the backs of racing camels, supposedly scares the animals into running faster. The young boys often are maimed or killed in the process. Impoverished parents unwittingly accepted payment on the promise that their son would be employed as an apprentice.

Because of the area's limited population and its low population density levels, there has been little development in Balochistan except in Quetta, the capital of the province. The rural programs that exist stem mostly from the efforts of the Agha Khan Rural Support Development Project, an NGO that has expanded into rural Balochistan on the basis of its successes in the mountains around Gilgit, in the far north of the country. This project works on organizing disparate communities into local support groups and has had particular success in reaching women in remote areas of Balochistan.



Pakistan - Men and Women, Gender Relations


Gender relations in Pakistan rest on two basic perceptions: that women are subordinate to men, and that a man's honor resides in the actions of the women of his family. Thus, as in other orthodox Muslim societies, women are responsible for maintaining the family honor. To ensure that they do not dishonor their families, society limits women's mobility, places restrictions on their behavior and activities, and permits them only limited contact with the opposite sex.

Space is allocated to and used differently by men and women. For their protection and respectability, women have traditionally been expected to live under the constraints of purdah (purdah is Persian for curtain), most obvious in veiling. By separating women from the activities of men, both physically and symbolically, purdah creates differentiated male and female spheres. Most women spend the major part of their lives physically within their homes and courtyards and go out only for serious and approved reasons. Outside the home, social life generally revolves around the activities of men. In most parts of the country, except perhaps in Islamabad, Karachi, and wealthier parts of a few other cities, people consider a woman--and her family--to be shameless if no restrictions are placed on her mobility.

Purdah is practiced in various ways, depending on family tradition, region, class, and rural or urban residence, but nowhere do unrelated men and women mix freely. The most extreme restraints are found in parts of the North-West Frontier Province and Balochistan, where women almost never leave their homes except when they marry and almost never meet unrelated men. They may not be allowed contact with male cousins on their mother's side, for these men are not classed as relatives in a strongly patrilineal society. Similarly, they have only very formal relations with those men they are allowed to meet, such as the father-in-law, paternal uncles, and brothers-in-law.

Poor rural women, especially in Punjab and Sindh, where gender relations are generally somewhat more relaxed, have greater mobility because they are responsible for transplanting rice seedlings, weeding crops, raising chickens and selling eggs, and stuffing wool or cotton into comforters (razais). When a family becomes more prosperous and begins to aspire to higher status, it commonly requires stricter purdah among its women as a first social change.

Poor urban women in close-knit communities, such as the old cities of Lahore and Rawalpindi, generally wear either a burqa (fitted body veil) or a chador (loosely draped cotton cloth used as a head covering and body veil) when they leave their homes. In these localities, multistory dwellings (havelis) were constructed to accommodate large extended families. Many havelis have now been sectioned off into smaller living units to economize. It is common for one nuclear family (with an average of seven members) to live in one or two rooms on each small floor. In less densely populated areas, where people generally do not know their neighbors, there are fewer restrictions on women's mobility.

The shared understanding that women should remain within their homes so neighbors do not gossip about their respectability has important implications for their productive activities. As with public life in general, work appears to be the domain of men. Rural women work for consumption or for exchange at the subsistence level. Others, both rural and urban, do piecework for very low wages in their homes. Their earnings are generally recorded as part of the family income that is credited to men. Census data and other accounts of economic activity in urban areas support such conclusions. For example, the 1981 census reported that 5.6 percent of all women were employed, as opposed to 72.4 percent of men; less than 4 percent of all urban women were engaged in some form of salaried work. By 1988 this figure had increased significantly, but still only 10.2 percent of women were reported as participating in the labor force.

Among wealthier Pakistanis, urban or rural residence is less important than family tradition in influencing whether women observe strict purdah and the type of veil they wear. In some areas, women simply observe "eye purdah": they tend not to mix with men, but when they do, they avert their eyes when interacting with them. Bazaars in wealthier areas of Punjabi cities differ from those in poorer areas by having a greater proportion of unveiled women. In cities throughout the North-West Frontier Province, Balochistan, and the interior of Sindh, bazaars are markedly devoid of women, and when a woman does venture forth, she always wears some sort of veil.

The traditional division of space between the sexes is perpetuated in the broadcast media. Women's subservience is consistently shown on television and in films. And, although popular television dramas raise controversial issues such as women working, seeking divorce, or even having a say in family politics, the programs often suggest that the woman who strays from traditional norms faces insurmountable problems and becomes alienated from her family.


Pakistan - The Status of Women and the Women's Movement


Four important challenges confronted women in Pakistan in the early 1990s: increasing practical literacy, gaining access to employment opportunities at all levels in the economy, promoting change in the perception of women's roles and status, and gaining a public voice both within and outside of the political process.

There have been various attempts at social and legal reform aimed at improving Muslim women's lives in the subcontinent during the twentieth century. These attempts generally have been related to two broader, intertwined movements: the social reform movement in British India and the growing Muslim nationalist movement. Since partition, the changing status of women in Pakistan largely has been linked with discourse about the role of Islam in a modern state. This debate concerns the extent to which civil rights common in most Western democracies are appropriate in an Islamic society and the way these rights should be reconciled with Islamic family law.

