Pakistanis and Mongolians: A Comparison

A comparison of two cultures the Mongols and the Pakistanis


In the following paper, I will be comparing the five institutions between the Mongols and the Pakistanis, discussing the unique qualities that distinguish these cultures from one another. These five institutions include topics such as religion, economics, education, politics, and family.


The Mongols religious beliefs and practices come into the category that is usually called Shamanism. I find that a shaman can be best described as being a tribal witch doctor. Shamanism involves a solitary practitioner that uses the aids of psychotropic herbs and hypnotic drumming in order for him to travel to the “spirit world.” Once there, he is able to retrieve the help and spiritual guidance that the tribal society needs. Shamanism seems to have originated from ancestor worship. Images of the ancestors, called ongghot, were kept in the family’s tents, and were thought to provide protection if satisfied. The shaman had an elevated position in the society, wore white and rode a white horse, and carried as insignia as staff and a drum. His function were intercession with the spirits, various kinds of exorcism, the recital of blessings over herds, hunters, children and had the gift of prophecy. Prophecies were carried out by burning the shoulder blades of sheep and examining the cracks that resulted. Among the shamanist devotee’s rituals was the worship of high places, since from there was an uninterrupted access to heaven (tengri.) the devotee would kneel nine times on top of the chosen hill, with his head uncovered and his belt around his neck. A necessary supplement in understanding Mongolian shamanism is the large number of orally transmitted hymns and prayers. The Mongol’s lack of religious ethnocentricity is demonstrated in one of their most praised characteristics, their strict policy of religious tolerance. Toleration is achieved through indifference, by a feeling that any religion might be right, and also by the fact that nomadic society was accustomed to the practice of many religions.

Today, one sixth of the world and 95 percent of the people of Pakistan are Muslim. Most Muslims in Pakistan take religion much more seriously than Americans or Europeans do. There are much fewer agnostics or freethinkers in Pakistan than there are in the West. For most Pakistanis, religion is not so much a matter of individual belief as it is a matter of revealed truth and a lifetime duty. A quarter of all Pakistanis pray five times a day. Many more pray at least once a day. The times a day when a crier, or an amplified taped recording of a crier, gives the azan, or prayer call, are just before dawn, after noon, an hour before sunset, about an hour after sunset, and about two and a half hours after sunset. Before entering a mosque (a Muslim temple) men take their sandals off at the entrance. (Women usually do not go to mosques.) Then they wash their hands and feet at an outdoor basin before and imam (priest) leads them on prayer. A rural imam is usually a poorly educated man who teaches children to read the Qur’an (religious book), delivers sermons on Fridays, deeps up the grounds of the mosque, and presides at weddings and funerals, like his father and grandfather did before him. Villagers commonly call their imam a “mullah,” but in cities this is considered to be a disrespectful term to use. In an urban mosque, the imam who leads prayers is more likely to be a maulvi, someone who is educated in the scripture and doctrines of Islam, or a maulana, a maulvi who has studied at the highest lever. Imams, Maulvis, and maulvanas together are known as the ulems, or clergy, even though there is no organized faction of clerics in Islam, except among members of the Siha sect. Prayers are in Arabic (learned from memory) and usually last about 15 minutes. One of an imam’s most common sayings during prayer is “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is Great”). Worshippers face west by southwest, which from Pakistan, is the direction of Mecca. Twice during each prayer, Muslims prostrate themselves, with hands, knees, and foreheads touching the ground. Many elderly men have prayed so much that their foreheads have shiny dents in them.


As a nomad nation, the Mongols have thousands of years of experience raising livestock. The life of the Mongol is almost totally dependent on those animals. They eat the meat and milk, distill wine from the sour cream, and make clothes from the skin. Their transportation method was of the larger animals like the hoarse, camel, and ox. The Mongols are very fond of those livestock and they can distinctively recognize one species from another. The Mongols raise only five kinds of livestock. Except the following animals, other animals are never considered as livestock ( ‘mal’ in Mongol language) by the Mongols. The five kind of livestock (the Mongols call them ‘tavun hushuu mal’) are: horse, Sheep, Ox, Camel and Goat.

