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Manu Bheel, a Dalit, was freed from bonded labour in 1996. His family then worked as wage labourers, but in 1998, nine of his family members were kidnapped, allegedly by men sent by his former landlord. The case is still unresolved, and Manu Bheel’s symbolic hunger strike has become a symbol of the plight of Pakistan’s Dalits. Photo: Jakob Carlsen


Dalits in Pakistan mostly belong to the Hindu minority and fall victim to double discrimination due to their religious status - as non-Muslims in a Muslim state – as well as their caste. As in neighbouring India, they are officially known as ‘scheduled castes’ and suffer numerous forms of abuse, from bonded labour to rape. Crimes against them are often committed with impunity.

An illiterary rate above 75 per cent is the norm, and poverty is rampant. In the Sindh and Punjab provinces, the majority of Dalits live as bonded and forced labourers enslaved by landlords. The only reservation policy is a reinstated six per cent quota for minorities in public services, which is not being enforced.

Officially, the number of Dalits is approximately 330,000 (as of 1998), but according to researchers the real figure may be as high as two million. However, these data do not include ‘lower castes’ within the Muslim community, living under similarly depressed conditions.

For more information Download the IDSN briefing note on Pakistan (2014) >>

Key issues

Dalit women in Pakistan fall victim to sexual abuse, abduction and forced religious conversion. They suffer triple discrimination due to their gender, religion and caste.

Forced and bonded labour in Pakistan is widespread, particularly in agriculture and brick making. The majority of bonded labourers come from marginalised communities, including Dalits.

As in other South Asian countries, Dalits in Pakistan have limited access to equal and meaningful political participation.


Global Call Recommendations to End Caste Discrimination in Pakistan >>

UN reviews and recommendations on caste discrimination in Pakistan >>


IDSN has created an extensive database on caste-based discrimination.

Click here for all documents on Pakistan >>

Click here for news on Pakistan in IDSN’s database>>

Other resources

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