Although it is considered to be predominantly inhabited by Urdu-speaking people, the city of Karachi is the most linguistically diverse city in Pakistan. Being the county’s most populated city, one finds a remarkable treasure trove of languages here. If the latest census results hold any meaning, the percentage of the Urdu-speaking population in Karachi has rather been decreasing with the influx of people speaking other languages.
Over the last four decades, demographic changes mainly caused by migration have slowly been changing the numbers of various ethnic communities living in the city. The decrease in the ratio of the Urdu and Punjabi-speaking populace in Karachi has been a result of the increase in Pashto, Sindhi and Saraiki-speaking people.
The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) recently released the final results of the 6th Population and Housing Census 2017, which is considered ‘flawed’ by several political parties and experts, as well as the federal government.
According to the census results, Karachi, the capital of Sindh, is the most populated city of Pakistan, with a total population of 16,024,894, after the addition of over 6 million people since 1998.
The census results also include languages of Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Kashmiri, Saraiki, Hindko, and Brahvi. Other languages spoken in Karachi, including Gujarati, Marwari and Bengali, are included in the ‘others’ section.
Here are some of the key findings from the statistics of the census report on the mother tongue of the residents of Karachi.
Once comprising more than half of the city’s population, the ratio of Urdu-speaking people has steadily been declining in the past four decades, the recent census showed.
In the 2017 census, the Urdu-speaking population has been stated as 6,779,142. The period between the 1981 and 1998 censuses indicates a substantial decline in the proportion of Urdu speakers from 54.34 to 48.52 per cent. From 1998 till 2017, that ratio has further declined to 42.30 per cent.
The Pashto-speaking population in Karachi was 8.7 per cent in 1981 and 11.42 percent in 1998. However, in the 2017 census, it has further increased to 15.01 per cent, with a total population of 2,406,011.
Also in the 2017 census, Hindko , which is mostly spoken in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Hazara division and urban centres of Peshawar and Kohat, has been added as a separate language. In Karachi, the Hindko-speaking population is 679,539 forms 4.24 per cent of the metropolis’s total population.
The Punjabi-speaking population in Karachi was 13.64 per cent in 1981 and 13.94 percent in 1998. But in the past 19 years, the population has decreased to 10.73 per cent with a population of 1,719,636.
The 2017 census shows an increase in the population in Karachi of people with Sindhi being their mother tongue. The Sindhi-speaking population in the metropolis was 6.29 per cent in 1981 and 7.22 per cent in 1998. However, in 2017, it jumped to 10.67 per cent with a population of 1,709,877.
The Balochi-speaking population in Karachi was 4.39 per cent in 1981 and 4.34 per cent in 1998. However, in 2017, it declined to 4.04 per cent with a population of 648,964.
Just like Pashto and Hindko, the Balochi category in the 2017 census was split into the two categories of Balochi and Brahvi. The census data reveals that as many as 96,120 people in Karachi are Brahvi-speaking.
The Saraiki-speaking population in Karachi was just 0.35 per cent of the total population of the city in 1981. In 1998, the ratio rose to 2.11 per cent. The 2017 census shows that the population of Saraikis has increased in the city to 798,031, constituting 4.97 per cent of the city’s populace.
There are 63,784 people in Karachi, according to the 2017 census results, who call Kashmiri as their mother tongue. The Kashmiri-speaking people comprise 0.39 per cent of the total population of the city.
The census also shows that 1,123,790 people, who are 7.02 per cent of Karachi’s population, speak languages other than those mentioned above. The report does not mention which languages have been included in the ‘others’ section, but it is believed that they include languages like Gujarati, Marwari and Bengali among others. The ratio of the population of those who speak other languages has significantly decreased as it was 12.27 per cent in 1981 and 12.44 per cent in 1998.
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