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

Published: September 2, 2012
Over 2.9m people registered with
NADRA belong to seven faiths other
than Islam. SOURCE: NADRA

Over 2.9m people registered with NADRA belong to seven faiths other than Islam. SOURCE: NADRA


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.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • AnisAqeel
    Sep 2, 2012 - 3:32AM

    Out of millions of Ahmadi Muslims only 125681 registered with NADRA and still
    it is considered as a fascinating news that Pakistan is not as monolithically Islamic State, what a shame!


  • Ali
    Sep 2, 2012 - 3:55AM

    Pakistan IS a country of minorities. Divide all sects out of the religions, and you have a country very everyone is sorounded by different sects and creeds wherever he/she goes.


  • Mahakaalchakra
    Sep 2, 2012 - 4:32AM

    If the total population of Pakistan is anticipated around 200 million in 2012 and out of 200 million, you have around 1.4 million Hindus which means, Hindus are now reduced to mere 0.7% (less than 1%) of the population in 2012.

    Hindus used to be 1.6% of the Population in 2001, according to the data from Pakistan government about census of 2001 in their official website, census.gov.pk,

    Official census data for 2011 has not yet been published by Pakistan. I am going by the figures in the article claiming that 96% adult population is covered by NADRA and assuming the percentage of those not covered is also similar for Hindus.

    Where did almost half of the Hindu population disappeared from Pakistan in the last 10 years? Any clue?


  • Ali Zaid
    Sep 2, 2012 - 4:34AM

    Why dont they remove the religion slot in the CNIC? Keep it in the NADRAs record, sure its a necessity but it doesn’t need to be public!


  • Pakistani
    Sep 2, 2012 - 5:00AM

    We need more Non-Muslims in Pakistan so that by living with them and understanding their religions Muslims become more tolerant.


  • Singh
    Sep 2, 2012 - 5:30AM

    In next ten year it will be big fat zero the way they fleeing country.


  • Rahim
    Sep 2, 2012 - 5:57AM

    Ahmedis are much higher in number but they choose not to write Ahmedi as otherwise door of almost all Military, NDC,, Nescom and Government job is closed for them so thay always choose not to write anything or simply write Muslims. Just tell us the statistics of people who choose not to write in optional religion tab and then the actual number will come.


  • Abdul Moiz
    Sep 2, 2012 - 6:21AM

    97% is monolithically islamic,97% versus 3% is a very,very big majority.It is a monolithic society.non-muslims only make up 3% of the population.


  • Mohammad
    Sep 2, 2012 - 6:41AM

    Sound like a mark-now-persecute-later plan. First you get to ‘voluntarily’ declare your faith, then you are readily accessible as the next victimisation target.


  • Ibrahim
    Sep 2, 2012 - 7:31AM

    There are many ahmadis whos religion has been either mistakenly (or intentionally) entered as Muslim in nadra database. when ahmadi’s try to fix this, Nadra’s response is that ‘in Pakistan no Muslim is allowed to convert to non Muslim and the penalty is death’ .
    Upon telling them that it’s not conversion and it’s rectification of mistake then they ask for stupid evidence which is almost impossible to provide.


  • Raw is War
    Sep 2, 2012 - 8:15AM

    In a population of over 200 million, Pakistan has just 3 million Minorities. 1.5% over all. I am sure before long, they will become less than 1%.


  • kaalchakra
    Sep 2, 2012 - 8:28AM

    The basic question for the myriad detractors of Pakistan – had things been as bad for minorities as Pakistan’s enemies make them out to be, would SO MANY non-Muslims thrive even today?


  • humy
    Sep 2, 2012 - 8:32AM

    Mr Chairman, I have serious concerns over your statement in the last paragraph!


  • Babloo
    Sep 2, 2012 - 8:39AM

    There are more Mulims just in Delhi than there are Hindus in all of Pakistan.
    That’s the story of religious cleansing in Pakistan.


  • Awans
    Sep 2, 2012 - 9:00AM

    Ahmedis are found in Every city of Hazara regions, Peshawar and in the whole of Punjab and i could not believe in these numbers at all that only 120,000 approx are registered. Many of my friends are Ahmedis and i think in Lahore district alone their number is way above 100,000.


  • Deepjyoti Gogoi
    Sep 2, 2012 - 9:14AM

    35,000 conversion targets.


  • shazia
    Sep 2, 2012 - 9:14AM

    there were 30,000 parsees, did they all go to australia and canada or is it that only 4000 dare to declare themselves out of fear in our islamic republic?
    This is no surprise given how even the “people of the book” are treated – christians are persecuted under blasphemy laws, the jewish people all left and the last synagogue was shut down in saddar karachi 30 years ago.


