The “France Colony” slum in the center of Islamabad is predominantly made up of Christians, who live alongside wealthy Muslim households and often perform menial duties such as cleaning and recycling for them. Christians make up less than 5% of the population of Pakistan, however in the capital their obvious slum “colonies” are a thorn in the side of the local government, and many have been dismantled, removed and targeted, although “France Colony” remains resilient. 

Pakistan is a country of contrasts, where modernity and tradition coexist side by side, and where the rich and poor are often separated by a wide economic divide. Nowhere is this more evident than in the country's major cities of Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore.
While these cities have seen tremendous growth and development in recent years, they have also faced significant challenges in terms of inequality, particularly in the housing sector. Many residents struggle to access affordable housing, and are forced to live in low-income apartments or informal settlements on the outskirts of the city.
The construction industry has played a key role in shaping these cities, with new developments and skyscrapers rising up alongside older, more traditional architecture. However, this growth has not always been equitable, and has often benefited only a small segment of the population.

While inequality may not be as pronounced as its neighbor India, Pakistan still has a higher concentration of wealth in the top 10% than many OECD countries, and high rates of gender, sexual identity, and environmental inequality. As the country struggles with an economic crisis and most recently, devastating floods, the outlook remains challenging even as the security situation steadily improves.

The "100 Quarters" Christian colony in the center of Islamabad. 

The difference between Rawalpindi (left) and the planned city of Islamabad (right). 

A drone view of a slum inside a nice forested neighborhood next to skyscrapers.

"France Colony", a Christian slum much poorer than the surrounding, planned city of Islamabad. 

A drone view of a river delta next to buildings.

Karachi's sprawl extends to the edge of the Indus River delta, a massive biodiversity hotspot steadily being reduced by climate change and human activity along its edges. 

An apartment building facade in the setting sun.

New, affordable homes being built in Lahore to address the housing challenges for a huge and growing lower middle class population.

In Islamabad, for example, the planned capital's upscale neighborhoods are home to luxurious villas and gated communities, right next to "colonies" inhabited by workers, many of whom live in informal settlements or low-income apartments without access to basic services like water and electricity and service the surrounding communities with necessary labor. Similarly, in Karachi and Lahore, the housing shortage has led to the proliferation of informal settlements and slums, where residents live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
Despite these challenges, there are also signs of hope and progress in the fight against inequality in Pakistan's cities. The government has launched several initiatives aimed at increasing access to affordable housing, such as the Prime Minister's Housing Scheme and the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme. These programs aim to provide low-cost housing to the country's poorest residents, and have already made significant progress in reducing the housing gap.
In addition to government initiatives, there are also numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community groups working to address inequality in Pakistan's cities. For example, the Urban Resource Centre in Karachi provides support and advocacy for residents of informal settlements, while the Lahore Conservation Society works to preserve the city's historic architecture and promote sustainable development.

DHA, or Defense Housing Authority housing, is highly sought after. DHA developments are growing in popularity and spreading throughout Lahore, bounded from non-DHA housing, much of it traditional and much poorer, by wide roads and wary eyes. 

A drone view of a construction site next to a neighborhood.

DHA development in Lahore's southeast, fitting in like a jigsaw in a relentless quest for more land.

Two men on a motorbike going over a bridge on a river full of trash.

Skyscrapers emerge next to slums in Lahore, one of Pakistan's most vibrant cities. 

A drone view of a roundabout in an empty housing development with the setting sun.

A new DHA (Defence Housing Authority) development in the south of Lahore. Massive areas of the city are being formalized for the insatiable need to provide housing for Pakistan's lower and middle classes, looking to escape the country and move to the big cities. Dozens of cricket games are played every night on these empty streets, which will soon by bursting with residents. 

A drone view of a dense slum next to large homes.

The extreme difference between the classes in Lahore. 

Looking ahead, it is clear that the challenges of inequality in Pakistan's cities are part of a larger global trend, with mega cities in Asia and other continents facing similar challenges. One of the most pressing challenges is the country's rapidly growing population, which is expected to reach 300 million by 2050. This puts significant strain on the country's infrastructure and resources, and also poses challenges in terms of providing education, healthcare, and employment opportunities for all citizens.
Another challenge is the country's environmental issues, including air and water pollution, deforestation, and climate change. These issues have serious implications for the health and well-being of Pakistan's citizens, as well as for the country's economy and natural resources.
Despite these challenges, there are also numerous opportunities for growth and development in Pakistan. The country's strategic location, natural resources, and skilled workforce make it an attractive destination for foreign investment, and there is significant potential for growth in industries such as technology, textiles, and agriculture.
Additionally, the country has made significant strides in recent years in terms of infrastructure development, with major projects underway to improve transportation, energy, and communication networks across the country.
A drone view of a golf course next to a dense slum.

The Royal Palm Golf and Country Club, Lahore.

A drone view of a bank with other skyscrapers on the horizon.

Chinese banks dot the sky in Karachi, Pakistan's economic hub.

A photo at dusk of a modern family home.

Affordable homes being built, Lahore.

A drone view of red tents in a park in a capital city.

Afghan refugees, many of whom fled the Taliban in August 2021, live in tents in central Islamabad. Their demand is to be recognized as refugees, something that the UNHCR and the Pakistani government refuse to do as of mid-2022.

A drone view of a construction site.

Low-income, affordable housing being built in Lahore.

Wooden beams holding up a concrete ceiling at a construction site.

Construction techniques, Lahore.

A drone view of a slum next to a highway.


A drone view of a green neighborhood and a grey neighborhood.

Inequality, Lahore.

A drone view of a green neighborhood and a grey neighborhood.

Inequality, Lahore.

A drone view of a line between a forested area and an urban area.


A drone view of a green leafy suburb next to a grey dense suburb.


A drone view of a mosque at sunset.

Sunset in Lahore.

A drone view of a green neighborhood with red tents.

Afghan refugee camp in Islamabad.

A drone view of a construction site.

New buildings emerging in Lahore. 

A drone view of two communities bisected by a river.


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