A Survey of Social Exclusion, Media Portrayal, and Services for Christians Minorities in Pakistan
Authors: Akhlaq Ahmad, Bilal Shaukat & Muhammad Saeed
A Survey of Social Exclusion, Media Portrayal, and Services for Christians Minorities in Pakistan
Social exclusion of religious minorities affects them in a number of ways. The main purpose of the present research is to explore the social recognition, freedom of religious practices, feeling of isolation and insecurity amongst minorities in Pakistan. A survey was conducted on 250 sampled respondents through proportionate random sampling technique. An interview schedule was prepared by the researchers contacting different parts to collect data from the respondents. The results indicate that respondents are facing problems regarding their social recognition, freedom of religious practices and as well as feeling of isolation and insecurity. On another side media is highlighting the issues as well. The present study suggest that there should be comprehensive plan of action/ awareness campaign regarding the promotion of spirits of interfaith harmony and dialogues among different segments of society including all minorities.
Keywords: Media portrayal, Social recognition, Services, Isolation, Religious practices, Social Exclusion
Social exclusion is a universal phenomenon which has existed over time and space. However, it has several dimensions. It exists in various spheres and in many forms (Silver, 2007). Race and caste have however dominated the discourse on social exclusion. In its simplest understanding, social exclusion is lack of access to resources and consequent inability to utilize them. It is further accentuated by denial of opportunities which enhance access to resources and their utilization (AIP, 1994). It can, therefore be experienced by anyone who is in a position which is vulnerable to such impeding conditions. Thus, besides caste and race, religion, age, gender, social position and occupational hierarchy are all potentially volatile to social exclusion (Ziyauddin, 2009).The failure of society to provide certain individuals and groups with those rights and benefits normally available to its members, such as employment, adequate housing, health care, education and training (Collins Dictionary, 2014).
At the time of separation of Pakistan and India, a number of Christians had to leave the Punjab to make way for Muslim refugees from India (Kumari, 2012). They had to give up their lands for the incoming Muslims. This was evidently unfair, but in the unsettled climate of those days and the perception about the creation of Pakistan was to be a homeland for Muslims, the rights of evicted Christians were ignored at that time period. Secondly, Muslim refugees replaced many of Hindu landlords, who had fled to India, and the Christian found their new masters less compatible and certainly having less experience of managing the farms lands and economic activities in the indigenous areas of their residence (Kumari, 2012). As an outcome of this movement, many Punjabi Christians migrated to Karachi. Thus the composition of the Christian population of Karachi changed drastically. Formerly, they were predominantly Goan but now almost 95 percent of Christians are Punjabi ethnic identity (John, 1988).
The state of Pakistan was created on equal basis in 1947, but the question of religious freedom, religious rights became very critical within short span of time. Pakistan had rectified the declaration on the rights of religious minorities and also has assured fundamental rights for all in its constitution. However, the kind of abuses and oppression religious minorities’ face point to institutionalized human rights violations in the politics, state and society at larger (Czarnecki, 2011).
Minorities in Pakistan vary between 11 and 13 million according to the census report of 1998. Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus claim to have a population of 4 million each. It is crucial, however, to note that, given the disadvantages and stigmatization, communities do not like to be identified as minorities so the above mentioned figures may be as under estimate, as some people may not have chosen to identify their ethnic or religious background in the country (Rehman, 2010).
According to the CERD’s (Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination) official statistics, religious minorities in Pakistan constitute about 3.72% of the total population. Among the religious minorities, the Hindus constitute 1.9%, the Christians constitute 1.6%, the Ahmadis constitute 0.1% and the Parsis, Buddhist, Sikhs, Bahais cumulatively constitute 0.012% of the total population of Pakistan (CERD, 2008).
It is to be noted that at the time of 1947, the displaced persons were in hardship and had originally to be content with menial jobs. Many Catholic Bengalis were said to be migrated to Bangladesh consequent on the announcement of East Pakistan. The Catholic diocese of Rawalpindi and Islamabad also experienced augmentation due to migration of Christian population of Islamabad and Rawalpindi was said to have increased twofold between 1946 and 1986 (John, 1987).
Christian families reside in each district of the country in three of the four provinces of Pakistan, Punjab, Baluchistan, and the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. The Christian community is the largest religious minority group, while in Sindh, it is only one-seventh the size of the Hindu population. Two-thirds of the Christian population in Pakistan resides in eight districts of the central Punjab (Young, 1971). These districts are Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Lahore, Sheikhupura, Sialkot Kasur, Sahiwal and Sargodha (Rehman, 1998).
The constitution of Pakistan guarantees the basic, fundamental and positive rights, including equality of status of opportunity and before law, social, religious, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought and expression, belief and faith, worship and association, subject to the law and public morality to its citizens and people of the area (HRCP, 2010). However, some argue that Christians in Pakistan are restricted in their choice of employment and access to political office because of their status as a religious minority within an Islamic state. The discrimination they suffer at the hands of the majority community gives them deep feeling of insecurity (Qasim, 1966). Others describe that their faith becomes a privatized religion, a world of its own, where the individual Christian can escape from the often very real hardships of life and find solace in the difficulties and trials that must endure (Yusaf, 1984).
