Ethnic groups in Pakistan

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The major ethnic groups of Pakistan in numerical size include: Punjabis, Pakhtuns, Sindhis, Saraikis, Muhajirs, Balochis, Hindkowans, Chitralis, Gujarati and other smaller groups. Smaller ethnic groups, such as Kashmiris, Hindkowans, Kalash, Burusho, Brahui, Khowar, Hazara, Shina, and Balti are mainly found in the northern parts of the country.

Pakistan's census does not include the registered 1.7 million Afghan refugees from neighbouring Afghanistan, who are mainly found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) areas, with small numbers in the cities of Karachi and Quetta.[1] Many of them were born inside Pakistan in the last 30 years and are counted as citizens, and most of them are ethnic Pakhtuns from southeastern Afghanistan.[2]

About 99% of languages spoken in Pakistan are of the Indo-Iranian branch (sub-branches: 75% of the Indo-Aryan branch and 20% of the Iranian branch), a branch of the Indo-European family of languages.

About 99% of the ethnic groups are part of the Indo-Iranian group. The majority of these belong to the Iranic and Indo-Aryan subgroupings of peoples. The Nuristanis constitute another subgrouping amongst the Indo-Iranian peoples but are not indigenous to Pakistan. Although the Dardic peoples and their languages are often miscategorized as another branch of Indo-Iranian peoples and linguistics, they are actually determined to be a subgrouping within Indo-Aryan; speaking individual archaic Indo-Aryan languages that are derived from proto-Indo-Aryan and not Sanskrit as in the case of most modern-day Indo-Aryan languages.

Language demographics[edit]

Following are the major languages spoken in Pakistan. The percentage of Pakistanis who are native speakers of that language is also given.

Numbers of speakers of larger languages
Language 2016estimate 1998 census Main areas spoken
1 Punjabi 80,367,360 44.17% 58,433,431 44.15% Punjab
2 Pashto 35,342,892 17% 20,408,621 15.42% Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA, Karachi and Balochistan
3 Sindhi 28,455,908 12.83% 18,661,571 14.10% Sindh
4 Saraiki 18,019,610 10.42% 13,936,594 8.53% Punjab
5 Urdu 13,120,540 7.59% 10,019,576 7.57% Karachi, Sindh
6 Balochi 6,204,540 3.59% 4,724,871 3.57% Balochistan
7 Gujarati 325,000 1.03% 315,000 1.00% Sindh
8 Others 8,089,150 3.59% 6,167,515 4.66% Gilgit Baltistan Sindh Hazaragi/ Farsi and Kashmir
- Total 172,900,000 100% 132,352,279 100% Pakistan

Major ethnic groups[edit]

Ethnic Groups by Region
Ethnic Groups in Urban Pakistan


Punjabis in Pakistan are an Indo-Aryan group of people, and can be divided into sub-clans. Punjabis speak the language called Punjabi, a northwestern Indo-Aryan language. Punjabis have many different dialects and that depends in what region of Punjab they are from. They make up 78.7 million (45%) of Pakistan's total population.


Pashtuns or Pukhtuns (sometimes Pathans), an eastern Iranic peoples are Pakistan's second largest ethnic group that are native to the land principally northwest of the Indus River but can also be found in many major cities of Pakistan. They speak Pashto (or Pashtun), an eastern Iranic language. They make up an estimated 27.7 million (15%) of Pakistan's total population.[3] The largest urban population of Pashtuns is interestingly found in the southern coastal city of Karachi with a fluctuating population estimated up to 7 million. This is then followed by Peshawar, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, and Lahore in descending order. They make up the largest ethnic group in neighboring Afghanistan, forming anywhere between 42 and 60% there. Pashtuns practice a unique code of conduct referred to as Pashtunwali and are known for their tribal structure. They are an indigenous group from the land south of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan and west of the Indus River in Pakistan.


Sindhis are multi-clan groups of people principally inhabiting the province of Sindh, Pakistan from where the river Indus (in ancient times revered to as Sindhus) runs and subsequently, from which they derive the name Sindh from. Despite being a northwestern Indo-Aryan people, both culturally and genetically, Sindhis are heavily influenced by the adjacent Balochs in Pakistan. Sindhis can also be found in the southern part of Punjab, and there is significant Punjabi influence in the Sindhi population. Sindhis played an influential role in the development of Pakistan, by joining government services specifically in Sindh, however a large number of Sindhis clung to agricultural fields, land owning, politics and establishment. The prominent personalities of Pakistan that hail from Sindh are Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pir Sahib Pagara, Benazir Bhutto, Muhammad Khan Junejo, Asif Ali Zardari.


