Ethnic groups in Pakistan

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The major ethnic groups of Pakistan in numerical size include: Punjabis, Pashtuns, Sindhis, Siddis, Saraikis, Muhajirs, Balochis, Hindkowans, Chitralis, Gujarati and other smaller groups. Smaller ethnic groups, such as Kashmiris, Kalash, Burusho, Brahui, Khowar, Hazara, Shina, Kalyu 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.[citation needed]

About 99% of the ethnic groups are part of the Indo-Iranian group.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]


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.[citation needed] They are an indigenous group from the land south of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan and west of the Indus River in Pakistan.[citation needed]


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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]


Muhajirs 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.[4][5] 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 Urdu speakers.


The Baloch as an ethnic group are principally found in the east of Balochistan province of Pakistan.[6] 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.[7] 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. The Arabised Baloches, are now believed to represent almost 30% of the local population of Oman.[citation needed] 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,[8][9][10] or alternatively, from about 1300[11] to about 1850.[12][13][14] 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 inhabitable during the winter so the Baloch people migrated in waves and settled in Sindh and Punjab.[15]


Kashmiri are ethnic group native to the Kashmir Valley and Azad Kashmir(Majority of people living in Azad Kashmir are not real kashmiris). The majority of Kashmiri Muslims are Sunni.[16] They refer to themselves as "Kashur" in their mother language. Kashmiri Muslims are descended from Kashmiri Hindus and are also known as 'Sheikhs'.[17][18][19][20] Presently, the Kashmiri Muslim population is predominantly found in Kashmir Valley. Smaller Kashmiri communities also live in other regions of the Jammu and Kashmir state. One significant population of Kashmiris is in the Chenab valley region, which comprises the Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar districts of Jammu. There are also ethnic Kashmiri populations inhabiting Neelam Valley and Leepa Valley of Azad Kashmir. Since 1947, many ethnic Kashmiri Muslims also live in Pakistan.[21] Many ethnic Kashmiri Muslims from the Kashmir Valley also migrated to the Punjab region during Dogra and Sikh rule and they also adopted the Punjabi language. Castes of Kashmiri living in Punjab include Dar(Dhar), Butt(Bhat), lone, Mir, Khuwaja, Wain(Wani), Sheikh, Chisthi etc people belonging to other castes like jutt, Khan, Malik, rathore, Shah etc are not considered Kashmiris whether they are born in Kashmir or not because they don't belong to the ethnic group of real kashmiris. Kashmiri language, or Kashur, belongs to the Dardic group and is the most widely spoken dardic language.[22][23]

Srinagar Khanqah - one of the oldest masjid in Kashmir.


The Brahui or Brahvi people are a Pakistani ethnic group of about 2.2 million people with the vast majority found in Baluchistan, Pakistan. They are a small minority group in Afghanistan, where they are native, but they are also found through their diaspora in Middle Eastern states.[24] 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.[25][26] The Brahuis are almost entirely Sunni Muslims.[27]


The Saraikis also known as Multanis,[28] are an ethnolinguistic group in central and southeastern Pakistan, primarily southern Punjab. Their language is Saraiki.[29]

Minor ethnic groups[edit]


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.[30][31]

Burusho people[edit]

The Burusho or Brusho people live in the Hunza and Yasin valleys of Gilgit–Baltistan in northern Pakistan.[32] They are predominantly Muslims. Their language, Burushki, has not been shown to be related to any other language.[33] 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.[34]

