The floor space per capita in Lahore is 1.2 square meters, compared to 55 square meters in Melbourne. In rural areas many people live in mud or mud brick homes. But increasing these are being replaced homes made of fired bricks. Many villages used to fortified to protect them from attackers, Many of eh walls have come down.

“Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”: “The rapid increase in urbanization, coupled with the rising population, has added to the housing shortage in urban areas. About 25 percent of the people in large cities live in katchi abadis (shantytowns). The Public Works Department has built more than 8,000 units in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta at a cost of r1,588 million. Under the 1986–90 program, the residents in the katchi abadis were to be given proprietary rights. In 1987, the National Housing Authority was created to coordinate the upgrading of the existing katchi abadis and prevent the growth of new ones. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

“As of 1991, 171 abadis had been renovated at a cost of r454 million, and 522 more were under development. In 1998, there were 19,211,738 housing units nationwide with an average of 6.8 occupants per unit. About 54.97 percent of all units had two to four rooms; 38.11 percent had one room. About 81 percent of all dwellings were owner occupied.

“The most common building materials for residential dwellings were baked bricks, blocks or stones for walls (58 percent of all units) and wood or bamboo for the roofs (57 percent). Only 32 percent of all housing units are linked to piped drinking water. About 70 percent are linked to an electrical network for lighting. Only 32.7 percent of all housing units had a separate kitchen and 33.29 percent had a separate bathroom.

Residence of a Katchi Abadi in Karachi

A kachi abadi is a slum or shanty town. Describing a residence in one near N.I.P.A. Chowrangi, Karachi, Syeda Arooma Zehra Naqvi of Habib University wrote: “Rukaiya’s house consists of just a single small room made of mud and straw mats and a sheet of iron placed on top to serve as a roof, another very small room which is not more than 4 feet in length and breadth is right next to the relatively bigger room and that serves as a bathroom. The kitchen is outside which is basically just a wood stove on which she cooks and a few utensils placed around it. There is small area in one corner which she explains is the washing area, the plumbing and the water is a huge issue for the people living here but they have to cope with it for now. [Source: Syeda Arooma Zehra Naqvi, Habib University]

“The housing is very expensive in main areas of Karachi Jameel explains, even the rent is too much for us to give and the places where houses are cheap they’re too far away and a lot of money goes in to the transport. They can’t afford that. Most of the men living in this kachi abadi are temporary laborers and the woman mostly work as maids. Most of the people living here are Saraiki Rukaiya tells me. All the people living in this kachi abadi have similar socio-economic standings as Rukaiya. And all the people here come from more or less the same back ground and mindset as Rukaiya and Jameel. They don’t know how long will they be allowed to stay here, when will the KMC come and evict them again. Other than that the day to day life for the people here is a complete struggle.

“Jameel tells about how hard it is for them when it rains, he recalls to a few weeks back when the thunderstorms nearly flooded Karachi. It was devastating he says, everything came down because of the rain and the high speed winds. Their houses became filled with water, they didn’t had electricity for a full day, in a few cases the iron sheets serving as roofs also came down, they couldn’t sleep for the whole night, the kids were scared and they couldn’t do anything to help them, Jameel says with a look of helplessness on his face. In days like these it’s the hardest for them to live.”

Rural Homes in Pakistan

Kathy Gannon of Associated Press wrote: The Rajhu family lives in a dirt-poor neighborhood on the northern edge of Lahore where water buffalo compete with cars for space on mud-clogged roads. Swarms of mosquitoes hover over vast pools of putrid-smelling, stagnant water left behind by monsoon rains. [Source: Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, October 3, 2016]

At the entrance gate to his brick shack, the siblings’ father, Mohammed Naseer Rajhu, peeks out, reluctant to admit visitors into his cramped home. The rooms are so small there is barely space for a rickety wooden bench and the traditional rope bed where he sits.

