Demographics of Pakistan

Demographics of Pakistan

This article is about the demographic features of the population of Pakistan, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Demographics of Pakistan
Total population
187 million approx.
Regions with significant populations
Primarily Pakistan, Large diaspora in United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, United States, Canada, UAE, Italy, France, Norway and Spain

Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Saraiki and others


Islam 97% (Sunni majority, 5–20% Shia[1][2][3][4][5]) with Christian, Zorastrian Hindu, Sikh and Bahai minorities

Demographics of Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Population of Pakistan, 1961–2003
Population: 187,343,000 (2011 est.)
Growth rate: 1.6%[6]
Birth rate: 31 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate: 8 deaths/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Life expectancy: 63.39 years (2009 est.)
–male: 62.4 years (2009 est.)
–female: 64.44 years (2009 est.)
Fertility rate: 3.58 children born/woman (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: {{{infant_mortality}}}
Age structure:
0-14 years: 36.7% (male 33,037,943/female 31,092,572)
15-64 years: 59.1% (male 53,658,173/female 49,500,786)
65-over: 4.2% (male 3,495,350/female 3,793,734) (2009 est.)
Sex ratio:
At birth: 1.00 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Under 15: 1.06 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
65-over: 0.82 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Nationality: noun: Pakistani
Major ethnic: See Ethnic Groups of Pakistan
Official: See Languages of Pakistan
Spoken: See List of Pakistani languages by number of native speakers

Pakistan's estimated population in 2011 is over 187 million[7][8] making it the world's sixth most-populous country, behind Brazil and ahead of Bangladesh. During 1950–2011, Pakistan's urban population expanded over sevenfold, while the total population increased by over fourfold. In the past, the country's population had a relatively high growth rate that has, however, been moderated by declining fertility and birth rates. The population growth rate now stands at 1.6%.[6]

Dramatic social changes have led to rapid urbanization and the emergence of megacities. During 1990–2003, Pakistan sustained its historical lead as the second most urbanized nation in South Asia with city dwellers making up 36% of its population.[9] Furthermore, 50% of Pakistanis now reside in towns of 5,000 people or more.[10]

Pakistan has a multicultural and multi-ethnic society and hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world as well as a young population.



Geographic distribution

Population density in Pakistan.

The majority of southern Pakistan's population lives along the Indus River. Karachi is the most populous city in Pakistan. In the northern half, most of the population lives about an arc formed by the cities of Faisalabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Nowshera, Swabi, Mardan and Peshawar.

Population size and growth

Historical populations
Census Population Urban

1951 33,999,000 17.80%
1961 42,978,000 22.46%
1972 65,321,000 25.40%
1981 84,254,000 28.28%
1998 130,580,000 32.51%
  • Population: 187,342,721 (July 2011 est.)
  • Growth rate: 1.573% (2011 est.)

According to OECD/World Bank population in Pakistan increased from 1990 to 2008 with 58 million and 54 % growth in population compared to 34 % growth in India and 38 % growth in Bangladesh.[11]

UN estimates[12]

Total population Population aged 0-14 (%) Population aged 15-64 (%) Population aged 65+ (%)
1950 37 542 40.3 54.1 5.6
1955 41 109 40.3 54.8 4.9
1960 45 920 40.4 55.3 4.3
1965 51 993 41.6 54.5 3.9
1970 59 383 42.6 53.6 3.8
1975 68 483 43.2 53.1 3.7
1980 80 493 43.4 52.9 3.7
1985 95 470 43.4 52.9 3.8
1990 111 845 43.7 52.5 3.8
1995 127 347 43.3 52.9 3.8
2000 144 522 41.4 54.7 3.9
2005 158 645 38.1 57.8 4.1
2010 173 593 35.4 60.3 4.3

Gender ratios

  • Sex ratio at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
  • under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
  • 15–64 years: 1.09 male(s)/female
  • 65 years and over: 0.92 male(s)/female
  • total population: 1.07 male(s)/female (2011 est.)

Vital statistics[12]

Period Live births per year Deaths per year Natural change per year CBR* CDR* NC* TFR* IMR*
1950-1955 1 652 000 937 000 715 000 42.0 23.8 18.2 6.60 176.6
1955-1960 1 873 000 907 000 966 000 43.0 20.9 22.1 6.60 156.3
1960-1965 2 128 000 894 000 1 233 000 43.5 18.3 25.2 6.60 139.5
1965-1970 2 407 000 887 000 1 520 000 43.2 15.9 27.3 6.60 125.7
1970-1975 2 738 000 890 000 1 848 000 42.8 13.9 28.9 6.60 114.8
1975-1980 3 197 000 935 000 2 262 000 42.9 12.6 30.3 6.60 106.6
1980-1985 3 746 000 1 019 000 2 726 000 42.6 11.6 31.0 6.44 101.5
1985-1990 4 367 000 1 120 000 3 247 000 42.1 10.8 31.3 6.30 96.7
1990-1995 4 566 000 1 166 000 3 400 000 38.2 9.7 28.5 5.67 90.1
1995-2000 4 674 000 1 201 000 3 473 000 34.4 8.8 25.6 5.00 83.2
2000-2005 4 387 000 1 213 000 3 175 000 28.9 8.0 20.9 4.00 76.8
2005-2010 4 666 000 1 277 000 3 390 000 28.1 7.7 20.4 3.65 70.9

