Pakistan: 4 Top Cities
From Karachi to Lahore
Our pick of four Pakistani economic centers at the heart of the country’s quest for prosperity.
Having made a slow but steady mark in the international arena, Pakistan had one of the fastest-growing economies in the world right up to the 1990s. In fact, Pakistan’s per-capita income in the early 1990s was about 25% higher than India’s, though that didn’t last for too long.
While India went on to become an economic giant, Pakistan’s economy ended up suffering heavy losses due to the US-led war on terror, terrorism, and ensuing internal conflicts.
Fortunately for Pakistan, all three problems are now seen as things of the past, thanks to major strides in law enforcement efforts. Just last year, it was named one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia by McKinsey & Company.
Powered by young population, Chinese investment, and a booming start-up scene, the country is now once again on the verge of achieving economic success.
Below is a list of four economic hubs that are bound to play a pivotal role in the subcontinent’s future.
Lahore. Credit: Shutterstock / thsulemani
Known as the cultural capital of Pakistan, Lahore is famous for its centuries-old bazaars, traditions, cultural heritage, and mouth-watering local delicacies. As the country’s second-largest city, it represents a little over 11% of total GDP. In 2019, Lahore’s nominal GDP stood at USD84 billion, with projections that it will surpass the USD100-billion mark by 2025.
Over the years, like most vibrant urban centers, Lahore’s economy has gradually shifted from manufacturing to IT, services, and education, unlike other economic hubs in Pakistan. The fact that it is Pakistan’s most urbanized city explains this shift. Ac- cording to the 2017 Census, it is the only city whose population has more than doubled since 1998, from 5.14 million to 11.13 million.
On the back of a highly skilled workforce, Lahore has also established itself as the breeding ground for start-ups. The National Incubation Centre, which helps new start-ups gain ground in different fields, is also based in Lahore.
A city named after the late Saudi king Faisal bin Abdulaziz al Saud, Faisalabad’s prowess in the industrial sector makes it a regional hub for textiles. Often referred to as the “Manchester of Pakistan,” it contributes USD20.55 billion to the country’s GDP, of which 21% comes from agriculture.
Apart from textiles and agriculture, the city is also famous for its vast research and development facilities that offer it a unique edge in exporting agricultural produce to all corners of the world.
In a bid to further boost the city’s export-based economy, China and Pakistan have formed the Special Economic Zone of Faisalabad as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, with a focus on the food processing, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals industries.
Located at the entrance of the Persian Gulf, just under 500km from Karachi, this once-quiet town has become a focal point of the USD64-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
With an investment of over USD500 million, China is building the world’s largest deep-sea port in Gwadar, which in turn will make the city one of the world’s largest transit and transshipment cargo facilities.
Many believe it is impossible to overstate Gwadar’s importance to China’s global ambitions. After all, lying at the convergence of three of the most commercially important regions of the world, namely the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia, Gwadar provides China access to a shorter and more secure route through Pakistan to global trade.
In return, Chinese investment is also doing wonders for the local population. Apart from providing new employment opportunities to the coastal city’s residents, a 300-MW coal energy project was launched in 2019 to solve the city’s power woes.
And with a number of railway projects underway to connect the port city to neighboring Iran and the wider region, it is safe to say that Gwadar may one day be at a level where it is able to compete with the success stories of Dubai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.