Hinduism in Pakistan

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Hinduism in Pakistan
Hawan at Hinglaj Mata (Rani ki Mandir) During Yanglaj Yatra 2017 Photo by Aliraza Khatri.jpg
Total population
3,935,739 (2017)[1][2]
1.85% of the Pakistani population[3]

8,000,000 (Hindu Council of Pakistan)
4% of the Pakistani Population

Regions with significant populations
Predominantly Sindhi  • with small minorities of: Gujarati,[6] Punjabi and English

Hindus comprise approximately 1.85% of Pakistan's population in one study but according to the Pakistan.[7][8] Hinduism is the second largest religion in Pakistan after Islam.[5] As of 2010, Pakistan had the fifth largest Hindu population in the world and PEW predicts that by 2050 Pakistan will have the fourth largest Hindu population in the world.[9] However, around 5,000 Hindus migrate from Pakistan to India every year.[10]

According to Pew Research, the Hindu population will reach 5.6 million[9] and Hindus will constitute 2% of the Pakistan population by 2050.[11] After Pakistan gained independence from British India on 14 August 1947, 4.7 million of West Pakistan's Hindus and Sikhs moved to India as refugees.[12] According to Pakistan's Hindu council, Hindus comprise 4% of the population which puts the numbers of Hindus in Pakistan at 8 million[8]

In the 1998 Census the Hindu population was found to be 2,443,614.[5] Hindus are found in all provinces of Pakistan but are mostly concentrated in Sindh, where the majority of Hindu enclaves are found in Pakistan.[13] They speak a variety of languages such as Sindhi, Seraiki, Aer, Dhatki, Gera, Goaria, Gurgula, Jandavra, Kabutra, Koli, Loarki, Marwari, Sansi, Vaghri[14] and Gujarati.[6]

Although small in numbers, Hinduism in Pakistan is not less complex than in other parts of the world. Many Hindus—especially in the rural areas—follow the teachings of local Sufi pīrs (Urdu: spiritual guide) or adhere to the 14th-century saint Ramdevji, whose main temple is located in the Sindhi city of Thando Allah Yar. A growing number of urban Hindu youths in Pakistan associate themselves with ISKCON society. Other communities worship manifold Mother Goddesses as their clan or family patrons.[15] A different branch, the Nanakpanth, follows the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib, also known as the holy book of the Sikhs. This diversity, especially in rural Sindh, often thwarts classical definitions between Hinduism, Sikhism, and Islam.

One of the most important places of worship for Hindus in Pakistan today is the shrine of Hinglaj Mata in the province of Baluchistan.[16][17]Hinglaj Yatra is the largest Hindu pilgrimage in the Pakistan.[18]


Hinglaj Mata Mandir Cave entrance

Ancient ages[edit]

Peshawar, Pakistan
Extent of the Indus Valley Civilization sites.

The Rig Veda, the oldest Hindu text, was believed to have been composed in the Punjab region of modern-day Pakistan (and India) on the banks of the Indus River around 1500 BCE.[19] Various archaeological finds such as the swastika symbol, yogic postures, what appears to be like a "Pasupati" image that was found on the seals of the people of Mohenjo-daro, in Sindh, point to early influences that may have shaped Hinduism. The religious beliefs and folklore of the Indus valley people have become a major part of the Hindu faith that evolved in this part of the South Asia. The Sindh kingdom and its rulers play an important role in the Indian epic story of the Mahabharata. In addition, a Hindu legend states that the Pakistani city of Lahore was first founded by Lava, while Kasur was founded by his twin Kusha, both of whom were the sons of Lord Rama of the Ramayana. The Gandhara kingdom of the northwest, and the legendary Gandhara peoples, are also a major part of Hindu literature such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Many Pakistani city names (such as Peshawar[20] and Multan[21]) can be traced back to Sanskrit roots.


After Pakistan gained independence from Britain on 14 August 1947, 4.7 million of the country's Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India.[12] The 1998 census of Pakistan recorded less than 2.5 million Hindus.[22] The overwhelming majority of Hindus in Pakistan are concentrated in Sindh province.