Muslim reformers in the nineteenth century struggled to introduce female education, to ease some of the restrictions on women's activities, to limit polygyny, and to ensure women's rights under Islamic law. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan convened the Mohammedan Educational Conference in the 1870s to promote modern education for Muslims, and he founded the Muhammadan Anglo- Oriental College. Among the predominantly male participants were many of the earliest proponents of education and improved social status for women. They advocated cooking and sewing classes conducted in a religious framework to advance women's knowledge and skills and to reinforce Islamic values. But progress in women's literacy was slow: by 1921 only four out of every 1,000 Muslim females were literate.

Promoting the education of women was a first step in moving beyond the constraints imposed by purdah. The nationalist struggle helped fray the threads in that socially imposed curtain. Simultaneously, women's roles were questioned, and their empowerment was linked to the larger issues of nationalism and independence. In 1937 the Muslim Personal Law restored rights (such as inheritance of property) that had been lost by women under the Anglicization of certain civil laws. As independence neared, it appeared that the state would give priority to empowering women. Pakistan's founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, said in a speech in 1944:

No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.

After independence, elite Muslim women in Pakistan continued to advocate women's political empowerment through legal reforms. They mobilized support that led to passage of the Muslim Personal Law of Sharia in 1948, which recognized a woman's right to inherit all forms of property. They were also behind the futile attempt to have the government include a Charter of Women's Rights in the 1956 constitution. The 1961 Muslim Family Laws Ordinance covering marriage and divorce, the most important sociolegal reform that they supported, is still widely regarded as empowering to women.

Two issues--promotion of women's political representation and accommodation between Muslim family law and democratic civil rights--came to dominate discourse about women and sociolegal reform. The second issue gained considerable attention during the regime of Zia ul-Haq (1977-88). Urban women formed groups to protect their rights against apparent discrimination under Zia's Islamization program. It was in the highly visible realm of law that women were able to articulate their objections to the Islamization program initiated by the government in 1979. Protests against the 1979 Enforcement of Hudood Ordinances focused on the failure of hudood ordinances to distinguish between adultery (zina) and rape (zina-bil-jabr). A man could be convicted of zina only if he were actually observed committing the offense by other men, but a woman could be convicted simply because she became pregnant.

The Women's Action Forum was formed in 1981 to respond to the implementation of the penal code and to strengthen women's position in society generally. The women in the forum, most of whom came from elite families, perceived that many of the laws proposed by the Zia government were discriminatory and would compromise their civil status. In Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad the group agreed on collective leadership and formulated policy statements and engaged in political action to safeguard women's legal position.

The Women's Action Forum has played a central role in exposing the controversy regarding various interpretations of Islamic law and its role in a modern state, and in publicizing ways in which women can play a more active role in politics. Its members led public protests in the mid-1980s against the promulgation of the Law of Evidence. Although the final version was substantially modified, the Women's Action Forum objected to the legislation because it gave unequal weight to testimony by men and women in financial cases. Fundamentally, they objected to the assertion that women and men cannot participate as legal equals in economic affairs.

Beginning in August 1986, the Women's Action Forum members and their supporters led a debate over passage of the Shariat Bill, which decreed that all laws in Pakistan should conform to Islamic law. They argued that the law would undermine the principles of justice, democracy, and fundamental rights of citizens, and they pointed out that Islamic law would become identified solely with the conservative interpretation supported by Zia's government. Most activists felt that the Shariat Bill had the potential to negate many of the rights women had won. In May 1991, a compromise version of the Shariat Bill was adopted, but the debate over whether civil law or Islamic law should prevail in the country continued in the early 1990s.

Discourse about the position of women in Islam and women's roles in a modern Islamic state was sparked by the government's attempts to formalize a specific interpretation of Islamic law. Although the issue of evidence became central to the concern for women's legal status, more mundane matters such as mandatory dress codes for women and whether females could compete in international sports competitions were also being argued.

Another of the challenges faced by Pakistani women concerns their integration into the labor force. Because of economic pressures and the dissolution of extended families in urban areas, many more women are working for wages than in the past. But by 1990 females officially made up only 13 percent of the labor force. Restrictions on their mobility limit their opportunities, and traditional notions of propriety lead families to conceal the extent of work performed by women.

Usually, only the poorest women engage in work--often as midwives, sweepers, or nannies--for compensation outside the home. More often, poor urban women remain at home and sell manufactured goods to a middleman for compensation. More and more urban women have engaged in such activities during the 1990s, although to avoid being shamed few families willingly admit that women contribute to the family economically. Hence, there is little information about the work women do. On the basis of the predominant fiction that most women do no work other than their domestic chores, the government has been hesitant to adopt overt policies to increase women's employment options and to provide legal support for women's labor force participation.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) commissioned a national study in 1992 on women's economic activity to enable policy planners and donor agencies to cut through the existing myths on female labor-force participation. The study addresses the specific reasons that the assessment of women's work in Pakistan is filled with discrepancies and underenumeration and provides a comprehensive discussion of the range of informal- sector work performed by women throughout the country. Information from this study was also incorporated into the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1993-98).

A melding of the traditional social welfare activities of the women's movement and its newly revised political activism appears to have occurred. Diverse groups including the Women's Action Forum, the All-Pakistan Women's Association, the Pakistan Women Lawyers' Association, and the Business and Professional Women's Association, are supporting small-scale projects throughout the country that focus on empowering women. They have been involved in such activities as instituting legal aid for indigent women, opposing the gendered segregation of universities, and publicizing and condemning the growing incidents of violence against women. The Pakistan Women Lawyers' Association has released a series of films educating women about their legal rights; the Business and Professional Women's Association is supporting a comprehensive project inside Yakki Gate, a poor area inside the walled city of Lahore; and the Orangi Pilot Project in Karachi has promoted networks among women who work at home so they need not be dependent on middlemen to acquire raw materials and market the clothes they produce.

