Since the country’s independence, Pakistan has always been dealing with urbanization. In 1947, around 6 million to 8 million Indian Muslims crossed the India-Pakistan border and settled in Pakistan’s major cities. In the 60s and 70s, more Indian Muslims sought refuge in Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani Wars. These refugees then launched a political party that has taken over Karachi and the southern province. In the 90s, 4 million Afghans came into the country during the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan. These Afghan refugees soon journeyed to urban cities after the Pakistani government prohibited the Afghans to cultivate land after economic struggles in rural areas occurred in the western province. Today, for the past decade or so, urbanization is still going strong due to war, insecurity, and economic related reasons. Many rural Pakistanis flee to these cities to escape the conflicts between the Pakistan army and the Taliban. For others, they migrate to escape the bandits who take advantage of them.
One thing to know about Pakistan is that the Pakistani government agrees and supports international agreements like the United Nations Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements in 1976 that ensure people decent housing for everybody. Plus, in Article 38 in Pakistan’s constitution, it states that all Pakistanis have a right to get basic things like food, clothing, housing, education, and medical relief regardless of race, sex, sickness or unemployment. However, the situation in Pakistan shows that the government hasn’t been able to provide aid to every citizen.
Today, the country’s urban population is roughly one-third of the total population and a report from the United Nations Population Division predicts that nearly 50% of the country’s population will live in cities by 2025. The majority of Pakistan’s population live in rural areas, where the country’s biggest industries are based, and where some of the top political powers are stationed. Pakistan’s population has been urbanizing at a rate of 3% annually, which is the fastest rate in the South Asian region, and their total population is growing by 2% annually. Pakistan’s general population, 180 million people, is also expected to jump to 300 million by 2030, and possibly even more than 450 million by 2050.
While most Pakistanis are moving to urban areas to escape the war, others move to cities to seek better conditions and economic opportunities. People like farmers and fishermen who can’t work anymore due to water shortages move to these urban areas. Other Pakistani citizens also move to these cities because they believe urban areas provide better healthcare, education, and other basic services like electricity. However, that may change if the government decides to do nothing.
Even though urbanization helps make urban-based political parties stronger, it also increases the risk of political violence in cities across Pakistan. Surprisingly, many Pakistan cities aren’t safe and it may soon become a much bigger problem when more people from different ethnic groups arrive in the same urban area. This is already happening in Pakistan’s fastest growing city, Karachi. Karachi is filled with many different ethnic groups like the Pashtuns, the Mohajir, and the Sindhis. Expert analysts are worried that ethnic tensions will quickly erupt into ethnic violence in Karachi if the government doesn’t find a way to resolve the issue soon. Also, the mass migration to cities has led to thousands of Taliban fighters to sneak in and operate in cities like Karachi, the most populous city in Pakistan.
In 2018, Pakistan was placed 8th out of 10 countries that hold 60 percent of low-quality housing around the world. One of the world’s fastest developing megacities, Karachi, was placed the 2nd most minimal in the South Asian regions and the sixth least around the world according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2017 index. The livability index includes housing, transportation, civic services, healthcare, environmental conditions, and many more.
There is another major issue that is plaguing the nation and that is the housing condition in poor settlements and slums that exist in the cities. In most urban areas, the majority of the population live in slums and most are under the poverty line. According to a UN report, the government has only reduced only 6% out of 51% of slums in the last 15 years. Furthermore, Pakistan’s biggest problem is providing enough houses to the poor who live in urban environments. There are shortages of around 8 million houses, and there is an extra 300,000 being added to that list every year. By the end of 2017, it will have passed 10.5 million and more than 13 million by 2025.
As the urban population increases, Pakistan will soon have to quickly resolve other problems such as combating the energy crisis, fixing the city roads, resolving traffic jams, and finding a better alternative to transit services as many of them are unaffordable to most of the poor. It is already difficult for these urban areas to provide water, energy, housing, healthcare, and education to more arriving migrants.
Despite the various problems that urbanization has created for urban areas in Pakistan, the government has been slow to take action against this from becoming worse. If they don’t find a resolution soon, city and government officials will have a harder time dealing with these situations later on.