What Happened To The Hindu Population of West Pakistan?


It has long been argued by the right wing Hindutva ideologues that:

  • After the exchange of population between India and Pakistan in 1947, 15% of the total population of West Pakistan was Hindu.
  • Since 1947 the population share of Pakistani Hindus came down drastically from 15% to the present day 1.6%.

In a recent article published on various websites Prof. Saswati Sarkar wrote:

“let me first start with startling facts that should have by now been well known to an Indian audience in normal course. When Pakistan was created in 1947, Hindus constituted about 15% of the population of West Pakistan (current Pakistan); by 1998 it is about 1.6% [1] – the population has declined by about 90% in about 50 years. This decimation is the outcome of sustained legal and social discrimination ever since the creation of Pakistan.”

~ Professor Saswati Sarkar , Dept. of Electrical and Systems Eng., University of Pennsylvania

To support this claim Professor Saswati Sarkar has provided a link to the Hindu American foundation website here. But do these startling claims made by the Hindu American Foundation and Prof Sarkar stand up to scrutiny? In this article I will present various documentary evidences to try and understand the reality of the population numbers of Hindus in present day Pakistan.

Three academics from some of the best educational institutions in the world came together to study the migratory flow of populations after the partition of India. In their paper they wrote this:

“In Pakistan, since we know ex-post that almost all Hindus/Sikhs moved, it is easy to identify the potential movers in 1931, and say with some confidence that Muslims in Pakistan in 1931 compromise the non-movers in 1931. We cannot say this for India and Bangladesh since only some Muslims/Hindus moved. The percentage Hindus/Sikhs in Pakistan dropped from 17% in 1931 to 2% in 1951. The minority numbers for India and Bangladesh are 12% to 9% and 29% to 21%. Clearly a large number of Muslims stayed back in India and a large number of Hindus stayed back in Bangladesh (until 1951).”

(Page 7, Footnote 9)

The Partition of India: Demographic consequences by Prashant Bhardwaj, Asim Khwaja & Atif Mian (Exhibit A)

This is by far the best academic study that I could find on the subject. In this study the academicians have covered a wide range of issues that impacted migration during the partition of India. This paper is based on the district wise tabulated data of 1931 census of undivided India and the 1951 census of India and Pakistan.

As per the 1931 census, Hindus and Sikhs had a total share of 17% of the total population in the districts that later became West Pakistan. There is no reason to believe that this population ratio changed until the partition in 1947.

To verify the census figures I had to look for another source of data against which these figures can be compared. I searched through newspaper archives to look for migration figures from the time of the Partition to get an idea of the number of Hindus and Sikhs who left West Pakistan.

According to this Reuters report (Exhibit B) published in 1953 a total of 7.5 million Hindus and Sikhs migrated from East and West Pakistan and settled in India by 1951. As per the census carried out by India in 1951 a total of 2.5 million Hindus entered into India from East Pakistan (Bangladesh). This means that out of the total migration of 7.5 million people into India, 5 million entered from West Pakistan and the remaining 2.5 million entered from East Pakistan.

Exhibit B

This figure can also be corroborated from another news published in 1949 (Exhibit C). The ministry of rehabilitation established to help the refugees took a census and estimated the number of refugees from West Pakistan to be 5 million. Notice the number of migrants from East Pakistan (Bangladesh) were around 2 million in 1949 and this number swelled to 2.5 million by 1951.

Screenshot - 3_01_2015 , 11_56_24 PM

Exhibit C

The number Hindus and Sikhs who left West Pakistan were replaced by almost the same number of Muslims who left India. This means that the overall population of West Pakistan remained the same. This is supported by the initial reports of migration that were published in December 1947 (Exhibit D). As per this report out of the total 8.5 million people who crossed Punjab border 4,362,000 were non Muslims. Later this number swelled to 5 million as migrations continued.

Exhibit D

As per the census of 1951 the total population of West Pakistan was around 34 million. 5 million Hindus and Sikhs who left West Pakistan would have made 14.7% of that population.