The women's movement has shifted from reacting to government legislation to focusing on three primary goals: securing women's political representation in the National Assembly; working to raise women's consciousness, particularly about family planning; and countering suppression of women's rights by defining and articulating positions on events as they occur in order to raise public awareness. An as yet unresolved issue concerns the perpetuation of a set number of seats for women in the National Assembly. Many women activists whose expectations were raised during the brief tenure of Benazir Bhutto's first government (December 1988-August 1990) now believe that, with her return to power in October 1993, they can seize the initiative to bring about a shift in women's personal and public access to power.


Pakistan - RELIGION


About 97 percent of all Pakistanis are Muslims. Official documentation states that Sunni Muslims constitute 77 percent of the population and that adherents of Shia Islam make up an additional 20 percent. Christians, Hindus, and members of other religions each account for about 1 percent of the population.

Basic Tenets of Islam

The central belief in Islam is that there is only one God, Allah, and that the Prophet Muhammad was his final messenger. Muhammad is held to be the "seal of the prophets." Islam is derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition and regards Abraham (Ibrahim) and Jesus (Isa) as prophets and recognizes the validity of the Old Testament and New Testament.

Islam is held to be the blueprint for humanity that God has created. The word Islam comes from aslama (to submit), and the one who submits--a Muslim--is a believer who achieves peace, or salaam. God, the creator, is invisible and omnipresent; to represent God in any form is a sin.

The Prophet was born in A.D. 570 and became a merchant in the Arabian town of Mecca. At the age of forty, he began to receive a series of revelations from God transmitted through the angel Gabriel. His monotheistic message, which disdained the idolatry that was popularly practiced at the Kaaba (now in the Great Mosque and venerated as a shrine of Muslim pilgrimage) in Mecca at that time, was ridiculed by the town's leaders. Muhammad and his followers were forced to emigrate in 622 to the nearby town of Yathrib, later known as Medina or "the city." This move, the hijra, marks the beginning of the Islamic era. In the ten years before his death in 632, the Prophet continued preaching and receiving revelations, ultimately consolidating both the temporal and the spiritual leadership of Arabia.

The Quran, the holy scripture of Islam, plays a pivotal role in Muslim social organization and values. The Quran, which literally means "reciting," is recognized by believers as truly the word of God, and as such it is eternal, absolute, and irrevocable. The fact that Muhammad was the last of the prophets and that no further additions to "the word" are allowed is significant; it closes the door to new revelations.

That there can be no authorized translation of the Quran in any language other than the original, Arabic, is crucial to its unifying importance. Cultural differences such as those that exist among various Muslim groups throughout the world cannot compromise the unifying role that the religion plays.

The Prophet's life is considered exemplary. His active engagement in worldly activities established precedents for Muslims to follow. These precedents, referred to as the hadith, include the statements, actions, and moods or feelings of the Prophet. Although many hadith are popularly accepted by most Muslims, there is no one canon accepted by all. Such things as the way in which Muhammad ran the state in Medina and the priority he placed on education remain important guidelines, however, have continued to remain important in modern times. The Quran and the hadith together form the sunna, a comprehensive guide to spiritual, ethical, and social living.

The five pillars of Islam consist of certain beliefs and acts to which a Muslim must adhere to affirm membership in the community. The first is the shahada (testimony), the affirmation of the faith, which succinctly states the central belief of Islam: "There is no god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is his Prophet." To become a Muslim, one needs only to recite this statement. Second is salat, the obligation for a Muslim to pray at five set times during the day. Muslims value prayers recited communally, especially the midday prayers on Friday, the Muslim sabbath. Mosques have emerged as important social and political centers as a by-product of this unifying value. The third pillar of Islam is zakat, the obligation to provide alms for the poor and disadvantaged. The fourth is sawm, the obligation to fast from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan, in commemoration of the beginning of the Prophet's revelations from Allah. The final pillar is the expectation that every adult Muslim physically and financially able to do so perform the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in his or her lifetime. The pilgrimage occurs during the last month of the Muslim lunar calendar, just over a month after the end of Ramadan. Its social importance as a unifier of the greater Muslim umma (community of believers) has led to the establishment of hajj committees for its regulation in every Muslim country. The pilgrimage of a Muslim to the sacred places at any other time of the year is referred to as umra (visitation). At various times of political crisis in Pakistan, almost every major leader has left for Saudi Arabia to perform umra. Performing umra may or may not increase the politician's reputation for moral standing.

A number of other elements contribute to a sense of social membership whereby Muslims see themselves as distinct from nonMuslims , including prohibition on the consumption of pork and alcohol, the requirement that animals be slaughtered in a ritual manner, and the obligation to circumcise sons. Another element is jihad, the "striving." Jihad is often misunderstood in the West, where people think of it as a fanatical holy war. There are two kinds of jihad: the far more important inner one is the battle each Muslim wages with his or her lower self; the outer one is the battle which each Muslim must wage to preserve the faith and its followers. People who fight the outer jihad are mujahidin. The Afghan rebels waging an insurrection against the Soviet-backed government in the 1980s deftly used this term to identify themselves and hence infused their struggle with a moral dimension.

