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People, Languages & Religions in Pakistan


The majority of the population is Punjabi (an estimated two thirds). Other major ethnic groups include the Sindhi, Pathan, Baloch and Muhajirs (immigrants from India and their descendants). The Rajputs and the Jats are the most numerous of the Punjabi castes. In the area of the delta and the lower course of the Indus River are Sindhi peasant tribesmen. In the north and northwest are the hardy, warlike nomadic and semi-nomadic Pathans. The Balochi live in the vast western section of Pakistan and are divided into 12 major tribes, some of them purportedly of Dravidian origin. Native speakers of Urdu, the Muhajirs are refugees, or descendants of refugees, from pre-partition India. They are well represented in the cities.


Pakistan is a multilingual country with more than sixty languages being spoken. English is the official language of Pakistan and used in official business, government, and legal contracts, while Urdu is the national language.

Punjabi is the provincial language of Punjab. Pashto is the provincial language of NWFP. Sindhi is the provincial language of Sindh and Balochi is the provincial language of Balochistan.

Other languages include Aer, Badeshi, Bagri, Balti, Bateri, Bhaya, Brahui, Burushaski, Chilisso, Dameli, Dehwari, Dhatki, Domaaki, Farsi (Dari), Gawar-Bati, Ghera, Goaria, Gowro, Gujarati, Gujari, Gurgula, Hazaragi, Hindko (two varieties), Jadgali, Jandavra, Kabutra, Kachchi (Kutchi), Kalami, Kalasha, Kalkoti, Kamviri, Kashmiri, Kati, Khetrani, Khowar, Indus Kohistani, Koli (three varieties), Lasi, Loarki, Marwari, Memoni, Od, Ormuri, Pahari-Potwari, Pakistan Sign Language, Palula (Phalura), Sansi, Savi, Shina (two varieties), Torwali, Ushojo, Vaghri, Wakhi, Waneci, and Yidgha. Some of these are endangered languages with a relatively small number of speakers and others have hundreds of thousands of speakers.

Most of the languages belong to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. The exceptions are Burushaski, which is a language isolate; Balti, which is Sino-TIbetan; and Brahui, which is Dravidian.


The country of Pakistan was essentially created as a Muslim homeland. Islam is the state religion and actions or speech contrary or derogatory to Islam are illegal. According to a 1998 census, some 98% of the population was Muslim, giving Pakistan one of the largest Islamic communities in the world. While most Muslims are of the Sunni and Shi'ite sects, there are a few members of the Isma'ili sect concentrated at Karachi. Ahmadis, who consider themselves Muslims but are not accepted as orthodox by other Muslim groups and were officially declared non-Muslims by the government in 1974, numbered perhaps 2,500,000 by 1985.

In the 1998 census, about 2% of the population were Christians with the largest group belong to the Church of Pakistan, an umbrella Protestant organisation. Roman Catholics are the next largest group of Christians. About 2% of the population are Hindus with about 2,000 temples and shrines, mostly in Sindh and Baluchistan. About 5,000 Parsis, believers in Zoroastrianism, live in Karachi.





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