Poverty in PakistanPakistan, a country in South Asia, is part of the Indian subcontinent bordering India on the east side and Afghanistan on the west. Although Pakistan’s economy is growing at an exceptional rate, its population has not reaped much of the benefits of this economic growth. There are many factors to this uneven wealth distribution and high poverty rate. In order to understand the wealth gap and poverty situation, here are six facts about poverty in Pakistan.

6 Facts About Poverty in Pakistan

  1. The percentage of people under poverty in Pakistan in 2018 is 31.3%. According to the Business Recorder, the percentage of people under poverty in Pakistan is predicted to jump to 40%. By numerical standards, the poverty population will increase from 69 million to 87 million by the end of 2020. A value of 87 million is quite high in proportion to the country’s population of 212.2 million.
  2. In 2018, Pakistan suffered a macroeconomic crisis. The government had accrued a budget deficit of $18 billion by the end of 2018. As a result, this forced the government to limit its spending. The economic growth slowed significantly. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has further brought the economy to an almost standstill. This has forced the government of Pakistan to cut down on its spending. When a country’s economy shrinks, the government stops funding many welfare programs. Consequently, the people at the margins of poverty suffer, further increasing poverty in Pakistan.
  3. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the poverty-stricken citizens in Pakistan. These people consist of women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities. They are far more likely to suffer from malnutrition and their health may be weak. Thus, the virus tends to spread in poverty-stricken communities faster. The U.N. has recommended that Pakistan should increase its essential health services to people in poverty because of their weaker health status. In order to improve the economy, the U.N. also recommended that Pakistan should pass fiscal and financial stimuli. This can alleviate the debt and help many people in Pakistan financially. As a result, it may prevent the poverty rate from increasing or at least slow down the growth rate.
  4. The United Nations Development Programme has established a COVID-19 secretariat at Pakistan’s planning commission. Their mission is to help stabilize the economic crisis occurring in Pakistan. The planning commission will also provide social programs to help the citizens affected by COVID-19. However, their main focus is on providing social programs to residents living in poverty. The planning commission has succeeded in assisting Pakistan in its crisis management amid this pandemic.
  5. Many children in Pakistan take up low paying jobs in order to provide for themselves and their families. Many of these jobs are hazardous and dangerous. However, the children have no choice but to do them in order to receive any form of payment to feed themselves and their families. By 2018, Pakistan has made efforts to limit child labor and indentured servitude. Many of these laws are still ignored and dismissed by the citizens, mainly due to children who willingly work in order to alleviate their families from poverty and hunger. However, Pakistan has made moderate advancements in diminishing and banning hazardous forms of child labor for children.
  6. There is some good news in Pakistan’s fight against poverty. In 2015 Pakistan’s then prime minister Nawaz Sharif launched a healthcare scheme for the poor. The scheme has largely been a success since it has expanded. In 2019, the current prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has stated that he envisions a future for Pakistan where it can be a welfare state similar to the Scandinavian countries. So far, his administration is working on furthering this vision by raising income taxes on the wealthy and instigating more welfare programs. In addition, the government is doing its best to continue fighting poverty and provide social programs and healthcare to the poor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The government will provide financial stimulus checks to its citizens ($70, or 11,717.89 Rupees). This program is called the “Ehsass Programme.” So far this modest social welfare program has helped many Pakistani families financially. Additionally, the government is planning more programs in order to help its citizens amid the pandemic.

Pakistan’s poverty rate has decreased in recent years. However, the country’s current economic crisis, mixed with its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, has put many Pakistani citizens out of jobs. This has further increased the poverty rate. The government of Pakistan is doing its best to fight both the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty in Pakistan. So far the government has provided many social welfare programs at a scale that they have never done in history until now. There is much more to do in order for the country to defeat poverty.

Sadat Tashin

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Pakistan
Founded during the partition of India and located in South Asia, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world, with a population of more than 210 million. Cornerstones of Pakistani culture include incredible cuisine, iconic architecture and the popular game of cricket. However, like so many nations across the globe, Pakistani citizens are forced to confront the harsh reality of extreme poverty. Here are ten facts about poverty in Pakistan.