The concept of predestination in Islam is different from that in Christianity. Islam posits the existence of an all-powerful force (Allah) who rules the universe and knows all things. Something will happen--inshaallah--if it is God's will. The concept is not purely fatalistic, for although people are responsible to God for their actions, these actions are not predestined. Instead, God has shown the world the right way to live as revealed through the Quran; then it is up to individual believers to choose how to live.

There are two major sects, the Sunnis and the Shia, in Islam. They are differentiated by Sunni acceptance of the temporal authority of the Rashudin Caliphate (Abu Bakr, Omar, Usman, and Ali) after the death of the Prophet and the Shia acceptance solely of Ali, the Prophet's cousin and husband of his daughter, Fatima, and his descendants. Over time, the Sunni sect divided into four major schools of jurisprudence; of these, the Hanafi school is predominant in Pakistan. The Shia sect split over the matter of succession, resulting in two major groups: the majority Twelve Imam Shia believe that there are twelve rightful imams, Ali and his eleven direct descendants. A second Shia group, the numerically smaller Ismaili community, known also as Seveners, follows a line of imams that originally challenged the Seventh Imam and supported a younger brother, Ismail. The Ismaili line of leaders has been continuous down to the present day. The current leader, Sadr ad Din Agha Khan, who is active in international humanitarian efforts, is a direct descendant of Ali.

<> Islam in Pakistani Society
<> Politicized Islam
<> Non-Muslim Minorities


Pakistan - Islam in Pakistani Society


Islam was brought to the South Asian subcontinent in the eighth century by wandering Sufi mystics known as pir. As in other areas where it was introduced by Sufis, Islam to some extent syncretized with preIslamic influences, resulting in a religion traditionally more flexible than in the Arab world. Two Sufis whose shrines receive much national attention are Data Ganj Baksh in Lahore (ca. eleventh century) and Shahbaz Qalander in Sehwan, Sindh (ca. twelfth century).

The Muslim poet-philosopher Sir Muhammad Iqbal first proposed the idea of a Muslim state in the subcontinent in his address to the Muslim League at Allahabad in 1930. His proposal referred to the four provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and the NorthWest Frontier--essentially what would became the post-1971 boundary of Pakistan. Iqbal's idea gave concrete form to the "Two Nations Theory" of two distinct nations in the subcontinent based on religion (Islam and Hinduism) and with different historical backgrounds, social customs, cultures, and social mores.

Islam was thus the basis for the creation and the unification of a separate state, but it was not expected to serve as the model of government. Mohammad Ali Jinnah made his commitment to secularism in Pakistan clear in his inaugural address when he said, "You will find that in the course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State." This vision of a Muslim majority state in which religious minorities would share equally in its development was questioned shortly after independence. The debate continued into the 1990s amid questions of the rights of Ahmadiyyas (a small but influential sect considered by orthodox Muslims to be outside the pale of Islam), issuance of identity cards denoting religious affiliation, and government intervention in the personal practice of Islam.


Pakistan - Politicized Islam


From the outset, politics and religion have been intertwined both conceptually and practically in Islam. Because the Prophet established a government in Medina, precedents of governance and taxation exist. Through the history of Islam, from the Ummayyad (661-750) and Abbasid empires (750-1258) to the Mughals (1526- 1858) and the Ottomans (1300-1923), religion and statehood have been treated as one. Indeed, one of the beliefs of Islam is that the purpose of the state is to provide an environment where Muslims can properly practice their religion. If a leader fails in this, the people have a right to depose him.

In 1977 the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto outlawed alcohol and changed the "day off" from Sunday to Friday, but no substantive Islamic reform program was implemented prior to General Zia's Islamization program. Starting in February 1979, new penal measures based on Islamic principles of justice went into effect. These carried considerably greater implications for women than for men. A welfare and taxation system based on zakat and a profit-and-loss banking system were also established in accordance with Islamic prohibitions against usury.

Zia's Islamization program was pursued within a rather complicated ideological framework. His stance was in contrast of the popular culture, in which most people are "personally" very religious but not "publicly" religious. An unexpected outcome was that by relying on a policy grounded in Islam, the state fomented factionalism: by legislating what is Islamic and what is not, Islam itself could no longer provide unity because it was then being defined to exclude previously included groups. Disputes between Sunnis and Shia, ethnic disturbances in Karachi between Pakhtuns and muhajirs, increased animosity toward Ahmadiyyas, and the revival of Punjab-Sindh tensions--can all be traced to the loss of Islam as a common vocabulary of public morality. More profoundly, in a move that reached into every home, the state had attempted to dictate a specific ideal image of women in Islamic society, an ideal that was largely antithetical to that existing in popular sentiment and in everyday life.

A major component in the Islamization program, the Shariat Bill, was passed in May 1991. This bill required that all laws in the country conform with Islam. Women's groups in particular were concerned that the reforms in the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1961 could be jeopardized by the new bill.

A controversial law, Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, drew a great deal of attention from critics associated with the Human Rights Commission in 1993-94. Introduced in 1986 by Zia, the law, referred to as "the blasphemy trap," states that "whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Prophet Muhammad shall be punished with death or imprisoned for life and shall be liable to fine." The law extends to Muslims and nonMuslims alike, but it has been indiscriminately used against members of minorities. According to Amnesty International, several dozen people had been charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws by early 1994. In all cases, these charges appear to have been arbitrarily brought and to have been based on an individual's minority religious beliefs or on malicious accusations. The current government of Benazir Bhutto, sensitive to Pakistan's image in the world community, has attempted to approve changes in the blasphemy law in order to "curb abuses of the law"--especially those involving false accusations and fabricated cases. Critics claim, however, that Benazir, constantly under attack for being too liberal by the religious right, has been overly cautious and slow to introduce amendments to the law.


