Demographics of Karachi

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Trend of population growth (in millions) in Karachi.

Karachi is the largest and most populous city in Pakistan. The population and demographic distribution in the megacity has undergone numerous changes over the past 150 years. On 15 August 1947, when it became the capital city of Pakistan, its population was about 450,000 inhabitants. However, the population rapidly grew with large influx of Muslim refugees after independence in 1947. By 1951, the city population had crossed one million mark.[1] in the following decade, the rate of growth of Karachi was over 80 percent.[2] Today, the city has grown 60 times its size in 1947 when it became the country's first capital.[3] Although, Islamabad remains the nation's capital since the 1960s, the city's population continues to grow at about 5% per annum, largely thanks to its strong economic base.[4]

A person from Karachi is known as a Karachiite.


Whereas most megacities in the developing world have grown out of rural-urban migration from the countryside not too distant from them, Karachi's demographics are the largely contributed by long-distance immigration.[3] Before the independence of Pakistan, Karachi already had a diverse mix of religions and ethnic groups. After independence, most of the Muslim refugees from South Asia settled in Karachi. Likewise, a large number of Hindus left the city for India.[citation needed] Predominantly Urdu speaking, the refugees known as Muhajirs formed the dominant ethnic group in Karachi. Muhajirs originated from different parts of India and brought with them their local cultures and cuisines, thus further adding to the already diverse mix of people that earlier inhabited Karachi.[citation needed] Currently, these older groups of people and continuing migration from different parts of Pakistan have contributed to a rich and diverse mix of people that live in Karachi. This has further been diversified with migration from other non-traditional countries such as by Arabs from different Middle Eastern countries, Afghans and more recently from the Central Asian Republics.[citation needed] The city is also home to Pakistan's largest Jewish, Nestorian and Armenian communities. This has given the city a very metropolitan character, and has earned it the title as the Melting Pot of Pakistan.[citation needed]

Demographic history of Karachi[edit]

Year Urban population

1856 56,875
1872 56,753
1881 73,560
1891 105,199
1901 136,297
1911 186,771
1921 244,162
1931 300,799
1941 435,887
1951 1,068,459
1961 1,912,598
1972 3,426,310
1981 5,208,132
1998 9,269,265
2007 14,500,000 *
* Karachi City Government
estimate, retrieved 13 February 2008.

The Pashtuns, originally from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Afghanistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and northern Balochistan, are now the city's second largest ethnic group after Muhajirs, these Pashtuns are settled in Karachi from decades. [5][6] With as high as 7 million by some estimates the city of Karachi in Pakistan has the largest concentration of urban Pakhtun population in the world, including 50,000 registered Afghan refugees in the city, [7][8] meaning there are more Pashtuns in Karachi than in any other city in the world.[9] As per current demographic ratio Pashtuns are about 25% of Karachi's population.[10]

The earliest inhabitants of the area that became Karachi were Sindhi tribes such as the Jokhio, Mallaah and Jat in the east and Baloch in the west and. Before the end of British colonial rule and the subsequent independence of Pakistan in 1947, the population of the city was majority Sindhi and Baloch Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, but the community is still present numbering around 250,000 residents.[11] The city was, and still is home to a large community of Gujarati Muslims who were one of the earliest settlers in the city, and still form the majority in Saddar Town. Important Gujarati Muslim communities in the city include the Memon, Chhipa, Ghanchi, Khoja, Bohra and Tai. Other early settlers included the Marwari Muslims, Parsis originally from Iran, Marathi Muslims and Konkani Muslims from Maharashtra (settled in Kokan Town), Goan Catholics and Anglo-Indians. Most non-Muslims left the city to India in the 1950s, after independence, but there are still small communities of Parsis, Goan Catholics and Anglo-Indians in the city.

After independence of Pakistan large numbers of northern, central and east Indian Muslims migrated to Karachi mainly urdu speaking population, a considerable number of Punjabi Muslims from Pakistani Punjab settle in Karachi. There is also a sizeable community of Kashmiri Muslims from the Kashmir Valley Marathi Hindus and Malayali Muslims in Karachi (the Mappila), originally from Kerala in South India.[12]

Ethnic groups[edit]

The Ethnic groups in Karachi includes all the Ethnic groups in Pakistan. Karachi's inhabitants, locally known as Karachiites, are composed of ethno-linguistic groups from all parts of Pakistan, as well as migrants from South Asia, making the city's population a diverse melting pot. At the end of the 19th century, the population of the city was about 105,000, with a gradual increase over the next few decades, reaching more than 400,000 on the eve of independence. Estimates of the population are approximately 23,000,000, of which an estimated 90% are migrants from different backgrounds. The city's population is estimated to be growing at about 5% per year (mainly as a result of internal rural-urban migration), including an estimated 45,000 migrant workers coming to the city every month from different parts of Pakistan.[13]


According to a 1998 census of Pakistan, the religious breakdown of the city is as follows:[14] Muslim (96.45%), Christian (2.42%), Hindu (0.86%), Ahmadis (0.17%) and other (0.10%). Other religious groups include Parsis, Sikhs, Bahai, Jews and Buddhists. Of the Muslims, approximately 85% are Sunnis and 15% are Shi'ites.


Stunned by Karachi's diverse demographics, the American political scientist and South Asia expert Stephen P. Cohen once stated that if Karachi's ethnic groups "got along well, it would be an amazingly complex city, a lot like New York."[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1960, Monographs in the Economics of Development. Institute of Development Economics, Pakistan.
  2. ^ G Myrdal (1968), Asian Drama: An Inquiry Into The Poverty Of Nations. Pantheon Books. (3 volumes)
  3. ^ a b S J Burki (2004), Karachi: a unique mega city, [DAWN Newspaper|DAWN], 5 October. Retrieved on 7 January 2008
  4. ^ P Blood (ed.) (1994), Pakistan: A Country Study.PO for the Library of Congress.
  5. ^ Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (2009-07-17). "Karachi's Invisible Enemy". PBS. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  6. ^ "In a city of ethnic friction, more tinder". The National. 2009-08-24. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  7. ^ "Columnists | The Pakhtun in Karachi". Time. 28 August 2010. Retrieved 2011-09-08. 
  8. ^ [1], thefridaytimes
  9. ^ "UN body, police baffled by minister’s threat against Afghan refugees". Dawn Media Group. 2009-02-10. Retrieved 2012-01-24. 
  10. ^ [2], thefridaytimes
  11. ^ "Population of Hindus in the World". Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  12. ^ M R Narayan Swamy (5 October 2005). "Where Malayalees once held sway | Latest News & Updates at". Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  13. ^ "Karachi turning into a ghetto". Dawn. 16 January 2006. Retrieved 24 August 2010. [dead link]
  14. ^ Arif Hasan, Masooma Mohiburl (2009-02-01). "Urban Slums Reports: The case of Karachi, Pakistan" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-04-20. 
  15. ^ "If Karachi’s ethnic groups got along it could be a city like New York: Stephen P. Cohen". The Express Tribune. July 4, 2011. 

Further reading[edit]