  • Mohit Chinoy
    Sep 2, 2012 - 9:15AM

    So still pakistan is not completely the land of pure.Work yet to be completed


  • Peace
    Sep 2, 2012 - 10:38AM

    Now Taliban, Right wingers exactly know how many people they have to finish off.
    But they should also have said how many are Shia?


  • Bilal
    Sep 2, 2012 - 12:27PM

    “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.”
    Above is not correct in case of Ahmadis, they have two choices, either to declare founder of their community to be impostor or declare that they are Ahmadis.
    According to estimates there are 3 to 4 million Ahmadis in Pakistan, but only 125,681 have CNIC is surprising.


  • zeeshan sheikh
    Sep 2, 2012 - 1:04PM

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

    97% pakistani believes in one God and @ET you are fabricating a lie here.

    yes 3% should have rights but our constitution recognizes only one & true God.


  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Sep 2, 2012 - 1:33PM

    Statistics is like a bikini what is reveled is interesting and what is concealed is vital. What is missing in this report is trend in last 65 years i.e. what was the population in 1947 and what it is now and what is projected for next 20 years. Devil is in the detail. the real news is in the trend as that will reflect what is happening in the society.


  • Sep 2, 2012 - 1:55PM

    What about atheists? I am sure there’s a sizable contingent of atheists/agnostics in Pakistan.


  • Ali
    Sep 2, 2012 - 2:37PM

    Fate like Yugoslavia is in the making and iriony is no one is realising.


  • Usman Malik
    Sep 2, 2012 - 3:03PM

    Minority data in Pakistan is heavily tempered intentionally or unintentionally by the government to play political and bureaucratic tricks, like tempering of electoral rolls, distribution of quotas and development or privilege funds. Besides that it has been made difficult to be not to be a muslim is this country, thats why people often dont register themselves out of fear of persecution and discrimination. There is no way one would believe in the accuracy of this data!


  • Hedgefunder
    Sep 2, 2012 - 4:21PM

    No doubt, soon Shias will be placed on this list too !


  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Sep 2, 2012 - 4:22PM

    @Ali: My kudos to you for such a mature comment.


  • ayaz munir
    Sep 2, 2012 - 4:28PM

    It only takes into account the adult population that is over 18, whereas 50% of Pakistanis are less than 18 so you can see still the population of hindus is the same its just that many of them belong to age group of under 18. Come to interior sindh, Thraparkar is a Hindu Majority district,in Umerkot Hinuds & Muslims are nearlly 50% each Hyderabads 12% population is Hindu, Badins 18% Population is hindu, Mirpurkhas has 20% Hindu Population, Ghotki is highly Hindu populated & so on, & let me remind you that Sindh has a population of around 50 million , so since so many cities in sindh have such high hindu population, its not possible that Hindus are only 0.7% of Pakistani population


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Sep 2, 2012 - 6:10PM

    There are 2 lakh Sikhs in the indian city of Calcutta only which is largely Bengali and marwari in concentration. Well, more hard work is required by the extremists there to overran them. When only a few of them are left in a few decade, I propose to give them honorary position as subjects in the national museum along with preislamic artifacts. Thank you


  • FrndsZone(.)com
    Sep 2, 2012 - 9:01PM

    I am not sure what people say to me, but i think Pakistan should be declared and observed a secular state


  • goose
    Sep 3, 2012 - 1:07AM

    whatever made you think they’re ‘thriving’? The latest Rimsha blasphemy case or Rinkle Kumari’s forced conversion?


  • Seema Khan
    Sep 3, 2012 - 3:47AM

    If anything, this proves how monolithically Islamic Pakistan actually is. 97% Pakistanis belong to one religion – Islam. It is hardly a religiously pluralistic society. It also indicates that minorities professing a religion other than Islam are gradually decreasing proportionately as compared to Muslims.


  • John F
    Sep 3, 2012 - 12:17PM

    @Prabhjyot Singh Madan: Regarding your problems in Calcutta : My grandfather was a Colonel in British India and we know Sikhs were always subservient their English/Mougal masters. So with your present problems, did you all ever think about emigrating to Pakistan? I never understood why you all went to India when your real homeland (Ranjit Singh’s capital) is still in Pakistan.


  • Dr.A.K.Tewari
    Sep 3, 2012 - 6:22PM

    All liberals are converted Budhist and Baha . 35000 figure is absolutly wrong .


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Sep 3, 2012 - 8:47PM

    @John F:
    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


  • Khalq e Khuda
    Sep 4, 2012 - 2:17AM


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


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