Printable version

DRAFT - NOT FOR QUOTATION - 17 March 2009 

Socio-Demographic Indicators
Human Development Index
Human Development Index, Rank
Gender-related Development Index
Gender-related Development Index, Rank
Population Mid-year (In millions)
Rate of Natural Increase (%)
Life Expectancy (Male/Female)
Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008)
Economic Indicators
GDP Growth Rate (%)
GDP Per Capita (PPP US$)
GNI PPP Per Capita (US$)
Unemployment Rate
Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008); cADB (2007)
Pakistan has been faced in recent years with internal political disputes, natural disasters, tensions with India and high oil prices. Nevertheless, Pakistan has achieved significant improvements as one of the fastest growing economies in the Asian region since the launch of macroeconomic reforms in 2000. The earthquake of 8 October 2005 caused extensive damage to property and infrastructure as well as a loss of more than 70,000 lives. Despite the massive earthquake and a surge in oil prices, Pakistan generated solid economic growth in 2005 to 2006. Pakistan’s economy grew at an average of 6.6 percent 2005-2006.[1] Agriculture remains the largest economic sector, accounting for 30 percent of the workforce.[2] However, Pakistan has failed to attain social progress for all (i.e., gender disparities in education) corresponding to its economic growth. Also, poverty remains a serious concern; one third of its population still lives in poverty, according to the World Bank.   
The following are among the landmark events that have had a bearing on Pakistan’s migration experience:
  •   Launch of the voluntary repatriation program of Afghan refugees under UNHCR (March 2002)
  •   Tripartite agreement between the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan and the UNHCR (2003)
  •   Establishment of the Anti-Trafficking Unit (February 2005)
Labor migration from Pakistan originated in the early 1970s with the construction boom in the Middle East. In the late 1970s, Pakistan had the highest number of workers going to the Middle East. Their numbers decreased in the mid-1980s amid the decline of labor demand in that region, but increased again in the 1990s. New waves of migration were born since the late 1980s and early 1990s; a large number of people fled persecution in Pakistan by emigrating to Western Europe and North America. Young men also started traveling to other better-off countries (such as Japan and South Korea), overstaying and working irregularly in the early 1990s.[3] Overseas Pakistanis have generated an important flow of remittances. Remittances – the second largest source of foreign exchange inflow after exports – continue to rise. Pakistan received a record amount of US$5.493 billion in the fiscal year 2006-2007, an increase of 19.42 percent compared with US$4.6 billion in the preceding fiscal year (AMN, 31 July 2007). The US remained the largest source country of remittances, followed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, other GCC countries, the UK and EU countries. 
Human trafficking has been one of the most serious issues in the country. There has been an alarming increase in the number of Pakistanis smuggled into Turkey and Greece by a network of human smugglers in Iran, Turkey and Greece. Close to 5,000 Pakistanis had been deported from Iran, Turkey and Greece in 2007 alone.[4] Human rights groups also have called attention to the plight of children trafficked to the Middle East for sexual exploitation. Most of them are lured by traffickers with promises of high-paying jobs in the region. Pakistani children are also trafficked to the UAE and used as camel jockeys. A total of 695 trafficked children had been repatriated to Pakistan by June 2007.[5] In 2002, Pakistan promulgated a comprehensive law and rules (Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking Ordinance and rules) to curb human trafficking. It defined human trafficking as a criminal offense and suggested penalties for members of organized crime groups that perpetrated the crime. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) caught 1,462 human traffickers in 2006, compared with 1,006 in 2005 (AMN, 30 April 2007). Of them, 1,448 persons were convicted of human smuggling in 2006. The FIA also established the Anti-Trafficking Unit for investigation of human trafficking cases in February 2005.
