Poverty in Pakistan

Poverty in Pakistan

Poverty in Pakistan is a growing concern. Although the middle-class has grown in Pakistan, nearly one-quarter of the population is classified poor as of October 2006.cite web
title=World bank, UNDP question poverty estimates in Pakistan
publisher=OneWorld.net (South Asia)
] . The declining trend in poverty as seen in the country during the 1970s and 1980s was reversed in the 1990s by poor federal policies and rampant corruption.cite web
title=Poverty in Pakistan: Issues, Causes, and Institutional Responses
publisher=Asian Development Bank
] This phenomenon has been referred to as the "poverty bomb". [ [http://www.twnside.org.sg/title/1915-cn.htm Pakistan: Now the Poverty Bomb goes off, M, Ziauddin, Third World Network] ] The government of Pakistan with help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has prepared an "Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper"cite web |url=http://www.imf.org/External/NP/prsp/2001/pak/01/113001.pdf
title=Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
] that suggests guidelines to reduce poverty in the country. According to the World Bank, the program has had tangible success, with the World Bank stating that poverty has fallen by 5 percent since 2000. [cite web |url=http://www.dawn.com/2006/10/19/top10.htm
title=World Bank lauds Pakistan’s poverty reduction efforts
publisher=DAWN Newspaper

As of 2006, Pakistan's Human Development Index (HDI) is 0.539, higher than that of nearby Bangladesh's 0.530, which was formerly a part of the country itself. Pakistan's HDI still stands lower than that of neighbouring India's at 0.611.

Incidences of poverty in Pakistan rose from 22–26% in the fiscal year 1991 to 32–35% in the fiscal year 1999. They have subsequently fallen to 25–26% according to the reports of the World Bank and the UN Development Program reports. These reports contradict the claims made by the Government of Pakistan that the poverty rates are only 23.1%. The CIA factbook places the 2006 poverty rate at 24 percent. cite web
title=The World Factbook - Pakistan

patial distribution of poverty

Poverty in Pakistan has historically been higher in rural areas and lower in the cities. Out of the total 40 million living below the poverty line, 30 million live in rural areas. Poverty rose sharply in the rural areas in the 1990sADB report pg 11] and the gap in income between urban and rural areas of the country became more significant. This trend has been attributed to a disproportionate impact of economic events in the rural and urban areas.

There are also significant inhomogeneities in the different regions of Pakistan that contribute to the country's rising poverty. In the 1999 Fiscal year, the urban regions of the Sindh province had the lowest levels of poverty, and the rural areas of the North West Frontier Province had the highest. Punjab also has significant gradients in poverty among the different regions of the province .

In addition, the North Western Frontier Provinces of Pakistan are among the most impoverished in the country. Outside the cities, government investment has been negligible, and social and economic structures remained tribal and backward. In the absence of economic development, the Pushtun people of the region dealt in arms and drugs, smuggling people and goods, especially during the Soviet invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan and, later, in support of the Taliban regime. These and other activities have led to a breakdown of law and order in many parts of the region [ [http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/5-28-2003-40907.asp Pakistan is Losing the Fight Against Fundamentalism "buzzle.com"] ] .

Poverty and gender

The gender discriminatory practices in Pakistani society also shape the distribution of poverty in the country. Traditional gender roles in Pakistan define the woman's place as in the home and not in the workplace, and define the man as the breadwinner. Consequently, the society invests far less in women than men [ADB report pg 13] . Women in Pakistan suffer from poverty of opportunities throughout their lives. Female literacy in Pakistan is 29% compared to Male literacy at 55%. In legislative bodies, women constituted less than 3% of the legislature elected on general seats before 2002. The 1973 Constitution allowed reserved seats for women in both houses of parliament for a period of 20 years, thus ensuring that women would be represented in parliament regardless of whether or not they are elected on general seats. This provision lapsed in 1993, so parliaments elected subsequently did nothave reserved seats for women. Reserved seats for women have been restored after the election of 2002 . cite book
last = Kabeer
first = Naila
authorlink = Naila Kabeer
title = Reversed Realities
publisher = Verso, London
date = 1994
] . Female labour rates in Pakistan are exceptionally low.