The horse is a symbol of the Mongol nation. The sheep is a symbol of submissiveness and weakness due to its quietness during death. The ox is the symbol of sturdiness and sometimes, stubbornness. The camel is a symbol of aristocracy. The goat is the symbol of something or somebody who is not serious in manner. Donkeys and pigs are not welcome among the Mongols. The donkey is considered a stupid animal and pig is considered as an animal full of dirtiness and greed. Cats are not very welcome because they are not as loyal as dogs. The Mongols also happen to be practitioners of polygamy, the allowance of multiple wives, for the purpose of preserving the culture during times of war.

Seventy percent of Pakistan’s people live in villages. Most villages have between 100 to 300 families, each wit around six to ten people. A typical day in the village consists of mostly farming. Almost everyone in Pakistan wears a pair of leather sandals and a shalwar quameez, a pair of baggy cotton trousers with a pajama-like shirt that goes past the knees. This kind of dress allows there to be a lack of class distinction. Pakistani families are usually very close, love and sex generally take place within the confines of marriage, that which are arranged by the parents. Divorce is rare in Pakistan, and a divorced woman is usually disgraced. The Qur’an allows a man up to four wives with the consent of his first wife. Unless they are neighbors or relatives, men and women spend little time together. Young adults do not date, and the majority of the nighttime public consists of men. Pre-marital sex or conversation is unusual among the sexes. 


Seeing that the majority of Mongolian culture was nomadic, most forms of education were orally transmitted. Any kind of literary documentation could not be found. 

However, in the case of Pakistan, its people continue to have one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. About 15% of Pakistani men and women can read and write. Most villages and urban neiborhoods have free elementary schools, but classrooms are crowded and unequipped. For boys, the primary reason for leaving school is the lack of them beyond the fifth grade. Transportation from one village to another is very difficult, and most poor families cannot afford the supplies needed for a middle school child. Girls seem to leave because they are needed to help at home with the chores and attendance of siblings. Elementary schools in Pakistan have little or no privacy, and when a girl reaches puberty, it becomes impossible for most girls to continue. Schools are segregated by sex from the fourth grade onward, and most girls are pulled out due to the presence of an all-male teaching staff. At age 14, students are required to take a matriculation exam. If passed they are allowed into high school. Less than three percent of Pakistani men and less that one percent of Pakistani women receive a university education. 

Inner Mongolia, as a part of the Great Mongol Empire, was never a part 
China. From the day Genghis khan founded the Great Mongol Empire in 1206 to the death of the last Grand Khan of the Mongols—Ligdan Khan in 1634, the Mongol nation had been an independent state for more than 400 years. During the Ming Dynasty of China, there were many wars between the Mongols and the Chinese trying to rule over each other, but China’s dominance had never reached beyond the Great Wall. During the Ming dynasty, fearing the Mongol’s invasion, China took great efforts to rebuild the Chinese ancient fortification —the ” Ten thousand miles of Great Wall.” The Mongol Empire lasted outside of the Great Wall until the Jorchid (later known as Manchu) people took over Inner Mongolia in 1634. During the Manchu rule, the Mongols never gave up their efforts to get rid of the Manchu domination in order to reestablish an independent Mongolia. Galdan Boshogtu (1645-1697) of Dzungar Mongol once succeeded to unite all the Dzungar Mongols (or western Mongols) and the Khalkha Mongols (Outer Mongols) and almost seized Peking, the Capital of the Manchu Empire. In 1644, the Manchu people succeeded in controlling China and Emperor Shuen-chih (or Shun-Zhi) proclaimed the Great Ching Empire (Tai Ching). The Chinese didn’t have their own state or government, and China, just like Mongolia, was a part of the Empire established by the Manchu people. In 1911, following the collapse of the Manchu Empire, there was a great
chance for Mongols to be a united independent state once again. However, the Chinese warlords, who took the advantage of the Mongol nation’s weakness at that time, tried to take the Mongols under their rule. After 10 years of strife, Outer Mongolia proclaimed their independence in 1921 as the People’s Republic of Mongolia. But Inner Mongolia, a major part of the Mongol land, was under the Chinese warlords’ tight control. Since China’s takeover of Inner Mongolia, millions of peasants were settled to Inner Mongolia. Excessive cultivation backed by the warlords turned the great grassland into vast desert. The Mongols, totally depended on the grassland to survive, were forced to abandon their homeland and move to remote places. Meanwhile, those people who held courage to fight for the freedom of their homeland eventually fell down under the guns of the invaders. Demchegdongrov (or De Wang, Teh Wang), however, almost succeeded in establishing an independent Inner Mongolia. Born as a direct descendent of Genghis Khan, he dedicated his whole life to establish a self-ruling, even an independent Inner Mongolia. On July 26,1933, De Wang held his first Conference on Inner Mongolian Self-rule, declared the Inner Mongolian government as a highly self-ruling government. This self -ruling government lasted until 1945. By the end of WWII, to force the Japanese to end the War, the Soviet-Mongolian joint army entered into Inner Mongolia The central government has settled a large number of Chinese people into Inner Mongolia and the Mongols have became absolute minorities in their homeland. Wanton agrarian practices by the Chinese settlers had caused severe desertification in Inner Mongolia and the region’s ecological balance was totally destroyed. The central government had emptied the abundant natural resources of Inner Mongolia without any compensation to the Mongols. The Chinese government totally destroyed the rich cultural heritages of the Mongols under the name of clearing feudalism. As a long-term policy of sinicization, the Chinese government had been forcing the Mongols to learn Chinese language and culture. Also as a policy of limiting the Mongol population, the Chinese government had been imposing a birth control policy to the Mongols. Fearing of the Mongols’ opposition to their rule, the Chinese government had been cracking down on any tiny signs of the “separatist” activities. They put thousands of Mongols into jail simply charging them of being “counterrevolutionaries” or “separatists”, a crime exclusively designed for the minorities. Under the Chinese government’s slogan of ” Political stability is the top priority”.

