What is the minority quota in India

"Can you be a Pakistani and not a Muslim?"

Pakistan is seen as a country at a crossroads: democratic and theocratic political forces are diametrically opposed to each other. The media in this country paint the picture of a country with a weak state that can hardly stand up to the rising Taliban. Religious minorities, above all the originally Muslim splinter group of the Ahmadis, are mercilessly persecuted and their tormentors mostly get away with it. But is this picture correct?

Like India, Pakistan is a multiethnic state: Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluchis, Kashmiris, Pashtuns (Afghans) share a country, but are themselves transnational as a population group. In contrast to India, in the event of a dispute there is no possibility of rearranging the provincial borders based on ethnolinguistic borders. The formation of a nation with a national identity was therefore a special concern for Pakistan from the beginning, but also a special challenge. This is made even more difficult by the country's religious pluralism: Pakistan is home to the same religions and religious currents - albeit in small numbers - as in neighboring India.

However, the fate of the Hindus, who make up 1.6 percent of Pakistanis, is less known than that of their “mirror minority”, the Muslims in India, who make up 14 percent of the total population there. The most recent media attention was the anti-Muslim persecution surrounding the destruction of the Barbarian Mosque in Ayodhya in 1992, the violent pogroms with thousands of deaths in Gujarat in 2002 as well as the unrest after the attacks in Mumbai in 2008 and recent riots in Assam against emigrants from Bangladesh. But what about the Hindus who remained in Pakistan after the partition of colonial India on the other side of the border? In the following, an attempt will be made to give an overview of the reality of life for Hindus in Pakistan.


The term "Hinduism" goes back to a term used by foreigners for the inhabitants of the area around the Indus River in today's Pakistan. Islam did not reach the Indian subcontinent until the Middle Ages and became the predominant religion among the Mughals in the early modern period in what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh. When it was granted independence in 1947, the colony of British India was roughly divided along religious lines: the greater India was predominantly inhabited by Hindus and was flanked in the west and east by Muslim Pakistan. In the course of the division ("partition") of the former colony there were millions of resettlements, some of which were violent - around 15 percent of the total population at that time left what is now Pakistan. Millions were killed on both sides.

India was conceived by Jawaharlal Nehru's Congress Party as a secular state and this “Nehruvian consensus” was at least able to win a majority in India for years. Although Pakistan's founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, still imagined the new home for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent as a secular state based on the Western model, he had much greater difficulties in anchoring this religious tolerance in society. This is certainly also due to the fact that barely a year after the founding of the state he blessed the time.

In any case, the constituent assembly of Pakistan promised the minorities of the country in its "Objectives Resolution" extensive religious freedom even after Jinnah's death in 1949 and the constitution passed under the Bhutto government in 1973 after the violent separation of Bangladesh (formerly "East Pakistan") initially continued this line. Only after General Zia ul Haq (1977–1988) had ousted Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from the post of prime minister did the situation change: under pressure from fundamentalist forces, he made Islam his political agenda and, among other things, introduced the notorious “blasphemy laws” .

In the years after Zia's death in 1988, Bhutto's daughter, Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif took turns at the helm until the democratically elected government fell victim to another military coup in 2001. This made General Pervez Musharraf head of state and heralded a phase of "enlightened moderation" for Pakistan's minorities - with the exception of the Ahmadis, who continue to be discriminated against - in which the controversial system of "separate electorates" was finally abolished for the Hindus in 2002 Minorities could only vote for candidates from their minority, which Pakistan had repeatedly accused of having a structurally anchored clientele policy. In other words: why should a Muslim parliamentarian care about the interests of a religious minority if they would not be able to vote for him?

However, many questions remain unanswered. The proportion of religious minorities in the Pakistani population has fallen dramatically since 1947: while before the division of British India, almost 30 percent of the people in today's Pakistan were non-Muslims, it is today after massive emigration to India and the Pakistani population explosion of recent decades and the immigration of around 1.7 million Muslim Afghans in the 1980s is only four percent of the 196 million Pakistanis - an estimated 3 million of them are Hindus.