CBR = crude birth rate (per 1000); CDR = crude death rate (per 1000); NC = natural change (per 1000); IMR = infant mortality rate per 1000 births; TFR = total fertility rate (number of children per woman)

Fertility by region (2007)[13]

Region Fertility Rate
Urban 3.3
Rural 4.5
Punjab 3.9
Sindh 4.3
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 4.3
Balochistan 4.1

Fertility by level of Education (2007)[14]

Level of
Fertility Rate
None 4.8
Primary 4.0
Middle 3.2
Secondary 3.1
Higher 2.3
  • Contraceptive Prevalence (%) (2009 est.)[15]
    • Any method: 30%
    • Modern methods: 22%

Mortality and life expectancy

  • Maternal mortality ratio: 320 (2009 est.)[15]
  • Life expectancy at birth:
    • total population: 65.5 years (2007 est.)[16]
    • male: 66.5 years (2009 est.)[15]
    • female: 67.2 years (2009 est.)[15]

As adultery is a crime punishable by death in Pakistan, just in the main cities 1,210 infants were killed or abandoned to die(2010), 90% of them girls and most less than a week old according to conservative estimates by the Edhi Foundation, a charity working to reverse this increasing trend.[17]

Human development

Human Development Index

According to the 2009 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 60.3% of Pakistanis live on less than $2 a day.[6]

Province Human Development Index Comparable Country
Medium human development
Punjab 0.670  Tajikistan
Sindh 0.628  India
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 0.607  Solomon Islands
Balochistan 0.556  Ghana

Sources: Information on Pakistani regions:[7] Information on other countries:[18] All Estimated at 3 decimal points.

Region Human Development Index Comparable Country
Medium human development
Urban Sindh 0.659  Equatorial Guinea/ South Africa
Urban Punjab 0.657  Equatorial Guinea/ South Africa
Urban Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 0.627  India
Urban Balochistan 0.591  Solomon Islands
Rural Punjab 0.517  Sudan
Low human development
Rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 0.489  Zimbabwe/ Kenya
Rural Balochistan 0.486  Mauritania
Rural Sindh 0.456  Eritrea
Region Human Development Index Comparable Country
Medium human development
Urban Pakistan 0.656  Equatorial Guinea/ South Africa
Low human development
Rural Pakistan 0.496  Togo

Note: Regarding the above two tables, information on Pakistan has been taken from the PAKISTAN NATIONAL HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT 2003 and for the countries of the world, information has been take from the Human Development Report 2006 as it best reflects the time when data was taken for Pakistan. Pakistan National Human Development Report gave Pakistan an HDI score of 0.541 where as the Human Development Report 2006 gave it a score of 0.539. So this is the MOST ACCURATE comparison.



definition: aged 10 and over and can read and write

  • Total population: 60%
  • Male: 69%
  • Female: 45% (2009 est.)

Educational institutions by kind[22]

Pakistanis around the world[23]

Pakistan's yearly population

Pakistan's yearly population from 1950 to 2011.[25]

 Saudi Arabia 1,500,000
 United Kingdom 1,400,000
 United Arab Emirates 700,000  – 1,000,000
 United States 600,410[24] – 1,000,000
 Canada 350,000
 Kuwait 100,000
 Oman 85,000
 Germany 52,668
 Qatar 52,500
 France 50,000
 Norway 35,000
 Ireland 9500
Year Population Absolute Increase Percentage Increase
1950 40,382,000
1951 41,347,000 965,000 2.39
1952 42,342,000 995,000 2.41
1953 43,372,000 1,030,000 2.43
1954 44,434,000 1,062,000 2.45
1955 45,536,000 1,102,000 2.48
1956 46,680,000 1,144,000 2.51
1957 47,869,000 1,189,000 2.55
1958 49,104,000 1,235,000 2.58
1959 50,387,000 1,283,000 2.61
1960 51,719,000 1,332,000 2.64
1961 53,101,000 1,382,000 2.67
1962 54,524,000 1,423,000 2.68
1963 55,988,000 1,464,000 2.69
1964 57,495,000 1,507,000 2.69
1965 59,046,000 1,551,000 2.70
1966 60,642,000 1,596,000 2.70
1967 62,282,000 1,640,000 2.70
1968 63,970,000 1,688,000 2.71
1969 65,706,000 1,736,000 2.71
1970 67,491,000 1,785,000 2.72
1971 69,326,000 1,835,000 2.72
1972 71,121,000 1,795,000 2.59
1973 72,912,000 1,791,000 2.52
1974 74,712,000 1,800,000 2.47
1975 76,456,000 1,744,000 2.33
1976 78,153,000 1,697,000 2.22
1977 80,051,000 1,898,000 2.43
1978 82,374,000 2,323,000 2.90
1979 85,219,000 2,845,000 3.45
1980 88,097,000 2,878,000 3.38
1981 90,975,000 2,878,000 3.27
1982 94,096,000 3,121,000 3.43
1983 96,881,000 2,785,000 2.96
1984 99,354,000 2,473,000 2.55
1985 102,079,000 2,725,000 2.74
1986 105,240,000 3,161,000 3.10
1987 108,584,000 3,344,000 3.18
1988 112,021,000 3,437,000 3.17
1989 115,419,000 3,398,000 3.03
1990 118,816,000 3,397,000 2.94
1991 122,248,000 3,432,000 2.89
1992 124,962,000 2,714,000 2.22
1993 127,563,000 2,601,000 2.08
1994 130,746,000 3,183,000 2.50
1995 134,185,000 3,439,000 2.63
1996 137,911,000 3,726,000 2.78
1997 141,445,000 3,534,000 2.56
1998 144,885,000 3,440,000 2.43
1999 148,379,000 3,494,000 2.41
2000 152,429,000 4,050,000 2.73
2001 156,795,000 4,366,000 2.86
2002 160,269,000 3,474,000 2.22
2003 163,166,000 2,897,000 1.81
2004 166,224,000 3,058,000 1.87
2005 169,279,000 3,055,000 1.84
2006 172,382,000 3,103,000 1.83
2007 175,495,000 3,113,000 1.81
2008 178,479,000 2,984,000 1.70
2009 181,457,000 2,978,000 1.67
2010 184,405,000 2,948,000 1.62
2011 187,343,000 2,938,000 1.59

