Ethnic groups in Pakistan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The major ethnolinguistic groups of Pakistan include Punjabis, Pashtuns, Sindhis, Saraikis, Muhajirs, Balochs, Hindkowans, Pothoharis/Paharis[a] and Brahuis,[1][note 1] with significant numbers of Kashmiris, Chitralis, Shina, Baltis, Kohistanis, Torwalis, Hazaras, Burusho, Wakhis, Kalash, Siddis and other various minorities.[3][4]

Pakistan's census does not include the 1.4 million citizens of Afghanistan who are temporarily residing in Pakistan.[5][6][7] Majority of them were born in Pakistan within the last four decades and are ethnically Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and others.[8]

Dominant Ethnolinguistic Group in each Pakistani District as of the 2017 Pakistan Census

Ethnic groups in Pakistan (World Factbook)[9]

  Punjabis (44.7%)
  Pashtuns (15.4%)
  Sindhis (14.1%)
  Saraikis (8.4%)
  Muhajirs (7.6%)
  Balochis (3.6%)
  Others (6.3%)

Major ethnic groups[edit]


Punjabis are an Indo-Aryan ethnolinguistic group associated with the Punjab region in South Asia. They are the largest ethnic group of Pakistan.

Traditionally, Punjabi identity is primarily linguistic, geographical and cultural. Its identity is independent of historical origin or religion and refers to those who reside in the Punjab region or associate with its population and those who consider the Punjabi language their mother tongue.[10][11] Integration and assimilation are important parts of Punjabi culture, since Punjabi identity is not based solely on tribal connections.[12] Notable Pakistani Punjabis include Nobel laureate Abdus Salam, cricketer Wasim Akram and singer and actor Ali Zafar.


Pashtuns are an Iranic ethnolinguistic group and are Pakistan's second largest ethnicity. They speak Pashto as their first language and are divided into multiple tribes such as Afridi, Yousafzai and Khattak, which are notably the main Pashtun tribes in Pakistan. They make up an estimated 32 million of Pakistan's total population[9] and are mostly adherent to Sunni Islam. Notable Pashtuns include former president Ayub Khan, incumbent prime minister Imran Khan, cricketers Shahid Afridi and Shaheen Afridi, actor Fawad Khan and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai.


The Sindhis are an Indo-Aryan ethnolinguistic group who speak the Sindhi language and are native to the Sindh province of Pakistan. Sindhis are predominantly Muslim, but have a minority Hindu population, making up the largest Hindu minority population in Pakistan.[13] Sindhi Muslim culture is highly influenced by Sufi doctrines and principles and some of the popular cultural icons of Sindh are Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Jhulelal and Sachal Sarmast.[14]


The Saraikis are an Indo-Aryan ethnolinguistic group inhabiting parts of central and southeastern Pakistan, primarily in the southern part of the Pakistani province of Punjab.[15] They are mainly found in Derajat, a cultural region of central Pakistan, located in the region where the provinces of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan meet.[16][17][18] Derajat is bound by the Indus River and the Sulaiman Mountains to the west.


Muhajirs (meaning "migrants"), also called "Urdu-speaking people" are a collective multiethnic group who emerged through the migration of Indian Muslims from various parts of India to Pakistan starting in 1947, as a result of the world's largest mass migration.[19][20] The majority of Muhajirs are settled in Sindh mainly in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Mirpur Khas. Sizable communities of Muhajirs are also present in cities including Lahore, Multan, Islamabad, and Peshawar. Muhajirs held a dominating position during the early nation building years of Pakistan. The term Muhajir is also used for descendants of Muslims who migrated to Pakistan after the 1947 partition of India.[21][22][23]


The Baloch are an Iranic ethnolinguistic group, and are principally found in the south of Balochistan province of Pakistan.[24] Despite living in the southeastern side towards the Indian subcontinent for centuries, they are classified as a northwestern Iranian people in accordance to their language which belongs to the northwestern subgroup of Iranian languages.[25]

According to Dr. Akhtar Baloch, Professor at University of Karachi, the Balochis migrated from Balochistan during the Little Ice Age and settled in Sindh and Punjab. The Little Ice Age is conventionally defined as a period extending from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries[26][27][28] or alternatively, from about 1300[29] to about 1850[30][31][32], although climatologists and historians working with local records no longer expect to agree on either the start or end dates of this period, which varied according to local conditions. According to Professor Baloch, the climate of Balochistan was very cold and the region was uninhabitable during the winter so the Baloch people migrated in waves and settled in Sindh and Punjab.[33]


Hindkowans, also known as the Hindki, are an Indo-Aryan linguistic-cultural group,[34][35] primarily native to the Hazara, Pothohar and Azad Kashmir regions of Pakistan.[36] Hindkowans speak various Hindko dialects of Lahnda (Western Punjabi).