All this, coupled with the rise of honor killings against women, a legal system that is regarded as misogynistic, and the intransigent denial of these problems by the Pakistan government, as well as their institutionalized harassment of women's rights groups operating in the country [ [http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/engASA330181999 Honour killings of girls and women: Amnesty International] ] [ [http://www.hrw.org/press/1999/oct/pakpr.htm Pakistan: Women Face Their Own Crisis Human Rights Watch] ] , contribute to the deteriorating situation with women and the rise in their poverty.

Economic and social vulnerability

"Vulnerability" in this case stands for the underlying susceptibility of economically deprived people to fall into poverty as a result of exogenous random shocks. Vulnerable households are generally foundto have low expenditure levels. Households are considered vulnerable if they do not have the means to smooth outtheir expenses in response to changes in income. In general, vulnerability is likely tobe high in households clustered around the poverty line. Since coping strategies forvulnerable households depend primarily on their sources of income, exogenous shocks can increase reliance on non-agricultural wages. Such diversification has not occurred in many parts of Pakistan, leading to an increased dependence on credit [ADB report pg 15] .

While economic vulnerability is a key factor in the rise of poverty in Pakistan, vulnerability also arises from social powerlessness, political disenfranchisement, and ill-functioning and distortionary institutions, and these also are important causes of the persistence of vulnerability among the poor ADB report pg 16] .

Other causes of vulnerability in Pakistan are the everyday harassment by corrupt government officials, as well as their underperformance, exclusion and denial of basic rights to many in Pakistan. Also, lack of adequate health care by the state lead the poor to seek private sources, which are expensive, but still preferable to the possibility of medical malpractice and being given expired medicines in state run medical facilities. Also, the failure by the state to provide adequate law and order in many parts of the country is a factor in the rise of vulnerability of the poor .

Environmental Issues

Environmental problems in Pakistan, such as erosion, use of agro-chemicals, deforestation etc. contribute to rising poverty in Pakistan. Increasing pollution contributes to increasing risk of toxicity, and poor industrial standards in the country contribute to rising pollution [ADB report pg 29] [ [http://www.iucn.org/places/pakistan/poverty/poverty.htm Poverty in the context of Pakistan iucn.org] ] .

Lack of adequate governance

By the end of the 1990s, the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country's social and economic resources for development emerged as Pakistan's foremost developmental problem. Corruption and political instabilities such as various separatist movements in Balochistan and Waziristan resulted in reduction of business confidence, deterioration of economic growth, reduced public expenditure, poor delivery of public services, and undermining of the rule of law [ADB report pg 33] . The perceived security threat on the border with India has dominated Pakistan's culture and has led to the domination of military in politics, excessive spending on defense at the expense of social sectors, and the erosion of law and order.

Pakistan has been run by military dictatorships for large periods of time, alternating with limited democracy [ADB Report pg 34] [ [http://www.kashmirherald.com/featuredarticle/democracyinpakistan.html Why democracy didn't take roots in Pakistan? Kashmir Herald] ] . These rapid changes in governments led to rapid policy changes and reversals and the reduction of transparency and accountability in government. The onset of military regimes have contributed to non-transparency in resource allocation. In particular, the neglect by the Pakistani state of the Balochistan and North Western Frontier Provinces has rendered the region poverty-stricken [http://www.wsws.org/articles/2005/apr2005/pakis-a14.shtml] . Those who do not constitute the political elite are unable to make political leaders and the Government responsive to their needs or accountable to promises. Development priorities are determined not by potential beneficiaries but by the bureaucracy and a political elite which may or may not be in touch with the needs of the citizens. Political instability and macroeconomic imbalances have been reflected in poor creditworthiness ratings, even compared to other countries of similar income levels, with resulting capital flight and lower foreign direct investment inflows. The current government of Pakistan has professed commitments to reforms in this area [ADB report pg 34] .

