Trends in urban Pakistan

ByRameez Ansari

An entrepreneur


March 5, 2023

urban Pakistan

Rameez Ansari talks about a significant aspect of life in urban Pakistan

The most potent impact of modernism in Pakistan is visible in its Trends in urban Pakistan dwellings. With the passage of time, the cities not only changed but have also radiated social change. Both within and around cities, modern technologies and institutions are being grafted onto traditional structures, producing diverse social forms and precipitating contradictions in values and practices.

True to their inherited tendencies, Pakistani cities follow a hybrid form of modernization similar to other Third World societies that are rated as adaptive and involuntary. This formation implies that modernization occurred in Pakistani cities without corresponding changes in functions, meanings, and attitudes.

It however also reflects that many cities in Pakistan have developed elaborated plans without having any legislative or administrative connection to public decisions about development. The result is that the development of cities has, in large measure, taken place on an adhoc basis leaving a lot to be desired.

One significant feature of the prevailing trends in Pakistani cities is that modern material and technological traits have diffused rapidly with the result that modern consumer goods and preferences have spread without much resistance except for their affordability.

On the other hand, the values and norms have slowly mellowed in urban centers. This fissure between the material and nonmaterial segments of culture is indicative of adaptive modernization. The phrase culture of cities suggests a singular way of life with the singularity of urban culture found existence at the plane of values and norms that are of universal scopes such as goals of personal advancement, formal mores, and laws, corporate community, organized political activity, and self-expression. Within the bounds of such cultural norms, Pakistani cities are split into groups of distinct lifestyles and mores.

Social Fragmentation

In this context it is observed that the social fragmentation of cities extends beyond social class differences to customs, value orientation, and even languages, making cities pluralistic at the level of community and sub-cultures. This pluralism is expressed in many forms, in the everyday life of neighborhoods and in house design, street art, and even signboards of stores. Family, clan, and religion are the foundational social institutions of Pakistani urbanism and they have been resilient.

They have accommodated the functional demands of living under conditions of large populations in high densities. The result is that the identity in cities is based upon groups instead of individuals which often creates complications. This explains the heavy reliance on family and clan norms underlying the urban culture. The subterranean roots of Pakistan’s urban culture lie in historic castes and tribes. These roots structure social order and people’s attitudes and behaviors.

In this context, the ethos of Pakistani cities differs from the individualistic and interest-oriented social organization of western culture. Contrary to western experiences, religion has not retreated to the private sphere of social life but it has strong relevance in Pakistani cities though the cohesiveness of norms and values has been cracked. Different institutions are changing at different rates and frequently in different directions resulting in institutional lags.

Material and nonmaterial divide is one form of lag but there are others such as administrative norms and practices that remain traditional, while technological and organizational structures are being modernized. The obvious consequence is that social and moral orders are not commensurate with the demands of contemporary urban living.

Trends In Urban Pakistan

It is emphasized that for the smooth functioning of cities, a few conditions are required to be met. These are the imperatives of urban life, namely collectivization of utilities, organizing space, building civic order, and instituting cultural reforms. Institutions for fulfilling these imperatives are not developing in parallel with emerging cities in Pakistan. Such institutions could be local in form but they have to fulfill functions that are common across cultures.

In cities, the welfare of one person is inseparable from the well-being of others. In this respect, the city is a democratic community as all residents are equal at some level. Paradoxically, in cities, people are interconnected without interacting closely and this fact gives rise to urban imperatives that call for certain universal urban mores such as traffic laws, environmental policies, and building controls.

Pakistan cities need institutional reforms to meet the requirements of urban imperatives. In this context, some universal urban norms and technologies may have to be adopted, both in form and function, for the health and welfare of urban residents and society at large. Despite glaring internal contradictions, Pakistani cities are forging new forms of modern urban cultures and institutions.

The effectiveness of these institutions depends on their capacity to fulfill functions necessitated by large and concentrated populations, mass society, and a monetized economy. These functions are universal in that cities have to fulfill them for efficiency and equity. Yet they can be fulfilled through institutions that are local in form and meaning. Pakistani cities however are pulsating locales and are evolving efficiently. The Weekender


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