Objectives of the study
To explore the socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents.
To explore the socio-cultural factors of social exclusion of Christian in Punjab.
To suggest the policy makers to minimize social exclusion of Christian community.
Materials and methods
Researchers selected three urban localities for the present study including Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Further, three colonies of Christians; Youhana Abad from Lahore, Father Colony (Shamsabad) from Rawalpindi and 100 Quarters (F6/2) from Islamabad were selected through randomly sampling. A sample size of 250 respondents was selected through proportionate random sampling technique on the basis of following characteristics; Christians residing in selected colonies and having age group of 20 to 60 years. An interview schedule containing different parts was used as a measurement tool for data collection to conduct present survey. Pretesting was done randomly on 25 respondents to check the workability and layout of data collection tool. Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 16.0 was used to analyze data. Further, tables were drawn to present results and conclusion.
Results and discussions
Table 1 Socio-demographic Characteristics of the Respondents
1.1 Age of the Respondents
1.4 Occupation of the Respondents
20 – 29
30 – 39
40 – 49
50 & Above
1.2 Marital Status of the Respondents
1.5 Family Type of the Respondents
1.3 Education of the Respondents
1.6 Monthly Income of the Respondents
Up to Primary
5001 - 10000
BA & Above
Table 1.1 depicts that 50.8 percent respondents had the age group of 20-29 and 35.6 percent respondents fell in the age group of 35.6 furthermore 10.8 percent respondents belonged to the age group of 40-49 however a small portion only 02.8 percent respondents covers the category of 50 & Above age. In the above table the majority of the respondents belonged to the age group 20-29 who were quite youngsters from different professions and the minor portion belonged to the age group of 50 & above that category also includes the retired persons. Table 1.2describes the marital status of the respondents among them less than half 40.0 percent respondents were single and remaining 60.0 percent respondents were married.
Table 1.3represents that 16.0 percent respondents had primary level of education while and 38.8 percent respondents had middle level education. Further, 33.6 percent respondents had metric level education, other 08.0 percent respondents had intermediate however 03.6 percent respondents passed BA & above. According to this table majority of the respondents had middle level education however few persons had BA & higher level education as well.
Table 1.4 explains the occupation of the respondents among them 38.4 percent respondents were Government employees and little less than half 44.4 percent respondents were serving private jobs as 12.8 percent respondents were running their own business while very small portion 04.4 percent respondents were retired persons. In Above table most of the respondents were doing private jobs while a sufficient portion was serving Government jobs in different departments. There were few respondents who had been retired from their jobs.
Table 1.5elaborates the information of family type of the respondents that shows 25.6 percent respondents were living in nuclear family system while rest 74.4 percent respondents that was the high majority were living with joint family system. From the above table we come to know that high majority of the respondents was living with joint family system and about one fourth of the respondents were living as nuclear family system.
Table 1.6 provides the detail of family monthly income where 30.8 percent respondents’ income ranged 5001-10000 and more than half 60.4 percent respondents income was 10001-20000 per month. Furthermore, 07.2 percent respondents’ income was 20001-30000 while 01.2 percent respondent’s monthly income was 25001-30000 although there was only 0.4 percent respondent who had 30001-Above. As shown in the above table the maximum of the respondents family monthly income was 10001-20000 and only one respondents out of two hundred fifty had 30001& above.
Table 2 Media portrayal and social recognition
Pearson Chi-Square = 3.059 Fisher's Exact Test Exact Sig. = .065
Table 2 represents the trend of data regarding media portrayal and social recognition of the respondents. Field data represents that 78 percent of the respondents’ response was low and 22 percent had high response regarding media portrayal regarding their issues are highlighted and have coverage in different programs and news. While on the other side, as well as their concern regarding social identity, their response was similar towards lower side 84 percent and 16 percent of the respondent’s response was high regarding their social identity. Pearson Chi-Square statistical test value is 3.059 and Fisher’s exact sig. is .065 shows that there is relationship between media portrayal and social recognition of the respondents. Lower level of media portrayal has effects on social recognition of Christian people and the results are also supported by Rawls (1971).
Table 3 Social recognition and exclusion from services
Exclusion from Services
Goodman and Kruskal tau = .007 Asymp. Std. Errora= .011
Table 3 depicts the social recognition and social exclusion from services of the respondents. Data reflects that lower level of social recognition enhance the exclusion from services of the respondents. Here, 84 percent of the respondents show low and 16 percent of the respondents show high level of social recognition. While on the other side, 62 percent show high and only 38 percent of the respondents show low level of exclusion from services. Here is negative relationship between social recognition and exclusion from services. The calculated value of Goodman and Kruskal tau is .007 with p-value .011.
