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Pakistani American
Nadia Ali.jpg Saqib Ali in 2007.jpg
Nadia AliSaqib Ali
Total population
195,037[1] - 286,302[2]
0.065% - 0.095% of the U.S population (2007)
(includes Multiracial Pakistanis)
Regions with significant populations
Northeast, West and South

American English · Urdu · Sindhi · Punjabi · Pakistani languages


Mostly Islam
Adherents of Christianity, Hinduism, and Zoroastrianism also.

Related ethnic groups

Indian American, Bangladeshi American and Sri Lankan American

A Pakistani American refers to citizens of the United States of Pakistani heritage.


History in the United States

Muslim immigrants from areas consisting of modern day Pakistan have been migrating to America and first entered the United States as early as the eighteenth century, working in agriculture, logging, and mining in the western states of California, Oregon, and Washington. The passage of the Luce-Celler Act of 1946 allowed these men to acquire US citizenship through naturalization. Between 1947 and 1965, only 2,500 Pakistani immigrants entered the United States and most of them were students who chose to settle in the United States after graduating from American Universities according to reports from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This marked the beginnings of a distinct 'Pakistani' community in America. However after President Lyndon Johnson signed the INS Act of 1965 into law, eliminating per-country immigration quotas and introducing immigration on the basis of professional experience and education, the number of Pakistanis immigrating to USA increased dramatically. By 1990, the U.S. Census bureau indicated that there were about 100,000 Pakistani Americans in the United States and by 2005 their population had grown to 210,000 [3].

Integrating into American society

Racial classification

Pakistani Americans are currently classified as Asian Americans or Other Americans by the United States Census Bureau.[4] However, according to some, the term Asian American is seen as too broad to correctly define Pakistanis. In 1993, the Arab American Institute proposed that the 2000 US Census make a new Middle Eastern racial category, including Pakistani Americans within it, rather than the currently used Asian American category. Almost all academic sources and geopolitical sources (e.g. UN, WorldBank) define Pakistan as being part of South Asia. Very few sources declare Pakistanis to be Middle Eastern.[5] Persians, Turks, Arabs, Huns, Afghans, Greeks, and Mongols have all in one time or another invaded, conquered and settled on what is now the nation of Pakistan, thus giving Pakistan its ethnic and cultural diversity.[6]


The U.S. Census Bureau has indicated that there are about 230,000 U.S. citizens of Pakistani descent living in the United States, including permanent residents. The Census Bureau, however, excluded the population living in institutions, college dormitories, and other group quarters from all population groups. The estimated size of the Pakistani community in the United States in 2005 was around 600,000. The gap can be explained by the tendency of the US census to count only Pakistani immigrants, excluding those born in the United States between Pakistani parents. While the figure provided by the Government of Pakistan was based on a survey conducted by the Pakistan Embassy in the United States.[7]

Pakistanis in the US by State
State Pakistanis
Flag of New York.svg New York 70,000
Flag of New Jersey.svg New Jersey 30,000
Flag of Illinois.svg Illinois 30,000
Flag of California.svg California 25,000
Flag of Texas.svg Texas 20,000
Others 35,000
 United States 210,000

50% of Pakistani Americans have origins in the Punjab Province of Pakistan. About 30% are Muhajirs and the rest is made up of other ethnic Groups from Pakistan.[8] The most systematic study of the demography of Pakistanis in America is found in Prof. Adil Najam's book 'Portrait of a Giving Community' (Harvard University Press, 2006), which estimates a total of around 500,000 Pakistanis in America with the largest concentrations in New York and New Jersey states, each with around 100,000 Pakistani-Americans.[9]

  • New York City

New York City hosts the largest concentration of Pakistani Americans, with a population of approximately 35,000, primarily in the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn[10]. These numbers make Pakistani Americans the fifth largest Asian American group in New York City. As of 2006, 50,000 people of Pakistani descent are said to be living in New York City. This figure rises to 70,000 when illegal immigrants are also included.[11] Other concentrations of Pakistani Americans are in the Chicago, Houston, and Washington, DC metropolitan areas.

