Background There have been no previous studies conducted in Pakistan comparing the concordance of any well established Western anxiety/depression screening instrument with an indigenous scale, in a community based setting. Methods Participants (n = 1040) in the present study were recruited from the six villages of our interest from the district Gujarat of Pakistan, using a convenient sampling technique. Interview versions of the Hopkins Symptom Checklist 10-item version (HSCL-10) and the Pakistani Anxiety and Depression Questionnaire (PADQ) were used to observe the pattern of anxiety and depression among the participants. Results The internal consistency of HSCL-10 and PADQ were 0.86 and 0.84 respectively. Exploratory factor analysis found evidence for both a one-dimensional (distress) and a two-dimensional (anxiety and depression) solution for the HSCL-10, but only a one-dimensional (distress) solution for the PADQ. The HSCL-10 and PADQ found to be moderately to highly correlated (r = 0.62, p < 0.0001, 0.73 after correction for attenuation). Conclusion HSCL-10 has shown good screening abilities in a rural setting in Pakistan, and moderate to good concordance with an indigenous instrument measuring psychological distress. The HSCL-10 can therefore be used as a screening instrument, both in clinical and epidemiological settings in Pakistan, and for Pakistani immigrants living in Western societies.