10 Facts About Poverty in Pakistan

  1. As of 2015, approximately 24% of Pakistani citizens lived below the national poverty line. This is more than twice the global percentage of people living in extreme poverty and amounts to more than 50 million people in Pakistan living in poverty.
  2. Nearly 4% of Pakistan lives below $1.90 a day. As a result, nearly 9 million Pakistani citizens live in extreme poverty. This puts them below the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) outlined in the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. As of 2018, almost 7% of babies died before their fifth birthday. Life in poverty makes it extremely difficult to have access to proper housing, nutrition and medication.
  4. The adult illiteracy rate in Pakistan is around 35%. Unequal access to proper and requisite education is inseparable from the reality of poverty.
  5. Pakistan also faces a severe overpopulation problem. While the nation has the fifth-highest population in the world, it takes up less than a percent of this planet’s surface. Overpopulation and unequal access to education amplify problems caused by poverty.
  6. Pakistan has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.560. The nation ranks 152nd out of 189 countries and territories. In the last three decades, Pakistan’s HDI has increased by nearly 40%.
  7. Appproximately 38% of Pakistani citizens are living in multidimensional poverty. Another 13% are vulnerable to this status. From 2004 to 2015, the multidimensional poverty rate has dropped from 55% to its current rate at 38%.
  8. Poverty levels in Pakistan fluctuate throughout regions. In urban areas, poverty rates are around 9%, while in rural areas poverty rates rise all the way to 55%. This disparity can be seen among provinces in the Republic as well.
  9. About 25 million Pakistani families rely on wage workers. They have unfortunately become vulnerable due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister has said that the pandemic is harder to deal with in countries facing the challenges of poverty.
  10. The Pakistani government hopes to receive $5 billion in financial aid. This would come from outside sources and countries, along with the $1.3 billion they have already received from the IMF.

With continued efforts, poverty in Pakistan will hopefully decrease. The Citizens Foundation is one of many non-profits that have been working to improve the quality of life for underprivileged Pakistani citizens. In 25 years, the Citizens Foundation has created 1,652 schools, providing a proper education to over 266,000 children who would not have had it otherwise. These schools also combat gender inequality in Pakistan, as they have all-female faculty and a 50% student gender ratio.

However, there is still work to be done. In Pakistan, gender disparities compound the unjust realities of poverty. Poverty rates in rural areas are more than five times higher than those in urban areas. Yet, similar to global trends, the amount of people living in poverty in Pakistan has clearly been decreasing in recent years. This is in large part due to individuals and organizations dedicating themselves to the cause of ending poverty. These continued efforts will help fight and eventually end poverty in Pakistan, and in turn will make the Republic a more just and equal country for all those who call it home.

Ehran Hodes
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Pakistan
Pakistan may have South Asia’s second-largest economy but it fares considerably worse than its neighbors when it comes to tackling hunger. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Pakistan.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Pakistan

  1. Out of the total of 113 countries in the Global Food Security Index of 2016, Pakistan ranked 78th. The country scored 47.8, lagging behind longtime rival India and several other African countries.
  2. According to the World Food Programme, 43 percent of Pakistan’s population faces food insecurity. Of this number, 18 percent of people in Pakistan severely lack access to food. This is linked to the fact that most of these people are heavily dependent on agriculture for a living.
  3. Pakistan has one of the most malnourished and poorest regions in the world. which is Tharparkar region in the Sindh province. Most of the region is desert land, with the majority of inhabitants depending on seasonal rainfall.
  4. In the province of Sindh, 50 percent of children below 5 years old are stunted and 19 percent are severely malnourished. The region’s intense food insecurity stems from lack of investment in the infrastructure and population coupled with the flood that hit Sindh especially hard.
  5. Pakistan ranked 106 out of 119 countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) with a score of 32.6, second only to Afghanistan in the region. The GHI is calculated according to four primary indicators: the proportion of the malnourished population, the frequency of child mortality, stuntedness of children and height to weight ratios of children.
  6. Agriculture in Pakistan is riddled with corruption. In September 2009, the government announced the “Benazir Tractor Scheme”. It was presented to the masses as a random computerized lottery that would award tractors to randomly selected small-scale farmers across the country. However, it turned out that the winners had suspiciously already had large acres of land and some were even related to the parliamentarians.
  7. Most of the budget is spent on issues of national security, rather than fighting hunger. Islamabad devoted $2 billion to security expenditures at a time when many poor Pakistanis were suffering the effects of sky-high inflation.
  8. The number of malnourished Pakistanis has increased since the early 1990s from 24 million to 45 million in 2008. Most of the population is suspected to be extremely lacking both Vitamin A and Vitamin D consumption due to fish, egg yolk and cod liver being in short supply.
  9.  Pakistan has also been heavily dependent on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, that have demanded from the country to cut back on public spending in the 1980s, which affected food subsidies.
  10. There is an organization called Action Against Hunger that is working to fight food insecurity in Pakistan by addressing malnutrition and mitigating the effects and causes of hunger. They ran the Woman and Infant/Child Improved Nutrition in Sindh in 2017 as well as operating outpatient therapeutic programs in Daud, Khairpir, Matiari and Ghotki districts.

