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Zarnab Shaheen

28 January 2023

Minorities are referred to people who are lesser in numbers as compared to the dominant group within the state. They concur with the dominant group but, are secondary to them. (Minority, n.d.) Minorities could be ethnic, racial or religious.

The minorities in Pakistan make up about 8% of the total population (Malik, 2002) and mainly consists of: Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Ahmadis, Jains, Bahais, Kalasha of Chitral, Buddhists and Parsis. The rights of the minorities are different from the traditional rights that are being given to the people overall living in the state. Minorities rights are distinct kind of rights that are an assurance of the “Freedom of lifestyle” to every individual of the minority group they belong to. The constitution of Pakistan promises full freedom to minorities to live according to their religious norms and their traditional cultures as Article no.20 of the constitution states: “every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion; and every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions”. (The Constitution of Pakistan, n.d.) Will Kymlicka, a Philosopher who identified three types of Minority rights which include: Self-Government Rights, Polyethnic rights and Representation rights. (Heywood, 2017) .This article aims to analyze that whether Pakistan fulfills all three types of Minority rights and does Pakistan fulfills what it promises to the minorities in its Constitution?

Firstly, Self-Government rights according to Kymlicka are granted to those minorities who are

indigenous people and are territorially concentrated and within that territory that have their own pattern of living. (Heywood, 2017) . They govern themselves by letting their own members have the political power and rule over them. The indigenous people in Pakistan are Kochis, Rabari, Baluch, Bakarwal, Kehal, Jogi, Kabootra, Sanyasi and Kalash. All of these groups have their settlements into the distinct areas of Pakistan with Kalash being the smallest groups of the minorities with only 5000 people. (Cultural Survival, 2017) . Firstly, the Government of Pakistan doesn’t recognize the Indigenous people but rather it refers to them as “Tribal” people. (Wagha, 2012) The Constitution remains silent too when it comes to Indigenous people. The areas to which these indigenous classes belong have their own local government with the sitting Government (PTI) being the head of the State. For example, the Kalash belong to Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have their own local government with a Tehsil Mayor, a Deputy and an Assistant Commissioner. However, they have their own MNAs who represent them in the National Assembly. (District Chitral (Upper & Lower), n.d.) . Overall, the Indigenous people are live under the rule of the Sitting Government and follow the rules set by them.

Secondly, Polyethnic rights are the type of rights that allow the religious and ethnic minorities, which have migrated to a particular state, to have the freedom to follow their own traditional culture. (Heywood, 2017) . Pakistan has been a safe heaven for millions of Immigrants and expatriates since many years especially the Afghan Refugees. Unfortunately, Afghan Refugees have to face many social problems and cultural crisis. Their cultural representation still suffers by the hands of the Pakistani people. Further immigrants include Chinese, Burmese, Sri Lankans, Iran and India. (Pakistan Migration Snapshot, 2019) . Although Constitution of Pakistan allows only non-Muslims to consume Alcohol, however the Pakistani government off and on cancels licenses of the wine sellers causing much issues for the minorities. (Hassan, 2016).

Finally, the special representation rights are granted to the minorities which rectifies their lower representation and aims to alleviate their positions in education and senior political positions. (Heywood, 2017) . The senate of Pakistan has total of 4 seats reserved for minorities one each from every province. The National Assembly of Pakistan has a total of 10 seats reserved for minorities. No distinct quota has been set for minorities belonging to any specific area within Pakistan. The number of seats in Provincial Assembly for minorities has been set to 23, with the greatest number of seats reserved for the Sindh Province. (PARTICIPATION OF MINORITIES, n.d.) . Moving on, towards the education sector, it was as late as 2020 when only the Government of Punjab decided to fix a 2% quota for the religious minorities, for their admissions in the Universities. (Chaudhry, 2020) Christians form a majority among the minority groups in Punjab and this news brought great ecstasy to them because minorities before couldn’t attend universities unlike Muslims in Pakistan and wouldn’t be able to end up having successful careers in Pakistan. However, Minorities still have serious concerns with Pakistani education system especially the ones who have different native languages e.g. Kalash in Chitral. The syllabus is stringently designed on Islamic basis and other religions are portrayed negatively. Furthermore, the mode of teaching is Urdu or English which makes it very difficult for children to cope with studies who are unable to understand English or Urdu. (Cultural Survival, 2017) .

Despite the constitution of Pakistan promising the minorities a full protection and freedom of the lifestyles they want to adopt; the minority groups continue to suffer by the hands of dominant group within the country and especially the ones who hold prejudice within them. Granting Minority rights signal towards the termination of social injustice, failure of recognition, repression and exploitation towards minorities. In my opinion, Pakistan still lags behinds in granting its minorities, for example the denial of Pakistani government to grant Indigenous people self-government is debatable. The indigenous people or national minorities did not leave their lands by their will. They were forced to leave their lands and their native lifestyles. Secondly, since they are territorially concerted so, self-government is possible there. Moreover, these people have different interests than the dominant population which makes their right to self-govern pertinent. Moreover, Pakistan also struggles to provide full cultural and religious freedom to the minorities with evidences of Hindu temples being destroyed in certain areas of Pakistan. Only Punjab province has provided quotas for minorities, unfortunately rest of the provinces have still opted to remain silent. Summing up my argument, I believe that Pakistan has still a long way to go in terms of fulfilling all types of Minority rights.



Chaudhry, K. (2020, May 3). Punjab approves quota for minority students. Retrieved from


Cultural Survival. (2017). Violations of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Pakistan.

District Chitral (Upper & Lower). (n.d.). District Chitral (Upper & Lower). Retrieved from

Hassan, S. R. (2016, October 27). Pakistani court closes licensed liquor shops for non-Muslims.

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Heywood, A. (2017). Multiculturalism. In A. Heywood, Political Ideologies: An Introduction,

6th ed. (pp. 274-297). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Malik, D. I. (2002). Religious Minorities in Pakistan. Retrieved from

Minority. (n.d.). Minority. Retrieved from

Pakistan Migration Snapshot. (2019, August). Pakistan Migration Snapshot. Retrieved from




The Constitution of Pakistan. (n.d.). The Constitution of Pakistan. Retrieved from



Wagha, W. (2012, November). Country Technical Notes on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues.

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