Muhajirs are a multi-ethnic group of primarily Indo-Aryan peoples.[4] They are also called "Urdu Speaking". Muhajirs is a collective ethnic group, which emerged by the migration of Indian Muslims from various parts of India to Pakistan starting in 1947, as a result of world's largest mass migration.[5][6] Majority of Muhajirs are settled in Urban areas of Sindh mainly in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sindh, Sukkur and Mirpur Khas. But there are other parts of Pakistan, including cities like Lahore, Multan, Islamabad, Peshawar where muhajirs have sizable community. Muhajirs held official offices during the early years of Pakistani nation-building. Most of the politicians of India who took part in the Pakistan movement were Muhajir.


The Baloch as an ethnic group are principally found in the east of Baluchistan province of Pakistan.[7] Despite living south towards the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian sea for centuries, they are classified as a northwestern Iranic people in accordance to their language which belongs to the northwestern subgroup of Iranic languages.[8] They have also settled in the adjacent provinces of Sindh and Punjab where their historical chief Mir Chakar Khan Rind lies buried in Satghara, Okara District in Central Punjab. The Baloch also inhabit the Iranian Baluchistan as a small ethnic minority and have settled in other areas of the Middle East, notably in Oman, Yemen, and the UAE. These Arabised Baloches are mostly descendants of the Baloches who were sold as slaves and were forced to migrate as labourers during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries A.D.. With the abolition of slavery, they are now free citizens of the countries they have "settled" in. The Arabised Baloches, are now believed to represent almost 30% of the local population of Oman.

Other major ethnic groups[edit]


Rajputs are a major ethnic group native to Punjab and Sindh. They are sometimes referred as Punjabi Rajput and Sindhi Rajput. In Punjab most of the Rajput population is found in the areas of Soon Sakesar Valley of KhushabFaisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Jhelum, Okara, Sheikhupura and Bahawalpur etc. while in Sindh most of the Rajput population is in Tharparkar, Umerkot, Larkana, Nawabshah and Sukkur. Rajputs are further divided in different tribes.


Awan are a major ethnic group native to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There are mostly called Malik in Punjab and Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Awan are basically of Arab ancestry which relates to fourth Caliph of Islam Ali(R.A) which is also the reason why Awans call themselves as Alvi, Main areas of Awan Population includes Bagh District, Jhelum, Gujrat, Kohat, Sialkot, Lahore, Rawalpindi and few areas in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.


Jatts are a major ethnic group related to Punjab and Azad Kashmir. some are also found in Sindh.


Hindkowans are believed to be the transitional group of people between Punjabis and Pashtuns. They are also known as Punjabi Pathans/Pathans of Punjab. Their traditional homeland are areas around Hazara division including Mansehra, Abbottabad, Haripur and Kohat as well.Hindko is a language which is widely understood in almost all regions of Pakistan.around 1.8 million people speak this language. This language has similarity with the Saraiki dialect as well which is spoken in Dera Isamail Khan and some parts of Sindh.


Arains are also a major ethnic group of Punjab.[citation needed] Some are also found in Sindh.


Kambohs are a major ethnic group of Punjab and sindh and form an essential group of muhajir community of Pakistan.

Minor ethnic groups[edit]

Ranghar and Meo[edit]

The Ranghar and related Meo are a mixture of different clans, they are (immigrants) from Haryana, East Punjab and Rajasthan. Most of them claim a Rajput origin. The Ranghar, though being part of the Punjabi diaspora in the undivided Punjab, speak the different dialects of East Punjab with the Punjabi accent and share common traditions, heritage and culture together with Punjabis. Ranghar Community speak Ranghari language which is itself a dialect of Haryanvi language. Meo speaks Mewati which is a dialect of Rajasthani language. They belonged to the Lahore Legislative Council in the pre-independence era and were forced to leave their homeland along with other Punjabis during the riots of East Punjab in consequence of the independence. In Areas of Pakpattan District, Okara District, Phullarwan of Sargodha District, Shujabad of Multan District and Bahawalnagar District (especially Dunga Bunga) which have the densest concentrations of Ranghar, they consist mostly of small peasants, with many serving in the army, police and Civil Services. They maintain an overarching tribal council panchayat in the Ranghari dialect, which deals with a number of issues, such as punishments for petty crime or co-operation over village projects.


