Demographics of Pakistan

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Geography of Asia

Demographics of Pakistan, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands.
Demographics of Pakistan, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands.

Pakistan has an estimated population of over 166 million inhabitants in 2006. During 1951-98, Pakistan's urban population expanded seven-fold. Non-governmental and international sources report that Pakistan's current population is estimated to be 165,803,560 (July 2006 est). And a relatively high growth rate that has, however, been showing signs of slowing down. Dramatic social changes have led to rapid urbanization and the emergence of mega cities that correlates with a global trend sometimes referred to as social globalization. During 1990-2003, Pakistan sustained its historical lead as the most urbanised nation in South Asia with 34% city dwellers.

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

Pakistan's next national census will take place in 2008.

Historical populations
Census Population Urban

1951 33,816,000 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 data

Geographic distribution

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

Population and growth

  • Population: 165,803,560 (July 2006 est.)
  • Growth rate: 2.09% (2006 est.)
  • Birth rate: 29.74 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
  • Death rate: 8.23 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
  • Net migration rate: -0.59 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)ha


Age structure

  • 0-14 years: 39%(male 33,293,428; female 31,434,314)
  • 15-64 years: 56.9% (male 48,214,298; female 46,062,933)
  • 65 years and over: 4.1% (male 3,256,065; female 3,542,522) (2006 est.)

Gender ratios

  • Sex ratio at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
  • under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
  • 15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
  • 65 years and over: 0.92 male(s)/female
  • total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Human development

Mortality and life expectancy

  • Infant mortality rate: 70.45 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
  • Life expectancy at birth:
    • total population: 63.39 years
    • male: 62.4 years
    • female: 64.44 years (2006 est.)


  • Total fertility rate: 4 children born/woman (2006 est.)
  • Fertility decline rate: 1.8 children per woman per decade (2nd fastest in world, )


Definition: age 15 and over can read and write.

  • total population: 48.7% (2004 est.)
  • male: 61.7%
  • female: 35.2%

Nationality and ethnicity

Ethnic groups

Major ethnic groups in Pakistan and surrounding areas, 1980
Major ethnic groups in Pakistan and surrounding areas, 1980

Pakistan's ethnic diversity is obvious and yet accurate numbers have been elusive. They constitute a variety of races and ethnic groups, although largely of Caucasoid stock. Most believe that the large majority of Pakistanis belong to the Indo-Aryan ethnic group. There are a substantial number of Iranic peoples and smaller numbers of Dravidians. These major ethnic groups are further broken down into several smaller ethnic groups: Pakistan's census and rough estimates vary, but the consensus is that the Punjabis are by far the largest group, and that Pukhtuns (also known as Pashtuns) and Sindhis are the next two largest groups The Punjabi population is estimated to comprise 44.15% of the national total. The Pukhtuns are the second-largest group at roughly 15.42%, followed by Sindhis at 14.1%. Seraikis, a group seen as transitional between Punjabis and Sindhis, make up 10.53% of the population. The remaining groups that comprise large percentages include the Muhajirs at 7.57% and the Balochis at 3.57%. The other main ethnic groups include the Brahui, Kashmiri, Hindko Pukhtuns, and the various peoples of the Northern Areas, who all together total roughly 4.66% of the total population.

In addition, over five million Afghan refugees came to Pakistan during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and it is estimated that over three million remain, with a large proportion settling permanently in Pakistan. If added to the census, Afghan refugees would boost the percentage of the Pukhtuns and "others" categories.


Census data indicates that over 97% of the population are Muslims. The Muslims are divided into different sects which are called Madhab i.e, schools of jurisprudence (also 'Maktab-e-Fikr' (School of Thought) in Urdu). Nearly 77% of Pakistani Muslims are Sunni Muslims and 20% are Shi'a Muslims. The nearly all Pakistani Sunni Muslims belong to Hanafi school with a small Hanbali school represented by Wahabis and Ahle Hadith. The Hanafi school is divided into Barelvis and Deobandis schools. While majority of Pakistani Shia Muslims belong to Ithna 'ashariyah school with significant minority of Nizari Khoja Ismailis (Aga Khanis) and a small Mustaali Dawoodi Bohra schools. By one estimate, in Pakistan, Muslims are divided into following schools: the Barelvis 48%, Deobandis 25%, Ithna Ashari 19%, Ahle Hadith 4%, Khojas 1%, Bohras 0.25%, and other smaller sects. The Ahle-e-Hadith are part of Hanbali school. Nearly 65% of the total seminaries ( Madrasah) are run by Deobandis, 25 per cent by the Barelvis, six percent by the Ahle Hadith and three percent by various Shia organizations. Zikris are considered to be a heretical sect by mainstream Muslims and are concentrated in Makran, Balochistan.

The difference among Sunni schools ( Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi, and Hanbali) are small and they pray together in any Sunni Masjid. In Pakistan, the Sunni Hanafi belonging to Barelvi and Deobandi schools also pray together in same Masjids.

