Housing Security and Related Issues – The Case of Karachi
Pakistan is a federation of four provinces. Each province has an elected provincial assembly and at the centre there is a national assembly in which every province is represented in proportion to its population. In addition, there is a senate at the centre where each province is represented equally. Every province is divided into zilas or districts and districts are divided into rural and urban tehsils or sub-districts. The tehsils are further subdivided into union councils (UCs) which are the lowest administrative unit. The larger cities, which include the provincial capitals are run as city districts and subdivided into tehsils or towns and the towns into UCs. The zilas, teshils, and the UCs are headed by elected nazims and naib nazims (mayors and deputy mayors) who are elected indirectly by directly elected councillors. 33 per cent of councillor seats are reserved for women and 5 per cent for workers and peasants. There are 103 zila governments in Pakistan, 335 tehsil councils and 6,022 UCs.
According to the Devolution Plan enacted in 2001, all the three levels of local government have considerable autonomy and can raise funds and plan and implement physical and social developments independently. They are supported by a bureaucracy that is subservient to them.
Pakistan is a poor country. In the UNDP Human Development Report 2006, the Human Development Index (HDI) rank of Pakistan is 134 out of 177 countries. 32.6 per cent of the population lives below the national poverty line. Life expectancy at birth is 63.6 for women and 63.2 per cent for men. Its gender empowerment measure rank however was 66 in 2006.
There are a number of other aspects to poverty in Pakistan related to debt and military expenditure. In addition, it has to be understood that development in Pakistan has been unequal and that there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor and there are major rural-urban and provincial differences which make generalisations difficult . These differences are increasingly due to a reduction in subsidies for the social and agricultural sectors which have adversely affected health, education, social housing, employment and incomes, especially after the implementation of structural adjustment in 1992.
Pakistan is also a large country. Its population has increased from 28.244 million in 1941 (the census taken before Independence) to 130.580 million in the last census in 1998. In 1941, the urban population was 14.2 per cent and in 1998, it was 32.5 per cent of the total population. Critics of the 1998 Census, however, point out that the size of the urban population is much underestimated. This is because the huge informal settlements in the peri-urban areas of the cities are very often not part of the metropolitan areas and as such not classed as urban. Moreover, in 1981 the definition of urban was changed from a settlement of above 5,000 population with urban characteristics to an area which has an urban governance system. As a result, 1,483 settlements with over 5,000 inhabitants were not classed as urban in the 1981 Census and their number definitely increased for the 1998 Census.
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