Pakistan does have a long way to go before fully addressing the extent of the problem but it certainly has the impetus and ability to change the way it prioritizes food insecurity and hunger.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Karachi
Karachi is Pakistan’s largest city and is the capital of the Sindh province located in southern Pakistan. Karachi is home to a major seaport on the shores of the Arabian Sea as well as massive commercial and industrial infrastructure. Increased development of air travel, in addition to the foreign traffic maintained by the commercial and financial industries, has made this city important to the overall economy in Pakistan. Regardless of these achievements, the city still faces poverty, which these facts about poverty in Karachi will illuminate.

Facts About Poverty in Karachi

  1. District governments within the city of Karachi do not have the power to increase taxes, which could be used to rectify local issues there. The Provincial Administration maintains the power instead of the taxpayers or the constituent electorate, which creates a democratic deficit within the metropolis.
  2. In regards to such a deficit, there is a notable underperformance in urban development. Foreign business is the largest part of the industry and economy in Karachi. Because of this, the Provincial Administration puts an emphasis on financial districts and expensive urban building for such purposes.
  3. A majority of tax revenue goes towards the seaports, airports, franchise business, stock brokers and telecommunication systems. The emphasis on finance and business distracts from the local problems. Most of the citizens live with social injustices daily, but their tax money is not being used to solve these problems.
  4. In Karachi, residents suffer from congested roads and poorly planned yet expensive public transportation systems. There is effectively no low-cost housing in the city, which has led to the rise of slums. There is also a shortage of water, leaving many without access to water at all, or at least water that is safe to drink.
  5. Many farmers located in the rural parts of the metropolis are deprived of water from irrigation systems. A large percentage of farmers have turned to using water that is mixed with sewage lines in an effort to grow crops. However, the produce that is harvested is often polluted and unsafe for human consumption, an unfortunate truth in the facts about poverty in Karachi.
  6. Policies geared towards the rapid industrialization of Pakistan had aimed to bring the country to its “take-off” stage. These policies, in retrospect, have actually made the rural lower class even poorer. More than ₨. 1 trillion (about $14.6 billion) was spent on infrastructure with the intention of lowering the local poverty rates in Karachi. Due to poor governance and irresponsible planning, much of this money was wasted and inflicted more economic harm on the lower-class citizens.
  7. There is a lack of access to social services and resources in poor households. Fifty percent of the rural population has been left without land, while approximately 75 percent of urban dwellers work in the informal economy.
  8. There are now more than 600 slum areas in Karachi. These slums are notable for hosting criminal activity as well as hiding criminals. In 2014, following the aerial firing on the Karachi airport, the suspects were found hiding in a local slum. Slums like Afghan Basti, Manghopir, Pehlwan Basti and Sohrab Goth are some of the better-known slums hosting criminal activity within Karachi.
  9. According to Inspector General Mushtaq Mehar, approximately 65 percent of the Karachi population lives in a slum. Residents of the slums are typically issued official identity papers, yet it remains difficult to verify and monitor them as many give false information. This makes it challenging to track down the criminals who may be hiding there.
  10. Despite these circumstances, there are many locals who are fighting back against poverty. UNDP’s Youth Employment Project provides employment opportunities as well as job training in the textile/garment industry. Around 30 percent of Karachi’s population is made up of youths aged 15-29. There are more than 5,000 students enrolled in this program. Initiatives such as this help those who cannot afford schooling to receive a valuable education and eventually earn a dependable source of income.

