Paki Elites & where they live

I could be wrong but Pakistan’s elites are in the following cities:

Islamabad is the home to the political & bureaucratic elite. Very chaste and crisp Urdu and a real redoubt of the Pakistani government. I spent alot of time in this city when growing up but have found to be a Talibanised version of an English village (I jest but not by much). The main ethnicities are Punjabis, who are thoroughly Urdufied and Pakistanised and Pathans, who are the exotic minority in the city with their colourful language & weird accents.

Pindi (Rawal) is the ugly older sister of Islamabad but of course is where the military is based and so would probably be where all the military elite (which is the shadow government of the country) is based.

Lahore is the home to the economic elite, after all Punjab is the largest and most influential state. It is no Karachi however and is far more regional than cosmopolitan. It has a rough macho culture and can be a bit crude & crass. However as one of Pakistan’s oldest and most prestigious cities it has considerable sway. Punjabi language & ethnicity has obviously a strong sway here as the common tongue mixed in with Urdu of course.

Pakistan’s greatest city (& my personal favorite) is of course Karachi. It may not necessarily have the moneyed but the social trendsetters are here . Predominantly drawn from Pakistan’s once dominant elite (the Urdu-speakers are sort of like the Wasps in Pakistan, a faded elite) who go to certain schools (well only one, KGS), study abroad, live in Defence & Clifton and have a rather hedonistic approach to life (not in the manic way as upper-crust Lahoris but in a more studied & sophisticated way). The living room arbiters of the cultural life of the nation; English-speakers with Muhajir heritage (of course most of these families have intermarried with the locals etc). Love-hate relationship with India and very confused about Pakistan in general; believe that they are the last continuance of the Mughal decadence of Delhite culture. I may be projecting my own love of Karachi here but it really is the Queen of East; the last redoubt of Urdustan.

Much as I like New Delhi (I much prefer New Delhi to Lahore & my truest roots are there since my late grandmother was born in Karol Bagh) it’s not very inspiring to see the Muslims clustered in ghettos like cattle waiting to be slaughtered. Ghalib would probably find Karachi, more than Delhi, to be a more familiar city..

21 thoughts on “Paki Elites & where they live”

  1. The real economic elite live in Karachi rather than Lahore. Karachi is the economic capital of the country–Pakistan’s version of NYC. Lahore is much more provincial and Punjabi.

      1. Karachi has twice the population of Lahore (20 million as opposed to 10 million). It also has a much more diverse population– Pathans, Muhajirs, Sindhis etc. Lahore is very much a Punjabi city. Even the people who came in 1947 came from East Punjab.

        1. Yes I find it intriguing that my Sikh Punjabi friend’s family actively speak Punjabi back in Chandigarh. The equivalent Hindu or Muslim Punjabi, of the same social class, had already switched to Hindi or Urdu.

          Even though Punjabiyat is definitely a thing; Punjabi as a High Culture is really only preserved by the Sikhs..

          Partition really ripped the soul of the Punjab with its capital Lahore being awarded to Pakistan (it could have gone either way like Calcutta)..

          Imagine if Calcutta had been awarded to East Pakistan, that might have had a considerable effect on Bengali.

          It would be an interesting blog post.

          1. I would say the natives of Lahore still speak Punjabi, though you are right that the upper classes transitioned to Urdu and now to English. Though Punjabi is the native language of over 50% of Pakistanis, it definitely suffered from Urdu being declared the national language. The high culture of Pakistan is very much Urdu-speaking.

            My own maternal grandparents were Punjabi. They spoke Punjabi with each other but Urdu to their children (because Quaid-e-Azam had said that Urdu was Pakistan’s language). Now even the “Punjabi” that we speak at home is mostly Urdu with words like “sanu” and “mainu” instead of “mujhay” and “humain”. In my immediate family, we speak Urdu because my father is from a non-Punjabi background.

          2. I’m trying to think of another country where the majority of the population willingly agreed to switch language.

  2. Interesting. To Indians Pakis even from big cities seem provincial compared to the socio economic elite in Delhi and Mumbai. While I’m not one of them, I’ve had some exposure to them, and they are ahead by leaps and bound in wordliness, sophistication and yes money.

    And I can even relate to the Paki complex compared to Indians, given that I come from a smaller “metro” in India which always carried a chip on its shoulder relative to Mumbai (but could never match up for obvious reasons)

  3. The story of the Muhajirs did not end triumphantly or tragically, but is petering out in a whimper. Somehow they could never work out an equilibrium with the local Sindhis, who of course have their own side of the story. I speak as an outsider in every way of course, but it almost seems that they are living under a siege. Their trajectories over the last century have been shaped by concentric fears of a Hindu India, a Sindhi Sindh and now migrating Pathans.

    Materially they are probably better off than they would have been in North India, but emotionally and psychologically ?

