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