In his paper “Genesis of Urban Poverty”, Tasneem Siddiqui writes: “Poverty was not just about money. It is about access to power. It is deprivation not only in economic terms, but also at the social and political level.” The people of Karachi face this lack of access on a daily basis, one of the driving facts about poverty in Karachi.

The emphasis on business and finance in the city in order to better benefit Pakistan’s foreign affairs has harmed the local community. In doing so, there is a large gap in the socioeconomic ranks. Initiatives like UNDP’s program work to make the best of the given situation; however, until the governing authorities rectify the social and physical injustices, the citizens of Karachi will continue to suffer from this gap.

– Emma Fellows
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Decline in PakistanIt was recently revealed in the 2017-2018 Economic Survey of Pakistan that the percentage of the Pakistani population living below the poverty line (on $1.90 per day or less) has dropped to 24.3 percent. This indicates that the poverty rate has been effectively cut in half over just the past ten years, a remarkable feat for the developing nation. These numbers are not just the result of a few years of good luck. The International Monetary Fund says that Pakistan’s fiscal outlook is “broadly favorable” and that economic growth is likely to continue into the coming years.

How Politics Help the Poverty Decline in Paksitan

The report suggests a variety of reasons for the poverty decline in Pakistan, but one of the primary factors is a more stable political environment. Beginning in 1999, Pakistan was under the rule of Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf assumed the roles of both president and head of the army and imposed harsh military rule over the country. Pakistan fell into political turmoil as Musharraf continued to grant himself more power over the years, repeatedly suspending the constitution and dissolving parliament in order to get his way.

In 2008 the Pakistani People’s Party (PPP) finally forced Musharraf out of power and replaced him with Asif Ali Zardari, a civilian president who put an end military rule. It was at this point that Freedom House changed Pakistan’s ranking from “Not Free” to “Partly Free.” In 2013, there was a peaceful transition of power between two democratic governments for the first time in Pakistani history and the country has maintained its “Partly Free” status to this day.

The power shift in the government has contributed to the poverty decline in Pakistan because when a country is politically stable, investors are more likely to make deals there because there is a decreased risk of the laws changing and of their contracts being altered or nullified. With this in mind, it is easy to see how Pakistan’s democratic process has led to a higher level of confidence in the private sector.

Government Programs for Economic Improvement

Another contributor to the poverty decline in Pakistan has been the implementation of the Social Safety Net Programme (SSNP). This is an umbrella program which encompasses many different welfare initiatives in Pakistan, all of which have the aim of providing financial assistance to those living in poverty and helping them out of the crisis. The largest of these is the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). The BISP serves 5.29 million beneficiaries and has reduced the poverty rate by seven percent on its own.

An additional reason for the poverty decline in Pakistan is the government’s shift in attitude toward the agriculture sector. Agriculture is crucial to the Pakistani economy as it makes up for 18.9 percent of the GDP and 42.3 percent of the workforce. In recent years, the government has implemented policies that focus more on supporting smaller farms, such as increasing agricultural credit disbursements and providing crop insurance to farmers. The government is also investing in new technologies to help modernize the industry, like new irrigation systems and drought-resistant seeds.

Looking Toward the Future

Clearly, the poverty decline in Pakistan is no accident. It took years of hard work and policy reformation by the Pakistani government to improve the welfare of its people. But Pakistan’s incredible achievement over the past decade is a sign of great optimism for developing countries around the world, a sign that real change is possible in even the direst of situations.

– Maddi Roy
Photo: Google

Orphans in Pakistan
Foreign aid is crucial to the well-being of the 4,400,000 orphans in Pakistan who do not have the support of immediate family to assist them with their everyday needs. From a young age, children in Pakistan face multiple challenges from an infant mortality rate of 8.55 percent to lack of everyday resources.

There are several factors that contribute to the issues that orphans in Pakistan face including limited access to resources such as food, education and financial stability. According to SOS Children’s Villages, approximately twenty-five percent of the 193.2 million people living in Pakistan do not meet the poverty line.

However, activists looking to reduce the effects of poverty in Pakistan — as well as assist children with meeting their everyday needs — have organized ways to assist children to locate support.

Foreign Aid

The U.S. Department of State provides information for those who seek to adopt or who plan to travel before finalizing their plans for adoption, and assists orphans in Pakistan as well as children looking for homes across the world. One organization, SOS Children’s Villages, allows people who are interested in sponsoring children to make a monthly donation.