In 1947, Hindus constituted 12.9% of Pakistan, which made Pakistan (including present day Bangladesh) the second largest Hindu-population country after India.[23]

In the 1951 census, West Pakistan had 1.6% Hindu population, while East Pakistan (modern Bangladesh) had 22.05%.[24][25][26]

According to the 1998 Pakistan Census, Hindus constitute about 1.6 percent of the total population of Pakistan and about 6.6% in the Sindh province. The Pakistan Census separates Schedule Castes from the main body of Hindus who make up a further 0.25% of the national population.[27][28]

Based on the 1998 Census as well as stabilization of Pakistan's Hindu population since then, Pakistan would, today, have roughly 3 million Hindus. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, there are 1.49 million Hindu voters in the country. They are mostly concentrated in Sindh where their number comes to over 1.39 million.[29]

As per the data from the Election Commission of Pakistan, as of 2018 there were a total of 1.77 million Hindu voters (1.40 million in 2013). Hindu voters were 49% of the total in Umerkot and 46% in Tharparkar.[30][31]

Hindu Population by Province[edit]

The percent of population of Hindus in the provinces in Pakistan,according to the 1998 census[32][33]

Province Percentage of Hindus (Combining Hindu jati and scheduled castes)
Flag of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.svg Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 0.03%
Federally Administered Tribal Areas 0.06%
Flag of Punjab.svg Punjab 0.16%
Flag of Sindh.svg Sindh 7.50%
Flag of Balochistan.svg Balochistan 0.59%
Proposed Flag of Islamabad Capital Territory.svg Islamabad Capital Territory 0.02%

Hindu Population by District[edit]

District with 2% or more Hindus per 1998 census,

Administrative Unit District Percentage of Hindus
Sindh Umerkot 47.6%
Tharparkar 40.5%
Mirpurkhas 32.7%
Sanghar 20%
Badin 19.9%
Hyderabad 12%
Ghotki 6.7%
Jacobabad 3.5%
Sukkur 3%
Khairpur 2.9%
Nawabshah 2.8%
Thatta 2.8%
Dadu 2%
Punjab Rahim Yar Khan 2.3%

In other districts the population of Hindus is less than 1% or none.

Declining overall share of Hinduism in Pakistan

Year Percentage (%)
1901 40.00
1911 39.00
1921 37.90
1931 36.50
1941 35.60
1951 31.85
1961 21.60
1971 19.00
1981 17.20
1991 14.10
2001 05.35
2011 02.57
Current 01.6

Source: Census of India 1901-1941, Census of West Pakistan 1951-1961, UN Census 1974-2011, India Bureau of Statistics estimate 2015

Hinduism and independence[edit]

The Swaminarayan Temple in Karachi was a departure point for those migrating to India after independence.
Mandir in Saidpur Village

At the time of Pakistan's creation the 'hostage theory' had been espoused. According to this theory the Hindu minority in Pakistan was to be given a fair deal in Pakistan in order to ensure the protection of the Muslim minority in India.[34][35] However, Khawaja Nazimuddin, the 2nd Prime Minister of Pakistan stated: "I do not agree that religion is a private affair of the individual nor do I agree that in an Islamic state every citizen has identical rights, no matter what his caste, creed or faith be".[36]

After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, over 4.7 million Hindus and Sikhs from West Pakistan left for India, and 6.5 million Muslims chose to migrate to Pakistan.[12] The reasons for this exodus were the heavily charged communal atmosphere in British Raj, deep distrust of each other, the brutality of violent mobs and the antagonism between the religious communities. That over 1 million people lost their lives in the bloody violence of 1947 should attest to the fear and hate that filled the hearts of millions of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs who left ancestral homes hastily after independence.

Many Hindus who attained great success in India, like Bollywood film stars and directors Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Ramesh Sippy, Vinod Khanna, Manoj Kumar, Yash Chopra, Balraj Sahni, Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt, trace their birthplaces and ancestral homes to the towns of Pakistan. Independent India's first Test cricket captain, Lala Amarnath, hailed from Lahore; prime ministers I K Gujral and Gulzarilal Nanda are also from the part of the Punjab which became part of Pakistan.

Former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was born near Rawalpindi, while former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani was born in Karachi. Nearly all of these individuals left their homes due to the violence and turmoil during Partition.

Religious, social and political institutions[edit]

The Indus river is a holy river to many Hindus, and the Government of Pakistan periodically allows small groups of Hindus from India to make pilgrimage and take part in festivities in Sindh[37] and Punjab.[38]Rich Pakistani Hindus go to India and release their loved one’s remains into the Ganges, those who cannot afford the trip, go to Churrio Jabal Durga Mata temple in Nagarparkar.[39]

Hindu children's at Mandir during prayer

The communal violence of the 1940s and the subsequent persecutions have resulted in the destruction of many Hindu temples in Pakistan, although the Hindu community and the Government of Pakistan have preserved and protected many prominent ones. Some ancient Hindu temples in Pakistan draw devotees from across faiths including Muslims.[40] The Hindu Gymkhana in Karachi has tried to promote social development for Hindus in the city. One of the few temples remaining in Karachi today is the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Karachi.