  • Other Cities

Newly arrived Pakistani immigrants mostly settle in the state of New Jersey, and cities like New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, and Detroit[12]; the Pakistani American population in New York settle in the New York metropolitan area and Texas is primarily in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex & the Greater Houston area. Pakistan is the 12th highest ranked source country for immigration into the United States.[13] Compared to other heritage groups in the United States, Pakistani Americans tend to be better educated with 60% holding a bachelors degree or higher professional degrees. .[14]


Most Pakistani Americans are Muslims. Religion figures prominently in the life of Pakistani American families, and the Quran and the teachings of Muhammad serve as the guidelines that Pakistani Muslims are supposed to follow throughout their lives.[6]

The majority of Pakistanis belong to the Sunni sect of Islam, although a significant representation may also be found among the Shi'ite sect. In smaller towns in America where there may not be mosques within easy access, Pakistani Americans make trips to attend the nearest one on major religious holidays and occasions.[6] Pakistani Americans worship at mosques alongside other Muslims who might trace their ancestry to all parts of the Islamic world and to India; there are generally no separate Pakistani American mosques.

Pakistani Americans also participate in and contribute to the larger Islamic community, which includes Arab Americans, African Americans and even many Indian Americans, in America.[6] They are part of the larger community's efforts to educate the country about the ideals of Islam and the teachings of Mohammed. Pakistani Americans have played important roles in the association the Muslim Students of America (MSA), which caters to the needs of Islamic students across the United States.[6]

Although most of Pakistani Americans are Muslims, there are also Hindus, Christians, and Zoroastrians within the community. Pakistani Christians, like Asian Indian Christians, worship at churches all over the country and share in the religious life of the dominant Christian culture in America. Pakistani Hindus mainly share in the religious life of numerous Hindus (including large number of American converts) from various nationalities. Pakistani Hindus are mostly from Karachi. In recent times, Pakistani Zoroastrians (called Parsis) have come to the United States mainly from the cities of Lahore and Karachi. Apart from fellow Pakistanis, they also congregate with fellow Parsis from India and with Zoroastrian co-religionists from Iran.


Like the terms "Asian American" or "South Asian American", the term "Pakistani American" is also an umbrella label applying to a variety of views, values, lifestyles, and appearances. Although Pakistani Americans retain a high ethnic identity, they are known to assimilate into American culture while at the same time keeping the culture of their ancestors. Pakistani Americans are known to assimilate more easily than many other immigrant groups because they have fewer language barriers (English is widely spoken in Pakistan among professional classes), more educational credentials (immigrants are disproportionately well-educated among Pakistanis), and come from a similarly diverse, relatively tolerant, and multi-ethnic society. Pakistani Americans are well-represented in the fields of medicine, engineering, finance and information technology. Pakistani Americans have brought Pakistani cuisine to the United States, and Pakistani cuisine has been established as one of the most popular cuisines in the country with hundreds of Pakistani restaurants in each major city and several similar eateries in smaller cities and towns. There are many Pakistani markets and stores in United States. Some of the biggest Pakistani markets are in Chicago, New York City, Washington D.C. and Houston.


Pakistani Americans often keep hold of their native tongues. Some examples of these are Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Hindko, Balochi, Kashmiri and Seraiki.


