Why is Pakistan a Muslim country

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In 1947, the year of independence, 32.5 million people lived in Pakistan. Today it is assumed that the population is around 140 million. The annual population growth is around 2.7%.

With an average of 185 inhabitants per km², Pakistan has a smaller population density than Germany, although it varies greatly from province to province. In Balochistan, the largest province with 347,190 km² and a large proportion of barren land, according to the 1998 census, 6.5 million people lived. This corresponds to a population density of 19 inhabitants per km². In contrast, there is the 206,190 km² Punjab, the most populous province in the country with approx. 73.5 million inhabitants, which makes up about 55% of the total population. More than 550 inhabitants per km² live in the area around the capital Islamabad.

Over 35% of the population of Pakistan lives in cities. As everywhere in developing countries, "megacities" are about to grow. With a population of 12 million, Karachi is the largest city in the country and 90% of the population is immigrants who came from India or are refugees from the country.

The age structure is made up as follows: The younger than 15-year-olds make up 41% of the population, with 55% the highest proportion of the population is among the 15- to 64-year-olds. Almost half of the population are likely to be children and adolescents under the age of 18. In contrast, those over 64 make up only 4% of the total population.

As in almost all South Asian countries, the disadvantage of women is clearly reflected in the gender ratio: 952 women compared to 1,000 men.

Ethnic composition

The oldest finds of human life in this region of the world are around 50,000 years old and come from the Soan valley near Rawalpindi. The earliest evidence of land cultivation in Balochistan, North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), and Punjab is around 9,000 years old.

Pakistan is a multi-ethnic state.

The largest population group are the Punjabis, who also live in the Indian part of the Punjab, which is divided between India and Pakistan.

Sindh Province in the south of the country is home to the Sindhis. The Pashtuns (Pathans) live in the north-western areas and on the Afghan side of the common border.

The ethnic groups in Balochistan can be divided into Beluchen, Pakhtunen and Brahui.

The Muslims who immigrated from India and their descendants are known as mohajirs. They are mainly based in the provinces bordering India, particularly in Karachi.

There are minorities in every province.

Due to the ongoing civil war in neighboring Afghanistan, the majority of the refugees from there have immigrated to the NWFP, but also to Balochistan, the Northern Areas and a few in other provinces.

The information on numbers about the mother tongue can be used as a reference value for the ethnic composition.


More than 20 languages ​​are spoken in Pakistan, assigned to Indian, Iranian and Dravidian language families.

The official national language is Urdu, an Indo-Aryan language that developed from the meeting of Arabic and Persian, which came to South Asia, and the local languages. The more precise name Zaban-e-Urdu is translated as "army camp language" and indicates its origin in the army camps of the Muslim conquerors.

Urdu, the main lingua franca of northern India since the 16th century, is very close to today's Hindi, but the Arabic and Persian influences are evident. The former administrative language of the Islamic rulers is written in Persian script. With the exception of English, this also applies to all other languages ​​spoken in Pakistan. However, before Pakistan's independence, Urdu was not spoken in the territory of the modern state. Today only around 8% of the population has a mother tongue.

Punjabi, which comes from the Indian language family, is spoken by more than half of the Pakistani population.

This is followed by the languages ​​Sindhi, which is the mother tongue of more than 20% of Pakistanis and the official language of Sindh Province.

Furthermore, the Siraiki, a mixed variant of Punjabi and Sindhi, which is spoken by around 10% of the population in the border area between Punjab and Sindh.

The Pashtun ethnic group speaks mainly Pashtu - approx. 8% of the total population. Other local languages ​​and dialects make up around 8%.

However, the identity of the languages ​​with the provincial names is not always congruent; so Urdu is mainly spoken in Karachi (Sindh).

English functions as the "lingua franca" of the Pakistani elite and is used as a business and educational language as well as in government ministries. The constitution provides for a replacement by Urdu. As educational languages, Arabic and Persian are also widespread as literary languages ​​through Islam.


The area of ​​present-day Pakistan is rich in religious history. This is where Brahmanism originated, which evolved into Hinduism. Buddhism flourished in the Indus valley and the school of Mahayana (Big Dipper) was founded there. Almost 500 years ago, the Sikhs came into being in the Punjab under Guru Nanak.

97% of the Pakistani population are Muslim. Two thirds profess Sunni Islam, the other third belong to the Shiite religion and smaller sects such as the Ahmadiyya.

Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and a few Parsees, the followers of Zarathustra, and Buddhists make up the "other religions" with 3%.

Islam, which first came to the subcontinent from Arabia in the 8th century, is the state religion and Islamic law, Sharia, is the basis of the judicial system. Officially, freedom of religion exists, but the Ahmadiyya mentioned above are not recognized by the state as Muslims and are subject to reprisals . In parliamentary elections, religious votes are taken separately.

The mosques are the center of religious life. The largest mosques in the country are the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, as well as the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, which dates from the Mughal period. Both mosques are among the largest in the world. The modern Faisal Mosque was built with financial help from Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The mystical direction of Islam, Sufism, plays an important role in the religious life of many Pakistanis. The myriad shrines throughout the country dedicated to the "holy men" and attracting pilgrims from everywhere are established as social centers.

Family and social structure

The core of social life is the family, which is generally an extended family. A Pakistani woman has an average of 4.91 children (1998), which puts the country well above the South Asian average.

The government is highlighting the urgency of reducing the number of births through family planning programs that also include improved education.

Traditionally, in a large family, the man is the head of the family. According to the Pakistani view, a wedding is not only the connection between two people but also two families. Both families are involved in the preparations for the wedding and sign a marriage contract. The wedding rituals are very traditional.

The leading, mostly oldest man in the family plays an important role. He has a decisive influence on the lives of his family members, even if women have more and more a say in public life, at least in many cities, as a result of modernization.

According to Islamic law, a man is allowed to marry up to four women, provided that he can treat all of them equally; yet very few men in Pakistan have more than one wife.

In the recent past there were so-called "honor killings", in which wives were murdered by their families in order to "save the family honor".

Old people are very respected and treated with respect. Although the modernization of the past decades has largely changed the social differences, members of the traditionally influential large landowning families are still represented in all important key positions in the country.

Education and Healthcare

For independence, only about 15% of people could read and write. Today it is no more than 40%, and there is an enormous imbalance in the literacy rate between men and women. At 50%, that of men is twice as high as that of women.

The difference between urban and rural areas is important, with rural women often having a literacy rate below 5%. According to the state definition, those who know how to write and read their name are not considered illiterate.

Only a little more than 2% of the Pakistani budget is spent on education, although the country has an above-average illiteracy rate compared to other South Asian countries. Although the constitution guarantees universal and free education, the reality is far from compulsory education.

If there are schools at all, these cover at most basic needs, especially in rural areas, in terms of equipment and knowledge transfer. Teachers are often poorly trained. Many schools exist only on paper in order to benefit from government funds.

Less than a third of boys and even only a fifth of girls attend secondary schools after completing primary school. With 94,000 (1995) students, vocational schools ranked on 687 Secondary Vocational Institutions still at the beginning of its development.

Overall, it is hardly surprising that wealthier families prefer private schools to state schools, even though this exacerbates social polarization.

The largest scientific institutions are the two universities in Lahore and Karachi, the two universities in Hyderabad and the Agricultural University of Faisalabad.

Despite all the weaknesses of the education system, education in Pakistan is seen as the most important aspect in terms of opening up new opportunities and raising the standard of living.

In an international comparison, Pakistan is also at the bottom of the list when it comes to health care. Only 1% of the state budget goes into medical care for the population.

A few figures illustrate the state of the health care system: there are around 1,900 inhabitants per doctor, around 5,700 people per nurse, and a dentist is responsible for around 50,000 Pakistanis.

Here, too, the difference between urban and rural supply is serious. There is a particularly shortage of doctors in rural areas. The population is therefore still largely dependent on self-sufficiency through traditional medical practices.

Malnutrition is widespread due to unclean food, contaminated drinking water, unsanitary conditions as well as a lack of health education and the acute shortage of doctors. Pakistan has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world.

85% of all births are home births, which are often accompanied by unskilled and inexperienced helpers. Nationwide, every tenth child dies within the first year of life.

Heart and circulatory diseases, tuberculosis, cancer, hepatitis, diarrhea and cholera are further consequences of the abuses mentioned. The average life expectancy in 1999 was 59 years.

According to official figures, there were 823 hospitals with 85,552 beds in 1995. In addition, there were around 4,600 "Basic Health Units" and 500 rural health centers (1994). Almost half of these do not have running water or a sewer system.

While many Pakistani doctors go abroad after their training, some come together to form charitable initiatives, such as the well-known one Edhi Foundation, without whose work the health system would probably have collapsed long ago.