Foreign born population in Pakistan

The second biggest group of foreign born population consists of Muslim refugees from Afghanistan that have settled in Pakistan due to civil war in Afghanistan. The smaller groups consist of Muslim refugees from Myanmar, Iraq, Somalia, Bangladesh, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, etc.

Mostly those born pre 1947
Year Population Foreign Born Percentage Foreign Born
1960 46,259,000 6,350,296 13.73%
1970 59,565,000 5,105,556 8.57%
1980 79,297,000 5,012,524 6.32%
1990 111,698,000 6,555,782 5.87%
2000 142,648,000 4,242,689 2.97%
2005 157,935,000 3,254,112 2.06%

Source: [26]

Nationality, ethnicity and language

Ethnic groups

Major ethnic groups in Pakistan, 1973.
Biggest Group by Region

Pakistan's diversity is more visible along cultural differences and less along linguistic, religious or genetic lines. Almost all Pakistanis belong to the Indo-Iranians ancestral group. Pakistan's rough estimates vary, but the consensus is that the Punjabis are the largest ethnic group. Pashtuns make up the second largest and Sindhi are the third largest ethnic groups.[27][28][not in citation given] Saraikis, (a transitional group between Punjabis and Sindhis) make up 10.53% of the total population. The remaining large groups include the Muhajirs and the Baloch people that make up 7.57% and 3.57% of the total population, respectively. Hindkowans and the Brahui, and the various peoples of the Gilgit-Baltistan, constitute roughly 4.66% of the total population. The Pakhtun and Baloch represent two of the major populations that are linguistically Iranic, while the majority Punjabis, Hindkowans, Sindhis and Saraikis are the major linguistically Indo-Aryan groups.

Descendents of Black African that where brought as slaves in 15th to the 19th century are known as Sheedis. The Sheedis are Muslims and speak Balochi, Sindhi and Urdu.

In 1850, the British started developing Karachi as a major port for trade and commerce resulting in arrival of large number immigrants from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Goa. The Goan Catholics constitute the majority of the Christians in the city.[29]

After Pakistan-India war in 1971, thousands of Biharis and Bengalis from Bangladesh arrived in the Karachi, followed by Muslim Rohingya refugees[30] from Burma, and Asians from Uganda. According to the UNHCR and the local law enforcement, approximately 500,000 Afghan refugees live in Karachi.[31]

Ethnics groups from Afghanistan, Central Asia and Iran include Hazara, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Tajiks, Kyrgyzs, Nuristanis, Pashais, Pamiris, Brahuis, Dards, Baltis, Burushos, Uyghurs and Wakhis. Approximately 2.7 million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan, though the exact number can be higher.[32][33] They are not counted in the national census since they are considered citizens of Afghanistan. In addition, there are pockets of refugees/migrants including Iraqis, Iranians, Tajiks, Somalis, Rohingyas, and others.

All major ethnic groups in Pakistan, while categorized as separate entities, have thousands of years of shared history and inter-mingling. Thus, the genetic (as well as cultural and linguistic) differences between ethnic groups in Pakistan and those of its neighbours (Southeastern Afghanistan, North-Western India and others) are insignificant. In addition, inter-marriages between ethnic groups within Pakistan are becoming quite common.

Languages of Pakistan

Census History of Major languages
Rank Language 1998 census 1982 census 1961 census 1951 census
1 Punjabi* 44.15% 48.17% 66.39% 67.08%
4 Seraiki* 10.53% 9.54%
2 Pashto 15.42% 13.35% 8.47% 8.16%
3 Sindhi 14.1% 12.7% 12.59% 12.85%
5 Urdu 7.57% 7.60% 7.57% 7.05%
6 Balochi 3.57% 3.02% 2.49% 3.04%