The organization works to provide healthcare, counseling services and education to children who would otherwise have limited access these resources.

Role of USAID

USAID plays an influential role as well, working to create jobs and to support the agricultural industry in Pakistan through the introduction of new crops. According to USAID, the organization has been able to assist more than 1 million households through its agricultural aid efforts.

According to USAID, approximately forty percent of Pakistan’s working population is employed in agricultural industries. By working to support such endeavors, USAID not only helps create new jobs but it is also aids in cultivating industries to boost the economic health of the country overall.

Activism in All Forms

Among the top contributors to foreign aid efforts in Pakistan are the U.S. Government Department of Defense, the World Food Program, the International Rescue Committee and USAID. Although activists from these organizations have different specialties, different aid efforts are needed in this area where orphans do not have access to adequate education, defense or food resources.

Although these organizations support orphans in Pakistan and children in need by providing aid to Pakistan and, in many cases, providing resources directly to children, those who do not have access to the resources from foreign aid are forced to find alternate ways to support themselves.

Efforts to Aid Orphans in Pakistan

This issue has been going on for many years, and one video from the Associated Press shows some of the kinds of work children have had to do in the past to support themselves.

As Pakistan and the children living there continue to receive aid, however, the effects of poverty will continue to decrease. Aid organizations that have already made a difference will continue working to reduce the struggles orphans face in their everyday routines.

– Gabriella Evans

Photo: Flickr

Stillbirths in Pakistan

Pakistan is the sixth largest nation in the world, with a population of more than 193 million and growing. Unfortunately, Pakistan also ranks third in the world for the number stillbirths amongst Pakistani women—43 out of 1,000 pregnancies result in stillbirths.

The majority of Pakistani mothers who experience stillbirths come from low- or middle-income communities where mothers lack access to preventative care. Recently, positive solutions have been developed in Pakistan that will directly impact the health of pregnant women and increase the survival rate of newborns.

What is Being Done?

Preventative care for mothers in Pakistan who live in rural areas is a major concern. In 2015, only 26 percent of pregnant mothers in rural areas made it to at least four antenatal care visits. This number reaches 62 percent for mothers in urban areas, increasing the conversation concerning stillbirths in Pakistan.

The Mother and Child Survival Program (MCSP), with help from the the Pakistani government, recently developed a Family Planning 2020 Program that hopes to bring a balance in health care to families in rural areas in Pakistan. This is a forward leap from the government’s decision to give pregnant mothers cash stipends to pay for preventative care needs such as visits to proper health care professionals, ultra sounds and basic medical examinations.

Initiatives Targeting Stillsbirths in Pakistan

Jhpiego, an international nonprofit organization, joined resources with the Maternal, New Born and Child Health Services in a five-year initiative that provided quality care to mothers in Pakistan. In a report provided in January of 2018, the program was declared a success and moved the country in the right direction to continue lowering stillbirths in Pakistan.

The program first provided updated training to medical staffers, healthcare professionals and volunteers in hospitals and healthcare facilities, which ensured that quality delivery services were provided to expecting mothers. On the community level, midwives and female health workers also received skill development training that helped them meet the needs of local pregnant women.

The program also went as far as assisting pregnant woman with transportation to antenatal care appointments and with emergency obstetrics needs. Under this provision, trained volunteers transported expectant mothers at call. Some served as ambulatory transports. It was reported that more than 2,000 drivers volunteered, providing transportation services to pregnant mothers.

In 2017, Ammi, a program founded by natives in Toronto, set up a voicemail message service that allows mothers in Pakistan to call and get healthcare tips about their pregnancy. The tips range from advice on prenatal supplements to what vaccines to receive. For support throughout their pregnancy, expectant mothers can provide their child’s estimated due date and a service woman will make calls to them during the week with pre-recorded messages that contain healthcare advice and tips.

Where Do Things Stand?

An estimated 665 stillbirths happen to mothers, young and old, in Pakistan every day. The neonatal mortality rate for Pakistani women in rural areas is 62 deaths to 1,000, with 23 percent of pregnancies ending in stillbirth. Fortunately, assistance is growing.

