Migration has played a significant role in shaping the size and distribution of the population of Pakistan. Since Pakistan’s rocky road to gaining independence in 1947, to recent and ongoing conflicts, Pakistan has always received large numbers of cross-border migrants and refugees, especially with the Afghanistan war ending. The aftermath of war in Afghanistan has resulted in growing migrants from both rural and urban regions. Poverty and unemployment have been the root cause of this migration. Another core factor contributing to migration is the recent onslaught of natural disasters in Asia. Earthquakes, floods and famine have only served to increase the number of people migrating. Moreover there is a rise of women migrating to the urban cities for work, with little or no matched economic opportunity which is an even bigger challenge for Pakistan and its economic and social development. Majority of this migration is unaccounted for, and yet it has a major impact on our country’s economic standing. Despite this playing such a significant role in economic growth, both internal and international migration is least spoken of, and is another neglected area of research, with little to no policy efforts to address its challenging effects in a planned and sustainable manner.
The Migration Research Group (MRG) Islamabad, comprising of an independent team of professionals has been formed to contribute to a better understanding of the factors behind migration, urbanization and development and its long term implications for paving the road policy development. Recently MRG decided to join hands with new and progressive thinkers of Pakistan, and held a seminar in collaboration with ‘Karachi Institute of Technology & Entrepreneurship’ (KITE)to share their research and expertise in the field of migration and its impact on socio-economic development in a national, regional and on a global context.
The event opened up to an audience of city planners, dwellers, architects, some students interested in the topic and media personnel. Earlier, senior urban planner, architect and activist, Arif Hasan, and professor of Public Policy at George Mason University and president of KITE, Dr. Mehtab S. Karim gave the keynote addresses. Mr. Arif Hasan, set the tone for the seminar by explaining the largely spoken of the Green and Suzuki Revolutions and their impact on socioeconomic relations.
Mr. Arif Hasan provided evidence and analysis of internal migration and urbanization in Sindh. “Looking at Karachi’s 9.8 million population in 1998 that grew to 21.5 million in 2011, it can be safely said that Karachi is the fastest growing city in the world. But it has issues of density, lack of facilities, etc., due to lack of planning,” he said.
In addition to the above participants, assistant professor at the Department of Architecture and Planning at the NED University, Professor Ravinder Kumar, gave a presentation on ‘Evaluating the nature of internal migration and physical impact of urbanization in secondary cities of Sindh’
“According to economic theory, individuals migrate from low income to high income areas to maximise their earnings. Migration is an approach adopted by rural populations to improve family livelihoods and benefit from better services in urban areas […] Rural migrants with education and skills are often more likely to do well in urban areas. Many rapidly<ins cite="mailto:Zainah%20Shafi" datetime="2014-05-06T17:19"> </ins><del cite="mailto:Zainah%20Shafi" datetime="2014-05-06T17:19">-</del>expanding Asian economies have seen increases in the rate of internal migration over the past two decades because of increased opportunities in urban areas.”
Mudassir Iqbal, Director General of the Directorate of Urban Policy & Strategic Planning, made a presentation on ‘Urban development strategies for secondary cities of Sindh’: “The problem with Karachi is that it doesn’t have a big neighboring city so the people come here and stay on.”
Haris Gazdar, Director at Collective for Social Science Research, read a paper on ‘The size of settlement and urbanization in Sindh’. He explained how rural to urban migration is one route to urbanization and the increase in size and change in complexity of small rural settlements.
Prof. Sikander Mehdi, KITE’s registrar, said: “We need to concentrate on people’s needs because behind the statistics and numbers are real human beings. Go to meet them and learn of their experiences. When you do that your entire perspective will change.”
The experts looked at the challenges and prospects for population and development in Sindh at a seminar on ‘Internal migration and urbanization’ conducted by the Migration Research Group (MRG) in conjunction with the United Nations Fund Population Activities (UNFPA), the Directorate of Urban Policy & Strategic Planning (DUPSP), and the government of Sindh at the Karachi Institute of Technology and Entrepreneurship (KITE). Our assistant professor Mrs. Valika pointed out the migration patterns of minority communities in Pakistan. There are only 1,800 Parsis in Karachi of which 60% are above the age of 60 years. This is due to migration abroad over the last 5 – 8 years. Most are migrating to Australia, Canada and the US, leaving behind there aged parents. This has only contributed to the brain drain.
Parsis were an affluent community until recently and could boast of a 100% literacy rate. There are merely 9 residential Parsi colonies in Karachi and their numbers are only decreasing. The main reasons for this dwindling in number are the increased target killings of minorities and the general Islamic extremism that is taking hold.
Other speakers included Prof Akhtar Baloch of the Department of Public Administration at the University of Karachi, Prof Sarfraz Korejo of Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, and Farhan Anwar, executive director at Sustainable Initiatives.
The event proved to be a huge success. It led to a general awareness being created regarding what measures to take when attempting to turn Karachi into a culturally and religiously accepting population. The history of our population and their movements over the decades lends an essential perspective required when planning for the future. We wish the Migration Research Group all the very best in the future and hope they are able to complete their mission of research and knowledge sharing.