The society and culture of Pakistan comprises numerous diverse cultures and ethnic groups: the Punjabis, Kashmiris, Sindhis in east, Muhajirs, Makrani in the south; Baloch and Pashtun in the west; and the ancient Dardic, Wakhi, and Burusho communities in the north. These Pakistani cultures have been greatly influenced by many of the surrounding countries' cultures, such as the Turkic peoples, Persian, Arab, and other South Asian ethnic groups of the Subcontinent, Central Asia and the Middle East.
In ancient times, Pakistan was a major cultural hub. Many cultural practices and great monuments have been inherited from the time of the ancient rulers of the region. One of the greatest cultural influences was that of the Persian Empire, of which Pakistan was a part. In fact, the Pakistani satraps were at one time the richest and most productive of the massive Persian Empire. Other key influences include the Afghan Empire, Mughal Empire and later, the short-lived but influential, the British Empire.
Pakistan has a cultural and ethnic background going back to the Indus Valley Civilization, which existed from 2800–1800 B.C., and was remarkable for its ordered cities, advanced sanitation, excellent roads, and uniquely structured society. Pakistan has been invaded many times in the past, and has been occupied and settled by many different peoples, each of whom have left their imprint on the current inhabitants of the country. Some of the largest groups were the Proto-Indo-Aryans, of which Sindhis and Punjabis descend from and later Iranic peoples which the Baloch and Pashtuns descend from. Other less significant ones include the Greeks, Scythians, Persians, White Huns, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Buddhists, and other Eurasian groups, up to and including the British, who left in the late 1940s.
The region has formed a distinct cultural unit within the main cultural complex of South Asia, the Middle East and Central Asia from the earliest times, and is analogous to Turkey's position in Eurasia. There are differences in culture among the different ethnic groups in matters such as dress, food, and religion, especially where pre-Islamic customs differ from Islamic practices. Their cultural origins also reveal influences from far afield, including Tibet, Nepal, India, and eastern Afghanistan. All groups show varying degrees of influence from Persia, Turkestan and Hellenistic Greece. Pakistan was the first region of South Asia to receive the full impact of Islam and has developed a distinct Islamic identity, historically different from areas further west.
Ancient sites in Pakistan include: Zoroastrian Fire temples, Islamic centres, shi'a shrines/Sufi shrines, Buddhist temples, Sikh, Hindu, and pagan temples and shrines, gardens, tombs, palaces, monuments, and Mughal and Indo-Saracenic buildings. Sculpture is dominated by Greco-Buddhist friezes, and crafts by ceramics, jewellery, silk goods and engraved woodwork and metalwork.
Pakistani society is largely multilingual, multi-ethnic and multicultural. Though cultures within the country differ to some extent, more similarities than differences can be found, as most Pakistanis are mainly of Aryan heritage or have coexisted side by side along the Indus River for several thousand years, or both. However, over 60 years of integration, a distinctive "Pakistani" culture has sprung up, especially in the urban areas where many of the diverse ethnic groups have coexisted and ithe country now having a literacy rate of 55%, up from 3% at the time of independence. Traditional family values are highly respected and considered sacred, although urban families increasingly form nuclear families, owing to socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional culture of the extended family.
The past few decades have seen emergence of a middle class in cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Hyderabad, Quetta, Faisalabad, Sukkur, Peshawar, Sialkot, Abbottabad, and Multan. Rural areas of Pakistan are regarded as more conservative, and are dominated by regional tribal customs dating back hundreds if not thousands of years.
"Pakistan's culture is again unique like the rest of the country. Pakistan's geography is the meeting point of South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia/Gulf. Its culture could be termed as a combination of sub continental, Islamic, Regional, English, and more recently global influences. Let us consider them piecemeal. The newly born Pakistan had to have a sub continental leaning, having been a part of for last 5000 years of its civilization. However, the Indus Valley, present day Pakistan, culture was different from the rest of North India or South India". (Quoted Pakistan's Identity, History and Culture, from the famous book Gwadar on the Global Chessboard by Nadir Mir)