Hindus are allotted separate electorates to vote and seats in the provincial assemblies, National Assembly and the Senate. The Pakistan Hindu Panchayat, Pakistan Hindu Council and the Pakistani Hindu Welfare Association are the primary civic organizations that represent and organise Hindu communities on social, economic, religious and political issues in most of the country, with the exception of the Shiv Temple Society of Hazara, which especially represents community interests in the Hazara region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in addition to being the special guardians of the Shiva temple, at Chitti Gatti village, near Mansehra. There are minority commissions and for a while, a Ministry of Minority Affairs in the Government of Pakistan looked after specific issues concerning Pakistani religious minorities.

In February 2016, the Sindh Assembly approved the Hindu Marriage Bill for millions of Hindus living in Sindh.[41] The bill paves the way for regulations on registration of marriages and divorce for Hindus and fixes the minimum marrying age for males and females at 18 years-old.[42] In September 2016, the National Assembly of Pakistan also unanimously approved the Hindu Marriage Bill 2016.[43][44] The Senate of Pakistan unanimously passed the bill in February 2017.[45] In March 2017, the Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain passed the Hindu Marriage Bill thereby making it a law. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also mentioned that the marriage registrars will be established in areas where Hindus stay.[46]


The Pakistani Constitution reserves 10 seats for religious minorities to be filled by proportional representation among parties with more than 5% of the vote.[47][circular reference] Conventionally, Hindus were allotted 4 or 5 seats.

In 1980s Zia ul-Haq introduced a system under which non-Muslims could vote for only candidates of their own religion. Seats were reserved for minorities in the national and provincial assemblies. Government officials stated that the separate electorates system is a form of affirmative action designed to ensure minority representation, and that efforts are underway to achieve a consensus among religious minorities on this issue, but critics argued that under this system Muslim candidates no longer had any incentive to pay attention to the minorities. Pakistan's separate electoral system for different religions has been described as 'political apartheid'. Hindu community leader Sudham Chand protested against the system but was murdered. In 1999, Pakistan abolished this system. Hindus and other minorities achieved a rare political victory in 2002 with the removal of separate electorates for Muslims and non-Muslims. The separate electorate system had marginalized non-Muslims by depriving them of adequate representation in the assemblies. The Pakistan Hindu Welfare Association was active by convening a national conference on the issue in December 2000. And in 2001, Hindus, Christians, and Ahmadis successfully conducted a partial boycott of the elections, culminating in the abolishment of the separate electorate system in 2002. This allowed religious minorities to vote for mainstream seats in the National and Provincial assemblies, rather than being confined to voting for only minority seats. Despite the victory, however, Hindus still remain largely disenfranchised.[48]

In 2006, Ratna Bhagwandas Chawla became the first Hindu woman elected to the Senate of Pakistan.[49] Though there is reservation for women in Pakistan National Assembly, not a single seat was allotted for non-Muslim women till 2018. In 2018, Krishna Kumari Kohli, a Hindu woman became the first non-Muslim women to win a women reserved seat in Senate of Pakistan.[50]

In 2018, Pakistan general election Mahesh Kumar Malani became first Hindu candidate who won a general seat in Pakistan National Assembly. He won the seat from Tharparkar-II and thus became the first non-Muslim to win a general seat (non-reserved)in Pakistan national assembly.[51] In the Sindh provincial assembly election which took place along with the Pakistan National Assembly election 2018, Hari Ram Kishori Lal and Giyan Chand Essrani were elected from the Sindh provincial assembly seats. They became the first non-Muslims to win a general seat (non-reserved) in a provincial assembly election.[52]

Other Hindu Communities[edit]

Tamil Hindus[edit]

Some Tamil Hindu families migrated to Pakistan in the early 20th century, when Karachi was developed during the British Raj, and were later joined by Sri Lankan Tamils who arrived during the Sri Lankan Civil War. and these Tamils are mostly Hindus. The Madrasi Para area is home to around 100 Tamil Hindu families.The Maripata Mariamman Temple, which has been demolished, was the biggest Tamil Hindu temple in Karachi. Localities such as Drigh Road and Korangi are home to small percentages of Tamil population.[53]

Kalasha people[edit]

The Kalasha people practice an ancient form of Hinduism mixed with animism. They are considered as a different ethnic religion people by the Pakistan government. They reside in the Chitral District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Kalasha Desh (the three Kalash valleys) is made up of two distinct cultural areas, the valleys of Rumbur and Bumburet forming one, and Birir valley the other; Birir valley being the more traditional of the two.

Being a very small minority in a Muslim region, the Kalash have increasingly been targeted by some proselytising Muslims.


Nanakpanthi are Hindus, who revere Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism along with Hindu gods. Today a large fraction of the Sindhi Hindus consider themselves not simply as Sikhs or Hindus, but more precisely as Nanakpanthi.[54]

Community life[edit]

Karachi's city culture allows for a secular environment, providing opportunities to Hindu minorities. Though Islamisation has impacted the country since the 1980s, the secular institutions established during British rule allow Hindus to take advantage of education, sports, cultural activities, and government services, and participate in mainstream Pakistani life.