In addition, Pakistan's major cities and urban centres are home to an estimated 1.2 million street children.This includes beggars and scavengers who are often very young.The law and order problem worsens their condition as boys and girls are fair game to others who would force them into stealing, scavenging and smuggling to survive. A large proportion consumes readily available solvents to starve off hunger, loneliness and fear. Children are vulnerable to contracting STD's such as HIV/AIDS, as well as other diseases [ [http://meero.worldvision.org/sf_pakistan.php Surviving on the Streets] Pakistan, Poverty Unveiled.World Vision] .


Pakistan is home to a large feudal landholding system where landholding families hold thousands of acres and do little work on the agriculture themselves. They enlist the services of their serfs to perform the labor of the land [ [http://www.newsweekly.com.au/articles/2000mar25_pfrcopm.html PAKISTAN: Feudalism: root cause of Pakistan’s malaise] - News Weekly] . 51% of poor tenants owe money to the landlords. [http://www.unmc.edu/Community/ruralmeded/underserved/poverty_in_pakistan.htm] The landlords' position of power allows them to exploit the only resource the poor can possibly provide: their own labor.

Poverty and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism

The rise of poverty in the country has been correlated with the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism in many parts of the country. The Pakistani government's attempts at proposed reforms have been criticized as "weak" [http://www.tharwaproject.com/node/2573 Archive of The Asian Age: Rise of fundamentalism in Pakistan] ] and has been associated with an "expedient brand of romance between the establishment and the religious right". The government also did not sincierly adopted the policy to bring these instititions in the main streem and also end the multy educational systems that creates the classes prejudice. One third of all children being educated in Pakistan attend madrassas over secular schools. Rise of fundamentalism in Pakistan] ] . Madrassa education is offered on the pretext that they provide better education than the other schools [ [http://www.columbiaspectator.com/media/storage/paper865/news/2006/04/18/News/Ziad-Talks.Fundamentalism-2027433.shtml?norewrite200609172238&sourcedomain=www.columbiaspectator.com Ziad Talks Fundamentalism Columbia Daily Spectator] ] . They study in a religious environment that has been radicalized by the world-sponsored exposure of the "Holy Jihad" in Afghanistan .

Poverty and the lack of a modern curriculum have proved destabilizing factors for Pakistani society that have been exploited by religious organizations banned by the government to run schools and produce militant literature. Though many madrassas are benign, those that subscribe to the radicalist branches of Sunni Islam, [cite journal | author=C. Lys | title=Demonizing the “Other:” Fundamentalist Pakistani Madrasahs and theConstruction of Religious Violence| journal= Marburg Journal of Religion( [http://web.uni-marburg.de/religionswissenschaft/journal/mjr/pdf/2006/lys2006.pdf Link] ) | year=2006 | volume=11 | issue=1] .

As a result, Islamic political parties have become more powerful in Pakistan and have considerable sympathy among the poor. This phenomenon is also pronounced in the North Western Frontier Province [http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/5-28-2003-40907.asp Pakistan is Losing the Fight Against Fundamentalism] ] .The clergy have become more powerful in Pakistan and have considerable sympathy among the poor. This phenomenon is also pronounced in the North Western Frontier Province .

Beggers use cell phones to beg

Beggers in Pakistan have turned to modern technology to beg and commit frauds. Beggars are reportedly using mobile phones to acquire hefty alms in the name of religion. As a matter of routine, they reportedly send messages asking for a credit of Rs 10-100 (US $1 = Rs 60), offering in return a place in paradise. [http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14666210 Beggars in Pakistan use cell phones to beg]


External links

* [http://www.unmc.edu/Community/ruralmeded/underserved/poverty_in_pakistan.htm Poverty in Pakistan] (Broken link)
* [http://lnweb18.worldbank.org/SAR/sa.nsf/Countries/Pakistan/52F7CDA6EE7FE78485256C680014813E?OpenDocument Pakistan Poverty Assessment by the World Bank] (Broken link)

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