Pakistan Population and Human Rights

By | December 17, 2021

Population and society

Pakistan has a population of more than 180 million and ranks high in the ranking of the most populous countries. However, living conditions are still very precarious. Alongside the problems of a social nature, the extreme ethnic variety must be considered, which makes integration between different cultures and religions difficult, especially in rural areas.

The majority of Pakistanis, about 96%, are Muslim, with Hindu and Christian minorities. Behind this apparent homogeneity, the Muslim population is however divided between the Sunni component (about 85-90% of Muslims) and the Shiite component, a division that generates numerous tensions and violence.

The largest ethnic group is made up of the Punjabis, about 45%, followed by the Pashtuns (15%), the Sindhis (14%) and other minorities such as the Sariaki and the Baloch. Also due to this division, Urdu, the official language of the country together with English, is spoken by only 8% of the population, while the recognized but unofficial Punjabi language is spoken by almost half of the population. The Punjabi area is also the one with the highest population density, with a very varied distribution: from about 19 residents per square kilometer in Balochistan to more than 350 in Punjab.

The population, which mostly lives along the Indus River, is mostly rural, despite the rate of urbanization is constantly growing: currently, Pakistan is the second largest country in South Asia in terms of urban population, although the percentage is still low (38.3%) when compared with that of other regions. Linked to the phenomenon of urbanization is the growth of large urban centers, such as Karachi, the first city in the country, whose metropolitan area has about 23,500,000 residents. There are strong social inequalities and very low levels of socio-economic development among the Pakistani population. The education system is still deficient and the government has failed to bring about a change in the sector capable of adapting the country to its structural needs. Public investment goes to a greater extent for high-level education, accessible only to the elite in power, rather than in primary and secondary school. In this way, a process of social immobility and cultural backwardness is encouraged, as evidenced by the low literacy rate of the population. At the same time, such a condition favors the flourishing of madrasas, that is, those Islamic educational centers in which religious fundamentalism developed in the past.

The health system is also struggling to adapt to such a large population. The difficult socio-economic conditions of the country, moreover, are made evident by the fact that about 55% of the population lives below the poverty line, on less than two dollars a day. To make the picture more complex is added the number of refugees, especially from Afghanistan: Pakistan is the second country in the world for the number of refugees (about 1.5 million). On the other hand, approximately 49 million citizens of Pakistani origin live abroad, mainly in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Freedom and rights

Pakistan witnessed for the first time in 2013 the peaceful transfer of power between two civilian governments, giving good hope for a future democratic consolidation of the country’s political institutions. The electoral process, on the other hand, does not seem to be completely transparent and free, as witnessed by many external observers and as confirmed by the latest electoral campaign for the parliamentary elections, characterized by a climate of tension and violence, which led to the more than a hundred people died.

The Pakistani political system is plagued by endemic corruption, with extensive meddling by the secret services and the military. Freedom of the press is limited and constantly deteriorating. 56 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1992, with a peak of 14 people killed Рincluding journalists, media operators and bloggers Рin 2014 alone, a year considered the worst for Pakistani press freedom. For Pakistan democracy and rights, please check

In some areas of the country, especially rural areas and on the border with Afghanistan, state institutions overlap legislative and customary systems based on local traditions and religion. This makes these areas almost independent of Islamabad. In particular, the so-called Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), with a Pashtun majority, are governed by non-elected officials, belonging to the local tribal system, who are appointed by the president, without the intermediation of political parties. Similarly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province, Nwfp), aroused concern that, in the Swat district, the government of Islamabad has reached an agreement with local Islamist groups linked to the Taliban to allow the application of Islamic law (sharia) in that area. In some areas there are still religious courts and in recent years there have been cases of stoning for adultery. Finally, not only according to local customs, but also according to the legal system of the state, blasphemy is considered a crime punishable by death. The tribal legal system in force in some districts also greatly limits gender equality, although at an institutional level it is guaranteed by the fixed number of seats (60) for women in parliament. After all, Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of the country, was the first woman to hold such office in a Muslim country in 1988.

Pakistan Human Rights