Most of the community today lives a comfortable, middle-class and upper-middle-class existence[6], although there might be some incidence of poverty among newer uneducated immigrants. These immigrants tend to take low-paying jobs involving manual or unskilled labor and tend to live in big cities where such jobs are readily available, particularly in New York, where the poverty rate amongst Pakistanis is pretty high[15]. Many Pakistani Americans also own their own businesses, including restaurants, groceries, clothing and appliance stores, newspaper booths, and travel agencies. It is common to include members of the extended and immediate family in the business. The Pakistani-American immigrant community is extremely generous and philanthropic. Research shows that in the year 2002, this community gave near US$ 1 Billion in philanthropy (including value of volunteered time).[9] An increasing number of Pakistani Americans work in the medical field. The Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America, called APPNA, has been meeting in various locations across the United States for the past 30 years. There are more than 15,000 doctors practicing medicine in America who are from Pakistani decent. More information can be found at [6] Pakistani Americans tend to follow the residence pattern set by other Americans, in that they move to more affluent suburbs as their prosperity increases. Members of the community believe in the symbolic importance of owning homes; accordingly, Pakistani Americans tend to save and make other monetary sacrifices earlier on in order to purchase their own homes as soon as possible.[6] Members of the family and the larger community tend to take care of each other, and to assist in times of economic need. Hence, it would be more common to turn to a community member for economic assistance rather than to a government agency. Relatively low levels of Pakistani-Americans are on welfare and public assistance.[6]


Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush with Pakistani American U.S. Army Sgt. Wasim Khan at the State of the Union Address, U.S. Capitol building, February 1, 2004. Khan was wounded in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom, June 2003 and was invited as a guest by Former President Bush.

Muslim immigrants were actively involved in the struggle for residence and citizenship rights in America. Since the second wave of immigration in 1965, the Pakistani American community has not been politically inclined, but this is now changing, with the community starting to contribute funds to their candidates of choice in both parties, and running for elected office in districts with large Pakistani American populations. In recent times, Pakistani American candidates have run for the state senate in districts of such city boroughs as Brooklyn in New York. Because the community is geographically dispersed, the formation of influential voting blocs has not generally been possible, making it difficult to for the community to make an impact on politics in this particular way. However, there are increasing efforts on the part of community leaders to ensure voter registration and involvement. Pakistani Americans have tended to vote Republicans due to the shared ideology of conservatism and the perceived notion that Republican Presidents and leaders are more pro-Pakistani than Democrats who are seen as pro-Indian. This was evident that during the 2000 Presidential Election, as Pakistani Americans voted in overwhelming numbers for Republican candidate George W. Bush. However, that trend reversed itself in 2004, after George W. Bush's first term in office. His policies alienated Muslims at home and abroad, and Pakistanis were no exception. When George W. Bush was up for reelection, Pakistani Americans voted for Democratic candidate John Kerry. It is accepted that most American Muslims - and Pakistani Americans - are going to stay Democrats for the foreseeable future in response to actions of the Bush administration.

Relations with Pakistan

Pakistani Americans have always maintained a strong bond with their homeland. Several leading airlines fly from US to Pakistan, carrying with them thousands of Pakistanis who mostly go home to visit family and relatives. First-generation Pakistani Americans travel to their native land at least once every two years, and tens of thousands of airplane tickets are sold to Pakistani Americans every year. They often take back to Pakistan gifts of money, food, and clothing for friends and family, and donate generously to charities. Second-generation Pakistani Americans tend to travel to Pakistan less frequently as ties become attenuated. The relationship of the U.S. and Pakistani governments in the past few decades has been very close, and the Pakistani American community has benefited from this American interest in the country of their origin. Pakistani TV channels have found their way into homes of the diaspora worldwide.

Several paid TV channels are available for viewing and Pakistani TV serials,reality TV shows and political talk shows are popular among the expatriates. Those without access to TV can also watch the same channels on the internet for free. Pakistani Americans maintain a deep interest in the society and politics of Pakistan. Funds are raised by the community in America for the different political parties and groups in Pakistan. From all the Pakistani diaspora, Pakistani Americans raised the largest number of funds to help Pakistan due to the 2005 Pakistan earthquake. Tensions among ethnic groups like the Sindhis, Punjabis, Pashtuns or Baluchis, in Pakistan is not reflected in interaction between these subgroups in America. Several international airlines serve the growing Pakistani community in US connecting major US airports to those in Pakistan.