Organizations like MCSP, Jhpiego and Ammi, which continue to provide preventative mother-child health care services and maternal care education to expecting mothers in Pakistan, will go on to deescalate the number of stillbirths. It is of the utmost importance to keep maternal health care in Pakistan in focus until stillbirths in Pakistan no longer become the norm.

– Naomi C. Kellogg

Photo: Flickr

poverty in Pakistan

While Pakistan is one of the richest countries in Asia, poverty in Pakistan is a fact of life for most of its people. The main cause of Pakistan’s poverty rate is the fact that many Pakistanis lack basic human rights. Many Pakistanis, often women and children, are begging in the streets throughout their country. 


These are the top 10 facts about poverty in Pakistan:


  1. In June 2016, the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform reported that 39 percent of Pakistanis lived in multidimensional poverty. Pakistan’s official Multidimensional Poverty Index revealed that national poverty rates fell from 59 to 39 percent between 2004 to 2015. Additionally, poverty in Pakistan’s urban areas was 9.3 percent, a large contrast from the 54.6 percent in the country’s rural territories.
  2. On Dec. 19, 2016, Pakistan signed an aid partnership program with Australia. The program is intended to reduce Pakistan’s poverty and enhance the country’s stability, reflecting Australia’s commitment to support Pakistan’s economic prosperity. Australia’s government is also providing AUD47 million in total development assistance to Pakistan.
  3. Many Pakistanis live in poverty because the country’s wealth is often concentrated among a few rich families. The remainder of Pakistan’s impoverished citizens are dependent on the wealth of those families, resulting in 35 percent of Pakistanis living below the poverty line. Additionally, Pakistan’s corporations, landlords and wealthy entities pay less taxes, leaving Pakistan’s poor citizens to pay more taxes in their place.
  4. Poverty is the primary reason for Pakistan’s rate of child labor. Out of 40 million Pakistani children, 3.8 million work to support their families. Additionally, almost 11 million of those children work in factories under hazardous conditions. Child labor is still a large cause of poverty in Pakistan because while the country has passed many laws against child labor, those laws have often remained ignored.
  5. In February of 2017, Pakistan achieved a burgeoning middle class capable of fueling the country’s economic growth. Jamil Abbas, a Pakistani tailor of women’s clothing for 15 years, could finally afford private schooling for her two children. Other impoverished Pakistanis who rise to middle-class status are now able to afford a television, a refrigerator, a washing machine and have completed school up to the age of 16.
  6. Sixty percent of Pakistanis struggle to find food to eat. Pakistan’s women and children are the most affected by this type of poverty. On August 11, 2017, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace fact sheet revealed that $38 million was contributed to the U.N. World Food Programme for ongoing food aid to 1.6 million conflict-affected Pakistani households.
  7. In Nov. of 2017, the five-year Programme for Poverty Reduction (PPR) had given productive assets to 5,049 Pakistanis. PPR’s objective is to reduce the poverty of Pakistan’s marginalized communities. “We aim to do this by supporting the creation of sustainable conditions of social and economic development, including income and production capacity increase in programme areas,” said Dr. Santa Mole, the director of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation.
  8. On Nov. 11, 2017, the Local Government and Rural Development Department (LG&RDD) launched a $52.4 million project to reduce poverty in Balochistan, Pakistan. Funded by the European Union, the LG&RDD project will be implemented in Jhal Magsi, Kech, Khuzdar and other districts. The project’s main focus is to support the Balochistan government in reducing the impact of economic deprivation, poverty and social inequality.
  9. In Dec. of 2017, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) pipeline for 2018 to 2020 included a plan to offer $2 billion per year to Pakistan. ADB intends to work with the Central Asia Regional Cooperation (CAREC) to fulfill this goal. “By cooperating and working together with other CAREC member countries, Pakistan can better unlock its vast economic potential,” said Xiaohong Yang, ADB’s country director.
  10. The circumstances described in these facts about poverty in Pakistan often lead to terrorism throughout the country. In Dec. of 2017, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor completed the construction of a northern Pakistan highway that will play a role in alleviating the country’s poverty. The highway will help eradicate rampant terrorism and provide cost-effective transportation to millions of Pakistanis in local towns and valleys.