Kitchens are often in a separate hut. Outhouses and Asian-style toilets are the norm if there is a toilet. In some rural places the toilet looks like a stool. "Lift the top, there is a seat with a hole cut it in it and a bucket underneath. Some people run shops out of their homes. Fauzia Javed has a small hole-in-the wall shop she runs selling penny candy and biscuits in Lahore, Pakistan.

In many houses there is jug or pail filled with water. People often scoop water out to drench themselves instead of taking a shower. For hot water, boiled water is mixed with cold water. Because it is so hot people often take a lot of showers and baths. To save water, people are encouraged to take quick showers and not fill the tub when they take bath. People often wash themselves after using the toilet and don’t use toilet paper. They often use a “lotta” (a water-filled jug with a long spout).

Possessions in Pakistan

In Pakistan people often sit on the floor with cushions behind them and sleep on “charpoy” (cots of wood and rope). Other typical household items include “durri” (cotton mats), patchwork quilts and earthenware pots. The charpoy is the traditional South Asian bed. The is shrine in Jhang, honoring Heer and Ranjha, the Ppunjabi Romeo and Juliet, that was built to look like a charpoy. Among the hundreds of visitors are women that want to conceive a baby, newlyweds and lovestruck teenagers and lonely singles searching for a mate.

Household Consumption in Pakistan in PPP Terms (late 1990s): 1) All food: 45 percent compared to 13 percent in the U.S.: 2) Clothing and footwear: 7 percent compared to 9 percent in the U.S.; 3) Fuel and power 19 percent compared to 9 percent in the U.S.; 4) Health care: 6 percent compared to 4 percent in the U.S.); 5) Education: 5 percent compared to 6 percent in the U.S.: 6) Transport and Communications: 7 percent compared to 8 percent in the U.S.): and 7) Other 11 percent compared to 13 percent in the U.S.): [Source: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000' Purchasing power parity (PPP) is a measurement of prices in different countries that uses the prices of specific goods to compare the absolute purchasing power of the countries' currencies]

Although in the mid-1980s the World Bank forecast the advancement of Pakistan to the ranks of middle-income countries, the nation had not quite achieved this transition in the mid-1990s. Many blame this fact on Pakistan's failure to make significant progress in human development despite consistently high rates of economic growth. The annual population growth rate, which hovered between 3.1 and 3.3 percent in the mid-1990s, threatens to precipitate increased social unrest as greater numbers of people scurry after diminishing resources.

An anonymous Pakistani writer has said that three things symbolized Pakistan's material culture in the 1990s: videocassette recorders (for playing Hindi films), locally manufactured Japanese Suzuki cars, and Kalashnikov rifles. Although the majority of the people still reside in villages, they increasingly take social cues from cities. Videocassette tapes can be rented in many small villages, where residents also watch Cable News Network (CNN) — censored through Islamabad — on televisions that are as numerous as radios were in the 1970s. The cities are more crowded than ever; parts of Karachi and Lahore are more densely populated even than Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. In many areas, tiny Suzuki automobiles have replaced the bicycles and motorcycles that were in great demand merely a decade earlier. Whereas urban violence was traditionally related to blood feuds, it has become more random and has escalated dramatically.

Pashtun Villages and Houses

The Pashtuns (Pathans) are an ethnic group that live in western and southern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan and whose homeland is in the valleys of Hindu Kush. Most Pashtuns live in villages made up of two to 400 families. They are built near sources of water, with defensive considerations in mind, and are often cloistered in groups around a larger town. Powerful clans and tribes have traditionally occupied the best and most strategic plots of land. Relations between clans often determines how villages are located in relationship to one another.

