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Hindus in Pakistan

Hindus in Pakistan

Mizan Khan (103), 07/28/94


Deepa Khosla (116), 01/24/96

Michelle C. Boomgaard, 3/29/00

Amy Pate, 12/1/01

Hindus in Pakistan

Total Area of Pakistan: 803,943 sq. km


Country Population: 135.14 million (U.S. Census Bureau estimate for 1998)

Group Population: 2.703 million (2.0%)

Analytic Summary

Hindus are most concentrated in the Sindh province of southeast Pakistan (GROUPCON = 3). Before partition, most Hindus in present-day Pakistan were urban, highly educated and economically advantaged. However, most middle- and upper-class Pakistani Hindus immigrated to India after the 1947 partition of the sub-continent. Those that remained tended to be poorer and rural. Lacking the resources to organize politically (large numbers are bonded labor), Hindus have remained politically and economically marginalized in Pakistan.

Hindus are a religious minority in a Muslim country. They and their temples have periodically been subject to violence at the hands of the country's religious majorities (COMCO98X = 5). Their status within the country varies, in part, according to relations between Muslims and Hindus in India. When their kindred across the border destroyed the Babri mosque in 1992, for example, Hindus in Pakistan suffered as Pakistani Muslims stormed temples and attacked Hindus. Hindus are also suspected of being agents of the Indian government.

Hindus have been poorly organized politically, with no national political party (ORGCOH = 0). Furthermore, their identity is defined more by the dominant Muslim culture than by their own self-assertion (COHESX9 = 1). Despite this lack of political history and organization, Hindus have become increasingly vocal in the late 1990s (PROT98 = 3), and have forged alliances with other religious minorities (especially Christians) to agitate for increased rights. An organization called the Pakistan Hindu Welfare Association and coalitions of Hindu panchayats (local councils of elders) have led in political organizing. Hindus have mainly organized around the issue of separate electorates, with the Pakistan Hindu Welfare Association convening a national conference on the issue in December 2000. (In the system of separate electorates, members of religious minorities may vote only for members of their group which results in their marginalization in the National Assembly.) Protection from communal violence and economic opportunity (and the status of Hindu bonded labor) also are important issues for the Hindu community in Pakistan. Hindus, like Christians and Ahmadis, have also been disproportionately affected by Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws.

Hindus in India, and the Indian government, frequently lambast discrimination against Hindus in Pakistan. However, they have extended little more than rhetorical support, perhaps sensing that more than that would endanger rather than aid Pakistani Hindus. Additionally, international anti-slavery organizations have lobbied for the end of bonded labor in Pakistan, but have not undertaken "redemption" efforts for Hindu bonded labor as they have for some other groups (most notably, black Africans in Sudan).

Risk Assessment

Given the weakness of Hindu political organization, it is unlikely that Hindus will opt for open rebellion in the near future. (However, reportedly, a Hindu organization did take responsibility for at least one bombing in Islamabad in 2000.) But, they are likely to continue the nonviolent political action begun in 1998. As the Hindu population gains confidence in their political organizations and, if they continue to build alliances with other minorities, their condition may improve. Some mainstream Pakistani parties, including the Sindh Democratic Party, and individual Muslim intellectuals have expressed support for Hindu aspirations.

Hindus still remain at risk for intercommunal violence. The rise - and increasing militancy - of fundamentalist Islamic parties add to this risk considerably. However, political alliances with other communities and secularly oriented parties may alleviate this danger. The stability of Sindh could depend on such alliances, as they may be necessary to meet the sometimes desperate resource needs of both the indigenous and immigrant populations.



November: Security forces moved to protect Hindu temples in Pakistan as thousands of Muslims protested against attacks on Muslims in India. The actions in northern India followed attempts by Hindus to raze the centuries-old Babri Masjid (mosque).

Anti-Hindu protests were staged outside temples in cities and towns of southern Pakistan where most of the Pakistani Hindus live. According to the latest reports, one Hindu man was killed and four temples were damaged by Muslim demonstrators.


December: Muslims attacked temples across Pakistan and the government of this overwhelmingly Muslim nation closed offices and schools for one day to protest the destruction of the Babri mosque in India. Marchers shouted slogans such as "Crush India!" and "Death to Hinduism". In Lahore, the capital of Punjab, Muslims used a bulldozer, hammers, and their bare hands to demolish the Jain temple near Punjab University. Police forces did not intervene, nor did they act when a crowd stormed the Air-India office, dragged furniture into the street, and set the office on fire (The New York Times, 12/08/92).

Hundreds of members of India's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party marched on the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi to protest attacks against Hindus in Pakistan. At least 24 people have been killed in Pakistan and at least 100 temples were attacked by the Muslims (The Dallas Morning News, 12/15/92).