{* Seraiki was included with Punjabi in the 1951 and 1961 censuses.}

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 2008 estimate 1998 census Main areas spoken
1 Punjabi 76,367,360 44.17% 58,433,431 44.15% Punjab
2 Pashto 26,692,890 15.44% 20,408,621 15.42% Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
3 Sindhi 26,410,910 15.35% 18,661,571 14.10% Sindh
4 Seraiki 18,019,610 10.42% 13,936,594 10.53% South Punjab
5 Urdu 13,120,540 7.59% 10,019,576 7.57% Karachi
6 Balochi 6,204,540 3.59% 4,724,871 3.57% Balochistan
7 Others 8,089,150 3.59% 6,167,515 4.66%
Total 172,900,000 100% 132,352,279 100% Pakistan

There are around 75 to 80 known Pakistani languages although, in practice, there are primarily six major languages in Pakistan spoken by 95% of the population: Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Saraiki, Urdu and Balochi. The official language is English and the national language is Urdu, the census indicates that around 8% of the population speak Urdu as their first language. However, due to rapid urbanization and modernization, the use of Urdu as a primary language is increasing, especially amongst the growing urbanized middle class of Pakistan. Around 44% speak Punjabi, 15.5% speak Pashto, 15.5% speak Sindhi, 10.5% Saraiki, 7.5% Urdu, 3.5% Balochi and 3.5% other languages (Hindko, Brahui etc.) as their first language. Most Pakistanis, however, speak or understand at least two to three languages and almost all Pakistanis speak or understand the national language, Urdu.

The most prevalent native languages appear in bold below, with the percentage of the population speaking them as their first language rounded to the nearest percentage point:


English is the official language, being widely used within the government, by the civil service and the officer ranks of the military. Pakistan's Constitution and laws are written in English. Nearly all schools, colleges and universities, use English as the medium of instruction. Amongst the more educated social circles of Pakistan, English is seen as the language of upward mobility and its use is becoming more prevalent in upper social circles often spoken alongside native Pakistani languages. Among countries that use English as an official language, Pakistan is the third most populous in the world.


Urdu is the national language of Pakistan, the lingua franca chosen to facilitate inter-provincial communication between the country's diverse linguistic populations. Although only about 7.5% of Pakistanis speak it as their first language, it is spoken as a second and often third language by nearly all Pakistanis. Its introduction as the lingua franca was encouraged by the British upon the capitulation and annexation of Sindh (1843) and Punjab (1849) with the subsequent ban on the use of Persian, the lingua franca of the region for the last 1,000 years, probably since the time the area was part of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. The decision to make the language change was to institute a universal language throughout the then British Raj in South Asia as well as minimize the influence of Persia, Ottoman Empire, Afghanistan and Central Asia had on this transitional region. Urdu is a relatively new language in the contemporary sense but has undergone considerable modifications and development borrowing heavily on the traditions of older languages like Persian, Arabic, Turkish and local South Asian languages all of which can be found in its vocabulary. It began as a standardized register of Hindi and in its spoken form. It is widely used, both formally and informally, for personal letters as well as public literature, in the literary sphere and in the popular media. It is a required subject of study in all primary and secondary schools. It is the first language of most Muhajirs (Muslim refugees that fled from genocide and pograms from different parts of India after independence of Pakistan in 1947) that form nearly 8% of Pakistan's population and is an acquired language. But nearly all of Pakistan's native ethnic groups representing almost 92% of the population making Pakistan a unique country in the choice of national languages. As Pakistan's national language, Urdu has been promoted as a token of national unity. In recent years, the Urdu spoken in Pakistan has undergone further evolution and acquired a particularly Pakistani flavour to it often absorbing local native terminology and adopting a strong Punjabi, Sindhi and Pashto leaning in terms of intonations and vocabulary. It is a modern language which is constantly evolving from its original form. It is written in a modified form of the Perso-Arabic script, Nastaliq, and its basic Hindi-based vocabulary has been enriched by words from Persian, Arabic, Turkic languages and English. Urdu has drawn inspiration from Persian literature and has now an enormous stock of words from that language. In recent years, the Urdu spoken in Pakistan has gradually incorporated words from many of the native languages found there including Pashto, Punjabi and Sindhi to name a few. As such the language is constantly developing and has acquired a particularly 'Pakistani' flavour to it distinguishing itself from that spoken in ancient times and in India. The first poetry in Urdu was by the Persian poet Amir Khusro (1253–1325) and the first Urdu book "Woh Majlis" was written in 1728 and the first time the word "Urdu" was used by Sirajuddin Ali Khan Arzoo in 1741.[34] The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir (1658–1707) spoke Urdu (or Hindustani) fluently as did his descendents while his ancestors mostly spoke Persian and Turkish.[35]


Punjabi is a provincial language spoken as a first language by more than 44% of Pakistanis, mostly in Punjab as well as by a large number of people in Karachi. It is an important language since Punjabi is spoken by about half of Pakistanis. However, Punjabi does not have any official status in Pakistan. The exact numbers of Punjabi speakers in Pakistan is hard to find since there are many dialects / languages, such as Saraiki, which some regard as part of Punjabi and others regard as separate language. When taking into account Hindko, Potwari, Pahari, Saraiki, Punjabi dialects are thus spoken by almost 60% of the population in Pakistan. The standard Punjabi dialects is from Lahore, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Sheikhupura districts of the Pakistani Punjab which was used by Waris Shah (1722–1798) in his famous book Heer Ranjha and is also now days the language of Punjabi literature, film and music; such as Lollywood. Other dialects are Multani or Saraiki in the West and South, Pothowari & Hindko in the North, Dogri in the mountain areas and Shahpuri in the Sargodha district.