Pakistan Religion - Non-Muslim Minorities


The most visible groups of non-Muslim minorities are Hindus and Christians. Hindus are found largely in the interior of Sindh and in the vicinity of Quetta in Balochistan. Christians, representing almost all West European dominations, are found throughout the country; many are engaged in menial work. Other minorities include Zoroastrians (also called Parsis), largely concentrated in Karachi, and members of groups relatively recently designated as non-Muslim, notably the Ahmadiyyas.

The various religious minority groups have secured separate representation in national and provincial assemblies but still have limited influence on national policy. They finally united around a common issue in October 1992 when the government of Nawaz Sharif decreed that religious affiliation would be indicated on identity cards. These cards were needed for a range of activities, including attending school, opening a bank account, registering to vote, casting a vote, and obtaining a passport. Members of minority groups organized demonstrations to protest this discrimination, which they argued would demote them to the ranks of second-class citizens. They argued that safeguards existed for them both within Islamic law and in the promises that had been made to them in 1947. The government soon rescinded the decree.


Pakistan - EDUCATION


At independence, Pakistan had a poorly educated population and few schools or universities. Although the education system has expanded greatly since then, debate continues about the curriculum, and, except in a few elite institutions, quality remained a crucial concern of educators in the early 1990s.

Adult literacy is low, but improving. In 1992 more than 36 percent of adults over fifteen were literate, compared with 21 percent in 1970. The rate of improvement is highlighted by the 50 percent literacy achieved among those aged fifteen to nineteen in 1990. School enrollment also increased, from 19 percent of those aged six to twenty-three in 1980 to 24 percent in 1990. However, by 1992 the population over twenty-five had a mean of only 1.9 years of schooling. This fact explains the minimal criteria for being considered literate: having the ability to both read and write (with understanding) a short, simple statement on everyday life.

Relatively limited resources have been allocated to education, although there has been improvement in recent decades. In 1960 public expenditure on education was only 1.1 percent of the gross national product (GNP); by 1990 the figure had risen to 3.4 percent. This amount compared poorly with the 33.9 percent being spent on defense in 1993. In 1990 Pakistan was tied for fourth place in the world in its ratio of military expenditures to health and education expenditures. Although the government enlisted the assistance of various international donors in the education efforts outlined in its Seventh Five-Year Plan (1988-93), the results did not measure up to expectations.

Structure of the System

Education is organized into five levels: primary (grades one through five); middle (grades six through eight); high (grades nine and ten, culminating in matriculation); intermediate (grades eleven and twelve, leading to an F.A. diploma in arts or F.S. science; and university programs leading to undergraduate and advanced degrees. Preparatory classes (kachi, or nursery) were formally incorporated into the system in 1988 with the Seventh Five-Year Plan.

Academic and technical education institutions are the responsibility of the federal Ministry of Education, which coordinates instruction through the intermediate level. Above that level, a designated university in each province is responsible for coordination of instruction and examinations. In certain cases, a different ministry may oversee specialized programs. Universities enjoy limited autonomy; their finances are overseen by a University Grants Commission, as in Britain.

Teacher-training workshops are overseen by the respective provincial education ministries in order to improve teaching skills. However, incentives are severely lacking, and, perhaps because of the shortage of financial support to education, few teachers participate. Rates of absenteeism among teachers are high in general, inducing support for community-coordinated efforts promoted in the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1993-98).

In 1991 there were 87,545 primary schools, 189,200 primary school teachers, and 7,768,000 students enrolled at the primary level, with a student-to-teacher ratio of forty-one to one. Just over one-third of all children of primary school age were enrolled in a school in 1989. There were 11,978 secondary schools, 154,802 secondary school teachers, and 2,995,000 students enrolled at the secondary level, with a student-to- teacher ratio of nineteen to one.

Primary school dropout rates remained fairly consistent in the 1970s and 1980s, at just over 50 percent for boys and 60 percent for girls. The middle school dropout rates for boys and girls rose from 22 percent in 1976 to about 33 percent in 1983. However, a noticeable shift occurred in the beginning of the 1980s regarding the postprimary dropout rate: whereas boys and girls had relatively equal rates (14 percent) in 1975, by 1979-- just as Zia initiated his government's Islamization program--the dropout rate for boys was 25 percent while for girls it was only 16 percent. By 1993 this trend had dramatically reversed, and boys had a dropout rate of only 7 percent compared with the girls' rate of 15 percent.

The Seventh Five-Year Plan envisioned that every child five years and above would have access to either a primary school or a comparable, but less comprehensive, mosque school. However, because of financial constraints, this goal was not achieved.

In drafting the Eighth Five-Year Plan in 1992, the government therefore reiterated the need to mobilize a large share of national resources to finance education. To improve access to schools, especially at the primary level, the government sought to decentralize and democratize the design and implemention of its education strategy. To give parents a greater voice in running schools, it planned to transfer control of primary and secondary schools to NGOs. The government also intended to gradually make all high schools, colleges, and universities autonomous, although no schedule was specified for achieving this ambitious goal.

