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Pakistani Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Holly DeLuca

Holly has taught special education students and has a master's degree in special education

Pakistan has numerous large ethnic groups, including the Punjabis, Pashtuns, and Sindhis. Smaller groups include the Saraikis, Muhajirs, and Balochis. Learn about their cultural, religious, and social practices.

The Country of Pakistan

Pakistan is located in southern Asia, and is surrounded by India, Iran, Afghanistan, and China. The country is made up of many different ethnic groups, with Punjabi being the largest group, at 44% of the country's population in 2009. The next largest groups are the Pashtuns, making up 15% of the population, and Sindhis, which make up 14% of the total population. The smaller groups include the Saraikis, Muhajirs, and Balochis, which make up 8%, 8%, and 4% respectively. Muslim is the official religion of Pakistan, with approximately 96% of the population practicing it as of 2010. Other religions, such as Christianity and Hindu, are practiced by the remaining 4% of the population.

Flag of Pakistan
Pakistani flag

Punjabi People

The Punjabi people come from the Punjab province in Pakistan. The majority of Punjabi people are practicing Muslims. There are smaller numbers of people who practice Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism as well. In 1947, there was a separation of India and Pakistan, with religious groups fleeing to opposite countries. The Muslim community settled in Pakistan, and followers of the religion came to political power.

Traditional Muslim practices within the Punjabi group include reciting the Call to Prayer to newborn boys by a religious leader, wrapping a body in a white cloth at death, and circumcision of males any time before age 12. Castes also exist in the Punjabi group, and these sub-groups dictate many social standards, such as marriage partners and jobs. Even though the Muslim religion condemns the caste system, the Punjabi people follow this tradition.

In general, women and men have distinct roles within Punjabi society. Women are expected to marry and have children, while men oversee the business activities for the family. Marriages are arranged by parents, and it is not acceptable to find one's own marriage partner.

Pashtun People

Pashtun people come from the northwestern province of Pakistan. They are mostly herders, moving often to find land for their animals to graze on. The Pashtun people are divided into tribes, each with its own territory. The major religion of the Pashtun people is Islam, which was introduced in the eighth century. Like the Punjabi people, Pashtuns whisper the Call to Prayer to newborn boys, however, the tradition of circumcision is done at the same time as birth, rather than any time before age 12.

In regards to family life, males have complete authority over the family. Men establish their families in the home of their parents, instead of finding a home of their own. The man's wife is expected to join him in his family's home, and give her loyalty to his family. Extended families live together in the same home, with older family members relying on the family for care and support. The entire family contributes to expenses, with wealthier family members helping poorer ones.

Pashtun people participate in singing as a traditional activity. Folk songs are performed for both marriages and funerals. Poems are also recited.

Sindhi People

Sindhi people come from the Sindh province in southeast Pakistan. They are mostly involved in irrigation agriculture as a way of life; however they also grow wheat, rice, cotton, oil seeds, sugarcane, and fruits as well. Some of the Sindhi people have more professional jobs, such as merchants, physicians, teachers, and lawyers. Merchants may sell the traditional handcrafts, such as embroidered fabric, lacquerware, and painted tile work.

Most of the Sindhi people practice the Muslim religion, while a much smaller section of the population practices Hinduism. Many of the Sindhi Hindu people migrated to India, leaving most of the population of Sindhis practicing the Muslim faith.

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