Punjabi is descended from Prakrit in the Vedic period (1700 B.C.), Pali, Old Persian and Apabhramsha in the Ashoka period (273 B.C. – 232 B.C.) and Hindvi, Lahori and Multani in the Muslim period (711 A.D. – 1857 A.D.) Punjabi literature was principally spiritual in nature and has had a very rich oral tradition. The Great poetry written by Sufi saints has been the folklore of the Punjab and is still sung with great love in any part of Punjab.

Punjabi dialects:

  • Lahori – "The standard Punjabi language" and spoken in the heart of Punjab where most of the Punjabi population lives. The main districts are Lahore, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala and Sialkot.
  • Pothowari – The area where Pothowari is spoken extends in the north from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Mirpur) to as far south as Jhelum, Gujar Khan, Chakwal and Rawalpindi. The language in the Dhani area of Chakwal is a mix of Pothowari, Saraiki and jhangi


Sindhi is a provincial language spoken as a first language by 15.5% of Pakistanis , mostly in Sindh. It has a rich literature and is used in schools. It is an Indo-Iranian (Indo-European) language, derived from Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic languages. Sindhi absorbed many Persian words as it was lingua franca of the region for the last 2,000 years, probably since the time the area was part of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. The the Arabs ruled Sindh for more than 150 years after Muhammad bin Qasim conquered it in 712 AD, remaining there for three years to set up Arab rule. Consequently, the social fabric of Sindh contains elements of Arabic society. Sindhi is spoken by over 36 million people in Pakistan, and is the official language of Sindh province. It is widely spoken in the Lasbela District of Balochistan (where the Lasi tribe speaks a dialect of Sindhi), many areas of the Naseerabad and Jafarabad districts of Balochistan, and by the Sindhi diaspora abroad. Sindhi language has six major dialects: Sireli, Vicholi, Lari, Thari, Lasi and Kachhi. It is written in the Arabic script with several additional letters to accommodate special sounds. The largest Sindhi-speaking cities are Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Shikarpur, Dadu, Jacobabad, Larkana and Nawabshah. Sindhi literature is also spiritual in nature. Shah Abdul Latif Bhita'i (1689–1752) is one of its greatest poets, and wrote Sassi Punnun and Umar Marvi, folk stories, in his famous book "Shah Jo Risalo".

Sindhi Dialects:

  • Sindhi Siraiki- a version of siraiki regarded as a dialect of Sindhi; spoken mainly in Upper Sindh.
  • Vicholi- in Vicholo, i.e. Central Sindh
  • Lari- in Laru, i.e. Lower Sindh
  • Lasi- in Lasa B’elo, a part of Kohistan in Baluchistan on the western side of Sindh
  • Thari or Thareli- in Tharu, the desert region on the southeast border of Sindh and a part of the Jaisalmer district in Rajasthan
  • Kachhi- in the Kutch region and in a part of Kathiawar in Gujarat, on the southern side of Sindh

Vicholi is considered as the standard dialect by all Sindhi speakers.


Pashto is a provincial language spoken as a first language by 15.5% (28–30 millions) of Pakistanis, mostly in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in Balochistan as well as by immigrants to the eastern provinces who are often not counted due to census irregularities. The Pashto has rich written literary traditions as well as an oral tradition. There are two major dialect patterns within which the various individual dialects may be classified; these are Pakhto, which is the Northern (Peshawar) variety, and the softer Pashto spoken in the southern areas. Khushal Khan Khattak (1613–1689) and Rahman Baba (1633–1708) were the most famous poets in the Pashto language. In the last part of 20th century, Pakhto or Pashto has produced some great poets like Ghani Khan, Khatir Afridi and Amir Hamza Shinwari. There are also many Pakistani's from the adjacent regions of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan who are conversant in Pashto and count it as their second language. They are not included in the overall percentage. Karachi is the biggest Pashto speaking city in the world although the Pashto speakers constitute only about 20% of Karachi's population.


Saraiki is a regional language closely related to Punjabi (See Classification, below). Many argue that it is merely a regional dialect of Punjabi. It is spoken as a first language by 10.5% of Pakistanis, mostly in the southern districts of Punjab, Pakistan (see Saraikis). Dialects tend to blend into each other, with Punjabi to the east, and Sindhi to the south. Until recently it was considered to be a dialect of Punjabi. The Saraiki language has an 85% lexical similarity with Sindhi and 68% similarity with Odki and Sansi. Dialects are Derawali, Khatki, Jangli or Jatki and Riasti or Bahawalpuri. Saraiki or Multani (also Lehndi by some) differs from Punjabi more than any other dialect. Multani becomes more and more different as you move down south, as the influence of Sindhi increases, it is also known as Saraiki there. Saraiki itself is Sindhi word and means northern.