Islam is constitutionally anchored in Article 2 of the Constitution as the state religion of Pakistan. The country’s president (Art. 41 para. 2) and Prime Minister (Art. 91 para. 3) must be Muslims and all parliamentarians and cabinet members at the provincial and national levels swear to protect Pakistan's Islamic identity.11 In return, there are Parliaments quotas that reserve a certain number of seats for minorities. Indiscriminate religious freedom is formally granted (Art. 20), but only with very far-reaching and vaguely worded restrictions in “law, public order and good morals”. The freedom of opinion generally granted in Art. 19 is immediately relativized by “reasonable legal restrictions in the interest of the glory of Islam”.

Probably the best-known use of these legal restrictions on freedom of religion and expression are the blasphemy laws introduced under General Zia, which are intended to protect the Koran and the Prophet from defamation: Sec. 295-B and 295-C in the Pakistani Criminal Code punish violations with fines, life imprisonment or even the death penalty. However, these provisions are often misused for defamation in order to get rid of politically unpleasant opponents. It can be observed, however, that charges for violating the blasphemy laws are directed less against Hindus than against other religious minorities. Nevertheless, Pakistani Muslims repeatedly resort to vigilante justice against Hindus who allegedly violated the relevant laws.

Settlements and even holy places of the Hindus are to this day expropriated by the Muslim majority without the state doing anything about it; often enough he even becomes an accomplice. Abuses of the law against minorities can be observed regularly, and judges are often intimidated by the strong Islamist groups in the country, both in the process and in the verdict. The structural discrimination against Pakistan's minorities also extends to education: Religious instruction is compulsory at state schools in Pakistan, but the subject matter is usually only Islam. This form of indoctrination of Pakistani students goes even further: history books in public schools only begin with the arrival of Islam on the Indian subcontinent, while periods of Buddhist and Hindu rule are completely ignored. Hindus are no longer part of the Pakistani narrative, but are only declared to be representatives of the Indian opponent. At Pakistan's state universities, on the other hand, there is a minority quota of five percent, to which university access for non-Muslims is often limited. A similar quota also exists for the recruitment of civil servants, although in fact it is hardly ever met.

Hindus in Pakistan have so far not had their own political organization to denounce these abuses, but only individual lobby organizations such as "All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat" or "Pakistan Hindu Seva", which either represent only a fraction of the country's highly fragmented Hindu communities or are officially non-political . Since the dissolution of the Federal Ministry of Minorities in 2011, the protection of minorities in Pakistan has also been a matter for the individual provinces, which further complicates the coherent representation of interests. However, occasionally individual Indian politicians come to the aid of the Pakistani Hindus, for example visiting Hindu pilgrimage sites in neighboring countries to the west and trying to pressure the Pakistani authorities to maintain them. This support is always limited to phases of relative relaxation in the relations between the two warring neighboring states: Hindu-Muslim relations within Pakistan and India are always closely linked to Indo-Pakistani relations on a political level.

Pakistan's state is weak. Again and again he experiences security pressure from the strong military - one of the states in the state of Pakistan. The other state within the state is fundamentalist Islam. While the military fights terrorist groups like the Taliban, radical Islamic forces consider them to be the spearhead of their religious struggle. Democracy is in danger of being crushed between these forces - not to mention the religious minorities. Their exclusion occurs in education, career choice and also in the practice of their religion they are given far less freedom than the Muslim majority.


