Into Their World… The Hazara of Pakistan

hazara_202The Hazara of Pakistan, numbering over 110,000 people, are refugees from Afghanistan. Many fled Afghanistan after the civil war of the 1800s, however, Hazara refugees are still entering Pakistan due to the current civil war in Afghanistan. The Hazara are thought to be descendants of soldiers left in Afghanistan by Genghis Khan. Because of their Mongol descent, the Hazara have distinct physical and language characteristics, one of which is the use of Hazaragi, an Indo-Iranian tongue with words borrowed from Mongol. Dari Persian is the second most common language of the Hazaras.

The Hazara live in and around Quetta, a city in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. Although traditionally nomads and herders of sheep, goats and horses, many now earn a living through farming grains such as wheat and barley. Many men also work as cobblers, porters, water carriers and trash collectors. These jobs have given the Hazara a reputation as hard workers, however, they have also been discriminated against because they hold what some consider very humble jobs. Although the Hazara are known as warlike people, they are also widely-recognized for their hospitality, warmth and generosity.

In Hazara culture, only boys can have a formal education, which lasts no more than two years. This education centers on the teachings of Islam and poetry memorization. Illiteracy is very high among this people group.

Marriage ceremonies follow traditional Islamic patterns and most Hazara marry within their own communities and ethnic groups. When a girl reaches about the age of fifteen, she is usually married to the man of her parent’s choice who is often a first cousin.

Islam is by far the dominant religion in this people group, but unlike most Pakistanis, the Hazara follow the Shi’ite sect of Islam. They shun the most stringent Muslim customs but are devoted to the faith, praying five times each day while facing Mecca and fasting during the month of Ramadan. Religious authorities called Sayyids play an important role in the Islam of the Hazara and their prayers and good favor are believed to bring blessing upon the Hazara people. Sayyids claim descent from Mohammad and although originally Arabs, the Sayyids have intermarried with the Hazara and have become like them in appearance and culture.

The Hazara are some of the poorest people in Pakistan and suffer from many health problems, including eye diseases, leprosy and tuberculosis. Christians in Pakistan are rare and often live in fear of persecution or martyrdom. Despite this, there are several Christian radio broadcasts and viewings of the JESUS film available.

For more information on the Hazara of Pakistan, visit these sites:

For ministry-related information on the Hazara of Pakistan, visit these sites: and click on People Team Selection.

(Information compiled from

(Note: The website links above are intended to provide you with more information about this people group. Some of the links are to groups that are not religious in nature but who provide information and background that may be helpful in researching this people group. The content of each of the websites linked to is the sole responsibility of the linked-to organization. Views expressed on these websites do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of the staff or writers of Lausanne World Pulse or those of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, Institute of Strategic Evangelism, Evangelism and Missions Information Service or Intercultural Studies Department.) 

Laurie Fortunak Nichols is editorial coordinator of Lausanne World Pulse. She also serves as editorial coordinator for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College and managing editor and book review editor of Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ). She has edited a number of books, including the recent Extending God's Kingdom: Church Planting Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, with A. Scott Moreau and Gary R. Corwin.