In the tribal areas of Pakistan, people live in widely dispersed fortified villages, each inhabited by a distinct clan. The houses are located behind high mud walls and situated around an inner courtyard. Many houses are situated in windowless brick forts with walls up to 20 feet high. Some have watchtowers slogans written on the walls like “Victory or Martyrdom: and “Jihad is an obligation like prayer.” In some places the towns are made of run down single story houses with some run-down shops on the main street that sell opium, hashish, automatic weapons, land mines, and rocket propelled grenade launchers. Some villages have watchtowers,

Pashtun houses are generally made of mud or sun-dried bricks covered with mud plaster. Wood beams support the house. A wooden door marks the entrance. The flat roof is made of mud and twigs. Fruit is dried on the roof. A traditional Pashtun house has two parts: a mens area with a guest room; and a woman’s area that is closed to outsiders and where women can about their duties unveiled. Women are not allowed to enter the men’s area. Animals and food are kept in the woman’s area. Every married brother has a room for himself and his wife and children. Each family member stores his or her stuff in huge trunks.

Sindhi and Brahui Houses

Sindhis are the natives of the Sindh province, which includes Karachi, the lower part of the Indus River, the southeast coast of Pakistan and a lot of desert. According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: “Architecture in Sindh has a pronounced Arab flavor. Villages consist of clusters of houses, surrounded by compounds, and walled for privacy. Wooden gates often shut off the compound from the outside world. Houses themselves are generally built of unbaked mud bricks, roofed with straw or bamboo. Poor people have a single room for eating and sleeping, and their houses are sparsely furnished. The houses of the landowners are more elaborate and may be built of brick and have tiled roofs. They have several rooms, with a cookhouse and a latrine in the compound (the poor go into the fields to perform their bodily functions). The otak of the wealthy are furnished with carpets, overhead fans that are swung by servants, tables, and chairs. *\

The Brahui are a Dravidian language group of tribes that live mostly in Balochistan and the Sindh. According to the Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “Brahui settlements essentially reflect the economic activities of their inhabitants. Pastoral nomadism was the traditional occupation of many Brahui: nomadic herders lived in tents and temporary camps, migrating with their herds in search of pasture. Pastoralism has declined in importance in recent years. Many Brahui have adopted a way of life based on a seasonal migration to differing elevations. Villages in the highlands suitable for cultivation are occupied for nine-month growing season. During the winter months, these Brahui drive their herds to the lowlands where they live in tent camps. The Kacchi plains Brahui live in permanent villages that differ little in form and function from their Baloch neighbors' settlements. [Source: “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures,” The Gale Group, 1999; D. O. Lodrick, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009 ]

Baloch Homes and Tents

The Baloch, also know the Balochi, Baluch or Baluchi, are an ethnic group that live primarily in the sandy plains, deserts and barren mountains of southeast Iran, southwest Pakistan and southern Afghanistan.

Baloch have traditionally have lived in mud houses in fortified villages set up around springs in valleys and mountains during the summer. The houses are loosely oriented around the house of the local chief. Permanent settlements are usually occupied during the summer. Newer settlements are made up of sun-dried brick houses built along narrow, winding village lanes. Both old and newer houses have an open courtyard in front, enclosed by a low mud wall or palm fence.

In winter, Baloch nomads migrate to the plains and the coastal areas, seeking forage for their animals. When the Balochi are on the move they live in goat hair tents. Nomadic groups are generally smaller than village groups and consist mostly of closely-related kin. Women keep their pots, pans and spoons in special net bags that can be hung from animals while traveling. Nets bags for babies serve a similar purpose. Children are often hung. from poles while women tend to their chores. [Source: Nancy E. Gratton,“Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Hockings, 1992]

D. O. Lodrick wrote in “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”: “ Baloch nomads live in tents (gidam) made of palm matting stretched on poles. Two upright poles are driven into the ground and a third connects them in the form of a crosspiece. The matting is thrown over this, with the corners and sides fastened to the ground with pegs and heavy stones. In winter the matting is replaced by goat-hair blankets. A coarse, goat-hair carpet forms the floor of the tent. Typical contents of the tent include a hand-mill for grinding grain, waterskins, and goat-hair sacks for holding grain, salt, and clothing. Flint and tinder are carried for making fires, and various cooking and eating utensils complete the list of household belongings. Both the tent and its contents are transported on the backs of pack animals when the camp is on the move. [Source: D. O. Lodrick, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life”, Cengage Learning, 2009 *]