Civilian authority is weak in Pakistan. Generals ruled the nation for 24 or the 30 years between 1958 and 1988. The knowledge that Pakistan’s top officers can return to power whenever they want has kept Prime ministers from challenging the military on major defense issues. Pakistanis civilian leaders today only control half of the total budget due to an overpowering military. Pakistan does not have a system of income taxation, making the governments influence very small. Voters choose landlords and local businessmen to represent them in legislatures, hoping that the rich will supply them with better resources. 


The Mongolian steppe was ideal for the pasturing of flocks and herds. The nomads relied on mostly sheep and horses. Sheep provided skins for clothing, wool for tents that were the nomad’s homes, mutton, milk and cheese for food, and dung for fuel. Horses were the primary means for transport, both of men and goods, and were important for hunting, which was a major source of food and their method of military training. Potent alcohol was made from their fermented milk, which caused many deaths among the Mongolian people. Camels and oxen were used to pull carts. The Mongols migrated seasonally, trading with settled societies for goods other than those which could be grown. 

Over 50% of Pakistani’s are farmers. The average farmer and his family own 13 acres. They grow two crops and earn about 50,000 rupees a year. Pakistan has several steel mills, including one giant government plant that was built with Soviet assistance in the 1960’s. These mills enable Pakistan to produce almost all the steel it needs. Six percent of its people are employed in chemical factories that make the nation nearly self reliant in items such as paint, dye, varnish, insecticides and soap. Pakistan saves much foreign currency by not having to import more steel and chemicals that it already does. Less than three percent of the nations labor force works in large factories, but these workers are the elite of pakistani labor, often belonging to labor unions allied with specific political parties and enjoy the benefits of longer vacations and higher wages. Much of the heroin in the U.S. and Europe come from Pakistan. The illegal manufacture of these drugs is one of the largest industries in Pakistan, enabling them to deposit money throughout banks in the nation.

As a conclusion, I’ve learned that though these two nations are separated by thousands of miles, their cultures and ways seem to be similarly characteristic of economically unbalanced third world countries. But on a positive note, I find that loving families and hard-working people are a continuous product of both societies, ensuring a stable incline towards a more confident society devoid of any corruption.

1. Weston, James Mark The Land and People of Pakistan Harper Collins Publishers, 1992 2. Morgan, David The Mongols Blackwell Publishers 1991

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