Demographics of Pakistan

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Pakistan's latest estimated population is 207,774,520 according to the 2017 Census of Pakistan. Pakistan is the world's fifth-most-populous country.


  • At the time of partition in 1947, almost 23 percent of Pakistan’s population was comprised of non-Muslim citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately 3 percent.
  • Pakistan is supposed to be homogeneous because 97 percent of the population is Muslim. It is in fact shot through with lines of division that aggravate the destabilizing effects of its demographic growth. Islam is not a sufficiently unifying force to silence identity politics in a country that came out of two secessions. In these circumstances, the ideal of pu- rity expressed in the name of the country might seem to be a dangerous defiance of reality. The fertility rate in the peripheral provinces and groups—Baluchis, Siraikis, Pashtuns—is higher than that among the central ethnic groups—Punjabis, Sindhis, and Urdu-speaking Muhajirs driven out of India after the 1947 partition. The taboo is so powerful in the “country of the pure” that, without apparent reason, the govern- ment postponed a census scheduled for 1981 to 1991, and finally carried it out in 1998. It was a matter of putting off delicate questions about the representation of ethnic groups in parliament and the resulting budget allocations, the resolution of which traditionally favored the central provinces. All of this oddly recalls the situation in Lebanon.
    • Youssef Courbage, Emmanuel Todd - A Convergence of Civilizations_ The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World -Columbia University Press (2011). (English Translation).
  • The unspoken fact of Pakistani demography is rivalry with India. The Pakistani atom bomb is only one symptom among others, and per- haps not the most important one. Questioned about their view of their country’s demography, Pakistani authorities tirelessly repeat that they fi nd the fertility rate too high. This is a well-rehearsed refrain, composed and sung to satisfy the suppliers of funds: the World Bank, the IMF, and USAID. It is indeed worth asking whether the high fertility rate does not refl ect the deep aspirations of leaders who are at bottom more concerned with geopolitical power relations in the subcontinent than with the well-being of their population. In the Sunni Arab world, the fertility rate fl oor below which the most patrilineal countries have not been able to fall is 3 children per woman. In Pakistan it is not yet certain that it will go below 4, even if it is too soon to assert that Pakistan is going to devi- ate from a trajectory matching its level of development. The situation is in fact worrying, whatever the scenario.
    • Youssef Courbage, Emmanuel Todd - A Convergence of Civilizations_ The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World -Columbia University Press (2011). (English Translation).
  • The Pakistani fertility rate is slowly declining: In 1988 it was at 5.56 children, and since then it has lost only 0.9 percent annually. With 4.6 children in 2005, 6 the Pakistani fertility rate, the highest in this group, is far above that of the Arab world, except for Yemen. One cannot fail to be impressed by the alignment of the fertility of the Muslims of northern India with that of Pakistan: In 1998 –1999, it was 4.8 in Uttar Pradesh, 4.9 in Rajasthan, and 4 in Bihar. One might suggest a slight boost from the combined effect of minority status and the fact that Muslims in these states belong to the least privileged strata in social and educational terms. The minority effect must play the leading role, because elsewhere in India, in states where Muslims enjoy higher than average educational status, in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, they also have a higher fertility rate than their Hindu neighbors.
    • Youssef Courbage, Emmanuel Todd - A Convergence of Civilizations_ The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World -Columbia University Press (2011). (English Translation).
  • Pakis­tan is Asia's­ fastest­-growing non-Arab count­­­ry,­ doubling its popu­lat­ion every 24 yea­rs.
    • Elst K. The Demographic Siege (1997)
  • In Pakistan, family planning is a joke. The responsible ministry is at present headed by a fundamentalist Muslim, Saddar Niazi, who boasts of being one of fifteen children. He has declared that the pressure for family planning was a holdover from the liberal secularism of Benazir Bhutto, and that he did not intend to implement the policies of a woman charged with corruption and overwhelmingly voted out in the 1990 election.265 His stand is not exceptional, rather it is the rule among Muslim governments. At any rate, Pakistan's birth rate stands at 3.2%, almost the doubt of India's.
    • Elst K. Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society (1991) citing Indian Express, 12/12/1990.
  • In other parts of the world, conservative Islamists clamour for population growth. In Sunni societies, they continue to castigate family planning. Pakistan is a prime example. There, Abu Ala Mawdudi, founder of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Party, in his The Birth Control (1937) savaged contraception as a Western plot against Islam. Family planning, he maintained, would introduce Western promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases and women’s liberation to Muslim lands. Mawdudi’s opposition to abortion derives from a Qur’anic verse which instructs families not to kill children during times of want. He also quotes verses and hadiths extolling the virtue of children and marriage. Taking their cue from him, fundamentalists have attacked Pakistan’s family planning policies as a Western import linked to decadence, painting it as an imperialist attempt to control Islam. In stark contrast to Iran, no Islamist scholars have come out in support of family planning. In the words of Abdul Hakim, ‘the family planning programme in Pakistan works under a severe threat from religiosity … people are afraid lest they are considered irreligious for advocating family planning … whereas in Indonesia and Bangladesh the approach has been to convince religious leaders of the importance of this [family planning] programme and its compatibility with religion.’
  • The contrast between Pakistan and poorer Bangladesh is stark. Pakistan’s religious authorities resisted family planning far longer than their counterparts in Bangladesh, who are much less influenced by Mawdudi and the fundamentalist theology of the Deobandis.17 There was also a close link between Mawdudi and Pakistani military ruler Zia ul-Haq. Zia admired Mawdudi, and co-opted Mawdudi’s JI into his administration. Mawdudi was a willing partner, and Zia’s long reign between 1977 and 1988 oversaw the progressive implementation of sharia in Pakistan. Nourished by the fat of American aid in support of the Afghan mujahidin, Zia gave the Salafists a free hand in social policy and diverted funds from social services to Deobandi madrasas. The result was sharia in all its glory: education and the economy were Islamised and a new Islamic penal code became law. This included the usual raft of medieval punishments known as hudud, such as cutting off the limbs of thieves, stoning women for adultery and whipping drinkers of alcoholic beverages. Though Zia was assassinated in 1988, his Islamisation policies rolled on –driven by popular demand from Salafists, the devout middle class and Islamised rural migrants... Next door in Afghanistan, and in north-west Pakistan’s tribal areas, local religious leaders exercise enormous influence over people’s perceptions of contraception. In Taliban-dominated southern Afghanistan, locals tend to accept the prohibitionist views of their conservative imams.21 Tragically, Taliban insurgents have taken Islamist opposition to family planning to new heights, or rather depths. A favoured tactic is to assassinate clinicians. Threats, kidnappings and assassinations have brought family planning to its knees in disputed areas.
    • Kaufmann, E. P. (2011). Shall the religious inherit the Earth?: Demography and politics in the twenty-first century. Chapter 4, Section: The countryside comes to town

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