Female Education

Comparison of data for men and women reveals significant disparity in educational attainment. By 1992, among people older than fifteen years of age, 22 percent of women were literate, compared with 49 percent of men. The comparatively slow rate of improvement for women is reflected in the fact that between 1980 and 1989, among women aged fifteen to twenty-four, 25 percent were literate. United Nations sources say that in 1990 for every 100 girls of primary school age there were only thirty in school; among girls of secondary school age, only thirteen out of 100 were in school; and among girls of the third level, grades nine and ten, only 1.5 out of 100 were in school. Slightly higher estimates by the National Education Council for 1990 stated that 2.5 percent of students--3 percent of men and 2 percent of women- -between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one were enrolled at the degree level. Among all people over twenty-five in 1992, women averaged a mere 0.7 year of schooling compared with an average of 2.9 years for men.

The discrepancy between rural and urban areas is even more marked. In 1981 only 7 percent of women in rural areas were literate, compared with 35 percent in urban areas. Among men, these rates were 27 and 57 percent, respectively. Pakistan's low female literacy rates are particularly confounding because these rates are analogous to those of some of the poorest countries in the world.

Pakistan has never had a systematic, nationally coordinated effort to improve female primary education, despite its poor standing. It was once assumed that the reasons behind low female school enrollments were cultural, but research conducted by the Ministry for Women's Development and a number of international donor agencies in the 1980s revealed that danger to a woman's honor was parents' most crucial concern. Indeed, reluctance to accept schooling for women turned to enthusiasm when parents in rural Punjab and rural Balochistan could be guaranteed their daughters' safety and, hence, their honor.

Reform Efforts

Three initiatives characterized reform efforts in education in the late 1980s and early 1990s: privatization of schools that had been nationalized in the 1970s; a return to English as the medium of instruction in the more elite of these privatized schools, reversing the imposition of Urdu in the 1970s; and continuing emphasis on Pakistan studies and Islamic studies in the curriculum.

Until the late 1970s, a disproportionate amount of educational spending went to the middle and higher levels. Education in the colonial era had been geared to staffing the civil service and producing an educated elite that shared the values of and was loyal to the British. It was unabashedly elitist, and contemporary education--reforms and commissions on reform notwithstanding--has retained the same quality. This fact is evident in the glaring gap in educational attainment between the country's public schools and the private schools, which were nationalized in the late 1970s in a move intended to facilitate equal access. Whereas students from lower-class backgrounds did gain increased access to these private schools in the 1980s and 1990s, teachers and school principals alike bemoaned the decline in the quality of education. Meanwhile, it appears that a greater proportion of children of the elites are traveling abroad not only for university education but also for their high school diplomas.

The extension of literacy to greater numbers of people has spurred the working class to aspire to middle-class goals such as owning an automobile, taking summer vacations, and providing a daughter with a once-inconceivable dowry at the time of marriage. In the past, Pakistan was a country that the landlords owned, the army ruled, and the bureaucrats governed, and it drew most of its elite from these three groups. In the 1990s, however, the army and the civil service were drawing a greater proportion of educated members from poor backgrounds than ever before.

One of the education reforms of the 1980s was an increase in the number of technical schools throughout the country. Those schools that were designated for females included hostels nearby to provide secure housing for female students. Increasing the number of technical schools was a response to the high rate of underemployment that had been evident since the early 1970s. The Seventh Five-Year Plan aimed to increase the share of students going to technical and vocational institutions to over 33 percent by increasing the number of polytechnics, commercial colleges, and vocational training centers. Although the numbers of such institutions did increase, a compelling need to expand vocational training further persisted in early 1994.




In 1992 some 35 million Pakistanis, or about 30 percent of the population, were unable to afford nutritionally adequate food or to afford any nonfood items at all. Of these, 24.3 million lived in rural areas, where they constituted 29 percent of the population. Urban areas, with one-third of the national population, had a poverty rate of 26 percent.

Between 1985 and 1991, about 85 percent of rural residents and 100 percent of urban dwellers had access to some kind of Western or biomedical health care; but 12.9 million people had no access to health services. Only 45 percent of rural people had safe water as compared with 80 percent of urbanites, leaving 55 million without potable water. Also in the same period, only 10 percent of rural residents had access to modern sanitation while 55 percent of city residents did; a total of 94.9 million people hence were without sanitary facilities.

In the early 1990s, the leading causes of death remained gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, congenital abnormalities, tuberculosis, malaria, and typhoid. Gastrointestinal, parasitic, and respiratory ailments, as well as malnutrition, contributed substantially to morbidity. The incidence of communicable childhood diseases was high; measles, diphtheria, and pertussis took a substantial toll among children under five. Although the urban poor also suffered from these diseases, those in rural areas were the principal victims.

Despite these discouraging facts, there has been significant improvement in some health indicators, even though the population grew by 130 percent between 1955 and 1960 and between 1985 and 1990, and increasing from 50.0 million in 1960 to 123.4 million in 1993. For example, in 1960 only 25 percent of the population had purportedly safe water (compared with 56 percent in 1992). In addition, average life expectancy at birth was 43.1 years in 1960; in 1992 it had reached 58.3 years.