The Pakistani community in the United States also remits the largest share of any Pakistani diaspora community, surpassing those from Saudi Arabia which from 2000/01 remittances were $309.9 million and increasing to $1.25 billion and during the same period remittances from the USA increased from $73.3 million to $1.72 billion.[16]


Incidents of deliberate overt discrimination against Pakistani Americans are few and far in-between. Any discrimination that exists is primarily in the form of being not so welcoming in social interactions, compared to the treatment received, say, by northern European immigrants who are more readily embraced. Though rare, explicit discrimination is not unknown in the Pakistani American community. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, there have been scattered incidents of Pakistani Americans having been mistaken targets for hate crimes and Pakistani Americans have to go under more security checks in places such as airports due to their Muslim background. Up to 45,000 of the estimated 100,000-strong Pakistani community in New York were deported or left voluntarily following the attacks, according to reports.[17] One of the notable case of discrimination is that of Hasan a Princeton University graduate who was deported to Pakistan even when no case was proved against him. His American wife Rose along with two children is fighting for justice in Islamabad.[18]

Awards and Accolades

  • Pakistani-American, Police Officer Muzaffar Siddiqi of the Houston Police Department was the recipient of the Top Ten Cop Award recognition in 2003.[19]
  • Pakistani-American, Dr. Attique Samdani received the Physician of the Year award in 2004.[20]

In American popular culture

  • Babu Bhatt was a Pakistani immigrant who was befriended by Jerry Seinfeld in the popular 90s sitcom Seinfeld. He was portrayed somewhat stereotypically as a Pakistani immigrant trying to open his own restaurant.
  • Nadia Yassir, a character on the hit TV show, 24 portraying a fictional Pakistani American.[21]
  • In fall 2007, CW aired a comedy show titled Aliens in America. The show is about a Wisconsin family that hosts a Pakistani exchange student.[22]


  • Pakistan Independence Day Parade

The event is held every year around August 14 (the date Pakistan received independence from Great Britain) in New York City.

  • APPNA Conference

This event is organized every year by APPNA (Association of Pakistani Physicians in North America). The conference attracts hundreds of Pakistani American physicians and their families from all over North America.

This is the largest gathering of Pakistani Americans in United States founded by a very well connected political and social activist Pakistani American Khalid Ali.

Notable Pakistani Americans


  • Tahir Ali is the first Pakistani American elected as a National delegate-at-large (R) from Massachusetts in 1992.

Business and Finance


  • Akbar S. Ahmed US resident Pakistani anthropologist of global repute.
  • Saleem Ali (1973 -) is an accomplished environmental researcher and Associate Dean for Graduate studies at the University of Vermont's Rubenstein School of Natural Resources. He is a popular writer and contributor to publications such as the International Herald Tribune. He has dual American and Pakistani citizenship.
  • Farooq Azam is a highly cited researcher in the field of marine microbiology.
  • Dr. Bashir A. Syed - Renowned Physicist, NASA Scientist and authority on Reneweable Energy such as Solar and Wind Energy. Distinguished member of NY Academcy of Sciences[30]
  • Qasim Ansari - Professor and Head of the Department of Pathology, UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, TX
  • Mustafa Hussain - Professor of Geriatrics and Psycology, UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, TX

Literature and Art

  • Kamila Shamsie is an award-winning novelist of books such as Salt and Saffron and Broken Verses
  • Mohsin Hamid is a bestselling author of books such as Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist
  • Tahir Ali is the author of the award winning book, "Muslim Vote Counts" published in 2004 by Wyndham Hall.
  • Tahmena Bokhari is a College Professor in Toronto, a social worker, writer and speaker.

Health and Medicine

  • Dr.Gholam Mujtaba, former Provincial Advisor to the Government of Sindh Pakistan. Former Secretary General Karachi University Students Union.A close associate of former President Pervez Musharraf. Presently Member Chairman's Advisory Board of the Republican National Committee, and a Pharmacist cum Physician.


  • Mansoor Ijaz is a businessman, the founder and chairman of Crescent Investment Management LLC (CIM), a New York investment partnership since 1990 that includes among others Lt Gen James Alan Abrahamson (USAF Ret), former director of President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative and the renowned German architect Joachim Hauser. He is also a commentator on Fox News.