    1. Muhajirs are the elite of Karachi. They basically rule urban Sindh (Karachi and Hyderabad). The Sindh-Mujahir friction goes back to 1947 when Karachi became the federal capital. After that, there was a movement to carve Karachi out of Sindh and make it a province, which obviously the Sindhis didn’t like. Who would want their best city taken away from them and made part of some other administrative entity? Try taking Lahore away from Punjabis. Of course, given the fact that Karachi by itself is 20 million people, there are probably good administrative reasons for making it a separate entity.

      Psychologically, there must still be some sense of displacement from their real home and still being known as “Muhajirs” (despite the religious significance of the term, which is not simply the word for refugees. Hijrat was the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) migration from Mecca to Medina) as opposed to those communities native to Pakistan (Punjabis, Sindhis).

      1. With the decline of the MQM, it is difficult to see how much longer Muhajirs can continue to ‘rule’ urban Sindh. Demographics are also not on their side, they have the lowest fertility rates and the highest emigration rates in Pakistan due to their high levels of education.

        Politics in Sindh is going to be shaped by a tri lateral contest between Sindhis, Pashtun migrants and Muhajirs but Muhajirs increasingly have the weakest hand. Most likely configuration is a Pashtun-Muhajir alliances built around the PTI against the Sindhi PPP. Muhajirs will have to compromise.

        1. PPP will continue to rule Sindh, PML-N and PTI will fight for Punjab. Who rules Punjab rules Pakistan. That is just the reality.

          Sindh is not just Karachi. Even if Karachi doesn’t vote PPP, the whole rest of Sindh is still loyal to the Bhutto dynasty (now the Zardari dynasty).

          1. My point regarding the Muhajirs was that they are going to have to make a political compromise as a minority now. This was the original problem that they faced to begin with, only the other group then were the North Indian Hindus. The other groups are now going to be Pashtun and Sindhis, but the problem remains the same. Its back to square one in many ways.

          2. When were the Muhajirs not a minority? After all, only 8% of Pakistanis have Urdu as their mother tongue. I don’t think the Mujahirs are in some special situation now that they haven’t been for the last few decades. Yes, in the initial years of Pakistan, they were the state and had all the power, but it hasn’t been that way for a long time.

            It’s not “back to square one”. Mujahirs are Muslim citizens of a Muslim-majority state not a beleaguered Muslim minority in a Hindu-majority country. With the Yogi in charge of UP, I’d say that they (we) made the right choice to leave Agra and Lucknow for Karachi and Lahore.

  4. Muhajirs were always a minority in Pakistan, but they were a majority in Karachi till the late 90s. This is why the MQM was a real political force. Also, Pakistan being under military rule prevented the Sindhis from exercising sustained control over Karachi as the capital of Sindh.

    You are probably correct that the Muhajirs will have a much easier time negotiating with fellow Muslims than with North Indian Hindus. But they will still be negotiating as a minority at the legislative mercy of a larger population. Now this population is much less likely to pass laws banning cow slaughter or something like that. But in the numbers sense, the situation hasnt changed at all.

    1. The current local government in Karachi is controlled by the MQM. A simple glance at Wikipedia shows that the mayor and deputy mayor are MQM. District East is controlled by MQM. So are the Central district and Korangi. Malir is controlled by PPP and Karachi South (where the rich live) is controlled by PTI.

      Karachi is not Sindh. Sindhis may rule Sindh but Karachi itself is still ruled by the Urdu-speaking population. Yes, Muhajirs don’t really count in a national sense, but Karachi is their turf.

      1. Not for long. Even if one assumes the continuation of the historical demographic trend before 1998, Muhajirs will form well less than 50% of Karachi’s population by 2025,

        And given the fertility differentials between Muhajirs and Sindhis, Pashtuns, it is quite likely that the proportion is much less than what the census reports.
        “The final census report will shed light on the changing demographics of Karachi itself but estimates suggest that the percentage of the city that reported Urdu as their mother tongue has declined to below 45 percent from 49 percent in 1998, and another estimate suggests that the Urdu-speaking population has perhaps already declined to 36 percent.”

        1. U r extrapolating far too much from demographic data – what is the census of Defence & Clifton ?

        2. 45% of the city’s population is still quite substantial. In any case, I don’t think numbers alone reflect the power of this particular subgroup.

          It is pretty amazing how the small Urdu-speaking population was able to define the entire high culture of Pakistan such that it became a North Indian Urdu-speaking high culture rather than a Punjabi culture (which is the group that the vast majority of the population belongs to/identifies with). Of course, Urdu has been watered down (especially in Punjab) but the educated standard aspired to is still Lucknawi or Delhi Urdu.

    2. One can’t compare the situation of Muslim Urdu-speakers in Karachi & UP (there are probably very few non-Muslim Urdu speakers left in India).. – as an aside this is an interesting article on the imperial creation of Urdu & the attendant Punjabification of it..

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