Balochi is a provincial language spoken as first language by about 3.5% of Pakistanis, mostly in Balochistan. Sindh and southern Punjab. Balochi language is very close to the Persian itself. The name Balochi or Baluchi is not found before the 10th century. It is believed that the language was brought to its present location in a series of migrations from northern Iran region of Caspian Sea. Rakshani is the major dialect group in terms of numbers. Sarhaddi, is a sub dialect of Rakshani. Other sub – dialects are Qalati, Chagai Kharani, and Makrani. The Eastern Hill Balochi or Northern Balochi are distinct dialects.The Kethran language in North East Balochistan is also a variant of Balochi.It is one of the 9 distinguished languages of Pakistan. Since Balochi is a very poetic and rich language and have a certain degree of affinity to Persian and Urdu, Balochi poets tend to be very good poets in Urdu as well and Ata Shaad, Gul Khan Nasir and Noon Meem Danish are excellent examples of this.


Brahui (Urdu: براہوی ') is a regional language of uncertain origin despite the fact that the bulk of the language shares lexical similarities to Balochi as well as Sindhi. In colonial times, many British linguists tried to make the claim of a possible Dravidian language origin but this has not been conclusively proven despite ongoing research in the language for a century now.[36] spoken in southern Pakistan, may have evolved from the original languages of Indus valley civilizations at Mehrgarh . However it is heavily influenced by Balochi and Pashto. It is spoken in central and east central Balochistan. The Mengals are a famous Brahvi tribe. Around 1–1.5% of Pakistani population has Brahui as their first language. It is one of the nine distinguished languages of Pakistan.

The Brahui population of Balochistan has been taken by some as the linguistic equivalent of a relict population, perhaps indicating that Dravidian languages were formerly much more widespread and were supplanted by the incoming Indo-Aryan languages.[37] However it has now been demonstrated that the Brahui could only have migrated to Balochistan from central India after 1000 CE. The absence of any Avestan, an older Iranian language, loanwords in Brahui supports this hypothesis. The main Iranian contributor to Brahui vocabulary, Balochi, is a western Iranian language like Kurdish, and moved to the area from the west only around 1000 CE.[38]


Hindko is an ancient regional Indo-Aryan language spoken by Hindkowans in Pakistan. It is very similar to northern dialects of Punjabi. The language is spoken in the areas of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (including Hazara), local people of Peshawar Punjab and Azad Kashmir by an estimated 2.2 to 4 million people.[citation needed] During the pre-Buddhist era in present day Pakistan, the language of the masses was refined by the ancient grammarian Pāṇini, who set the rules of a structurally rigorous language called Sanskrit which was used principally for scriptures (analogous to Latin in the Western world). Meanwhile, the vernacular language of the masses, Prakrit developed into many tongues and dialects which spread over the northern parts of South Asia. Hindko is believed to be closely related to Prakrit. Due to the geographic isolation of the regions, it has undergone very little grammatical corruption, but has borrowed considerable vocabulary from its neighbours, in particular Pashto. It shows close affinity to Punjabi and the Lahnda sub-group of Indo-Aryan tongues and can be sub-divided into a northern and southern dialects.


Kashmiri is an ancient regional Dardic language spoken in Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Punjab provinces of Pakistan. There are over 2 million Kashmiri speakers in Pakistan. Most of the Kashmiris in Punjab province and Karachi are refugees and their descendents who fled Indian invasion and occupation of Kashmir in 1948.

In 1919 George Abraham Grierson wrote that “Kashmiri is the only one of the Dardic languages that has a literature”. Kashmiri literature dates back to over 750 years, this is, more-or-less, the age of many a modern literature including modern English. Kashmiri retains several features of Old Indo-Aryan that have been lost in other Modern Indo-Aryan languages such as Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi.[39]


A sizeable proportion of Pakistanis speak Persian. Although Persian has no official status, it had been the lingua franca for a thousand years and a preferred language amongst the educated Muslim elite, and was the official and cultural language of the Mughal Empire, Afghan Empire and various Muslim princely states based in Pakistan. The Persian speaking Qizilbash tribe settled in northern regions of modern Pakistan and their numbers were further increased with the arrival of tens of thousands of Qizilbash refugees from neighboring Afghanistan when they were termed enemies of the state by the then Emir of Afghanistan for allegedly siding with the British Raj in the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839 to 1842). Persian was officially abolished from the region with the arrival of the British to the province of Sindh in 1843 and Punjab in 1849 to minimize the influence of Persia and Afghanistan on the regions that now make up Pakistan and integrate these regions with the rest of South Asia under a common Urdu language. Nevertheless Persian culture continues to influence the country to this day. It has influenced and formed the base for many of Pakistan's native languages, and has greatly influenced Urdu in more recent times. It is still spoken and understood by the educated elite as a literary and prestigious language, especially in the fields of music (Qawwali) and art. The National Anthem of Pakistan has some Persian words.

Many Persian speaking refugees, Dari and Tajiks, from Afghanistan have settled in Pakistan permanently. There are also Tajiks refugees from Tajikistan that have settled in Pakistan.


Arabic is considered to be religious language of Pakistan. The Quran, Sunnah, Hadith and Muslim theology is taught in Arabic with Urdu translation. The large numbers of Pakistanis living in the Persian Gulf region and in other Middle Eastern countries has further increased the number of people who can speak Arabic in Pakistan. Arabic is taught as a religious language in Mosques, Schools, Colleges, Universities and Madrassahs. Nearly all of Pakistan's Muslim population has had some form of education in the reading, writing and pronunciation of the Arabic language.