Maternal and Child Health

The average age of marriage for women was 19.8 between 1980 and 1990, and, with the rate of contraception use reaching only 12 percent in 1992, many delivered their first child about one year later. Thus, nearly half of Pakistani women have at least one child before they complete their twentieth year. In 1988-90 only 70 percent of pregnant women received any prenatal care; the same proportion of births were attended by health workers. A study covering the years 1975 to 1990 found that 57 percent of pregnant women were anemic (1975 to 1990) and that many suffered from vitamin deficiencies. In 1988 some 600 of every 100,000 deliveries resulted in the death of the mother. Among women who die between ages fifteen and forty-five, a significant portion of deaths are related to childbearing.

The inadequate health care and the malnutrition suffered by women are reflected in infant and child health statistics. About 30 percent of babies born between 1985 and 1990 were of low birth weight. During 1992 ninety-nine of every 1,000 infants died in their first year of life. Mothers breast-feed for a median of twenty months, according to a 1986-90 survey, but generally withhold necessary supplementary foods until weaning. In 1990 approximately 42 percent of children under five years of age were underweight. In 1992 there were 3.7 million malnourished children, and 652,000 died. Poor nutrition contributes significantly to childhood morbidity and mortality.

Progress has been made despite these rather dismal data. The infant mortality rate dropped from 163 per 1,000 live births in 1960 to ninety-nine per 1,000 in 1992. Immunization has also expanded rapidly in the recent past; 81 percent of infants had received the recommended vaccines in 1992. A network of immunizations clinics--virtually free in most places--exists in urban areas and ensures that health workers are notified of a child's birth. Word of mouth and media attention, coupled with rural health clinics, seem to be responsible for the rapid increase in immunization rates in rural areas. By 1992 about 85 percent of the population had access to oral rehydration salts, and oral rehydration therapy was expected to lower the child mortality.

Health Care Policies and Developments

National public health is a recent innovation in Pakistan. In prepartition India, the British provided health care for government employees but rarely attended to the health needs of the population at large, except for establishing a few major hospitals, such as Mayo Hospital in Lahore, which has King Edward Medical College nearby. Improvements in health care have been hampered by scarce resources and are difficult to coordinate nationally because health care remains a provincial responsibility rather than a central government one. Until the early 1970s, local governing bodies were in charge of health services.

National health planning began with the Second Five-Year Plan (1960-65) and continued through the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1993- 98). Provision of health care for the rural populace has long been a stated priority, but efforts to provide such care continue to be hampered by administrative problems and difficulties in staffing rural clinics. In the early 1970s, a decentralized system was developed in which basic health units provided primary care for a surrounding population of 6,000 to 10,000 people, rural health centers offered support and more comprehensive services to local units, and both the basic units and the health centers could refer patients to larger urban hospitals.

In the early 1990s, the orientation of the country's medical system, including medical education, favored the elite. There has been a marked boom in private clinics and hospitals since the late 1980s and a corresponding, unfortunate deterioration in services provided by nationalized hospitals. In 1992 there was only one physician for every 2,127 persons, one nurse for every 6,626 persons, and only one hospital for every 131,274 persons. There was only one dentist for every 67,757 persons.

Medical schools have come under a great deal of criticism from women's groups for discriminating against females. In some cities, females seeking admission to medical school have even held demonstrations against separate gender quotas. Males can often gain admission to medical schools with lower test scores than females because the absolute number for males in the separate quotas is much greater than that for females. The quota exists despite the pressing need for more physicians available to treat women.

The government has embarked on a major health initiative with substantial donor assistance. The initial phase of an estimated US$140 million family health project, which would eventually aid all four provinces, was approved in July 1991 by the government of Pakistan and the World Bank, the latter's first such project in Pakistan. The program is aimed at improving maternal health care and controlling epidemic diseases in Sindh and the NorthWest Frontier Province. It will provide help for staff development, particularly in training female paramedics, and will also strengthen the management and organization of provincial health departments. The estimated completion date is 1999. The second stage of the project will include Punjab and Balochistan.

In addition to public- and private-sector biomedicine, there are indigenous forms of treatment. Unani Tibb (Arabic for Greek medicine), also called Islami-Tibb, is Galenic medicine resystematized and augmented by Muslim scholars. Herbal treatments are used to balance bodily humors. Practitioners, hakims, are trained in medical colleges or learn the skill from family members who pass it down the generations. Some manufactured remedies are also available in certain pharmacies. Homeopathy, thought by some to be "poor man's Western medicine," is also taught and practiced in Pakistan. Several forms of religious healing are common too. Prophetic healing is based largely on the hadith of the Prophet pertaining to hygiene and moral and physical health, and simple treatments are used, such as honey, a few herbs, and prayer. Some religious conservatives argue that reliance on anything but prayer suggests lack of faith, while others point out that the Prophet remarked that Allah had created medicines in order that humans should avail themselves of their benefits. Popular forms of religious healing, at least protection from malign influences, are common in most of the country. The use of tawiz, amulets containing Quranic verses, or the intervention of a pir, living or dead, is generally relied upon to direct the healing force of Allah's blessing to anyone confronted with uncertainty or distress.

Smoking, Drugs, and AIDS

Smoking is primarily a health threat for men. Nearly half of all men smoked in the 1970s and 1980s, whereas only 5 percent of women smoked. Twenty-five percent of all adults were estimated to be smokers in 1985, with a marked increase among women (who still generally smoke only at home). The national airline, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), instituted a no-smoking policy on all its domestic flights in the late 1980s. In an unusual departure from global trends, PIA reversed this policy in mid1992 , claiming public pressure--despite no evident public outcry in newspapers or other media. Men also take neswar, a tobacco-based ground mixture including lime that is placed under the tongue. Both men and women chew pan, betel nut plus herbs and sometimes tobacco wrapped in betel leaf; the dark red juice damages teeth and gums. Both neswar and pan may engender mild dependency and may contribute to oral cancers or other serious problems.

