The country has a
total area of 310,527 square miles, and its population is
approximately 132 million. According to the 1998 census, an
estimated 96 percent of the population are Muslim; 1.69 percent
are Christian; 2.02 percent are Hindu; and 0.35 percent are
"other" (including Ahmadis). The majority of Muslims in
the country are Sunni. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of the Muslim
population are Shi’a. It is estimated that there are between
550,000 and 600,000 Ismailis (a recognized Shi’a Muslim group).
Most Ismailis in the country are followers of the Aga Khan;
however, an estimated 50,000 Ismailis, known as Borahs, are not.
groups believe that they are underrepresented in government census
counts. Official and private estimates of their numbers can differ
significantly. The most recent census estimates place the number
of Christians at 2.09 million and the Ahmadi population at
286,000. The communities themselves each claim membership of
approximately 4 million. Estimates for the remaining communities
are less contested and place the total number of Hindus at 2.8
million; Parsis (Zoroastrians), Buddhists, and Sikhs at as high as
20,000 each; and Baha’is at 30,000. The "other"
category includes tribes whose members practice traditional
indigenous religions and who normally do not declare themselves to
be adherents of a specific religion, and those who do not wish to
practice any religion but remain silent about that fact. Social
pressure is such that few persons would admit to being
unaffiliated with any religion.
Punjab is the
largest province in the country; with 70 million persons, it
contains almost half of the country's total population. Muslims
are the majority in Punjab. More than 90 percent of the country's
Christians reside in Punjab, making them the largest religious
minority in the province. Approximately 60 percent of Punjab's
Christians live in rural villages. The largest group of Christians
belongs to the Church of Pakistan, an umbrella Protestant group;
the second largest group belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. The
rest are from different evangelical and church organizations.
Hindus each constitute approximately 1 percent of the populations
of Sindh and Baluchistan provinces. These two provinces also have
a few tribes that practice traditional indigenous religions and a
small population of Parsis (approximately 7,000 persons). The
Ismailis are concentrated in Karachi and the northern areas. The
tiny but influential Parsi community is concentrated in Karachi,
although some live in Islamabad and Peshawar. Christians
constitute approximately 2 percent of Karachi's population. The
Roman Catholic diocese of Karachi estimates that 120,000 Catholics
live in Karachi, 40,000 in the rest of Sindh, and 5,000 in Quetta,
Baluchistan. Evangelical Christians have converted a few tribal
Hindus of the lower castes from interior Sindh. An estimated
100,000 Hindus live in Karachi. According to local Christian
sources, between 70,000 and 100,000 Christians and a few thousand
Hindus live in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP).
concentrated in Punjab and Sindh. The spiritual center of the
Ahmadi community is the large, predominantly Ahmadi town of Rabwah
No data are
available on active participation in formal religious services or
rituals. However, because religion is tied closely to a person's
ethnic, social, and economic identity, religion often plays an
important part in daily life. Most Muslim men offer prayers at
least once a week at Friday prayers, and the vast majority of
Muslim men and women pray at home or at the workplace during one
or more of the five daily times of prayer. During the month of
Ramadan, many otherwise less observant Muslims fast and attend
mosque services. Approximately 70 percent of English-speaking
Roman Catholics worship regularly; a much lower percentage of Urdu
speakers do so.
The Shikaris (a
hunting caste now mostly employed as trash collectors in urban
Sindh) are converts to Islam, but eat foods forbidden by Islam.
Many varieties of
Hinduism are practiced, depending upon location and caste. Hindus
have retained or absorbed many traditional practices of Sindh.
Hindu shrines are scattered throughout the country. Approximately
1,500 Hindu temples and shrines exist in Sindh and approximately
500 in Baluchistan. Most shrines and temples are tiny, no more
than wayside shrines. During Hindu festivals, such as Divali and
Holi, attendance is much greater.
The Sikh community
regularly holds ceremonial gatherings at sacred places in the
Punjab. Prominent places of Sikh pilgrimage include Nanakana Sahib
(where the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak, was born),
Hasan Abdal (a shrine where an imprint of his hand his kept), and
Andkartar Poora or Daira Baba Nanak Sahib in Sialkot District
(where Guru Nanak is buried).
practice the Zoroastrian religion, have no regularly scheduled
congregational services, except for a 10-day festival in August
during which they celebrate the New Year and pray for the dead.
All Parsis are expected to attend these services; most reportedly
do. During the rest of the year, individuals offer prayers at
Parsi temples. Parsis maintain a conscious creedal and ceremonial
separation from other religions, preserving rites and forbidding
marriage to members of other religions.
Only one group
described by the authorities as a "foreign cult"
reportedly has been established in the country. In Karachi members
of the U.S.-based "Children of God" are rumored to be
operating a commune where they practice polygamy. However, during
the period covered by this report, there was no evidence that this
missionaries operate in the country. The largest Christian mission
group operating in Sindh and Baluchistan engages in Bible
translation for the Church of Pakistan (a united church of
Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans), mostly in
tribal areas. An Anglican missionary group fields several
missionaries to assist the Church of Pakistan in administrative
and educational work. Roman Catholic missionaries, mostly
Franciscan, work with persons with disabilities.