The Break-down of Pakistan’s Religious Groups

A census held by the Pakistan International Bureau indicates that over 97% of the population of Pakistan are Muslims. There are small non-Muslim religious groups: Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Bahá’ís and others 3%.

Religious minorities may only form three percent of Pakistan’s population, but in business, education, medicine, and the arts their contribution is significant. All religions enjoy equal status under the Pakistani constitution. Christians are the biggest minority group in Pakistan; they are distributed throughout the country and represent a wide cross-section of ethnic and linguistic stocks. Churches of virtually every denomination embellish the architectural horizon of most Pakistani cities. Although Pakistani Christians have not restricted themselves to any one area of activity, they have traditionally made an outstanding contribution in health, education, railways and the police force. They are also playing a growing role in the civil service and defence services. The second biggest minority are the Pakistani Hindus.

The Parsis (Zoroastrians) are a very small minority concentrated in the larger cities and are almost exclusively engaged in business. Some of Pakistan’s foremost hotel and shipping magnates are Parsis and the richer members of this community are wll known for their philanthropic activities. The Buddhists are numerically very few but the cultural impact of their ancestors has enriched and marked their presence to the heritage of Pakistan. Ancient Buddhist temples, schools and cities dot the archaeological map of Pakistan. There are many important Sikh temples and shrines in Pakistan, most notable is Nankana Sahib. Every year Sikhs celebrate the festivle of Vaisakhi from India’s Punjab state to make pilgrimages to these historic places, which are looked after by the Pakistani Sikhs themselves.

Census data indicates that over 97% of the population are Muslims; therefore it is considered by many general Pakistanis as the National religion. The Muslims are divided into different sects which are called Madhab (Mazhab) i.e, schools of jurisprudence (also ‘Maktab-e-Fikr’ (School of Thought) in Urdu). Nearly 75% of Pakistani Muslims are Sunnis and 20% are Shi’as. The nearly all Pakistani Sunni Muslims belong to Hanafi school with a small group of Ahle Hadith. The Hanafi school is divided into Barelvis and Deobandis schools. While majority of Pakistani Shia Muslims belong to Ithna Asharia branch with significant minority of Ismaili, both Nizari (Agakhanis) and Mustaali. By one estimate, in Pakistan, Muslims are divided into following schools: the Barelvi 50%, Deobandi 32%, Shia Ithna Asharia 18%, Ahle Hadith 1%, Ismaili 2%, Bohra 0.25%, and other smaller sects. The Ahle Hadith are part of Hanbali school. Nearly 65% of the total seminaries (Madrassah) are run by Barelvis, 25 per cent by the Deobandis, six percent by the various Shi’a organizations and three percent by Ahle Hadith. Zikris are considered to be a heretical sect by Muslims.

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