Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan and the twelfth-largest city in the world. It is the capital of the Pakistani province of Sindh. Ranked as a beta-global city, it is Pakistan’s premier industrial and financial center, with an estimated GDP of $164 billion (PPP) as of 2019. Karachi is Pakistan’s most cosmopolitan city, linguistically, ethnically, and religiously diverse, as well as one of Pakistan’s most secular and socially liberal cities. With its location on the Arabian Sea, Karachi serves as a transport hub, and is home to Pakistan’s two largest seaports, the Port of Karachi and Port Bin Qasim, as well as Pakistan’s busiest airport, Jinnah International Airport.
Though the region surrounding and in Karachi has been inhabited for millennia, the city was formally founded as the fortified village of Kolachi in 1729. The settlement drastically increased in importance with the arrival of the British East India Company in the mid-19th century. The British administrations embarked on major projects to transform the city into a major seaport, and connected it with their extensive railway network throughout the Indian subcontinent. At the time of the Partition of British India in 1947, the city was the largest in Sindh with an estimated population of 400,000 people Following the independence of Pakistan, the city experienced a dramatic shift in population and demography with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees from India, coupled with a substantial exodus of its Hindu residents, declining from 51.1 per cent to 1.7 per cent of the total population. The city experienced rapid economic growth following Pakistan’s independence, attracting migrants from throughout the country and other regions in South Asia by extension. According to the 2017 national census, Karachi’s total population was 16,051,521, with 14.9 million of that figure residing in the urban areas of the city proper. Karachi is one of the world’s fastest-growing cities, and has significant communities representing almost every ethnic group in Pakistan. Karachi is home to more than two million Bangladeshi immigrants, a million Afghan refugees, and up to 400,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar.
Karachi is now Pakistan’s premier industrial and financial center. The city has a formal economy estimated to be worth $114 billion as of 2014, which is the largest in the country. Karachi collects more than a third of Pakistan’s tax revenue, and generates approximately 20% of Pakistan’s entire GDP. Approximately 30% of Pakistani industrial output is from Karachi, while Karachi’s ports handle approximately 95% of Pakistan’s foreign trade. Approximately 90% of the multinational corporations operating in Pakistan are headquartered in Karachi. Karachi is considered to be Pakistan’s fashion capital, and has hosted the annual Karachi Fashion Week since 2009.
Known as the “City of Lights” in the 1960s and 1970s for its vibrant nightlife, Karachi was beset by sharp ethnic, sectarian, and political conflict in the 1980s with the large-scale arrival of weaponry during the Soviet–Afghan War. The city had become well known for its high rates of violent crime, but recorded crimes sharply decreased following a crackdown operation against criminals, the MQM political party, and Islamist militants, initiated in 2013 by the Pakistan Rangers. As a result of the operation, Karachi dropped from being ranked the world’s 6th-most dangerous city for crime in 2014, to 115th by mid-2021.