The study claims that 2% of Hindus still remained in Pakistan even after Partition. Lets add 2% to the 14.7 % and the final figure comes to 16.7% which is very close to the 17% as claimed in the paper presented by the academicians. The numbers add up.


Exhibit E

The reporting of that time reflected the fact that almost all Hindus of Pakistan lived in East Bengal. There was only a tiny minority of Hindus that existed in West Pakistan (Exhibit E).

According to the 1998 census figures of Pakistan the total population share of Hindus is 1.85%  including the scheduled castes (not 1.60% as claimed by HAF). Prof Sarkar also argues that many Hindus in Pakistan hide their religious identity due to fear of persecution. So according to her claim the population share of Hindus may be much higher than 1.85%.

Going by this report many Dalit Hindus have converted to Christianity in Pakistan due to the efforts of missionary groups. This is plausible because we have seen similar conversions in India. This means that 1.59% Christian population of Pakistan also includes some erstwhile Hindus.

Looking at the numbers and the supporting documents we can safely conclude that the the population share of Hindus in present day Pakistan has not shown a decline as is being claimed by the Hindutva ideologues.

It is very important to highlight the plight of minorities in Pakistan who face discrimination and persecution and this must done on the basis of facts. There are many authentic reports that can be used to support the fact that minorities face hardships in Pakistan. Misrepresentation of facts does not help the cause.


19 thoughts on “What Happened To The Hindu Population of West Pakistan?

  1. These kind of bull-shit studies are not worth the e-pages they are written on. You are referring and quoting text from people, so never even went to India. And yes at that time, with no computers and proper recording keeping, they were able to keep track of the population. And what about those who silently converted to Islam just after 1947 to project their assets, farms and houses. WHere are these muslims Bhattis, and Sethis and Rathores and Randhwas are coming from in Pakistan. If you want facts, then start with some really ground studies or stop publishing this crap.

    • 1) I have used data from the census of undivided India done in 1931, Census of done by Govt of India in 1951 and the Census done by ministry of rehabilitation done in 1949. If you have better quality of data on the subject I am happy to update my findings on the issue. The ideas is to get as close to the truth as possible.

      2) I agree most Muslims from the subcontinent have Hindu ancestors. Some kept their family names. However I have no reason to believe that these conversions took place during the time when India was partitioned. No reports mass conversion of Hindus in the west and no reports of mass conversion of Muslims in the East of Punjab border. I am happy to incorporate this data if you can provide me with supported data related to your claim.

      3) I cant simply reject newspaper reports and census data because they were done by people and not computers. In that case we wont be able to analyze any data that existed prior recent few decades when use of a computer became common. Thanks.

      • What a silly argument you have made. So why did almost all Hindus/Sikhs leave Pakistan when Muslims didn’t leave India?

        So, is it because Muslims were more ferocious in expelling Hindus/Sikhs or Hindus/Sikhs who left were more Islamophobic?

  2. I read this article with great interest, I had tried to find these dates on Wekipedia, found nothing such that support what you say. Moreover Pakistan data given was including East Pakistan, as it later became Bangldesh, or without it, may be the reason of my misunderstanding.

    • We can update Wikipedia with this information. I have only taken into consideration the data for West Pakistan. The only data related to Bangladesh that I took into consideration was the number of migrants that arrived from there. Then I subtracted that from the total number of migrants to get the number of migrants from West Pakistan.

      • Sir , thanks a lot for this study. Off late , sanghis have changed articles like ‘demographies of pak’ and they peddle lies like there were 15 perc Hindus in west pak. All the sources these statements qoute are of sanghis blogs.

  3. What ever information about the plight of Hindus and destruction of Hindu shrines and temples we get we get them from media and the migration of Hindus from Pakistanand Bengladesh to India,Recently a statement was made by Imran khan that Hindus are converted forcively to Islam ,if his party is voted to power he will stop it and give equal treatment to Hindus,Now this report gives a different data of Population let it be corroborated withother datas on this point.I have for the first time seen a report which goes to show that the population of minority Hindus did not decrease.Let another fact be placed before us about the atrocities committed and the equal rights denied and over all conditions of hindus in Pkistan and Bengla dash

    • Discrimination against minorities is common the sub continent. I have read about reports of forceful conversions too. A few hundred conversions cant alter the population ratio though. This article is about demographic changes. The right wing does a lot of propaganda on the population figures but never support it with evidence. This article is a sincere attempt to understand what happened to the Hindu population of West Pakistan.

