Language data for Pakistan

Learn how to better communicate with flood-affected communities in Pakistan. Read our key findings and recommendations. 


There are 14 languages spoken in Pakistan recorded by the 2017-2020 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS6). Urdu has the status of official language but is the fourth most commonly spoken. The survey findings indicate that Punjabi is the most widely spoken as first language (39% of the population), followed by Pushto (16%) and Saraiki (14%).


According to the 2017 Pakistan Census conducted and supervised by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the overall literacy rate in Pakistan in 2017 was 59%. Literacy rates are markedly lower for women (50%) than men (68%).

Literacy rates vary significantly across the different districts of Pakistan and between genders.  For men from 88% in Rawalpindi to 26% in Kohlu, and for women from 81% in Central Karachi to 9% in Kolai Palas Kohistan.


The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS6) was conducted by UNICEF. It heard from over 110,000 respondents and is representative at the district (admin 2) and province (admin 1) level. As the survey exercise was conducted separately in different provinces, results are not necessarily representative at the national level and should be considered indicative only. Data collection was not conducted for the MICS6 In the territory of Islamabad or the administrative territories of Kashmir (Azad Jammu and Kashmir) and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Explore the data by district here.


Other sources of language data

Language data allows humanitarian organizations to better understand the languages people speak and understand, leading to better programming and accountability. We’re working with University College London’s Centre for Translation Studies and others to make language data more easily accessible and usable.

Learn more about the project on our blog.

For more information, please contact

Facing floods in Pakistan

How can we better communicate emergency flood-related information with communities in Pakistan?

Flood-affected communities in Sindh and South Punjab lack the information they need to access assistance, avoid further harm, and prepare for future floods. Read the report.

In February 2023, CLEAR Global and Pattan Development Organisation studied people’s comprehension of flood-related information materials. To ensure marginalized language speakers can access critical information, before, during, and after an emergency, read our findings, with practical insights and recommendations in English and Urdu.

Floods Pakistan

Interactive language map – communicate effectively with populations facing flood risk

Areas at high risk of flooding face varied language and communication challenges. To inform better planning and response, we compiled data on flood risk, cell phone infrastructure and language use in an interactive map that highlights important gaps and barriers to effective communication with at-risk populations. Read key insights here and click on the map below to explore more detail.