Many Arabs who took part in Afghanistan war have now settled in Pakistan permanently with their families. Millions of Pakistanis that have worked in Middle East also speak Arabic as a second language.


Turkic languages were used by the ruling Turco-Mongols (or Mughals) and earlier Sultans of India many of whom have settled in Pakistan. There are pockets of Turkic speakers found throughout the country, notably in the valleys in the countries northern regions which lie adjacent to Central Asia, western Pakistani region of Waziristan principally around Kanigoram where the Burki tribe dwells and in Pakistan's urban centres of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. The autobiography of Mughal emperor Babur, Tuzk Babari was also written in Turkish.

Many Turkic speaking refugees, Uzbeks and Turkmens, from Afghanistan have settled in Pakistan permanently. They are also Uzbeks and Turkmen refugees that have moved from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and settled in Pakistan. Turkey also provides scolarships to large number of Pakistani students to study in Turkish universities. President Pervez Musharraf studied in Turkey and spoke Turkish fluently.

The word Urdu is of Turkic origin, as Urdu was originally called Zaban-e-Ordu or language of the Army, Ordu means army' in Turkish.

Other Pakistani languages

Numerous other languages are spoken by relatively small numbers of people, especially in some of the more remote and isolated places in, for example, the Northern Areas of Pakistan.[40] Other Indo-European languages spoken in Pakistan include Pothohari, Shina, Gujjari, Kutchhi, Wakhi, Kashmiri, Marwari, Memoni, Khowar, and Dari Persian. Non-Indo-European languages include Brahui and Burushaski, a language isolate.

There are some languages that are spoken by less than a thousand people, such as Aer.

Arabic and Persian are also taught in schools and religious institutions.



Most of Pakistan's languages are Indo-European languages and within the smaller Indo-Iranian sub-branch.

Indo-Aryan languages

Around 80% of Pakistan's population speak one or more of the various Indo-Aryan languages. Usually concentrated in the heavily populated areas east of the Indus river, the Indo-Aryan languages and their cultures form the predominant cultural group in the country. They derive their roots from the Sanskrit language of Aryan invadors and are later heavily influenced by the languages of the later Muslim arrivals (i.e., Turkish, Persian, and Arabic), and are all written in a variant of either the Arabic or Nastaliq script. Urdu, the country's national language, is an Indo-Aryan tongue. Punjabi, Hindko and Seraiki, all mutually intelligible, are classified by linguists as dialects of an Indo-Aryan speech called Lahnda,[41] also spelled as Lehnda. These are also, to a lesser extent, mutually intelligible with Urdu. Added together, speakers of these mutually-intelligible languages make up nearly two-thirds of Pakistan's population. Sindhi is the common language of the people of Sindh in southern Pakistan and has a rich literary history of its own, traced back to the era of the early Arab arrivals. The Dardic languages of Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and the northwestern mountains are sometimes classified by many linguists as belonging to the Indo-Aryan family. Other Indo-Aryan languages include Gujarati, Kutchi, Memoni and others.

Dardic languages

The Dardic languages are spoken in the northern Pakistan. They include Shina (spoken in Gilgit, Chilas and Diamar) , Khowar (spoken in Chitral, Ghizer and the Kalam Valley of upper Swat), Kalasha (spoken by Kalash tribe) , Kohistani (spoken in upper Swat and Kohistan) and Kashmiri mostly by Immigrants from Kashmir valley and by a few in the Neelum District.

Kashmiri spoken in north east Azad Kashmir and the adjacent Kashmir valley, (not to be confused with Pahari language spoken in the lower Azad Kashmir) is one of the Dardic languages that has a literary tradition that goes well back into the history where as other Dardic languages spoken in northern Pakistan, do not have written literature. It is believed to be the result of the northern areas of Pakistan having remained isolated in the mountain valleys from the others for centuries.

Iranic family of languages

Pashto, Yidgha and Wakhi are Eastern Iranian languages spoken in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. Balochi spoken in Balochistan is classified as a members of the Northwestern Iranian languages.[42] If combined, Iranic peoples who speak Pashto, Balochi, Yidgha and Wakhi comprise about 18% of the population of Pakistan, and are concentrated in the northwest and west of Pakistan.


Brahui may or may not be a language isolate and many origins have been hypothesized for it including Iranian and Dravidian.[36] spoken in southern Pakistan, primarily in Kalat in Balochistan. The Brahui population of Balochistan has been taken by some as the linguistic equivalent of a relict population, perhaps indicating that Dravidian languages were formerly much more widespread and were supplanted by the incoming Indo-Aryan languages.[37] However it has now been demonstrated that the Brahui could only have migrated to Balochistan from central India after 1000 CE. The absence of any Avestan, an older Iranian language, loanwords in Brahui supports this hypothesis. The main Iranian contributor to Brahui vocabulary, Balochi, is a western Iranian language like Kurdish, and moved to the area from the west only around 1000 CE.[38]


Burushaski is a language isolate, spoken by Burusho people in Hunza, Nagar, Yasin, and parts of the Gilgit valleys in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.


