Arabs in Pakistan
|Regions with significant populations|
|Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, North-West Frontier Province|
|Islam (Shia, Sunni)|
Arabs in Pakistan (Urdu: عربي) consist of migrants from different countries of the Arab world, especially Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Palestine and Yemen and have a long history. The first form of contact between the Arab people and modern-day Pakistan originally came in 711, when Muhammad bin Qasim, an Arab military general, was on a quest to free Muslims and their families who had apparently been arrested by Raja Dahir's soldiers while they were returning in a merchant ship to their homes in Iraq's city of Basra from Sri Lanka.1
However, another version tells us about the migration of a number of the descendants of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, to Sindh, after the atrocities by the Ummayad and Abbasid caliphs against them. They have settled in the province of Sindh, Panjab and as far north as Murree.
The ship was hauled up by Dahir's men while it was passing a port located in the Sindh province of Pakistan and the people were taken as captives. At that time, Hajjaj bin Yusuf was the governor of present-day Iraq. Upon hearing the news, he wrote to Raja Dahir and demanded him to release the prisoners. Raja Dahir, who was the governor of Sindh at that time, refused to accept the request which tempted Yusuf to order Muhammad bin Qasim to proceed to Sindh along with an army unit of 6,000 troops in order to get the prisoners released. Qasim was hardly seventeen years of age at that time, however he was a ruthless and capable military commander, the main reason for which Yusuf may have recruited him.
After being deployed to Sindh, Qasim defeated Raja Dahir's troops and the prisoners were liberated. He also conquered Sindh and annexed the entire areas up to Multan, into Muslim territory. From that time on, the South Asia experienced its first formal contact with the Arabs and there were significant elements of Arab culture, food, sciences, arts and traditions brought into the region. This period also marked the introduction of Islam into what is now Pakistan, and the rest of South Asia, which thrived and flourished considerably. Today, Islam is the predominant state-religion of Pakistan and also has an immense number of followers in India. Islam is currently followed by at least 400-500 million people in South Asia.
After the death of Qasim, the areas of Sindh continued to remain under Arab rule for two centuries.
According to many statistics, the total number of Arabs in Pakistan, both legal and non-legal residents, still number in the thousands, and reside in the country.2
There were 1,500 Egyptians living in Pakistan during the 1990s. Following the 1995 attack on the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan by Egyptian radicals, the Egyptian government renewed its security focus and collaborated with the Pakistani government to remove Egyptians from the country whom it deemed as shady elements; consequently, many Egyptians living in Pakistan were expelled or faced a discriminate crackdown. An extradition treaty was signed between the two countries, ensuring that any wanted Egyptians apprehended in Pakistan could be more efficiently mainlined back to Cairo.3
Emirati nationals and royals periodically visit Pakistan for hunting falcons, especially the houbara bustard. In Rahim Yar Khan, Sheikh Zayed built his own summer palace and an airport for his personal use whenever he visited Pakistan for hunting and recreation. The tradition has been revived by many other royals, amid rage by ecologists over the declining population of falcons.4 A notable Emirati who lived in Pakistan is Suhail Al Zarooni, who is also half-Pakistani.
There are a few hundred Iraqis, most of whom are categorised as refugees.5
Jordanians in Pakistan are mostly students.6
Oman lies in close proximity to Pakistan. Immigration between the two states has been common. Pakistani immigrants from Balochistan have formed settlements in Oman for decades and have obtained Omani citizenship. Many of these Omani Balochis, who have absorbed into Omani society, maintain migration and contact with Balochistan.
Palestinians in Pakistan once had a total population as high as 8,000 during the 1970s.78 Now, however, the community has considerably reduced to figures ranging between 400 and 500, and only a partial number of families still remain in the country. Most Palestinians found in Pakistan are most commonly students of medicine and engineering, seeking education in various universities and institutions across Karachi, Lahore, Hyderabad, Quetta and Multan. Settled families on the other hand, are primarily based in Islamabad and Karachi.