Hindkowans are mainly found in the Pakistani cities of Peshawar, Nowshera, Swabi, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Haripur and Attock.[37] Prior to the formation of Pakistan, these areas were dominated by Hindko speakers.[35] Those who reside in urban centers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan such as Peshawar, Kohat, Nowshera and Swabi are alternatively termed as "Kharian/Kharay" or city-dweller. Other Hindko-speakers, including members of the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faiths, reside in Afghanistan and are known as Hindki.[38][39]


The Brahui, Brahvi or Brohi, are an ethnic group principally found in Balochistan, Pakistan. They speak the Brahui language, which belongs to the Dravidian language family, although ethnically they tend to identify as Baloch.[40][41]

They are a small minority group in Afghanistan, where they are native, but they are also found through their diaspora in Middle Eastern states.[42] They mainly occupy the area in Balochistan from Bolan Pass through the Bolan Hills to Ras Muari (Cape Monze) on the Arabian sea, separating the Baloch people living to the east and west.[43][44] The Brahuis are almost entirely Sunni Muslims.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Major ethnolonguistic group in Azad Kashmir. Lack of exact numbers of the ethnic population due to the language not being represented in the previous censuses. Upcoming 2022 Census of Pakistan will include Pahari-Pothwari as an option. Baart (2003, p. 10) provides an estimate of 3.8 million, presumably for the population in Pakistan alone. Lothers & Lothers (2010, p. 9) estimate the Pakistani population at well over 2.5 million and the UK diaspora at over 0.5 million. The population in India is reported in Ethnologue (2017) to be about 1 million as of 2000.
  1. ^ Ethnolinguistic groups with a population of more than a million each.[2]