    • In Pakistan 5% seats in Their National Assymbly are reserved for Minorities. Which India don’t do. As per 1931 census during British rule, the districts formed present Pakistan had only 17% population of Sikhs & Hindua. As per cabinet commission report while considering Independence of India, declared Sindh had 85-86% Muslims, Bengal had 78% Muslims, Punjab 66% Muslims( it included Present state of Haryana, Punjab & parts of Himachal state of India). Baluchistan & NWFP had almost no population of Hindus. After Partition 10 lacs people were killed Hindu Sikh & Muslim were in equal by numbers. About 1.5 crore migrated from India to Pakistan or from Pakistan to India. Can any one dare to do it again? About 70 lacs Muslim migrated to Pakistan & 80lacs Hindu & Sikh migrated from Pakistan. Migration in Sindh, Baluchistan, NWFP was minimum, it were only Punjabees who migrated from Pakistan. As per Pakistan 1951 census Hindu Sikh in that country remained only less then 2%. Considering these facts yes harsh behaviour is in general is there, in Pakistan. Rich business men or land lords don’t have to face even that. 3rd richest person of Pakistan is a Hindu. Already they had Hindu as CJ As far as temple GurudwRa are concerned, these have become target whenever Anti India sentiments get raised due to some events in India or other reasons.

  4. call yourself pakistan journal not Bharat Journal. All this misrepresentation of data is BS. I just pray to God that all such people who get perverse kick out of these shady journalism should undergo similar torture that those hapless hindus underwent.

      • A good reply by you. Whatever be my or any body belief is, when sun of truth rises it eclipse all falls beliefs. In my college days, one of class fellow used to say he could prove day is night, my reply to him was by tark or ku tark you can prove so but still truth will remain truth, can not change. So be fore commenting they must see & study Census data of 1931 & Pakistan census data of 1951, truth will come before. But these Andhbhakt don’t do it but start abusing & threatening.Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPadAt 06-Jan-2015 7:52:55 pm, Bhar

  5. One of the finest & most informative article I’ve come across on this issue.
    Every time minorities in India ask for their rights, right wing mob tries to divert the subject towards condition of minorities in Pakistan/Bangladesh.When someone like me (Hindu) raises voice for “minorities deserve equal rights” are labelled as Anti-Hindu/Traitor & gets rape threats. however I continue to do so, I believe “even if you’re minority of one the truth is the truth”.

    • THe RSS brands hindu will raise more question, though irrelevent, without basis, then you can reply. Facts they are not going to accept, if nothing do, by saying these are cocked by Congress Govt. of day. But the fact remain is 1931 census, which was full census, last before independence. In Pakistan ( Sindh & west Punjab now part of Pakistan, NWFP, Balochistan) combined population of Hindus, Sikhs & Jains, were only 17%, of which about 15% shifted to India after partition up to 1950. So only 2% remained in Pakistan. Now as per their latest census Hindu Sikh combined are about 1.8% of total population of Pakistan. Which is explained by their demographers, as Muslim Population rose faster then minority Hindu & Sikh, Many poor Hindu delibretly conceal their religion for fear of persecution by Islamic groups. Other wise Pakistan in their National Assyembley has 5% seat reservation for minorities, that is Hindu Sikh Christian Parsi etc. Similarly Bangladesh the population was 22% in 1931 census, Present Hindu Population is about 15% .

  6. I have read the entire article but not getting the data I need so posting my question here..

    1) What was the % of Hindus and Muslims in entire subcontinent (India + Pakistan + Bangladesh) in 1941
    2) Compare it with the 1961 data

    My point is if Hindus migrated out of Pakistan and hence there % declined there should be corresponding increase in % in India.. That is the population % of the entire region would remain unchanged.

    Request you to confirm or correct.

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