There are small non-Muslim religious groups: Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Qadianis, Parsis, Bahais and others 3%. Although Pakistani statistics claim a small number of Buddhists on its territory, these Buddhists actually live in Ladakh in Indian Administered Kashmir, which Pakistan claims.

See Also: Religion in Pakistan, Islam in Pakistan, Christianity in Pakistan, Judaism in Pakistan, Hinduism in Pakistan, Sikhism in Pakistan



According to the census, Pakistanis identified the following languages as their mother tongues [figures rounded to nearest percent]: Punjabi 44%, Pashto 15%, Sindhi 14%, Siraiki 11%, Urdu 8%, Balochi 4%, others 4%

The majority of Pakistanis can speak or understand two or more languages.

Major languages

The official language of Pakistan is English. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca, although it is spoken as a first language by approximately 8% of the population. ~44% speak Punjabi as a first language, 15% Pashto, and 31% other languages such as ( Sindhi, Siraiki, Balochi, Hindko and Brahui.)

English (Official Language)

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. Many schools, and nearly all colleges and universities, use English as the medium of instruction.

Urdu (National Language)

Urdu is the national language, the lingua franca of the people. 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. Urdu' is Pakistan's national language and has been promoted as a token of national unity, though less than 8% of Pakistanis speak it as their first language but it is spoken fluently as a second language by all literate Pakistanis. Urdu by origin is an "Islamic version" of Hindi language which was spoken for centuries in the neighbourhood of Delhi and it was known as Western Hindi, Hindvi, Dehlvi, Reekhta and Hindustani. It is written in a modified form of the Arabic alphabet and its basically Indic vocabulary has been enriched by borrowings from Arabic, Persian, English and other Indian languages. Urdu has drawn inspiration from Persian literature and has now an enormous stock of words. 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 Saraj-ud-din Aarzoo in 1751. Urdu was an official language in British India since 1835 and in India since 1947, where it is spoken by Muslim population, is one of the 15 national languages recognized by the constitution.

Punjabi (Provincial Language)

Spoken as a first language by ~44% of Pakistanis, mostly in Punjab, Pakistan 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 Seraiki, which some regard as part of Punjabi and others regard as separate language. Punjabi is spoken by almost 60% of the population in Pakistan. The standard Punjabi dialects is from Lahore, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Sheikupura districts of the Pakistani Punjab which was used by Waris Shah (1722-1798) in his famous book "Heer" and is also now days langueage of Punjabi literature, film and music; such as Lollywood. Other dialects are Multani or Siraiki in West and South, Pothowari in North, Dogri in the mountain areas and Shahpuri in Sargodha area.

Punjabi is very old language and it was known as Sanskrit in Vedic-period (ca 4000 B.C.), Pali, Prakart and Upbharnash in Ashok-period (273-32 B.C.) and Hindvi, Lahori and Multani under Muslim period (711-1857). Punjabi literature was principally spiritual in nature and has had a very rich oral tradition. The Great Sufi/Saint poetry has been the folklore of the Punjab and still sung with great love in any part of Punjab.

In India it is the official language of Punjab state and one of the 15 official languages recognized by the Indian constitution. It is also spoken in the neighboring states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. In addition about 25 percent of the people living in the New Delhi metropolitan area speak punjabi in everyday life. All told, there are about 25 million speakers in India.

Punjabi dialects:

Majhi This dialect is "the standard Punjabi language" and spoken in the heart of Punjab where most of the Punjabi population lives. The main districts are Lahore, Sheikhupura, Gujaranwala and Sialkot in Pakistani Punjab and Gurdaspur and Amritsar in Indian Punjab.

Jhangvi or Jangli This dialects is spoken in the central Pakistani Punjab, stretches from districts Khanewal to Jhang and includes Faisalabad and Chiniot.

Shahpuri This dialect is spoken in Sargodha, Khushab and Mandi Bahawaldin districts.

Pothowari The area where Pothowari is spoken extends in the north from Azad Kashmir (Mirpur) to as far south as Jhelum, Gujar Khan, Chakwal and Rawalpindi.

Hindko This dialect is spoken in districs of Peshawar, Attock, Nowshehra, Mansehra, Abbotabad and Murree.

Malwi Spoken in the eastern part of Indian Punjab. Main districts are Ludhiana, Ambala, Bathinda, Ganganagar, Maleerkotla Fazilka, Ferozepur. Malwa is the southern and central part of present day Indian Punjab. Also includes the Punjabi speaking northern areas of Haryana, viz. Ambala, Hissar, Sirsa, Kurukhetra etc.

Doabi The word "Do Aabi" means "the land between two rivers" and this dialect is spoken between the rivers of Beas and Sutlej. It includes Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur districts.

Siraiki /Multani Siraiki or Multani (also Lehndi by some) and perhaps 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 Siraiki there. Siraiki itself is Sindhi word and means northern. See the map of Siraiki language: Siraiki Area's City of Mulatn, Bahawalpur, Rahimyar Khan, Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bhakkar, Dera Ismail Khan, Khanewal, Muzafargarh, Sukkur, Jaccobabad, Layyah and Mianwali.