The Hazara people, natives to the present day Bamyan Province, are a Persian-speaking people mostly residing in all Pakistan and specially in Quetta. Some are citizens of Pakistan while others are refugees. Genetically, the Hazara are a mixture of Turko-Mongols and Iranian-speaking peoples, and those of Middle East and Central Asia. The genetic research suggests that they are closely related to the Eurasian and the Uygurs. The Pakistani Hazaras estimated population is believed to be more than 1,550,000.[9][10]


The Pamiri peoples are a diverse group of inter-related people who are often and erroneously called Tajiks by negligence. They are speakers of many Northeast Iranian languages, which includes Wakhi, Sarikuli, Yidgha and Munji. The traditional homeland of the Pamiris is in northern Pakistan, eastern Afghanistan, eastern Tajikistan and western China (western highlands of Xinjiang). The Pakistani Pamiris are estimated to be over 1 million.[citation needed]


The Balti are an ethnic group of Tibetan descent with some Dardic admixture located in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan and Ladakh. In Pakistan they mainly live in the major urban centres of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad/Rawalpindi. The Balti language belongs to the Tibetic languages and is a sub-dialect of Ladakhi.

Shina people[edit]

The Shina are the Dardic people originating in southern Gilgit–Baltistan, Chitral and western part of Kohistan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, as well as Dras Valley and Gurais/ Kishenganga Valley region in northern Kashmir of India. They also live in some parts of Pakistani Kashmir. They speak an Indo-Aryan language, called Shina language, with varied dialects.

Burusho people[edit]

The Burusho or Brusho people live in the Hunza and Yasin valleys of Gilgit–Baltistan in northern Pakistan.[11] They are predominantly Muslims. Their language, Burushaski, has not been shown to be related to any other language.[12] The Hunzakuts or Hunza people, are an ethnically Burusho people indigenous to the Hunza Valley, in the Karakorum Mountains of northern Pakistan. They are descended from inhabitants of the former principality of Hunza. The Hunzas are predominantly Shia Muslims, with many of them Ismaili.[13]


The Chitrali people live in the northernmost part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa belong mostly to the Khow ethnic group, but there are more than ten other ethnic groups represented in Chitral. Despite their diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic backgrounds they have a strong unity and share a common culture and use Chitrali as a lingua franca. The State of Chitral used to be a Princely State of Pakistan until its complete amalgamation into Pakistan in 1969.


The Kalash or Kalasha, are a unique ethnic group of the Hindu Kush, settling in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. They speak the Kalash language, a member of the Dardic family. The culture of Kalash people is unique and differs drastically from the various ethnic groups surrounding them. They are polytheists and nature plays a highly significant and spiritual role in their daily life. As part of their religious tradition, sacrifices are offered and festivals held to give thanks for the abundant resources of their three valleys. The Kalash pantheon is the last untouched, living representative of Indo-European mythology.


The Gujarati people or Godhra, are an ethnic group settled in Sindh, mostly in the cities of Sindh: Karachi, Kotri, Tando Adam, Hyderabad, and Mirpur Khas. They speak Gujarati language. Some are permanent citizens of Pakistan. While others came from the Indian State of Gujarat at the time of partition in 1947, The Pakistani Gujaratis' estimated population is over 325,000. Their main centre in Sindh is Karachi.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UNHCR and Pakistan sign new agreement on stay of Afghan refugees". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. March 13, 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  2. ^ Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. page 27 (Security Concern about home link
  3. ^ Livingston, Ian S. and Michael O'Hanlon (March 30, 2011). "Pakistan Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security". Brookings Institution.
  4. ^ "World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Pakistan". UNHCR. Retrieved 2016-04-01. 
  5. ^ "Rupture in South Asia" (PDF). UNHCR. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  6. ^ Dr Crispin Bates (2011-03-03). "The Hidden Story of Partition and its Legacies". BBC. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  7. ^ Blood, Peter, ed. "Baloch". Pakistan: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995.
  8. ^ "Balochi and the Concept of North-Western Iranian" (PDF). Agnes Korn. 
  9. ^ Diplomat, Malik Ayub Sumbal , The. "The Plight of the Hazaras in Pakistan". Retrieved 25 June 2016. 
  10. ^ "Who are the Hazara? - The Express Tribune". 5 October 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2016. 
  11. ^ "Jammu and Kashmir Burushaski : Language, Language Contact, and Change" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  12. ^ "Burushaski language". Encyclopædia Britannica online. 
  13. ^ Ghoash, Palash (1 February 2014). "Hunza: A Paradise Of High Literacy And Gender Equality In A Remote Corner Of Pakistan". International Business Times. Retrieved 31 July 2016.