Hindus celebrating Navratri

Prominent Pakistani Hindus include Pakistani cricketers Danish Kaneria and Anil Dalpat,[55] fashion designer Deepak Perwani, and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan Rana Bhagwandas.

In 2018, Suman Bodani become the first Hindu woman to be appointed civil judge in Pakistan.[56]

Decline and persecution[edit]


Manora Island Beach, with Varun Dev Mandir visible in the top right corner, Manora Beach, Karachi, Pakistan

There has been historical decline of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism in the areas of Pakistan. This happened for a variety of reasons even as these religions have continued to flourish beyond the eastern frontiers of Pakistan. The region became predominantly Muslim during the rule of Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire. In general, religious conversion was a gradual process, some converting to Islam to get rid of the caste system of Hinduism, with some converts attracted to pious Muslim saints, while others converted to Islam to gain tax relief, land grant, marriage partners, social and economic advancement,[57] or freedom from slavery and some by force.[58] The predominantly Muslim population supported Muslim League and Partition of India. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while the Muslims refugees from India migrated to Pakistan. Approximately 4.7 million Hindus and Sikhs moved to India while 6.5 million Muslims settled in Pakistan.

Some Hindus in Pakistan feel that they are treated as second-class citizens and many have continued to migrate to India.[59][60] According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan data, just around 1,000 Hindu families fled to India in 2013.[61] In May 2014, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, revealed in the National Assembly of Pakistan that around 5,000 Hindus are migrating from Pakistan to India every year.[10]

Those Pakistani Hindus who have migrated to India allege that Hindu girls are harassed in Pakistani school and their religious practices are mocked.[62] The Indian government is planning to issue Aadhaar cards and PAN cards to Pakistani Hindu refugees, and simplifying the process by which they can acquire Indian citizenship.[63]


Separate electorates for Hindus and Christians were established in 1985—a policy originally proposed by Islamist leader Abul A'la Maududi. Christian and Hindu leaders complained that they felt excluded from the county's political process, but the policy had strong support from Islamists.[64] Until 1999, when former military chief Pervez Musharaf overthrew Nawaz Sharif's government, non-Muslims had dual voting rights in the general elections that allowed them to not only vote for Muslim candidates on general seats, but also for their own non-Muslim candidates.[65]

In the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, widespread retaliatory riots erupted against Hindus. Mobs attacked scores of Hindu temples across Pakistan.[66] Shops owned by Hindus were also attacked in Sukkur, Sindh. Hindu homes and temples were also attacked in Quetta.[67]

Krishan Mandir, Kallar, Pakistan

In 2005, 32 Hindus were killed by firing near Nawab Akbar Bugti's residence during bloody clashes between Bugti tribesmen and paramilitary forces in Balochistan. The firing left the Hindu residential locality near Bugti's residence badly hit,[68] though Bugti's armed tribesmen were the targets of Pakistani forces.[68]

The rise of Taliban insurgency in Pakistan has been an influential and increasing factor in the persecution of and discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan, such as Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, and other minorities.[69] It is said that there is persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan.[70][71]

View from top of the temple, Katas, Pakistan

In July 2010, around 60 members of the minority Hindu community in Karachi were attacked and evicted from their homes following an incident of a Dalit Hindu youth drinking water from a tap near an Islamic Mosque.[72][73] In January 2014, a policeman standing guard outside a Hindu temple at Peshawar was gunned down.[74] Pakistan's Supreme Court has sought a report from the government on its efforts to ensure access for the minority Hindu community to temples – the Karachi bench of the apex court was hearing applications against the alleged denial of access to the members of the minority community.[75][76][77]

Pakistan Studies curriculum issues[edit]

Ancient Hindu temple ruins at Tilla Jogianm Salt Range, Pakistan.

According to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute report, "Associated with the insistence on the Ideology of Pakistan has been an essential component of hate against India and the Hindus. For the upholders of the Ideology of Pakistan, the existence of Pakistan is defined only in relation to Hindus, and hence the Hindus have to be painted as negatively as possible".[78] A 2005 report by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, a non-profit organization in Pakistan, found that Pakistan Studies textbooks in Pakistan have been used to articulate the hatred that Pakistani policy-makers have attempted to inculcate towards the Hindus. "Vituperative animosities legitimise military and autocratic rule, nurturing a siege mentality. Pakistan Studies textbooks are an active site to represent India as a hostile neighbour", the report stated. 'The story of Pakistan's past is intentionally written to be distinct from, and often in direct contrast with, interpretations of history found in India. From the government-issued textbooks, students are taught that Hindus are backward and superstitious.' Further the report stated "Textbooks reflect intentional obfuscation."[79][80][81][82]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]