According to the CIA World Factbook, Library of Congress, Oxford University, over 97% of the population of Pakistan is Muslim and the remaining 3% is Christian, Hindu and others.[3][4][43] Majority of the Muslims practice Sunni Islam while the Shi'a make up 10–20%.[1][2][3][4][5][43]

In Pakistan, nearly all Sunnis belong to Hanafi school. The majority of Pakistani Shia Muslims belong to the Ithnā‘Ashariyyah branch,[3] while there are some who practice Ismailism. There are small non-Muslim religious groups, including The Ahmadiyya Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis, Bahá'ís and Zoroastrians (Parsis).

Religious population In Pakistan

Suffix of regions and towns

Parts of region and settlement names:

  • -abad (Urdu: آباد ) means settlement or town. Example: Islamabad.
  • Dera- (Urdu: ڈیرہ ) means settlement or town. Example: Dera Ghazi Khan.
  • -garh (Urdu: گڑھ ) means settlement or town. Example: Islamgarh.
  • -goth (Urdu: گوٹھ ) means settlement or town. Example: Yousuf Goth.
  • -istan (Urdu: ستان ) means land. Example: Pakistan.
  • -kot (Urdu: کوٹ ) means settlement or town. Example: Islamkot.
  • -nagar (Urdu: نگر ) means settlement or town. Example: Islamnagar.
  • -pur (Urdu: پور ) means settlement or town. Example: Alipur.
  • -wal (Urdu: وال ) means settlement or town. Example: Khanewal.
  • -wala (Urdu: والہ ) means settlement or town. Example: Gujranwala.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population". Pew Research Center. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  2. ^ a b Miller, Tracy, ed (October 2009) (PDF). Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population. Pew Research Center. Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Pakistan, Islam in". Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2010-08-29. "Approximately 97 percent of Pakistanis are Muslim. The majority are Sunnis following the Hanafi school of Islamic law. Between 5 and 20 percent are Shias, mostly Twelvers." 
  4. ^ a b c "Religions: Muslim 95% (Sunni 75%, Shia 20%), other (includes Christian and Hindu) 5%". Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook on Pakistan. 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  5. ^ a b "Pakistan – International Religious Freedom Report 2008". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  6. ^ a b CIA – The World Factbook: Population growth rate
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ Information on other countries:
  9. ^
  10. ^ Burke, Jason (2008-08-17). "Pakistan looks to life without the general". The Guardian (London). 
  11. ^ CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion Population 1971-2008 (pdf pages 83-85) IEA (OECD/ World Bank) (original population ref OECD/ World Bank e.g. in IEA Key World Energy Statistics 2010 page 57)
  12. ^ a b Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision
  13. ^[PB1].pdf
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b c d [1]
  16. ^
  17. ^ Hasan Mansoor (18 January 2011). "Killings of newborn babies on the rise in Pakistan". Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ [2])
  23. ^ "YEAR BOOK 2004 – 2005 Government of Pakistan – Ministry of Labour, Manpower & Overseas Pakistanis – (Overseas Pakistanis Division) – See pages 29 to 34"
  24. ^ American FactFinder
  25. ^ US Census:International Data Base (IDB)
  26. ^ [3])
  27. ^ Taus-Bolstad, Stacy (2003). Pakistan in Pictures. Visual geography series (Revised ed.). Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books. p. 41. ISBN 9780822546825. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ Goans of Pakistan
  30. ^ From South to South: Refugees as Migrants: The Rohingya in Pakistan
  31. ^ KARACHI: UN body, police baffled by minister’s threat against Afghan refugees, Dawn. 10 February 2009.("Pakistan’s interior ministry has issued them PoR (Proof of registration) cards to determine the exact number of such refugees. Sindh is home to over 500,000 Afghan refugees and most of them are staying in Karachi," said a spokesman for the UNHCR. "... The police can move only against unregistered Afghans, whose number is very small in Karachi", said a senior police official in Karachi.)
  32. ^ UNHCR and Pakistan sign new agreement on stay of Afghan refugees, 13 March 2009.
  33. ^ Government of Pakistan – National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA), NADRA Has Registered 2.15 Million Afghan Refugees, 15 February 2007.
  34. ^ Urdu/Hindi: an artificial divide : African heritage, Mesopotamian roots
  35. ^ Bonds of Culture
  36. ^ a b Vogelsang, Wilhelm The Afghans Wiley-Blackwell 2002 ISBN 978-0-631-19841-3 pp.61–62 [4]
  37. ^ a b (Mallory 1989)
  38. ^ a b J. H. Elfenbein, A periplous of the ‘Brahui problem’, Studia Iranica vol. 16 (1987), pp. 215–233.
  39. ^ K.L. Kalla, The Literary Heritage of Kashmir, Mittal Publications,, "... Kashmiri alone of all the modern Indian languages preserves the dvi (Kashmiri du) of Sanskrit, in numbers such as dusatath (Sanskrit dvisaptati), dunamat (Sanskrit dvanavatih) ..." 
  40. ^ Ethnologue report for Pakistan: Languages of Pakistan
  41. ^ Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Northwestern zone, Lahnda: Language Tree
  42. ^ Indo-European, Indo-Iranic, Iranic: Language Tree
  43. ^ a b c "Country Profile: Pakistan". Library of Congress Country Studies on Pakistan. Library of Congress. February 2005. Retrieved 2010-09-01. "Religion: The overwhelming majority of the population (97 percent) is Muslim, of whom approximately 85 percent are Sunni and 15 percent Shi'a." 
  44. ^ [5]

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