The exclusion of religious minorities in Pakistan is not only symptomatic of the country's weak democracy, but also reflects deeply rooted social resentment of the Muslim majority population against those of different faiths: In 1992 the Hindus in Pakistan became scapegoats for the violent destruction of the Barbarian Mosque in Ayodhya, India. Hindu temples across the country were destroyed in revenge. Many Hindus were murdered and others hid for months until the situation had calmed down or took on Muslim names in order not to be immediately recognized as Hindus. Something similar could be observed a decade later after the pogroms against Muslims in the west Indian state of Gujarat. Even after the terrorist attacks allegedly initiated by Pakistan in Mumbai in 2008, there was great uncertainty among the Hindus in Pakistan. Their well-being therefore always depends on the fate of the Muslims in India - they are, so to speak, hostages of the Muslim majority in the country (so-called "hostage theory" - the idea that on the Indian and Pakistani side the remaining minorities must be treated with care again to protect one's own people against political opponents).

In rural Pakistan in particular, there is a lack of women due to targeted abortions of female fetuses and the killing of young girls. According to estimates, 20 to 25 Hindu women are kidnapped, forcibly converted and later forcibly married to Muslim men every month. The fact that three quarters of the Hindus in Pakistan are casteless untouchables ("Dalits") contributes significantly to this fact. Although all people are officially equal in Pakistan as an Islamic state, this does little to change the discrimination against the caste system, which continues to be widespread throughout the Indian subcontinent. Dalits who have converted to Islam continue to be treated as untouchables.

The overwhelming majority of Pakistan's Hindus live in the southern Sindh province and this is also where most of the Dalits are located in Pakistan, where they usually belong to the province's 1.7 million serfs and Pakistan (after India and China) ranks third secure in the competition for the land with most of the people living in slavery-like conditions in the world. Unlike in India, however, there is no legislation in Pakistan to protect the Dalits -
the government simply ignores the social question there. The majority of the Pakistani Dalits are illiterate and have no opportunities for supraregional communication and exchange. They live in rural areas in particular and have no lobby worth mentioning.

In Pakistan as in India, everyday discrimination goes hand in hand with the untouchability: Doctors who refuse treatment for Dalits for fear of contamination, no
Access to the village fountain, gheottoisation and refusal of simple services such as the service in the restaurant. There are also acts of violence, murders, kidnappings and rape. Most untouchable women fall victim to sexual violence in the course of their lives and in the rarest of cases the perpetrators face arrest or even conviction. To put it bluntly: a young Dalit girl in Pakistan is five times more likely to be raped in the course of her life than to learn to read.


Pakistan's biggest problem is its weak state. Democracy has hardly any systematic support: if the elected government is too weak, the military and
a member of the general staff swings himself up to become the new dictator of the country. In the first few years of its existence, Pakistan was governed without a constitution of its own and this has been repealed several times since then. The repeatedly gaping power vacuum has been filled with political Islamism, especially in the last few decades since the time of General Zia and later - fueled by the secret war waged jointly with the Taliban and the USA against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Freedom of expression is restricted and Islam becomes the country's exclusive ideology and identity.

The most important concern of the Pakistani state at the moment is probably the fight against the Taliban on the Afghan border. Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is under tremendous international and domestic political pressure to be able to show rapid successes in this struggle and to show strength - after all, he himself was ousted in a military coup in 2001.

Pakistani Hindus continue to emigrate to India. The only consolation for them is perhaps the fact that other minorities are even worse off than they are: the originally Muslim community of Ahmadis and Christians are much more often the target of political and social discrimination. So Hindus in Pakistan are less affected by their religion than by their status as untouchables. The fate of Pakistani Hindus, like that of the whole country, will depend on how Pakistan decides between the alternatives of democracy and theocracy. Because especially in view of the current military offensives of the Pakistani government against the Taliban in the west of the country, it is imperative to distance oneself ideologically from their propagated Islamism.

This article was created in a seminar that the author took in the 2014 summer semester as part of his master's degree in "Modern South and Southeast Asian Studies" at Berlin's Humboldt University.

In the form published here, it can hardly meet scientific standards. Representing many sources, here is Haroon Khalid's excellent book A White Trail - A journey into the heart of Pakistan’s religious minorities referred to in 2013 at Westland Ltd. appeared.