  1. ^ "Pakistan", The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency
  2. ^ "POPULATION BY MOTHER TONGUE, SEX AND RURAL/ URBAN" (PDF). Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
  3. ^ Qadeer, Mohammad (2006-11-22). Pakistan - Social and Cultural Transformations in a Muslim Nation. Routledge. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-134-18617-4.
  4. ^ Ali, Shaheen Sardar; Rehman, Javaid (2013-02-01). Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Minorities of Pakistan: Constitutional and Legal Perspectives. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-77868-1.
  5. ^ Onward Movements of Afghan Refugees (PDF), UNHCR, March–April 2021, retrieved 2021-08-20
  6. ^ "Government delivered first new Proof of Registration smartcards to Afghan refugees". May 25, 2021. Retrieved 2021-07-30.
  7. ^ "Registered Afghan Refugees in Pakistan". UNHCR. December 31, 2020. Retrieved 2021-07-30.
  8. ^ "Voluntary Repatriation Update" (PDF). Pakistan: UNHCR. November 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-02-20. Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  9. ^ a b The World Factbook
  10. ^ Thandi, edited by Pritam Singh, Shinder Singh (1999). Punjabi identity in a global context. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-564864-5. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  11. ^ Qadeer, Mohammad (2006-11-22). Pakistan - Social and Cultural Transformations in a Muslim Nation. Routledge. pp. 70–72. ISBN 978-1-134-18617-4.
  12. ^ Singh, Prtiam (2012). "Globalisation and Punjabi Identity: Resistance, Relocation and Reinvention (Yet Again!)" (PDF). Journal of Punjab Studies. 19 (2): 153–72. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 January 2016. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  13. ^ Archived May 19, 2017, at (Error: unknown archive URL)".
  14. ^ "CIA Factbook Pakistan".
  15. ^ Minahan, James (2012). Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 283-284. ISBN 9781598846591.
  16. ^ "About Punjab: Geography". Tourism Development Corporation, Government of the Punjab. Archived from the original on 2007-12-02. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
  17. ^ "People & Culture". Government of the North-West Frontier Province. Archived from the original on 2007-11-17. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
  18. ^ Qadeer, Mohammad (2006-11-22). Pakistan - Social and Cultural Transformations in a Muslim Nation. Routledge. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-134-18617-4. Punjab's diversity of dialects, Saraiki and Pothohari contrasting with the heartland Punjabi, was striking at the time of independence. Since then, the increased mobility of the population and the absorption of refugees from India have stimulated homogenizing tendencies both linguistically and ethnically. NWFP, although symbolically a Pashtoon is also a province of many ethnicities and languages, for example, Hindku-speaking people inhabit the Peshawar Valley and Hazara district, and Saraiki speakers are found in the Derajats.
  19. ^ "Rupture in South Asia" (PDF). UNHCR. Retrieved 2014-08-16.
  20. ^ Dr Crispin Bates (2011-03-03). "The Hidden Story of Partition and its Legacies". BBC. Retrieved 2014-08-16.
  21. ^ Nazir, P., 1993. Social structure, ideology and language: caste among Muslims. Economic and Political Weekly, pp. 2897-2900.
  22. ^ "Muhajirs in historical perspective". The Nation. 2014-11-07. Retrieved 2018-10-28.
  23. ^ Paracha, Nadeem F. (2014-04-20). "The evolution of Mohajir politics and identity". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2018-10-28.
  24. ^ Blood, Peter, ed. "Baloch". Pakistan: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995.
  25. ^ "Balochi and the Concept of North-Western Iranian" (PDF). Agnes Korn. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2016-08-23.
  26. ^ Mann, Michael (2003). "Little Ice Age". In Michael C MacCracken and John S Perry (ed.). Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change, Volume 1, The Earth System: Physical and Chemical Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (PDF). John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  27. ^ Lamb, HH (1972). "The cold Little Ice Age climate of about 1550 to 1800". Climate: present, past and future. London: Methuen. p. 107. ISBN 0-416-11530-6. (noted in Grove 2004:4).
  28. ^ "Earth observatory Glossary L-N". NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Green Belt MD: NASA. Retrieved 17 July 2015. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help).
  29. ^ Miller et al. 2012. "Abrupt onset of the Little Ice Age triggered by volcanism and sustained by sea-ice/ocean feedbacks" Geophysical Research Letters 39, 31 January: abstract (formerly on AGU website) (accessed via wayback machine 11 July 2015); see press release on AGU website (accessed 11 July 2015).
  30. ^ Grove, J.M., Little Ice Ages: Ancient and Modern, Routledge, London (2 volumes) 2004.
  31. ^ Matthews, J.A. and Briffa, K.R., "The 'Little Ice Age': re-evaluation of an evolving concept", Geogr. Ann., 87, A (1), pp. 17–36 (2005). Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  32. ^ "1.4.3 Solar Variability and the Total Solar Irradiance - AR4 WGI Chapter 1: Historical Overview of Climate Change Science". Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  33. ^ From Zardaris to Makranis: How the Baloch came to Sindh
  34. ^ West, Barbara A. (2010). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. Infobase Publishing. p. 285. ISBN 9781438119137. The term Hindko as used in Pakistan refers to speakers of Indo-Aryan languages who live among the primarily Iranian Pashtuns of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). The origins of the term refer merely to "Indian speaking" rather than to any particular ethnic group. Nonetheless there are people in the region who claim Hindko identity and who trace their heritage back nearly 2,000 years to the inhabitants of the ancient city of Gandhara.
  35. ^ a b The rise and development of Urdu and the importance of regional languages in Pakistan. Christian Study Centre. p. 38. Shackle suggests Hindko simply means "Indian language' and describes it as a "collective label for the variety of Indo-Aryan dialects either alongside or in vicinity of Pushto in the northwest of the country'. Hindko is the most significant linguistic minority in the NWFP, represented in nearly one-fifth (18.7%) of the province's total households. ... The Influence of Pushto on Hazara appears to have become more pronounced, due in part to an Influx of Pashtuns replacing the Hindko-speaking Sikhs and Hindus who formerly held key trading positions and who departed at independence.
  36. ^ West, Barbara A. (2010). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania. Infobase Publishing. p. 285. ISBN 9781438119137. The term Hindko as used in Pakistan refers to speakers of Indo-Aryan languages who live among the primarily Iranian Pashtuns of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). The origins of the term refer merely to "Indian speaking" rather than to any particular ethnic group. Nonetheless there are people in the region who claim Hindko identity and who trace their heritage back nearly 2,000 years to the inhabitants of the ancient city of Gandhara.
  37. ^ Qadeer, Mohammad A. (2006). Pakistan: Social and Cultural Transformations in a Muslim Nation. Taylor & Francis. p. 40. ISBN 978-0415375665.
  38. ^ Venkatesh, Karthik (6 July 2019). "The strange and little-known case of Hindko". Mint. Retrieved 24 September 2019. Besides Pakistan, Hindko is also spoken in Afghanistan, where it is referred to as Hindki and largely understood to be the language of its non-Muslim population, i.e. Afghan Hindus and Sikhs. This is not entirely correct, for there are Hindko-speaking Muslims in Afghanistan as well as Pashto-speaking non-Muslims.
  39. ^ Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). "Hindki". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. HINDKI, the name given to the Hindus who inhabit Afghanistan.
  40. ^ Elfenbein, Josef (2019). Seever, Sanford B. (ed.). The Dravidian Languages (2 ed.). Routledge. p. 495. ISBN 978-1138853768. The main habitat of Brahui tribesmen, as well as the main area where the Brahui language is spoken, extends continuously over a narrow north-south belt in Pakistan from north of Quetta southwards through Mastung and Kalat (including Nushki to the west) as far south as Las Bela, just inland from the Arabian sea coast.
  41. ^ Elfenbein, Josef (1989). "BRAHUI". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. IV, Fasc. 4. pp. 433–443. BRAHUI (Brāhūī, Brāhōī), the name of a tribal group living principally in Pakistani Baluchistan and of a Dravidian language spoken mainly by Brahui tribesmen.
  42. ^ James B. Minahan (30 August 2012). "Brahuis". Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia. ISBN 9781598846607. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  43. ^ Shah, Mahmood Ali (1992), Sardari, jirga & local government systems in Balochistan, Qasim Printers, pp. 6–7
  44. ^ Minahan, James B. (31 August 2016), "Brahui", Encyclopedia of Stateless Nations: Ethnic and National Groups around the World, 2nd Edition: Ethnic and National Groups around the World, ABC-CLIO, pp. 79–80, ISBN 978-1-61069-954-9
  45. ^ Dictionary of Languages: The Definitive Reference to More Than 400 Languages. Columbia University Press. 2004-03-01. ISBN 9780231115698. Retrieved 2010-09-09.