Table 4 Freedom of religious practices and feeling of isolation and insecurity
Feeling of Isolation and Insecurity
Freedom of Religious Practices
Pearson Chi-Square = 7.221 Asymp. Sig. = .007 Fisher's Exact Test .005
Gamma = .466 p-value = .004 No. of Observations= 250
Table 4 describes the freedom of religious practices and feeling of isolation and insecurity. Field data shows that 82.4 percent of the respondents have low level of freedom of religious practices and only 17.6 percent of the respondents have high level of freedom to practice religious activities. As well as the concern of feeling of isolation and insecurity, 59.2 percent of the respondents have high and 40.8 have low level of feeling of isolation and insecurity. The calculated value of Pearson Chi-Square is 7.221 with p-value of .007 and value of Gamma statistical test is .466 with p-value of .004. It reflects that there is a positive relationship between freedom of religious practices and feeling of isolation and insecurity.
Table 5 Media portrayal and feeling of isolation and insecurity
Feeling of Isolation and Insecurity
Pearson Chi-Square = 2.856 Fisher's Exact Test = .061
Gamma= .267 Approx. Sig. = .080
Table 5 describes the media portrayal and feeling of isolation and insecurity of the respondents. Calculated data shows that 78 percent of the respondents have low and 22 percent of the respondents have high level response towards media portrayal. While on the other side, 59.2 percent of the respondents have high and 40.8 percent of the respondents have low level response towards their feeling of isolation and insecurity. The value of Pearson Chi-Square statistical test value is 2.856, Fisher’s exact test value is .061. The value of Gamma statistical test is .267. There is relationship between media portrayal and feeling of isolation and insecurity among respondents.
Table 6 Multivariate OLS regression model predicting progressive exclusion from services (parameter estimates and standard errors)
Freedom of religious practices
Age of the respondent
Family monthly income
No. of respondents
Table 6 shows the results of regression model predicting progressive exclusion from services. Data shows in the table reflects that the social recognition, freedom of religious practices and media portrayal is predicting exclusion from services of the respondents by controlling the variables regarding socio-economic characteristics includes age, education of the respondents, family monthly income (in Pakistan rupees) and family size of the respondents.
Christians in Pakistan are restricted in their choice of employment and access to political office because of their status as a religious minority within an Islamic state. The discrimination they suffer at the hands of the majority community gives them deep feeling of insecurity. Their faith becomes a privatized religion, a world of its own, where the individual Christian can escape from the often very real hardships of life and find solace in the difficulties and trials he must endure (Yusaf, 1984).
Social exclusion is a universal phenomenon which has existed over time and space. However, it has several dimensions. It exists in various spheres and in many forms. Race and caste have however dominated the discourse on social exclusion. In its simplest understanding, social exclusion is lack of access to resources and consequent inability to utilize them. It is further accentuated by denial of opportunities which enhance access to resources and their utilization. Christians are facing the problem of social recognition, freedom of their religious practices, feeling of isolation and insecurity and exclusion from services in Pakistan.The present study suggest that there should be comprehensive plan of action/ awareness campaign regarding the promotion of spirits of interfaith harmony and dialogues among different segments of society including all minorities. The campaign should engage the religious leaders, media persons, academia and civil society.
Amnesty International Pakistan. (1994). Use and Abuse of Blasphemy Laws. Amnesty International: New York, pp.6–7.
Collins dictionary. (2014). HarperCollins Publishers Limited: London
Czarnecki, R. (2011). Anti-minority education in Pakistan. Retrieved on February 02, 2012
HRCP. (2010). Annual Report. Islamabad: Human Rights Commission of Paksitan (HRCP)
Kumari, R. (2012). Forced conversions hike Pakistan minorities fears. Retrieved on March 28, 2012 from http://x.dawn.com/tag/minorities-in-Pakistan
Qasim, Z. (1966). Sectarianism in Pakistan: The Radicalization of Shia and Sunni Identities. Modern Asian Studies,32(3). 689–716.
Rawls, J. (1993). Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press
Rehman, A. (1998). A Critique of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws (196–204). in Tarik Jan et al., Pakistan between Secularism and Islam: Ideology, Issues and Conflict. Islamabad: Institute of Policy Studies.
Rehman, A. (2010). Major problems of the religious minorities of Lahore 1947-2010. (Unpublished BS Thesis). Lahore: Government College University.
Rooney, J. (1987). On Rocky Ground. Rawalpindi: Rawalpindi Christian Study Centre.
Rooney, J. (1988). Symphony on Sands. Rawalpindi: Rawalpindi Christian Study Centre.
Silver, H. (2007). The process of social exclusion: The dynamics of an evolving concept. Rhode Island: Department of Sociology, Brown University, Chronic Poverty Research Centre
UN. (2008). Twentieth Periodic Report of Pakistan. UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Young, W. G. (1971). The life and history of church in Pakistan. Al-Mushir. Vol XIII, No 7.
Yusaf, P. (1984). The Principle of ‘Izzat.’ Its Role in the Spiritual Formation of Punjabi Religious. Al-Mushir. 22(1): 17-28.
Ziyauddin, K. M. (2009). Dimensions of Social Exclusion: Ethnographic Explorations. London: Cambridge Scholars Publishing Newcastle
About the author(s)
Mr. Akhlaq Ahmad is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology, International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan.
Mr. Bilal Shaukat is Lecturer at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Peshawar, Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Muhammad Saeed is Regional Coordinator, Punjab Thalaessemia Prevention Programme, Health Multan, Pakistan.