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 Archived July 14, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.". Brookings Institution.
  4. ^ "Rupture in South Asia" (PDF). UNHCR. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  5. ^ Dr Crispin Bates (2011-03-03). "The Hidden Story of Partition and its Legacies". BBC. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  6. ^ Blood, Peter, ed. "Baloch". Pakistan: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995.
  7. ^ "Balochi and the Concept of North-Western Iranian" (PDF). Agnes Korn. 
  8. ^ Mann, Michael (2003). "Little Ice Age". In Michael C MacCracken and John S Perry. 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. 
  9. ^ 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).
  10. ^ "Earth observatory Glossary L-N". NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Green Belt MD: NASA. Retrieved 17 July 2015 .
  11. ^ 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).
  12. ^ Grove, J.M., Little Ice Ages: Ancient and Modern, Routledge, London (2 volumes) 2004.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "1.4.3 Solar Variability and the Total Solar Irradiance - AR4 WGI Chapter 1: Historical Overview of Climate Change Science". Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  15. ^ From Zardaris to Makranis: How the Baloch came to Sindh
  16. ^ Snedden, Christopher (2015). Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris. Oxford University Press. p. 7. ISBN 9781849046220. As in Pakistan, Sunni Muslims comprise the majority population of Kashmir, whereas they are a minority in Jammu, while almost all Muslims in Ladakh are Shias. 
  17. ^ Census of India, 1941. Volume XXII. p. 9. Retrieved 30 December 2016. The Muslims living in the southern part of the Kashmir Province are of the same stock as the Kashmiri Pandit community and are usually designated Kashmiri Muslims; those of the Muzaffarabad Distnct are partly Kashmiri Muslims, partly Gujjar and the rest are of the same stock as the tribes of the neighbouring Punjab and North \Vest Frontier Province districts. 
  18. ^ Kashmiri Pandits: Looking to the Future. APH Publishing. 2001. ISBN 9788176482363. The Kashmiri Pandits are the precursors of Kashmiri Muslims who now form a majority in the valley of Kashmir...Whereas Kashmiri Pandits are of the same ethnic stock as the Kashmiri Muslims, both sharing their habitat, language, dress, food and other habits, Kashmiri Pandits form a constituent part of the Hindu society of India on the religious plane. 
  19. ^ Bhasin, M.K.; Nag, Shampa (2002). "A Demographic Profile of the People of Jammu and Kashmir" (PDF). Journal of Human Ecology. Kamla-Raj Enterprises: 15. Retrieved 1 January 2017. Thus the two population groups, Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims though at the time constituted ethnically homogenous population, came to differ from each other in faith and customs. 
  20. ^ Bhasin, M.K.; Nag, Shampa (2002). "A Demographic Profile of the People of Jammu and Kashmir" (PDF). Journal of Human Ecology: 16. Retrieved 1 January 2017. The Sheikhs are considered to be the descendants of Hindus and the pure Kashmiri Muslims, professing Sunni faith, the major part of the population of Srinagar district and the Kashmir state. 
  21. ^ Snedden, Christopher (2015). Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9781849046220. Small numbers of ethnic Kashmiris also live in other parts of J&K. There are Kashmiris who live in areas that border the Kashmir Valley, including Kishtwar (Kishtawar), Bhadarwah, Doda and Ramban, in Jammu in Indian J&K, and in the Neelum and Leepa Valleys of northern Azad Kashmir. Since 1947, many ethnic Kashmiris and their descendants also can be found in Pakistan. Invariably, Kashmiris in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan are Muslims. 
  22. ^ "Introduction". 
  23. ^ "Introduction". 
  24. ^ James B. Minahan. "Brahuis". Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21 November 2015. 
  25. ^ Shah, Mahmood Ali (1992), Sardari, jirga & local government systems in Balochistan, Qasim Printers, pp. 6–7 
  26. ^ 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 
  27. ^ Dictionary of Languages: The Definitive Reference to More Than 400 Languages. Columbia University Press. 2004-03-01. ISBN 9780231115698. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  28. ^ Bhatia, Tej K.; Ritchie, William C. (2008-04-15). The Handbook of Bilingualism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 803. ISBN 9780470756744. 
  29. ^ Minahan, James. Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 283. ISBN 9781598846591. 
  30. ^ Malik Ayub Sumbal. "The Plight of the Hazaras in Pakistan". The Diplomat. Retrieved 25 June 2016. 
  31. ^ "Who are the Hazara?". The Express Tribune. 5 October 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2016. 
  32. ^ "Jammu and Kashmir Burushaski : Language, Language Contact, and Change" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  33. ^ "Burushaski language". Encyclopædia Britannica online. 
  34. ^ 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.