There are Urdu radio stations in areas with high Pakistani population. Several cable and satellite providers offer Pakistani channels: GEO, ARY, PTV, and many more. Others have offered Pakistani content for subscription, such as when Pakistan played Australia for the Cricket World Cup in 1999. In July 2005, MTV premiered a spin-off network called MTV Desi which targets South Asian Americans in the U.S. which includes Pakistanis.[31] MTV Desi closed operations as part of the shutdown of MTV World in April 2007.[32]

There are also several famous Pakistanis in the American entertainment scene such as:

  • Nadia Ali is a songstress best known as a former member of the band iiO. She has worked with many famous DJs such as Armin Van Buuren.
  • MC Lazarus is a hip hop artist from Detroit, Michigan who has worked with various American celebrities in the field. The Discovery Channel featured him on a documentary called "The Real 8 Mile" which focuses on how he balances his life as a hip hop artist and as a medical student at Michigan State University.
  • Mehreen Jabbar is a Director and have recently directed Ramchand Pakistani which is nominated for World Narrative Feature Competition in Tribeca Film Festival in New York
  • Bohemia, is a Pakistani American Rapper from the San Francisco. His music has been widely played in the American clubbing scene. He has a large underground following and is widely recognized as the pioneer of Desi Hip Hop.
  • Salman Ahmad - of South Asian band Junoon has members from the United States and the founder Salman Ahmad now resides in New York and is a UN Goodwill Ambassador.
  • Mr. Capone-E - Born Fahd Azam, is a gangster rapper from Los Angeles, CA.
  • Naureen Zaim -Half Pakistani model, actress and athlete.

Beauty Queens from Pakistan


  • Commander Muhammad Muzzafar F. Khan became the first Pakistani-American to take command of an operational aviation squadron in the U.S. Navy. He commands the Sea Control "Topcats" Squadron.[33]


  • Nur B. Ali - racecar driver who drives in the ARCA Series for Cunningham Motorsports. He is the first Pakistani to become a racing driver, and a former two-time Southwest Formula Mazda Series Champion.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Population Group: Pakistani alone
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "US demographic census".;ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201PR:045;ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201T:045;ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201TPR:045&-_lang=en&-redoLog=false&-format=. Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  4. ^ Data on Race (US Census)
  5. ^ Menon, Sridevi. Duke University. "Where is West Asia in Asian America?Asia and the Politics of Space in Asian America." 2004. April 26, 2007. [2]
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Pavri, Tinaz. "PAKISTANI AMERICANS". Retrieved 2006-04-10. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ - Under "Language"
  9. ^ a b Adil Najam (2006). "'Portrait of a Giving Community: Philanthropy by the Pakistani-American Diaspora (Harvard University Press). 
  10. ^ Census Profile: NYC's Pakistani American Population
  11. ^
  12. ^ PAL-C - Pakistani American Leadership Center
  13. ^ Pakistan Link - Nayyer Ali
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ NCPA
  20. ^ NCPA - View Details
  21. ^ The Day Is Just Beginning for Marisol Nichols on '24'
  22. ^ TV Review Aliens In America (2007)
  23. ^ "Indo-Americans make a mark in US polls". Hindustan Times. November 8, 2006.,001600060001.htm.  Retrieved December 10, 2006
  24. ^ Barnie Choudhury (23 January 2004). "US Muslims flex political muscle". BBC.  Retrieved on December 25, 2006
  25. ^ "Representative Saghir A. Tahir (r)". New Hampshire General Court.  Retrieved on December 25, 2006
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ [3]
  29. ^ [4]
  30. ^
  31. ^ MTV DESI[5]. Accessed June 8, 2006.
  32. ^ Cable spinoffs feel Viacom squeeze. Accessed January 10, 2008.
  33. ^ Pakistani-American Takes Command of U.S. Aviation Squadron

External links

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