USAID, LG&RDD and other entities will continue making efforts to financially help Pakistan’s impoverished citizens. However, the country’s divide between poor and rich citizens remains the main contributor to poverty in Pakistan. Further work will continue to ensure that all Pakistanis can live financially secure lives.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

Why is Pakistan PoorPakistan is among the poorest nations in the world. However, it is also oxymoronically rich in natural resources: “the country has the second largest salt mine in the world, fifth largest gold mine, seventh largest copper mine, fifth largest coal reserves, seventh largest wheat and rice production capacity…” and the list goes on. But does it really matter when almost 40 percent of the people live in extreme poverty? The Human Development Index ranks Pakistan 147th out of 188 countries for 2016. According to several reports, there are a number of reasons why Pakistan is poor, even though it is rich in resources and has the potential to grow. Why is Pakistan poor? Discussed below are the three leading reasons.


Why is Pakistan Poor?


Corruption and Elitism in the Government
First is the fundamental flaw in Pakistan’s political system. Politics in Pakistan have always been dominated by the elites. These elites comprise politicians, generals and bureaucrats (the ruling oligarchy). Many politicians come from large land-owning families or very rich industrial backgrounds. They share key common interests and together look after each other, neglecting common people’s interests.

This scenario has become cyclical because most people vote according to what these elites deem convenient. This type of political culture may be changing with education and emerging democratic norms in the recent past, but it has affected the country for a long time.

The elites in Pakistan are also involved in corruption. The current Prime Minister stepped down in July 2017. He did so because the Supreme Court ordered his removal on accusations of corruption. Additionally, Transparency International ranks Pakistan as one of the worst countries for corruption.

Why is Pakistan poor? Corruption prevents any real change from occurring.


Lack of Democratic Ideals
Second is the absence of real democracy. Democracy remains an illusion for many due to “the lack of proper, meaningful and non-discriminatory representation for all regions in decision-making.” The absence of democracy and lack of political development in Pakistan are a consequence of direct and indirect military rule.

The military has dominated politics from the early years of the country’s independence because it was the most powerful and organized institution. Coupled with that, the military presented itself as Pakistan’s protector against India, which is considered an existential threat to Pakistan’s survival. One analyst writes, “It is little wonder, then, that Pakistan became a national security state during its early years, subordinating economic and democratic development to military improvement and tilting the balance of power away from civilian rule.”

Why is Pakistan poor? A lack of democracy in the nation prevents citizen-oriented development.


Both Religious and Secular Conflict
Furthermore, empowering Islam over secular ideals in a country which is much more diverse culturally by the military establishment, has not only created a fictitious national unity but stunted even further, the democratic and economic development.

The use of religious proxies against Bengalis dates back to 1971, then in Afghanistan against the Soviets during the 1980s. Additionally, their alleged involvement in Afghanistan for countering India in the past two decades, have brought home only conflict and violence.

In Pakistan’s context, violent conflicts and pervasive poverty are very much interlinked. Unfortunately, extreme poverty motivates the country’s disaffected youth to join forces with terrorist organizations which desire to establish the Sharia rule in Pakistan.

Why is Pakistan poor? Religious and secular violence plague the nation.


Education Crisis
The desperate education crisis is another answer. As of 2015, Pakistan spends only 2.6 percent of total GDP on education, which is the lowest in South Asia. In 1997, it was 3 percent, the highest in the country’s history. As a consequence of this low expenditure overall, more than half of the country’s population is uneducated. And hundreds of thousands of poor children are out of school.

In contrast, the country spends the largest part of its national expenditures on defense. A May 2017 report shows that “Pakistan’s defense expenditure in the next financial year (2017-18) will be around 7 percent higher than it was in the outgoing year to Rs920.2 billion (USD$8.65 billion).” It was Rs841 billion (USD$7.9 billion) for the year 2016-2017.

Why is Pakistan poor? The nation invests more in present conflicts than development towards a better future.

However, there is pleasant news. Poverty in Pakistan has fallen from 54 percent to 39 percent in the past decade—a 15 percent drop. The deaths from terrorist incidents have also declined recently. Today,  47 percent of Pakistani households own a washing machine; in 1991, only 13 percent owned one. Nonetheless, there is more work to be done to improve the lives of people in the context of global development.

Aslam Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Pakistan
Poverty is a global affliction affecting numerous countries in the developing world. Pakistan, a country in South Asia, is home to millions of people who live in extreme poverty. Poverty in Pakistan is on track to decrease, but there is still work to be done.

