The Census that shrank Karachi | Reports and Controversy

Author: Awais Kayani
The Census that shrank Karachi | Reports and Controversy

The census shrank Karachi. The title speaks for itself, as we saw with our own eyes, how 10 million were left out. The count is marked to be rigged; however, the officials claim that it has achieved the target.

What target was set for Karachi anyways? And who would benefit from the census in Karachi that created such a devastating step?

According to the 2017 national census, Karachi's total population was 16,051,521, with 14.9 million living in the city's urban districts. Karachi is one of the world's fastest-growing cities, and it is home to sizable communities from practically every ethnic group in Pakistan.

The article includes:

  • Karachi and The Refugee Era
  • Karachi Accommodates All
  • The influx of Political Parameters
  • The Controversial Take
  • The comparisons
  • Population variance of Pakistan
  • Conclusion

Karachi and The Refugees Era

Karachi, Sindh's capital, remains Pakistan's most populous city, with a total population of 16,024,894, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics' Karachi Census 2017 report.

Karachi is presently the country's leading industrial and financial center. As of 2014, the city's official economy was estimated to be worth $114 billion, making it the largest in the country. Karachi collects more than a third of Pakistan's tax revenue and accounts for roughly 20% of the country's total GDP. Karachi accounts for around 30% of Pakistani industrial output, and its ports handle approximately 95% of Pakistan's foreign trade. Karachi is home to the headquarters of over 90% of international firms operating in Pakistan.

At the very start, With the entrance of hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees from India following Pakistan's independence, the city's population grew drastically. Following Pakistan's independence, the city enjoyed significant economic expansion, attracting migrants from throughout the country and from other parts of South Asia.

Karachi is home to around two million Bangladeshi immigrants, a million Afghan refugees, and up to 400,000 Myanmar Rohingyas.

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Karachi Accommodates All

This goes to show how much Karachi has accommodated the people from other nationals. The stats may include more if the immigrants of other cities were included.

The City of Karachi has an influx of large portions of people coming from a rural part of Sindh. Many seek jobs and good standards of living, and others seek to change their destiny. Karachi accommodates all. The South Punjab, northern Punjab, Baluchistan, northern area of Pakistan including KPK, Gilgit, and Azad Kashmir.

Karachi now houses all the ethnic and religious followers of the country. The language is seen as more diverse and cultivated with culture as the city grows.

As per the following graph, Sindh owns 47.8 million people with 5 thousand transgenders registered for its urban population. The most important part is that these languages are spoken in Karachi. Since the census claims that it has covered all there is in Karachi but many ethnic and religious groups are not included. You get a good idea by population as:

  • Urdu 6.7 million
  • Punjabi 1.7 million
  • Sindhi 1.7 million
  • Pashto 2.8 million
  • Balochi 650 thousand
  • Kashmir 63 thousand
  • Saraiki 800 thousand
  • Hindko 680 thousand
  • Bharvi 100 thousand
  • And Others

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The influx of Political Parameters

There is always a political gain when the whole democratic system depends on the foundation of “Number of people”. Political motives sabotage and derail the allocation of many resources that would have been allotted to the different needing sectors and districts of the cities. Without proper funds and poor resource allocation results in a worsening state of the city.

In the event of the census announcement, two parties stood against the results as it directly affected their electoral home grounds. The MQM-P has stated that it will take to the streets to protest the census results but has also stated that it will poll "the people" on whether or not to leave the ruling coalition. Meanwhile, opponents of the Muttahida, particularly the PSP, have mocked the party for its apparent flip-flops.

Undercounting in Karachi is a particularly sensitive problem, given the city's treatment by both the federal and Sindh administrations. With the infrastructure in tatters, no civilized public transportation system, and insufficient water to meet the requirements of its vast population, erroneous figures will exacerbate Karachi's already numerous problems.

"Unusual that 25 million CNICs have been granted from Karachi, despite the fact that the official population of the Sindh city is only 16 million."

The population statistics have far-reaching consequences, and any sloppy math is certain to result in accusations of wrongdoing. Along with allocations for the NFC Award, the delimitation of constituencies and seats in parliament are also dependent on population estimates, therefore charges of an incorrect count cannot be dismissed lightly.

A Controversial Take

There are many schools of thought on how this could be, the shrink of population rate.

In the 1980s, the city faced a height of sectorial, ethnic, and political animosities, making the whole Karachi a toxic environment where conversation or dialogue was replaced with scuffles that used weapons.

To top it off, the terrorism by Islamic Militants and MQM “political” were on the rampage throughout the city. The terrorism was linked to the Russians invading Afghan; thus, mass weapons were in retrospect were brought to Karachi.

All these factors, and now include kidnaps, street crimes, target killing, moral degeneration, sexism, racism and increasing differences in the acceptance of opinions had put Karachi at number 6th of the most dangerous cities in the world.

Although the wars were crushed and stomped by the Rangers in 2013. However, the system was wrecked, and trust was broken. In an event like this, the influx of people was bound to stop. What’s worse, the people had moved towards other stable and safe cities such as Lahore, Islamabad, and Rawalpindi that rival Karachi in terms of modernity.

The Comparison

Many people believed Karachi's population had surpassed 20 million by now. However, census data revealed that it is a little less than 15 million. Many political parties, who have claimed serious under-reporting, have been outraged by this discovery. Their counter-estimates range from 22 to 30 million.

Of course, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has denied any wrongdoing. However, there is a need to examine these charges objectively in light of available data and form an objective judgment.

Karachi’s urban population stood at 5.2 million in 1981. It then grew at an average growth rate of 3.49%, reaching 9.3 million by 1998. Since then, however, the growth slowed down to 2.49%, as per recent census results, with the population now reaching 14.9 million.

Interestingly, even if Karachi’s population had grown at the same rate, as was witnessed between 1981 and 1998, it would have still reached close to 18 million, way below what political parties is claiming.

Moreover, in 2013, the total number of registered voters in the Karachi division was 7.1 million --which represents 44% of the present population. The percentage in Lahore is not very different, with 4.4 million voters representing 40% of the city’s population.

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Population variance for Pakistan

The PBS stated in the sixth census of Pakistan that the country's population had climbed to 207.68 million where 106.3 million were male and 101.3 million females. An annual growth rate of 2.40 percent.

  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has a population of 30.51 million,
  • the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have a population of 4.99 million,
  • Punjab has a population of 109.99 million,
  • Sindh has a population of 47.85 million,
  • Baluchistan has a population of 12.34 million, and
  • Islamabad has a population of 2 million.

According to the census data, people aged 15 to 64 account for 55.98 percent of the population, while those aged 15 to 24 account for 19.19 percent.

The population is divided as follows:

• Under a year — 2.44 percent

• Under 5 years — 14.04 percent

• Less than ten years — 28.50%

• Under 15 years — 40.31 percent

• 15-24 years old (youth) — 19.19%

• Those aged 18 and up accounted for 53.40 percent of the total.

• 55.98 percent are between the ages of 15 and 64.

• Those aged 65 and up — 3.71 percent


But even for Karachi to have a population of 22 million, this growth rate should have been 4.6%, significantly higher than that of Lahore. Those who have observed both cities grow over the last two decades know very well that the pace of change in Lahore’s infrastructure has been much more than that of Karachi.

Instead of playing politics, all parties, particularly those in the ruling coalition at the center, must reach an agreement on how to proceed on the subject in order to ease concerns about the census.

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