Karachi: What the Census Tells Us

Migration patterns have also changed. A migrant, according to the census, means “those who have moved out of their residence from one administrative district to another administrative district. It excludes population that has moved within a district”. In 1981, the migrant population was 28.64 per cent of Karachi’s total population and in 1998 this had fallen to 19.58 per cent. Migrants from NWFP, Punjab, Baluchistan and Sindh, as percentage of the total population of Karachi in 1981 and 1998 were 7.4 and 5.31; 11.28 and 7.86; 2.39 and 3.11; and 2.42 and 5.69 respectively. Figures show that migrants in percentage terms from NWFP and Punjab has decreased and increased substantially from Sindh. This means the increase of social and economic mobility within Sindh and a growing inter-dependence between Karachi and its hinterland. Migrants (as percentage of total migrants) from the Frontier and the Punjab has decreased (from 18.56 per cent to 17.43 per cent and from 23.56 per cent to 22.89 per cent respectively during the inter-census years) and has increased dramatically during the same period for Sindh (4.90 per cent to 15.58 per cent). However, migrants from other countries have fallen (as percentage of total migrants) from 46.59 per cent in 1981 to 27.60 per cent in 1998. This is perhaps because Afghans have been excluded from the census. The percentage of literate migrants (as percentage of total migrants) has risen from 45.02 per cent to 56.51 per cent in the intercensal years. This has probably put pressure on white collar and skilled public and private sector jobs.

The ethnic breakup of the city can also be gauged from the languages spoken by the Karachiites. Unfortunately, a comparison between 1981 and 1998 is difficult to make accurately since in 1981 the number of households speaking a particular language was mentioned in the census and in 1998 it is the number of persons speaking a particular language that is mentioned. In 1981, 54 per cent households spoke Urdu as their mother tongue; 13.64 per cent spoken Punjabi; 6.29 per cent spoke Sindhi; 8.71 per cent spoke Pushto; 4.39 per cent spoke Balochi; 0.35 per cent spoke Saraiki and 12.27 per cent spoke other languages. In 1998, 48.52 per cent spoke Urdu as their mother tongue; 13.94 per cent spoke Punjabi; 7.22 per cent spoke Sindhi; 11.42 per cent spoke Pushto; 4.34 per cent spoke Balochi; 2.11 per cent spoke Saraiki and 12.44 per cent spoke other languages.

Another important statistic relates to the sources of information used by the people of Karachi. 81 per cent of the total households have one or another form of sources of information. 72.94 per cent of the households have indicated that TV is their main source of information – a very large number. 36.64 per cent also listen to the radio and 50.47 per cent read newspapers. This is an item that was not covered by the 1981 census and so a comparison between 1981 and 1998 is not possible.

There are major differences in socio-economic statistics between different districts of Karachi Division. District Central and District East are way ahead in most indicators. For instance, they have literacy figures of as high as 81.20 per cent and 78.89 per cent respectively for the age group of between 15 and 24 years as compared to 59.93 per cent for District Malir and 64.33 per cent for District West. Also only 15.34 per cent and 16.29 per cent population of between 15 and 24 years is married in Districts Central and East respectively as compared to 25.58 per cent for District Malir and 26.57 for District West. In District Central, 81.24 per cent of households had access to television as opposed to 62.09 per cent for District West and 57.85 per cent for District Malir. Similarly, 57.85 per cent of households in District Central reported newspapers as source of information as opposed to 38.16 in District West and 37.79 per cent in District Malir.

The reality on the ground and what a comparison between the two census figures tell us is that we are living in a society and state full of contradictions. Statistics tell us that we are definitely a post feudal society, but state culture promotes irrationality, obscurantism and dogmatism. We are becoming an increasingly cosmopolitan city but our politics is dominated by ethnicity. Statistics tell us that at the micro level physical conditions are improving but even a dimwit can see that at the macro level they are rapidly deteriorating. The census tells us that there are major differences between the districts and common sense tells us that in the absence of representative local government (which we have not had for about a decade) they can only increase and with serious political repercussions. The above contradictions can only be overcome through relating the changes in Karachi to those taking place in the rest of Pakistan in general and in Sindh in particular, and by the operation of a coercion-free political process out of which a badly needed broad political consensus can emerge. However, we have a military government that has banned political activity.

It is important for political parties who would like to be in keeping with the times, to understand the changes that have taken place in the city and to build a realistic agenda to support the positive aspects of a post-feudal society that are emerging. A political party that understands the younger generation and caters to its aspirations, that are obvious from the census results, is bound to represent Karachi for the foreseeable future, especially since the voting age has been reduced to 18 by the present government. It is also important for Karachi’s interest and community groups, professionals and concerned citizens to understand the political implications of the socio-economic changes that are taking place and to help develop a culture that is compatible with them. Without the development of such a culture, conflict will increase and so will migration of the more talented and better educated sons of this great city.

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