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Kallie Szczepanski

Shifting Cultural Tides in Pakistan

By August 30, 2012

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Young women pray at a hardline mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan, 2007.

A couple of very different stories about Pakistan caught my eye recently, because they demonstrate how very quickly a culture can shift. The first was an NPR photo essay about Pakistani and western hippies during the 1960s and 1970s. In that era, wealthy young Pakistanis wore bikinis to the beach, listened to rock music, and drank alcohol in public. (It's interesting to note that the same sectors of society in Afghanistan also behaved in the same way.)

The second story, from modern-day Pakistan, was about the arrest of a young, developmentally disabled Christian girl who was accused by her neighbors of blasphemy. The girl,
Rimsha Masih, is believed to be between 11 and 14 years old, and may have Down's syndrome. She was attacked and then jailed for allegedly burning pages of the Koran, although she is illiterate.

Granted, the people in Rimsha's neighborhood are poor, and it's unlikely that they were sporting western-style swimwear and listening to the Beatles back in the 1970s. Nonetheless, it is really interesting to see the social norms in a country shift so radically over the course of a few decades.

Photo by Paula Bronstein / Getty Images.


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