Minorities in Pakistan

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Pakistan is a diverse society with various ethnic and religious minorities. According to Western religious freedom and human rights monitoring groups, religious minorities face severe discrimination in Pakistan.[1][2][3] According to Farahnaz Ispahani, media advisor to the president of Pakistan from 2008 to 2012, the population of Pakistan's religious minorities has declined from 23% in 1947 to around 3-4% of the population today, primarily due to emigration.[4]

Religious minorities[edit]


According to the Government of Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), in 2012, the population of registered religious minorities in Pakistan was as follows:[5]

  • Hindus: 1,414,527
  • Christians: 1,270,051
  • Ahmedis: 125,681
  • Baha'is: 33,734
  • Sikhs: 6,146
  • Parsis: 4,020
  • Buddhists: 1,492
  • Others: 66,898

According to the most recent (1998) census conducted by the Government of Pakistan, Hindus make up 1.20% of the population and Christians (Protestant and Roman Catholic) 1.9%, or around 2.3 million people.[6] Other estimates put the numbers higher. Historically, there was also a small contingent of Jews in Pakistan who emigrated to Israel in 1948.

The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2002 estimates the Shi'a population between 10-12%,[7] among which around 900,000 are Ismailis which is a sect of Shi'i Muslims and who pay tribute to their living spiritual leader, the Aga Khan. It also lists Christians at 2.09 million; Ahmadis at 286,000, Hindus at 1.03 million; Parsis, Buddhists, and Sikhs at 20,000 each; and Baha'is at 30,000.

In a 2011 book, Ishtiaq Ahmed wrote that "Some independent studies, however, suggest that the non-Muslims population of Pakistan is nearly 10 per cent and Hindus, Christians and Ahmadis make up four million each. It is generally noted that while majorities play down minority figures, the minorities inflate them. This is especially true of the Ahmadiyya community. Official statistics return less than half a million for them while the Ahmadis claim to be around ten million."[8]

Discrimination and violence[edit]

According to the 2012 United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) annual report, "The government of Pakistan continues to engage in and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief."[1][9] The USCIRF has designated Pakistan as "country of particular concern" since 2002.[1][10] The report argues that "The country’s blasphemy laws, used predominantly in Punjab but also nationwide, target members of religious minority communities and dissenting Muslims and this frequently results in imprisonment. The USCIRF is aware of at least 16 individuals on death row and 20 more serving life sentences. The blasphemy law, along with anti-Ahmadi laws that effectively criminalise various practices of their faith, has created a climate of vigilante violence. Hindus have suffered from the climate of violence and hundreds have fled Pakistan for India."[11]

A BBC FAQ notes that "Beginning in 1980, a slew of clauses was added to the chapter of religious offences in the Pakistan Penal Code. These clauses can be grouped into two categories - the anti-Ahmadi laws and the blasphemy laws." The BBC notes that three is widespread popular support for these laws in Pakistan, and that two prominent critics of these laws, Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, have been assassinated in 2011. Regarding the blasphemy laws, the BBC observes that: "Hundreds of Christians are among the accused - at least 12 of them were given the death sentence for blaspheming against the Prophet."[12]

The Human Rights Watch noted that the condition of religious minorities deteriorated sharply in 2012, with the government unwilling or unable to provide protection against attacks by extremists or to reign in abuses committed by its own security forces.[3][13] Mass anti-Christian violence recently occurred in the 2009 Gojra riots and in the 2013 Joseph Colony riot and the 2013 Gujranwala riot.[14] Recent anti-Shia violence includes the February 2012 Kohistan Shia Massacre, the August 2012 Mansehra Shia Massacre[15] and the particularly deadly January 2013[16] and February 2013 Quetta bombings.[17] The Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan was targeted in the similarly deadly May 2010 attacks on Ahmadi mosques in Lahore; the New York Times noted on that occasion that "Minority sects like the Ahmadis and the Shiites and have come under increasing pressure as religious extremism has taken hold, fomented by sectarian groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, formerly state-sponsored organizations."[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Sen, Ashish Kumar (30 April 2013). "Pakistan tops worst list for religious freedom". The Washington Times. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  2. ^ "US report speaks of 'crisis for minorities'". Dawn. AFP. 2 May 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2013. A US government-appointed panel urged Washington on Tuesday to step up pressure on Pakistan over religious freedom, alleging that risks to its minorities have reached a crisis level. 
  3. ^ a b "Security forces allowing extremists to attack minorities: HRW". Dawn. 2 Feb 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2013. “The Human Rights Watch has accused the government of having failed to act against abuses committed by security and intelligence agencies which are letting extremist groups to attack religious minorities....Pakistan’s human rights crisis worsened markedly in 2012 with religious minorities bearing the brunt of killings and repression,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan Director of Human Rights Watch. 
  4. ^ http://www.livemint.com/Politics/F4r3Tmf51k8Sm6DGjPRaEN/Slow-genocide-of-minorities-in-Pakistan-Farahnaz-Ispahani.html
  5. ^ http://tribune.com.pk/story/430059/over-35000-buddhists-bahais-call-pakistan-home/
  6. ^ http://www.statpak.gov.pk/depts/pco/statistics/other_tables/pop_by_religion.pdf
  7. ^ http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2002/14026.htm
  8. ^ Ishtiaq Ahmed (2011). The Politics of Religion in South and Southeast Asia. Taylor & Francis. p. 82. ISBN 978-1-136-72703-0. 
  9. ^ http://www.osce.org/odihr/94875
  10. ^ http://www.uscirf.gov/countries/tier1-countries-of-particular-concern.html
  11. ^ Amina Jilani, May 10, 2013, "Of particular concern", The Express Tribune, tribune.com.pk/story/546987/of-particular-concern/
  12. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12621225 Q&A: Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws
  13. ^ https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/02/01/pakistan-abuses-impunity-erode-rights
  14. ^ Sonya Rehman (April 5, 2013) Joseph Colony: Attacked and Unprotected, The Diplomat thediplomat.com/the-pulse/2013/04/05/joseph-colony-christian-community-in-lahore-attacked-and-unprotected/2/?all=true
  15. ^ Pakistan Shias killed in Gilgit sectarian attack www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19280339
  16. ^ Formidable power of Pakistan's anti-Shia militants www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20983153
  17. ^ http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/01/10/pakistan-bomb-billiards-hall/1823409/
  18. ^ Attackers Hit Mosques of Islamic Sect in Pakistan http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/29/world/asia/29pstan.html?_r=0

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