Regional and Ethnic Factors

Pakistan Table of Contents

Government and politics bear the imprint of Pakistan's diversity. Despite the loss of the country's East Wing in 1971, the body politic remains a varied and volatile mix of ethnic, linguistic, and regional groups, and provincialism and ethnic rivalries continue to impede the progress of national integration. Although Islam is a unifying force, and the majority of Pakistanis are Sunni Muslims, there is considerable cultural diversity within and among the country's four provinces, and coreligionists' identification as Sindhis, Punjabis, Baloch, or Pakhtuns is strong.

Added to the indigenous human mosaic are the more than 7 million muhajirs (refugees or immigrants from India and their descendants) from various parts of India. Economic and political rivalries persist between the muhajirs and the indigenous populations of the provinces of Pakistan. These contests often turn violent and have contributed significantly to national unrest and instability. Ethnic riots have cost hundreds of lives and destroyed millions of dollars worth of property. A further challenge to national stability results from the approximately 1.4 million Afghan refugees who in early 1994 still had not returned to their country. Linguistic diversity is also a divisive force. Some twenty languages are spoken, and although Urdu is the official language, it is not the native tongue of the majority of the population. Islam provides a tenuous unity in relation to such diversity. Efforts to build national consensus in the face of these obstacles remains central to effective government in Pakistan.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress