Access To Shelter

5. Impact On Pakistani Society

The vast majority of Pakistanis, about 60 per cent, belong to the lower income group. They are forced to live in unserviced or under-serviced settlements. The absence of physical and social infrastructure results in poor environmental and economic conditions. This in turn results in bad physical health, mental stress and difficulty in obtaining an education. This increases the rich-poor divide and creates conflict and inequity in society. In addition, a large number of settlements have no security of tenure. This creates insecurity, marginality and difficulties in economic and social mobility.

The provision of secure tenure and social and physical infrastructure would have enormous economic benefits that would go a long way into alleviating poverty in Pakistan. This is especially true in the rural areas where people are forced to become bonded labour simply so that they may have a place to live.

In the absence of planned settlements there has been large scale environmental degradation in both urban and rural areas in Pakistan. Water bodies have been polluted with sewage. Valuable agricultural land and ecological assets have haphazardly been converted into congested settlements. Corridor development along the main roads has eaten away the countryside. The poor are blamed for most of this environmental and ecological damage by the richer sections of society and officialdom. Due to this the poor are viewed with suspicion and hostility and not only officialdom and the elite, but also the media, consider low income settlements to be the abode of drug addicts, prostitutes and criminals. The fact that without the work force that lives in these settlements Pakistan’ economy could not function, is ignored. This anti-poor mindset makes it easy for powerful interest groups to bulldoze informal settlements and in the process increase homelessness and marginalisation.

However, an increasing number of NGOs and concerned citizens in civil society are becoming involved in supporting low income settlements and communities in improving their neighbourhoods and in acquiring social and physical infrastructure. Cynics are of the opinion that this involvement is the result of funds made available by donors and that the motivation of these NGOs and concerned citizens is purely for financial reasons.

6. Agenda For Civil Society

The land issue is the most important aspect of shelter. This issue can only be addressed if land-use is determined by social and environmental considerations. Civil society organisations need to come together in the urban areas and push for a structure and land-use plan and its implementation that makes this possible. Many academic organisations and NGOs do research on this crucial issue but few of them relate it to shelter problems. There is a need for these academic organisations and NGOs to link up with community organisations struggling for tenure security or housing loans in the informal settlements.

Another issue that civil society organisations need to take up is related to evictions which are caused by the land hunger of powerful interest groups in the rural areas and because of the politician-bureaucrat-developer nexus in the urban areas. Communities under threat of eviction need legal advise. Many of the evictions are in violation of international covenants that Pakistan has signed. Civil society organisations can help provide legal advise and can inform international organisations when covenants are being violated. There are number of cases where such information has been provided to international organisations and they in turn have pressurised governments to provide proper relocation and compensation to affectees.

Evictions are also caused by mega projects such as dams, highways, gentrification schemes for inner cities and for the promotion of corporate farming. A number of civil society organisations in Pakistan work against such projects. Other civil society organisations can support these movements against insensitive mega projects. One of the ways to make such projects less insensitive is to force government to have public hearings around them at their conceptual stage and to get a steering committee consisting of representatives of interest groups to direct their planning and implementation.

Many of the problems of homelessness in the rural areas would be overcome if a land reform guaranteeing land to landless labour or to the tiller could be implemented. Civil society organisations can promote the concept of land reform and help politicise this issue. However, the land reform concept needs to be more than just rhetoric and needs to be worked at in detail.

And finally, civil society organisations need to replicate successful shelter related projects such as the OPP and the Khuda-ki-Basti concept. They also need to develop models for small house loans for purchase of land and for construction.

7. Resource Organisations

Government Organisations

  • The Federal Ministry of Planning and Development
    The ministry prepares the five year plans which establishes the broad policy directions and allocates a budget for them.
  • The Environment and Urban Affairs Division of the Ministry of Housing and Works
    The department frames the National Housing Policy and develops the necessary arrangements to facilitate its implementation
  • National Housing Authority, Islamabad
  • Urban Development Authorities
  • District Governments
  • House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC)
  • Association of Builder and Developers (ABAD)
  • Banks providing loans for house building purposes
  • Sindh Katchi Abadi Authority, Karachi
  • Punjab Katchi Abadi Directorate, Lahore
  • Building and Research Centres in the Provincial Capital
  • National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK)


  • Shehri: Citizens for a Better Environment, Karachi
  • Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute, Karachi
  • Urban Resource Centre, Karachi
  • Saiban, Karachi
  • The Punjab Urban Resource Centre, Lahore
  • Lodhran Pilot Project, Lodhran
  • Catholic Social Services, Karachi
  • Aga Khan Housing Board, Karachi
  • Caritas, Lahore

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