Homes and Villages in Northern Pakistan

The Bursusho, also known as Hunzakuts, are dominant ethnic group of the Hunza valley in far northern Pakistan. Burusho villages are built on shelves several hundred meters feet above the Hunza River gorge at an elevation of between 2,500 and 3,000 meters. They are often fortified and reached by narrow roads built above the river basin. Homes are made of stone, rock or clay with wooden doors, roofs and supporting pillars. Houses have traditionally been close together, often on top of one another, for defensive purposes and have a courtyard for animals. An average Burusho home has carpets instead of chairs. Some have a small courtyard with peach or apricot trees.

The Kalash (Kalasha) is a tiny group of animists living in Pakistan near the Afghanistan border in the Birir, Bumburet and Rambur valleys off of the Chitral Valley in the North-West Frontier Province. Kalash live in green valleys at the bottom of barren slopes. Houses are built on the slopes and on top of one another, with one house’ veranda being another house’s roof. The house are built this way so the valleys can be used for agriculture. They houses are constructed of flat stones placed in layers on mortarized planks. Thick columns support a roof made of branches, slate and earth. Roofs are used for drying crops.

Kalash houses have ornately carved and ornamented features, especially the doors and lintels. The designs are believed to be very old and are generally curvilinear in shape. .

The inside of Kalash houses is dark and the floors are made of packed earth. Cooking is done on an open hearth, leaving the walls blackened with soot. The Kalash sit on low chairs which distinguishes them from Muslims who like to sit on the ground. [Source: Debra Denker, National Geographic, October 1981]

Property of a Feudal Family

New Jatoi, a farming village about 200 kilometers northeast of Karachi, is named after the Jatoi family who have run the town and the around it since 1740, according to Jatoi. John Lancaster wrote in the Washington Post: “The Jatois initially drew their authority from provincial tribal rulers. In return for 120,000 acres of prime farmland, the family enforced the law and collected taxes over an area of roughly 200 square miles — a writ that was extended and strengthened under British rule. Since independence, the family's holdings have shrunk by three-fourths — a land reform initiative in 1958 took 45,000 acres — but its influence remains strong. It commands the allegiance of 400 to 500 lesser landlords as well as 1,200 armed "loyalists," according to Jatoi, whose status as eldest son entitles him to the exalted status of khan. Perhaps more important, the family runs its own political party and is represented in both the national and provincial legislatures. "Basically, we are born rulers in one way or another, so to retain power, this is the only way," said Jatoi, who spent two years at San Jacinto College in Texas and has a brother in the upper house of Parliament. . "I think we have had a positive role in rural society. We have got the roads made, the schools made, the hospitals made." [Source: John Lancaster, Washington Post, April 8, 2003]

“A day and a half in his company provided ample evidence that the trappings of feudalism remain very much intact. With a home in Karachi, where his wife and four children live, Jatoi spends alternate weeks at Jatoi House, a gracious, single-story brick home that his forebears built next to the family mosque in 1931. Touring the family lands, Jatoi stopped first at the home of an uncle, a big-game hunter who keeps his property stocked with deer, peacocks and crocodiles. Next door, another uncle is building a 20,000-square-foot mansion surrounded by a massive turreted wall intended as protection against dacoits, as bandits are known .

“After crossing the Indus, Jatoi piloted his Toyota through fields of bananas and wheat before arriving at dusk at his hunting lodge, where servants had prepared a lavish meal. Sitting on his terrace that night, Jatoi acknowledged, a touch wistfully, that the life he has known is probably unsustainable for the long term. His personal holdings are down to 2,000 acres, and — despite the prime minister's recent pledge — fear of land reform keeps him from buying more. "Probably my sons will have 500 acres," he said. "I think about what privilege I have had, the influence I have had with the people. Maybe my sons will not have that."”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (, Official Gateway to the Government of Pakistan (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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