Hindus in Pakistan assert that they are regularly accused of being "Indian agents". The intolerance of Pakistani fundamentalists has reportedly grown so strong that some members of religious minorities have begun to adopt Muslim names (The Toronto Star, 12/04/92).


January: A comparison between the human rights records of India and Pakistan in 1992, which was released by the US State Department, reveals that if human rights were considered to be abused in India, then the situation in Pakistan could only be described as "appalling", with human rights "brutalized" on a systematic basis.

The State Department accused Pakistan of persecuting minority Hindus, Christians and Ahmadis. Hindus asserted that they are subject to kidnappings, the forced conversions of young women, and the desecration of Hindu shrines. They also state that they are not permitted to freely practice their religion (The Ethnic Newswatch, 01/29/93).

September: The cabinet of caretaker Prime Minister M. Qureshi has established a Commission on Minorities to look into the grievances of the country's minority communities and to ensure that their shrines, temples and other places of worship are preserved and well-kept. The Commission will consist of official and non-official members. Offical members include the Minister in-charge of Minority Affairs and the secretaries of the Ministries of Interior, Education, Law and Parliamentary Affairs.

Update 01/24/96


May: The number of religious minorities charged under Pakistan's restrictive blasphemy law continues to mount. Since 1986, when the law was established, 107 Ahmadis have been charged with blasphemy. The blasphemy law allows a person to register a case against anyone for blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad by word or deed. In 1992, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made the death penalty mandatory for blasphemy; in 1993 the law was extended to include the names of the Prophet's family. After months of criticism from local and international human rights groups, Benazir Bhutto has promised to introduce two amendments to the law. The first amendment would ensure that the police register a case only after they are directed to do so by a court of law. The second amendment stipulates a ten year jail term for giving false information. These amendments are supposed to stop the flagrant use of the blasphemy law in order to fulfill personal vendettas. (Far Eastern Economic Review, 05/26/94).


February: Although Benazir Bhutto's government had promised last year to introduce amendments to the country's blasphemy law, these amendments have still not gone into effect.

In a wave of persecution of non-Muslims, all cremation grounds outside of Sind were closed, preventing Hindus from making funerary arrangements. (London Independent 2/19/95)

Update: 3/27/00

March 1995: Alleged Hindu infiltrators shot and killed two American diplomats in Karachi. (Japan Economic Newswire 3/8/ 95)

February 1996: Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto approved a parliamentary motion which would allow minorities to have Atwo votes@ - one for the reserved minority seat which they have always had and one for the general parliamentary seat. (Agence France Presse 2/27/96)

September 1997: Hundreds of mostly Hindu peasants, waving placards and banners and calling for the release of jailed friends and relatives, protested in Karachi against forced labor in southern Pakistan's Sindh province. Human rights activist Shakeel Pathan said about 4,300 poverty-stricken peasants were languishing in the jails run by influential Sindhi landlords. (Agence France Presse 9/8/97)

March 1998: One person was killed and another injured when a paramilitary soldier opened fire on a group of Hindus protesting the national census, in the locality of Jumma Goth in Karachi=s eastern Landi district. Trouble erupted when enumerators carrying out a national census demanded money from the mostly illiterate community for filling in census forms. The officials had earlier rejected forms completed with the help of others. (Agence France Presse 3/7/98)

August 1998: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif proposed a constitutional amendment to make the Koran the supreme law of Pakistan. Deputies from minority communities including Hindus declined to support the measure. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 9/ 4/98)

June 1999: Pakistan's Minister of Islamic Affairs, Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq, announced plans to bring websites that are insulting to Islam to the attention of the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Conference. He noted the existence of at least 125 such websites and mentioned that Hindu parties were connected with them. (Malaysian National News Agency 6/ 22/99)

August 1999: Hundreds of Pakistani Christians as well as Hindus, Parsis and Sikhs staged a rally in Lahore to demand the repeal of laws they said discriminate against non-Moslem minorities in the country. (Agence France Presse 8/11/99)

October 1999: The Pakistani Army staged a bloodless coup, removing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and placing Gen. Pervez Musharraf in charge of the country.


1. Amin, Tahir, "Pakistan in 1993," Asian Survey, Vol. XXXIV, No. 2, February 1994.

2. Europa Publications, Far East and Australasia 1994.

3. Keesings Record of World Events, 1990-94.

4. Far Eastern Economic Review, 1994.

5. Nexis Library Information, 1990-2000.

6. Norton, James K., Global Studies: India and South Asia, (Guilford, CT: The Dushkin Publishing Group, 1993.

7. Phase I, Minorities at Risk, overview compiled by Monty G. Marshall, 07/89.

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