Pashto (Provincial Language)

Spoken as a first language by 15% of Pakistanis, mostly in the North-West Frontier Province and in Balochistan as well as by immigrants to the eastern provinces who are often not counted due to census irregularities. Additionally, Afghan refugees are often outside the census count, but appear to be largely Pashto speakers from Afghanistan. Pashto speakers are almost 8% of Pakistani population and more than 30% in Afghanistan. Pashto has no written literary traditions although it has a rich 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 southern areas. Khushal Khan Khatak (1613-1689) and Rehman Baba (1633-1708) were some big poets in Pashto language.

Sindhi (Provincial Language)

Spoken as a first language by 14% of Pakistanis, mostly in Sindh. Sindhi has very rich literature and is used in schools. Sindhi language contains Arabic words and is affected by Arabic language to a great extent. The reason being Arab ruled Sindh for more than 150 years. Muhammad bin Qasim entered Sindh and conquered it in 712 AD. He remained here for three years and set up Arabic rule in the area. According to historians, the social fabric of Sindh comprises elements of Arabic society. Sindhi is spoken in Pakistan and is also one of the constitutional languages of India. It is spoken by about 20 million people in the southern Pakistani province of Sindh, Southern Pakistan, and by about 2½ million more across the border in India. In Pakistan it is written in the Arabic script with several additional letters to accommodate special sounds. The largest Sindhi-speaking city is Hyderabad, Pakistan. Sindhi literature is also spiritual in nature and Shah Abdul Latif Bhattai (1689-1752) was one of its legendry poet who wrote Sassi Punnu, Umar Marwi in his famous book "Shah jo Rasalo".


Related to Punjabi (See Classification, below) Spoken as a first language by 11% of Pakistanis, mostly in the Southern districts of Punjab, Pakistan (see Seraikis). All most 10% of the population of Pakistan speak Siraiki language. Dialects tend to blend into each other, into punjabi to the east, and Sindhi to the south. Until recently it was considered to be a dialect of Punajbi. 85% lexical similarity with Sindhi; 68% with Odki and Sansi. Dialects are Derawali, Khatki, Jangli or Jatki and Riasti or Bahawalpuri.

Balochi (Provincial Language)

Spoken as a first language by 4% of Pakistanis, mostly in Balochistan. Sindh and southern Punjab. Baluchi language is spoken by almost 3% of the Pakistani population and is very close to the Persian language itself. The name BALUCHI or BALOCHI 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, near the Caspian Shores. Rakshani is the major dialect group in terms of numbers. Sarhaddi, is a sub dialect of Rakshani. Other sub - dialects are qalati, Chagai-kharani, Panjguri. Eastern Hill Baluchi or Northern Baluchi is very different from the rest.

Gujarati (Regional Language)

Gujarati is spoken by 100,000 Pakistanis who reside in Lower Punjab and Sindh. All Parsi (5,000), many Ismaili Muslims, and many Hindus (10,000 to 100,000) speak Gujarati. Many Parsi and Ismaili Muslims are literate in Gujarati.


Although Persian has neither official status nor any importance in number (possibly less than 1% of the population speaks Persian), it had for long been the lingua franca of the Indian subcontinent and was the official and cultural language of the Mughal Empire. Persian has influenced Urdu immensly, and is still appreciated as a literary and prestigious language among the educated elite, espeiclly in fields of music ( Qawwali) and art. In fact, Pakistan's national anthem - the Qaumi Tarana - is written in a highly Persianized form of Urdu that almosts sounds as if the anthem were actually written in Persian.

Persian (Dari) is also the native tongue of many Afghan refugees currently residing in Pakistan.

Other 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 . Other Indo-European languages spoken in Pakistan include Pothohari, Gujarati, Shina, Wakhi, Kashmiri, Marwari, Khowar, Memoni, and many others. In addition, small groups of non-Indo-European languages are also spoken, including Brahui, a Dravidian language, and Burushaski, a language isolate.

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



Nearly all of Pakistan's languages are Indo-European languages.

Lahnda dialects

Punjabi, Hindko and Siraiki, all mutually intelligible, are classified by linguists as dialects of Lahnda , 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.

Iranian family of languages

Pashto and Balochi are classified as members of the Iranian family of languages. If combined, Iranian peoples who speak Pashto, Balochi, Dari (Afghan refugees speak both Pashto and Dari-Persian) and Wakhi comprise over 1/5 of the population of Pakistan.

Dravidian (Regional Language)

Brahui belongs to the Dravidian language family. Brahui is a major language of western Pakistan . Brahui is heavily influenced by Baluchi and Sindhi, languages in which many Brahui speakers are necessarily bilingual. Although its Dravidian descent is still obvious, Brahui now has rahter few inherited Dravidian words in its lexicon.

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