Leadership and Democracy LabWestern Social Science

Social Issues in Pakistan

Contributor: Temesghen Naizghi

There are many ongoing social issues in Pakistan that create a large storm of political and social unrest. Many of the prevailing social issues within Pakistan have grown worse due to the government’s weak response to the grievances of the people.

One of the pressing issues is malnutrition resulting from poverty. Pakistan recently readjusted the poverty line model from the previous 2001 template, and as a result, 60 million Pakistanis are living below the poverty line. Around 44% of Pakistan's population is malnourished. What separates Pakistan's problem in regards to food and health is that the malnutrition problem is not due to a lack of food but instead, the increasing price of food that many people within Pakistan are unable to afford. It is the growing inequality within the Pakistan economy, which has allowed for the poor to remain poor and the rich to remain rich. This ever increasing gap in wealth has resulted in growing issues with education levels of the country’s population.

Illiteracy is a major problem in Pakistan, as 25 million children still don't go to school, which is the largest of any country within the world. With only one in four children making it to grade 10, this shows a strong systemic issue in regards to educational practices within Pakistan, as well as the conditions of the schools themselves. This issue of educational inequality also correlates directly with egregious issues of discrimination.

The issue of gender discrimination is important to address when discussing the societal issues within Pakistan. According to the Global Gender Gap Index in 2015, Pakistan stands at the bottom 144 out of 145 countries in the world. This level of gender discrimination is a result of dated social hierarchy roles between men, as providers outside the home, and women, who are required to stay at home. Moreover, there is a large problem with the gender pay gap in Pakistan. It is so great that the female labour force participation rate is 22% compared to that of men at 67.8% and women are also paid 23% less than men for similar work.

Another important social issue is sectarian conflict between the Shia and the Suni Muslim population within Pakistan. In the 2013 annual report the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated nearly 700 Shia were killed and more than 1000 were injured in more than 200 sectarian terrorist attacks. Moreover, since 2000 almost 4000 people have been killed due to sectarian violence. According to Figure 1, there is a trend of increasingly devastating attacks with more casualties per incident from 2001-2015. This shows that although the number of incidents remain the same, the intensity of the violence has increased.


Anti-Shia Muslim groups have demanded the expulsion of Shias from Pakistan and this push by extremist groups has resulted in the unprecedented level of violence that can be seen within Pakistan between religious sects. The issues between religious groups stems farther than Islam, as many attacks have also been carried out on Christian communities by these terrorist groups. Sectarian violence is one of many causes contributing to vast social unrest in Pakistan. It is clear that the social climate of Pakistan is a potential source of instability and political risk.