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 fromIslamic practices. Their cultural origins also reveal influences from far afield, including Tibet,Nepal, India, and eastern Afghanistan. All groups show varying degrees of influence fromPersia, 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.
Diwan-e-Khas: the hall of special audience with the emperor
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.