Migration and Growth of Major Cities
Pakistan's cities are expanding much faster than the overall
population. At independence in 1947, many refugees from India
settled in urban areas. In the 1950s, more than one-half of the
residents of several cities in Sindh and Punjab were muhajirs.
Some refugee colonies were eventually recognized as cities in
their own right.
Between 1951 and 1981, the urban population quadrupled. The annual
urban growth rate during the 1950s and 1960s was more than 5 percent.
This figure dropped slightly in the 1970s to 4.4 percent. Between
1980 and early 1994, it averaged about 4.6 percent. By early 1994,
about 32 percent of all Pakistanis lived in urban areas, with
13 percent of the total population living in three cities of over
1 million inhabitants each--Lahore, Faisalabad, and Karachi.
The key reason for migration to urban areas has been the limited
opportunity for economic advancement and mobility in rural areas.
The economic and political control that local landlords exercise
in much of the countryside has led to this situation.
The urban migrant is almost invariably a male. He retains his
ties with his village, and his rights there are acknowledged long
after his departure. At first, the migration is frequently seen
as a temporary expedient, a way to purchase land or pay off a
debt. Typically, the migrant sends part of his earnings to the
family he left behind and returns to the village to work at peak
agricultural seasons. Even married migrants usually leave their
families in the village when they first migrate. The decision
to bring wife and children to the city is thus a milestone in
the migration process.
As cities have grown, they have engulfed surrounding villages,
bringing agriculturists into the urban population. Many of these
farmers commute to urban jobs from their original homes. The focus
of these individuals' lives remains their family and fellow villagers.
Similarly, migrants from rural areas who have moved to the cities
stay in close touch with relatives and friends who have also moved,
so their loyalties reflect earlier patterns. The Pakistani city
tends to recreate the close ties of the rural community.
Pakistani cities are diverse in nature. The urban topology reflects
the varied political history within the region. Some cities dating
from the medieval era, such as Lahore and Multan, served as capitals
of kingdoms or small principalities, or they were fortified border
towns prior to colonial rule. Other precolonial cities, such as
Peshawar, were trading centers located at strategic points along
the caravan route. Some cities in Sindh and Punjab centered on
cottage industries, and their trade rivaled the premier European
cities of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Under colonial rule, many of the older administrative cities
declined. Where the British located a trading post (factory) near
an existing administrative center, the city was typically divided
into old and new, or European, sections. New towns and cities
also emerged, especially in the expanding canal colonies, Faisalabad
(formerly Lyallpur) is such a city. The town of Karachi expanded
rapidly to become a center of rail and sea transport as a consequence
of British rule and as consequence of the opening of massive irrigation
projects and the increase in agricultural exports. Thus, Pakistan's
two largest cities, Karachi and Lahore, illustrate how differing
regional and sociocultural histories have shaped the variations
among Pakistan's cities.
Karachi absorbed tens of thousands of muhajirs following
independence in 1947, grew nearly two and one-half times from
1941 to 1951, and nearly doubled again in the following decade.
Karachi is by far Pakistan's largest city and is still rapidly
growing. In the early 1990s the population exceeded 10 million.
Karachi's rapid growth has been directly related to the overall
economic growth in the country. The partition of British India
into the independent states of Pakistan and India prompted an
influx into Pakistan of Muslim merchants from various parts of
the new, Hindu-majority India. These merchants, whom sociologist
Hamza Alavi refers to as salariat, had money to invest
and received unusual encouragement from the government, which
wanted to promote the growth of the new state.
Karachi at first developed in isolation. Relatively few people
from outlying areas were engaged in running its factories, and
the city had little impact on Pakistan's cultural fabric. But
when the economies of southern Sindh and parts of Punjab began
to expand, large numbers of migrants flooded the city in search
of work (generally low-paying jobs), and Karachi become the hub
of the nation's commerce. The city, however, also has serious
problems. It has the poorest slums in the country, and it suffers
from serious interethnic conflict as a consequence of the influx
of many competing groups. It was the site of considerable violence
in the late 1980s as muhajirs solidified their local
power base vis-à-vis the Pakhtuns and native Sindhis (see Subversion
and Civil Unrest , ch. 5).
Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city, contrasts markedly with
Karachi. With just under half the population of Karachi, it is
regarded as the cultural nucleus of Punjab. Residents of Lahore
take special pride in their city's physical beauty, especially
in its Mughal architecture, which includes the Badshahi Mosque,
Shalimar Gardens, Lahore Fort, and Jahangir's tomb. In the earliest
extant historical reference to the city, in A.D. 630 the Chinese
traveler Xuan Zang described it as a large Brahmanical city. A
center of learning by the twelfth century, Lahore reached its
peak in the sixteenth century, when it became the quintessential
Mughal city--the "grand resort of people of all nations and a
center of extensive commerce."
The economy and the population expanded greatly in the 1980s
in a number of other cities. The most important of these are Faisalabad,
Gujranwala, Wazirabad, and Sialkot in Punjab; Hyderabad in Sindh;
and Peshawar and Mardan in the North-West Frontier Province.
The nation's capital was situated in Karachi at independence.
General Mohammad Ayub Khan, who assumed power in 1958, aspired,
however, to build a new capital that would be better protected
from possible attack by India and would reflect the greatness
of the new country. In 1959 Ayub Khan decided to move the capital
to the shadow of the Margalla Hills near Pakistan's third largest
city, Rawalpindi. The move was completed in 1963, and the new
capital was named Islamabad (abode of Islam). The population of
Islamabad continues to increase rapidly, and the official 1991
estimate of just over 200,000 has probably been much exceeded.
Data as of April 1994