Value Extraction from Land and Real Estate in Karachi


This paper shows that extracting value through land-use changes can cause degradation (both in social an physical terms) as opposed to gentrification even of heritage areas. Also, that gentrification can take place as a result of development which displaces people from their traditional lands and homes in peri-urban areas and replaces them with better-off and better-educated populations. Gentrification can also take place as a result of inner city areas (not necessarily heritage zones) where there is a potential for high-end commercialisation. How all this fits into the existing theories of gentrification is upto the academics to debate and decide. However, they will have to accommodate the views of the pro-poor development activists and members of academia and professional institutions, if the theory has to have a relationship with reality.

But then, things can change. The neo-liberal related trends described in the paper along with the increasing number of western trained professionals who in turn are educating the future generations, are having an impact both on practice and policy. The question that one is forced to ask is whether the Dawood College concept of “socially responsive architecture” and the powerful hangover of populism that still lives in the media, will survive this onslaught? And if it does not, will it be possible to mount a civil society movement against the gentrification of the inner city if at some stage it is proposed and seems possible. It is difficult to answer this question. However, it is important to note that almost all those professionals and academics who actively opposed the gentrification of Karachi’s coastline were either trained at the Dawood College as architects, belonged to the environmentalist lobby in the city, or to a strong left-wing tradition. 

Box: The Port Grand Project in Karachi

The Native Jetty Bridge was built by the British in the 1850’s. It linked the island of Keamari where the port is, to the Karachi main land. In the decade of the 1990’s, a new bridge (Jinnah Bridge), linked to a number of flyovers was built parallel to the Native Jetty bridge, which as a result, was abandoned.

From the time the Native Jetty Bridge was built, it served also as a place for gatherings and various cultural activities. “Common” people sat at the edge and watched the water. Boys jumped off it to swim. Older men fished while sitting at its edge. The water catered to a number of religious superstitions; fish were fed, birds were released from cages, trysts were consolidated and many religious processions terminated at the water edge. Old religious manuscripts were also ceremoniously given to the water. After the construction of the Jinnah Bridge these activities continued at the Native Jetty Bridge.

However, in 2003, the bridge was taken over by the Grand Leisure Corporation. As a result, all the popular activities shifted to the Jinnah Bridge. Meanwhile, the Grand Leisure Corporation have constructed Port Grand Project on the Native Jetty Bridge. It promotional literature says “The project is a food, shopping and entertainment complex which has been built with over Rs 1 billion investment by Grand Leisure Corporation. Port Grand project is a 13-acre world-class facility that has been designed and built in collaboration with top international architects/designers who employed the latest technology and building techniques to deliver a state of the art facility. About 40 outlets are being made operational at this stage while more outlets would be opened soon. The native jetty bridge has been entirely rebuilt to ensure a world-class tourist destination and a source of pride for Karachites that would ultimately attract millions of people from all over the country and beyond. Visitors would come to Port Grand not only for food and entertainment but for over a hundred different concepts at port grand that includes free wifi, port bazaar, bookstore, florist, Art lane, gift and antiques etc. Parking for over eight hundred cars with complimentary valet service, and pristine public restrooms and plenty of pedestrian friendly walkways are additional attractions at the project.  Port Grand is also one of the first projects in the City that has been dedicated to building an open eco-friendly/ green environment, with special focus on urban regeneration. Port Grand is going to be a model for lot of good to be followed in the city.” (Source:

Politicians, middle classes, elite and the media are all full of praise for Port Grand. Various Karachi websites are very appreciative of it. However, Jinnah Bridge looks down onto Port Grand. As a result, poor people on the bridge while carrying on their various “cultural activities” could look into Port Grand which also hosts fashion shows. It was felt that Port Grand should be protected from such voyeurs and so barriers were built on either side of Jinnah Bridge making the populist activities that took place there, impossible. So far, no protests against this discontinuation of popular activities have been registered.   


Wendell Cox; Pakistan: Where the Population Bomb is Exploding; February 2012. For details, see

Master Plan Group of Offices; Karachi Strategic Development Plan 2020; City District Government, Karachi, 2007

Government of Pakistan; Pakistan Economic Survey 2006-07; Finance Division, Islamabad, 2007

Government of Pakistan; Population Census Report

Yasmin Cheema; The Historic Quarters of Karachi; Oxford University Press, 2007

Anwar, Farhan; People and The Land: Rural Karachi: A Case Study; Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, South Asia Region, 2013

Hasan, Abid; Karachi Rising: The Densification of Low Income Settlements in Karachi (Film); IIED (UK), 2013

Hasan, Arif; Housing Security and Related Issues: The Case of Karachi; UNHABITAT, 2008

Shehri website:

Urban Resource Centre website: 

Hasan, Arif , Ahmed, Noman, Raza, Mansoor, ASadiq, Asiya, Ahmed, Saeeduddin, Sarwar, B. Moizza;  Land Ownership, Control and Contestation in Karachi and its Implications for Low Income Housing; IIED (UK), 2013 

Hasan, Arif; The Changing Nature of the Informal Sector in Karachi Due to Global Restructuring and Liberalisation and its Repercussions; for Ananya Roy and Nezar Al-Sayyad’s book “Urban Informality”; Lexington Books, 2003

Hasan, Arif,  Sadiq, Asiya,  Ahmed, Suneela; Planning for High Density in Low Income Settlements: Four Case Studies from Karachi; IIED (UK), 2010

Hasan, Arif; A Pedestrian Saddar; Herald, Karachi, 1986

Arif Hasan website: 

SEED website:

Hasan, Arif; The Gentrification of Karachi’s Coastline; Paper for London Workshop towards an Emerging Geography of

Gentrification in the Global South, 23 – 24 March 2012)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

site design by iMedia
Mobile Menu
Responsive Menu Image Responsive Menu Clicked Image