With approximately 185 million citizens, Pakistan ranks 147th out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI). Reports on poverty in Pakistan show that as much as 40% of the population–roughly the size of the population of Florida, California and New York combined–live beneath the poverty line.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report by the Pakistan Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform in June 2016 shows that 39% of Pakistanis live in multidimensional poverty. The MPI methodology, developed by UNDP and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative in 2010, uses a broader concept of poverty by reflecting people’s deprivations related to health, education and standard of living in addition to income and wealth.


1.  Regional and Provincial Disparities in Poverty in Pakistan

The report states that national poverty rates in Pakistan fell from 55% to 39% from 2004 to 2015. This is a strong decline; however, development across different regions of the country is uneven. Poverty in urban areas is at 9.3% as compared to 54.6% in rural areas. Similarly, great disparities exist across provinces, with the highest rates of poverty in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan. The MPI report states that “over two-thirds of people in FATA (73%) and Balochistan (71%) live in multidimensional poverty. Poverty in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stands at 49%, Gilgit-Baltistan and Sindh at 43%, Punjab at 31% and Azad Jammu and Kashmir at 25%.”

Some districts such as Qilla Abdullah, Harnai and Barkhan in Balochistan have more than 90% poverty compared to Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore, in which less than 10% of residents live in multidimensional poverty. The report also found that the decrease in multidimensional poverty in Balochistan was the slowest while poverty levels had actually increased there and in Sindh province in the past decade.


2. Corruption in Pakistan

Despite being the second-largest economy in South Asia, development is limited by entrenched poverty in Pakistan, social inequality, lack of access to social services and extreme corruption. The 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International ranks Pakistan 116th globally. Corruption in Pakistan is not a new phenomenon. Recent Panama leaks involving the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s three children are just one example: they owned offshore companies and assets not shown on his family’s wealth statement. This and other cases of corruption by political and military elites have made it impossible to alleviate widespread poverty.


3. Population Boom

Burgeoning population growth is another major issue that weighs down Pakistan’s socio-economic development. According to some reports, in the past 10 to15 years, the population of Pakistan has grown by more than 40 million, making it the sixth most populous country in the world. Another report found that Pakistan’s population increases by 1.8% per year. By that rate, it is feared that, if the nightmarish growth goes unchecked, the country’s population will be 245 million by 2030.


4. Development and Conflict

Pakistan is caught between the United States’ War on Terrorism in Afghanistan and an increasingly unstable relationship with India. Tackling poverty is important because economic instability and a lack of development can only lead to conflict and violence, domestically and regionally. In the past two decades, Pakistan has seen increasing violence at the hands of militant jihadists and Baloch insurgents. Rather than bettering the lives of common people by introducing broad-based socio-economic reforms, the Pakistani state uses excessive military force to “resolve” issues in the country’s northern and southwestern regions. Unending conflicts are another reason why it is difficult for development to take place.


5. Disproportionate Defense Spending

Most importantly, instead of allocating sufficient funds to address both acute and long-standing poverty, the country spends the largest amount of national expenditures on defense. A May 2017 report showed that “Pakistan’s defense expenditure in the next financial year (2017-18) will be around seven percent higher than it was in the outgoing year to Rs920.2 billion (USD$8.65 billion).” It was Rs841 billion (USD$7.9 billion) for the year 2016-2017. In contrast, Pakistan spends only 2.6% of its GDP on education, which is the lowest in South Asia.


6. Consequences of Poverty in Pakistan

Grinding poverty and lack of development fuel child labor, illiteracy, religious extremism and endless conflicts on massive scales. The Gross National Income per capita is only $5,031. Life expectancy in Pakistanis at 66.4 years and the expected years of schooling is miserably low at 8.1 years. These figures are among the lowest in the world.

The good news is that poverty in Pakistan decreased by 15 percent in the past decade, but, given the grim lows overall, this figure is less than encouraging. In order to alleviate poverty, policymakers need to focus on achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Although it is a big challenge for an underdeveloped country like Pakistan, meeting the SDGs is important since they provide the best possible integrated way for inclusive growth, peace and development.

Finally, policymakers should also focus on addressing the poverty of opportunity. The poverty of income is a result of the poverty of opportunity. Poverty in Pakistan is a multidimensional problem requiring multidimensional solutions.

Aslam Kakar

Photo: Google