Dealing with Karachi’s Problems

There is no doubt that the city of Karachi attracts a huge population of job-seekers and settlers from all over Pakistan which sets urban planning topsy-turvy. But all is not lost. The solution lies in accepting the problems and dealing with them in a realistic manner. The Sindh Government realizes its responsibilities and is taking steps to find workable answers.

By Taj Haider | December 2019

Constant economic migration into the city coupled with severe lack of resources are two perennial problems that continue to remain the main and basic hurdles in the development of Karachi. However, we should also keep in mind that the constitutional duty of every Government is to bring underdeveloped areas at par with the developed areas. This of course is a very difficult task but reducing the gap between the developed and backward areas cannot be undertaken without a judicious distribution of the available but meager financial resources.

There does exist a problem of looking down upon the rural population. They grow the food which the city populations survive upon. However, when it comes to distribution of resources and provision of basic amenities and utility services, villages are totally sidelined. Agricultural land is limited and the rural population is increasing exponentially. Thus, a continuous migration from the rural to the urban areas for economic survival is taking place and is putting increased pressure on the cities. We must remember that unless our villages prosper, our cities cannot survive. Higher yields in the agriculture sector are the only way to arrest inflation and to raise rural incomes. Constant increase in the purchasing power of our farmers is the only way to enlarge the domestic market and to increase industrial production of items of everyday use. Unfortunately those who are linking revenue collection with the distribution of resources are ignoring basic economic principles. Villages have survived for centuries without mega cities. Mega cities cannot survive for even a fortnight without villages.

Economic migration into the city from other provinces has given rise to the so-called Katchi Abadis. At present, more than half of Karachi’s citizens live in these slums. These people have had to migrate to Karachi and other parts of Sindh from other provinces since hardly any job opportunities have been created by the Federal Government or Provincial Governments of the other three provinces. Their recipe for survival of their working classes is for their workers to go abroad illegally by risking life and, if one lacks that kind of suicidal courage, one migrates to Sindh. It is not only in Karachi but the inundation of jobless workers is continuing all over Sindh. Something that has never been taken into account is the quantum of the flight of capital from Sindh on a daily basis and the effect on our wage structure and living conditions because of cheap labour coming from other provinces.

The population of Sindh has always been undercounted, resulting in reduced transfer of financial resources from the Divisible Pool. The Census of 2017 was also conducted on the de-jure principle, meaning that one shall be counted in the province from where he has migrated and not where he presently lives. The population of Karachi, as communicated to me by NADRA in 2013, stood at 21,347,871. After a passage of 4 years, the population of Karachi in the 2017 census was put at 16,051521 because economic migrants from other provinces, illegal migrants and others who did not have a NIC were not counted. This has happened all over Sindh, where Seraikis, Baluchs, Punjabis and Pakhtoons have been counted in the population of their original provinces and not in the population of Sindh.

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The writer is a former senator and has shared his thoughts extensively on nuclear policy issues, left-wing ideas and literary and political philosophy. He can be reached at

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Dealing with Karachi’s Problems
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