The recent years have shown a decrease in the number of Palestinians migrating to the country, as students increasingly opt to complete undergraduate degrees in Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan. The Pakistani government reserves 50 seats for Palestinian students in universities across the country: 13 are for medicine, 4 for dentistry, 23 for engineering, and 10 for pharmacy. Eight scholarships are also offered.
During the Afghan-Russian Cold War, there were numerous Palestinians who took aid and shelter in Pakistan while fighting alongside the U.S.-backed guerillas against Russia. Abdullah Yusuf Azzam was one of those Palestinians who stayed in Pakistan.
There were 250 to 300 Saudi nationals in Pakistan as of 2009.9
There are about 200 Syrians in Pakistan. There are also students from Syria studying in Pakistani institutions.10 In May 2011, Syrian expatriates in Pakistan were seen protesting outside the Syrian embassy in Islamabad and condemning Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his regime, amid the Syrian protests back home.11
Many Muhajir communities in Pakistan, such as the Chaush, Nawayath and the Arabs of Gujarat, are of Hadhrami descent from modern-day Yemen. A considerable proportion of Arabs in Pakistan come from Yemen.12
Due to the long history of Arab contact with the Indus region in Pakistan, there are now a substantial number of Pakistanis who claim Arabic origin, descent and heritage. A sizeable population of the eight million Muhajirs who migrated to Pakistan in 1947 from India also claim to have Arab ancestral root. Found among the Muhajirs, are the Iraqi biradri, who claim to have originally come from Iraq.
In Punjab, there are numerous tribes who have Arab ancestry, such as the Siddiqui, Salara, Awans, the Khagga, the Dhund Abbasi, the Dhanyal, the Hans, the Hashmi (Nekokara), the Kahut and the Bodla.13
The 'Poswal'. The word "Poswal" is derived from the Arabic word "Boswal", which literally means "one who asks questions", but it has been pronounced as Poswal for many centuries in South Asia. Poswals are a branch of the main Gujjar Tribe, which spans across India (Gujarat), Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Poswals actually used to live in Arabia until Islam spread across Persia and South Asia. The first contingent of Poswals arrived in South Asia with the Forces of Muhammad bin Qasim when he invaded sindh in 712 A.D.Even before Poswals arrived, hundreds of thousands of Gujjars were living across the subcontinent though no Poswals were residing there at that time. Today, many Poswals may be found in the Punjab and NWFP provinces of Modern Pakistan, in Uttar Pradesh of India and in modern Saudi Arabia. However, the word Poswal doesn't exist in Arabic, as this language does not support the /p/ sound; consequently, many Poswal Arabs are Boswal, or they have adopted the name of their great great ancestor as their subtribe and trace there decendence back to Sahabi-e-Rasool Hazrat Wahi Kalbi R.A who was from the Arab tribe of Banu Kalb.14
The Mashwani and Kakakhel tribes among the Pashtuns also claims to be of Arab heritage. Though this is most likely a show of being ill-informed on their part as their lineage is documented and traced to being offshoots of other Pashtun tribes. Pashtuns are a specific ethnicity and claiming Arab descent would result in the implication that they are not Pashtun.15 On a scholarly basis, Pashuns are likely to have a common Iranian origin with other Iranian peoples such as the Persians, Kurds and Pamiris.
There are then a numerous number of Sayyids or Khawajas (descendants of Muhammad) in Pakistan, who are yet another clear example of Pakistanis with Arabic heritage. Some of these sayyids first migrated to Bukhara and then to the South Asia. Others reportedly settled in Sindh to protect their lives against the atrocities of the Omayya and Abbasi caliphs of Arabia. The Sayyid people of Pakistan are figured as the most prominent and well-established people of the country, with a number of them having become popular and well-known religious icons, political leaders and professionals.16
A large of Pakistanis belong to the various Khawaja Shaikh and Shaikh communities, some of whom claim Arab ancestry. The Quraishi Abbasi, Chishti, Ansari, Osmani, Siddiqui, Poswal, Arain and Farooqi all claim Arab ancestry.17
- "Arab rule of Pakistan". Archived from the original on 2009-10-25.
- Gargan, Edward A. (1993-04-08). "Radical Arabs Use Pakistan as Base for Holy War". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
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