Opium smuggling and cultivation, as well as heroin production, became major problems after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The war interrupted the opium pipeline from Afghanistan to the West, and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's crackdown on drug smuggling made shipment through Iran difficult. Pakistan was an attractive route because corrupt officials could easily be bribed. Although the government cooperated with international agencies, most notably the United States Agency for International Development, in their opium poppy substitution programs, Pakistan became a major center for heroin production and a transshipment point for the international drug market.

Opium poppy cultivation, already established in remote highland areas of the North-West Frontier Province by the late nineteenth century, increased after World War II and expanded again to become the basis of some local economies in the mid1980s . Harvesting requires intensive labor, but profits are great and storage and marketing are easy. The annual yield from an entire village can be transported from an isolated area on a few donkeys. Opium poppy yields, estimated at 800 tons in 1979, dropped to between forty and forty-five tons by 1985, but dramatically rose to 130 tons in 1989 and then 180 tons in 1990. Yields then declined slowly to 175 tons in 1992 and 140 tons in 1993. The area under opium poppy cultivation followed the same pattern, from 5,850 hectares in 1989 to 8,215 hectares in 1990. It reached 9,147 hectares in 1992 but dropped to 6,280 the following year. The caretaker government of Moeen Qureshi (July to mid-October 1993) was responsible for the reductions in production and area under cultivation; the succeeding government of Benazir Bhutto has perpetuated his policies and declared its intent to augment them.

Use of heroin within Pakistan has expanded significantly. The Pakistan Narcotics Control Board estimates that although there were no known heroin addicts in Pakistan in 1980, the figure had reached 1.2 million by 1989; there were more than 2 million drug addicts of all types in the country in 1991. This dramatic increase is attributed the ready availability of drugs. There were only thirty drug treatment centers in Pakistan in 1991, with a reported cure rate of about 20 percent.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has not yet been much of a problem in Pakistan, probably as a result of cultural mores constricting premarital, extramarital, and openly homosexual relations. The effect of poor quality control on blood supplies and needle sharing among addicts is undetermined. The government has been slow to respond to the threat posed by AIDS. Cultural and religious restrictions prevent official policies encouraging "safe-sex" or other programs that would prevent the spread of the disease. State-run radio and television stations have made no attempt to educate the public about AIDS. In fact, the government has minimized the problem of AIDS in the same way that it has dealt with potentially widespread alcoholism by labeling it as a "foreigners' disease."

The Ministry of Health, however, has established the National AIDS Control Programme to monitor the disease and to try to prevent its spread. During 1993 twenty-five AIDS screening centers were established at various hospitals, including the Agha Khan University Hospital in Karachi, the National Institute of Health in Islamabad, and the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center. AIDS screening kits and materials are provided free at these facilities. By early 1994, approximately 300,000 people in Pakistan had been tested.

A center for AIDS testing has also been established at the Port Health Office in Keamari harbor in Karachi. Another is expected to open during 1994 at Karachi Airport. Beginning in 1994, all foreigners and sailors arriving in Pakistan will be required to have certificates stating that they are AIDS-free. Certificates of inspection are already required of Pakistani sailors. All imported blood, blood products, and vaccines must also be certified.

Zakat as a Welfare System

Social security plans were first introduced in the 1960s but have never achieved much success. Traditionally, the family and biradari have functioned as a welfare system that can be relied on in times of need based on reciprocal obligations.

In 1980, as a part of his Islamization program, Zia introduced a welfare system, known as the Zakat and Ushr Ordinance. Based on the Islamic notion of zakat, the aim was to forge a national system to help those without kin. The Zakat and Ushr Ordinance combined elements of the traditional Islamic welfare institution with those of a modern public welfare system. The ordinance's moral imperative and much of its institutional structure were directly based on the Quran and the sharia.

As a traditional religious institution, zakat involves both the payment and the distribution of an alms tax given by Muslims who enjoy some surplus to certain kinds of deserving poor Muslims (mustahaqeen). The traditional interpretation by the Hanafi school of religious law stipulates that zakat is to be paid once a year on wealth held more than a year. The rate varies, although it is generally 2.5 percent. Ushr is another form of almsgiving, a 5 percent tax paid on the produce of land, not on the value of the land itself. Both zakat and ushr are paid to groups as specified in the Quran, such as the poor, the needy, recent converts to Islam, people who do the good works of God, and those who collect and disburse zakat.

The Zakat and Ushr Ordinance set broad parameters for eligibility for zakat, which is determined by local zakat committees. Priority is given to widows, orphans, the disabled, and students of traditional religious schools. Eligibility is broad and flexible and presumes great trust in the integrity, fairness, and good sense of the local zakat committees. Although the program initially focused on providing cash payments, it gradually has moved into establishing training centers, especially sewing centers for women. By 1983 the zakat program had disbursed more than Rs2.5 billion to some 4 million people. The program, however, has come under a great deal of criticism for the uneven manner in which funds are disbursed.

Shia have vociferously criticized the program on the basis that its innate structure is built around Sunni jurisprudence. Shia leaders successfully have championed the right to collect zakat payments from members of their community and to distribute them only among Shia mustahaqeen.


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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