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The state of Pakistani cities

A research report published recently — Hot Spots 2025: Benchmarking the Future Competitiveness of Cities — has ranked 120 cities around the globe in terms of economic competitiveness. The only Pakistani city to have made it to the list is Karachi. It was ranked at 111. The rate of urbanisation in Pakistan hovers around three percent. This is the fastest rate of urbanisation in South Asia. More importantly, Pakistan’s urbanisation is not a product of sound socio-economic planning. Instead, it is a byproduct of poor policies of successive governments.
While two-thirds of Pakistanis still live in rural areas, more and more of these citizens are being driven to cities in search of economic opportunities, as well as basic services like education and healthcare, both of which are extremely scarce outside of major urban centres.
Additionally, war, conflict and terrorism have also been drivers of urbanisation. Significant number of people have moved into cities from rural areas in the past 10 years or so looking to escape violence in their homelands.
It has been predicted that by 2025 Karachi’s population will exceed 19 million. Pakistan’s major cities have significant problems already, which will become many times worse in days to come.
Our cities are plagued by traffic congestion, crime, inadequate provision of shelter for the poor, lack of sanitation and waste management as well as air pollution. Furthermore, the real estate markets are driven by speculative practices which lead to large amounts of real estate being taken over by the rich and influential.
To check these trends, authorities need to revisit the Vision 2025 documents in light of socio-economic realities on the ground. To ensure this, there is an urgent need for a wide-ranging debate on the Vision between economists and development practitioners — whose imprints are visible all over these policy documents — and other social scientists like sociologists and anthropologists. The latter can bring fruitful insights to bear upon our public policies based on their research work across the country.



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