Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Minorities in Pakistan

By Mansoor Raza

The religious minority demographic of Pakistan’s population is 3.7 per cent (an estimated six million). There are approximately 30,000 Sikhs, 20,000 Buddhists, 1,822 Parsis, and 600,000 Ahmadis (an exact estimate is difficult to obtain because of their reluctance to register as non-Muslims in the census). Other religious groups are Bhais, Kalasha, Kihals and Jains.

Hindus and Christians are the two biggest minorities. They comprise 83 per cent of the non-Muslim population in Pakistan. Ninety-three per cent (2.4 million) of all Hindus live in Sindh and 81 per cent (2 million) of Christians live in the Punjab. Those accused of blasphemy over the years primarily hail from the following divisions of the Punjab: Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Toba Tek Singh, Jhang Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot and Sargodha.

Urbanisation is providing opportunities to minorities for upward social mobility, which in turn is perpetuating awareness about individual rights and their assertion in the public spheres. For the feudal mindset, this empowerment has become a challenge and the blasphemy law is providing a way for landowners – as well as those dependent on the landowners’ good favour – to keep minority subjects in fear, and thus under control. Increasingly radicalised mullahs in rural areas are helping landowners maintain their stranglehold over minority workers.

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