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Pakistan/India/Afghanistan: Multani language; extent to which it is used by Hindus in Afghanistan

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 February 2001
Citation / Document Symbol ZZZ36342.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Pakistan/India/Afghanistan: Multani language; extent to which it is used by Hindus in Afghanistan, 1 February 2001, ZZZ36342.E, available at: [accessed 18 April 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The city of Multan is located in Pakistan, in the southern part of Punjab province. According to the entry for India in Ethnologue, Multani is one of the names grouped under Saraiki, names that also include Mutani, Southern Panjabi, Reasati and Siraiki and is spoken by over 15,000 persons in India and 15,000,000 in Pakistan (1997). The entry for Pakistan adds the variant names Riasiti and Bahawalpuri to the Saraiki listing and states that the following dialects exist: Derawali, Multani (Khatki), Bahawalpuri (Riasati, Reasati), Jangli, Jatki (1997). The entry further states that the "dialects blend into each other, into Panjabi to the east, and Sindhi to the south. Until recently it was considered to be a dialect of Panjabi." Finally, the Pakistan entry states that there are both Muslim and Hindu speakers of these languages. However, an entry on "The Multani of India" in the Unreached Peoples Prayer Profiles, states that over 99 per cent of the Multani in India are Muslim (1997).

A Website called that claims to be the "Home of 40 Million Seraikis" contains additional historical information on the Seraiki language and describes the other names by which it is known (Multani, Baluchki, Partake, Jagdali, Riasti, Bahawalpuri, Derewali, Western Punjabi, Lanhda, Uchi, Thallochi, Shahpuri and Hindko) as "accents" (2000). According to the Website, Seraiki is an important literary language:

Seraiki is the language of love and literature. Rich cultural context and diversity of expression in the language have enabled Seraiki poets and prose writers to produce literature masterpieces. Seraiki poetry has different themes. Love for beloved and love for land can be identified as major ones. Sufi poets have used this language not only to speak to people but also to God. Seraiki people have a natural flair for poetry and literature. Most of the Seraiki literature is unrecorded for the reason that no formal patronage has been provided to poets and writers. Before the inception of Pakistan, Seraiki was written in Devnagri script and converting to Arabic/ Persian script resulted in the loss of a substantial part of literature (ibid.).

An Indian Express report refers to "Multan Day" celebrations in Chandigarh that included a "mushaira" at which 25 poets participated, calling for protection and promotion of Multan/Saraiki culture (22 Feb. 1999).

There is no listing for Multani, Saraiki or the other variants in the Afghanistan entry in Ethnologue (1997). However, according to a Website on the subject of Afghan Hindus, intended "to provide information about Afghan Hindus, their languages, culture and life," the Kandhari language spoken by some Afghan Hindus (predominantly those from Kandahar and, to a lesser extent, Kabul) is a dialect of Siraiki ("Introduction" n.d.). Other languages spoken by Afghan Hindus include Kabuli, Sindhi, Punjabi and Pashtu (ibid.). According to a section of the Website entitled "Origins":

Hindus have always lived in Afghanistan. That's one reason why they call themselves Kandharis and not Multanis and Seraikies. Some of the old temples in the area also point to this theory. The word Kandh in Seraiki means wall. Kandahar used to have many walls. The Hilmand river flowing in that area was labelled "Rud-e-hind-wa-sind" by Arabic manuscripts. Before the influx of Pashtoons the inhabitants of Kandahar spoke Seraiki. The Pashtoons labelled their language "Jataki". The language spoken by Afghan Hindus in Kandahar known as Kandhari is probably "Jataki". (n.d.)

A 1998 article, purportedly from the Observer India, and posted on the Website of Hindu Vivek Kendra "a resource centre for the promotion of Hindutva [Hinduism]," refers to the difficult circumstances faced by Hindu Afghan refugees in Germany (15 Oct. 1998). The article states that "Although many of the Afghan Hindus speak Hindi, Punjabi and Multani, their heavy accents betray them as 'oustiders'" (ibid).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


AfghanHindu. n.d. "Introduction." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

_____. n.d. "Origins." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

Ethnologue. 1997. 13th edition. "Afghanistan." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

_____. 1997. 13th edition. "India." [Accessed 31 Jan. 2001]

_____. 1997. 13th edition. "Pakistan." [Accessed 31 Jan. 2001]

Hindu Vivek Kendra. 15 October 1998. Maniik Mehta. "Bleak Future Faces Afghan Hindus in Germany - The Observer." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

Indian Express [Bombay]. 22 February 1999. "Save Multani, Say Poets." [Accessed 31 Jan. 2001] n.d. Ijaz Bloach. "Seraiki Language and Culture." [Accessed 31 Jan. 2001]

Unreached Peoples Prayer Profiles. 1997. "The Multani of India." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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