Over 35,000 Buddhists, Baha’is call Pakistan home

Over 2.9m people registered with Nadra belong to seven faiths other than Islam.

Irfan Ghauri September 01, 2012


Pakistan is not as monolithically Islamic as popular perceptions would have you believe.

Besides large Christian and Hindu communities, the country has a sizable population of people following the Baha’i faith, in addition to adherents of Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and the Ahmadiyya community, reveal unprecedented statistics released by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).

In all, adherents of at least seven different faiths, besides Islam, live in Pakistan and comprise more than 3% of all adult Pakistanis who posses computerised national identity cards (CNIC).

Swelling ranks

According to the data on declared religious association of minority community members, over 2.9 million adult Pakistanis belong to seven different faiths other than  Islam. Around 91.37 million adult Pakistanis posses CNICs at present but this number keeps increasing as NADRA, on average, issues 15,000 CNICs every working day.

Based on scientific projections (the 1998 census plus a 3.2% yearly increase in population), NADRA estimates that 96% of the total adult population now posses an identity card.

The statistics were gathered from application forms filled at the time of applying for a CNIC. Among other information, the forms include a column on religion the applicant belongs to.

Religious affiliations

According to the statistics, the Hindu community is the largest minority group possessing CNICs, with 1.4 million adherents. Christians follow, with 1.27 million followers possessing a CNIC.

Among the Ahmadis – a community declared non-Muslim in the 1970s – there are 125,681 CNIC holders.

Besides these minorities, the data shows there are over 33,000 Pakistanis who declared themselves as followers of the Baha’i faith, 6,146 Sikhs and over 4,000 Zoroastrians, or Parsis.

Interestingly, around 1,500 adult citizens holding CNICs declared themselves as Buddhists.

Electoral weight

NADRA Chairman Tariq Malik told The Express Tribune that his organisation was especially focusing on non-Muslims to acquire CNICs and register themselves as voters.

Malik said he held meetings with leaders of various minority faiths, asking them to persuade their communities to obtain identity cards.

With a sizeable turnout of minorities at polling booths in the elections, no political party would be able to ignore them in the upcoming polls, Malik said.

According to the chairman, the column of religion in the CNIC application form was not a mandatory column, stating it was the choice of each individual whether he or she wanted to declare their faith or not.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2012.


Khalq e Khuda | 10 years ago | Reply


Actually most Ahmadis never declare their religion in government documents so they can avoid getting killed.

Prabhjyot Singh Madan | 10 years ago | Reply

@John F: Sir, Firstly, I am quite happy in calcutta city and i face no problems or any issues here.Secondly, we were anti mughal emperors since the time of jehangir who executed our fifth guru, arjan devji. Our ninth guru, tegh bahadur gave his live to prevent the conversion of kashmiri pandits. Our tenth guru, gobind singh ji gave the sacrifice of his four sons against the tyranny of the mughals. Banda bahadur sacked the city of sirhind to this effect. So i don't know how you know we were subservient to the mughals. The sikh empire of maharaja ranjit singh was not gifted to him in a plate.Thirdly, if all was hanky dorey with the british then jalliahwala bagh was a fake story...right. Ghadar movement of the early 20th century against the british is also a proof to this effect. You are refering to the elite sikh soldiers who were loyal to the british because they did not betray the hand which fed them. The business class and the low gentry were different from the army class.Lastly, my ancestry is from rawalpindi and gujranwala and not lahore it is akin to asking a german whose ancestry is from berlin but asking him if he is from hamburg. We moved away because we believe in india and secularism and not what was being imposed on the people here. Thank you, cheerio

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