Pakistan has also seen an inflow of migrants (particularly Muslims) from other Asian countries, such as Bangladesh, Burma and India. Muslim migration to Pakistan (from South Asian countries) has been steady since 1947. Irregular migrants (from Bangladesh, Burma, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Sri Lanka and Central Asian states) are also present in Pakistan. Migration from India, Bangladesh and Burma is often associated with the trafficking of young women and children for sexual exploitation, forced marriage and involuntary servitude.
Pakistan hosted the largest population of refugees in the world for more than two decades.[6] Table 1 shows the data as of December 2000. It has given asylum to more than 2.5 million people from Afghanistan.[7] Pakistan has urged the Afghan refugees living in 44 refugee camps to return home by 2009. A total of 3,216,542 Afghan refugees were repatriated from Pakistan between 2002 and 2007 (AMN, 30 September 2007). Under the ongoing voluntary repatriation program (launched in March 2002), Proof of Registration card[8] holders who would voluntarily return to Afghanistan in 2007 get a financial assistance of US$100 each. The government set 15 April 2007 as the deadline for those without Proof of Registration cards to get verification documents from the UNHCR. As part of efforts to repatriate all Afghans between 2007 and 2009, Pakistan has decided to close down four refugee camps near its border with Afghanistan, suspected of being used as hiding grounds of Taliban militants. The four camps are Katcha Garhi and Jalozai camps in Peshawar and Nowshera, Girdi Jungle and Jungle Pir Alizai in Balochistan. The refugees are given the option to either return home or move to other camps in Pakistan.
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
2007   “South Asia: Pakistan.” In Asian Development Outlook 2007. Available at,
accessed on 8 December 2008.
Asian Migration News (AMN) Various Years
Gazdar, Haris
2003   “A Review of Migration Issues in Pakistan.” A paper presented at the Regional Conference on Migration,
Development and Pro-Poor Policy Choices in Asia held on 22-24 June 2003, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
accessed on 11 January 2008.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan
n.d.    “Overview of the Economy.” Available at, accessed on 11 January 2008.
Population Reference Bureau
2008   “2008 World Population Data Sheet.” Available at, accessed on 21 November 2008.
Tahir, Zulqernain
2007   “Turkey Unhappy Over Growing Human Smuggling.” Available at 
=2836&Itemid=4 3, accessed on 26 January 2008.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
2007  “Human Development Report 2007/2008.” Available at
accessed on 9 December 2008.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Pakistan (UNHCR Pakistan)
n.d.    “About UNHCR Pakistan.” Available at, accessed on 11 January 2008.
United Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
n.d.    “Children Formerly Involved in Camel Racing.” Available at
(No longer available)
Table 1[9]
Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced Persons in Pakistan as of December 2000
Refugees and Asylum Seekers1, 3
World Total (All Source Countries)
South and Central Asia Total (All Source Countries)
Pakistan Total
From Afghanistan
From India
Asylum Seekers Inflow, 1995 5
People Living in Refugee-Like Conditions 2, 4
Internally Displaced Persons6
1 Note: This table includes two categories of uprooted people: refugees who are unwilling or unable to return to their home countries because they fear persecution or armed conflict there and who lack a durable solution; and asylum seekers who are awaiting a refugee status determination.
2 Note: Many persons live in situations similar to those of refugees, but do not meet the narrow refugee definition. Some are regarded by host governments simply as illegal aliens; others are tolerated or ignored. In many such cases, and often in the absence of credible refugee determination procedures, it is difficult to determine who among them might be refugees. Some refugee-like people are stateless, denied the protection afforded by citizenship.
3 Source: World Refugee Survey 2001, Immigration and Refugee Services of America 2001
4 Source: World Refugee Survey 2001, Immigration and Refugee Services of America 2001
5 Source: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development 2000 "Trends in International Migration" Paris: OECD Publications, Table A.1.4
6 Source: World Refugee Survey 2001, Immigration and Refugee Services of America 2001 

[1] Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan (n.d.). Available at
accessed on 11 January 2008.
[3] Gazdar (2003) see, accessed on 26 January 2008.
accessed on 26 January 2008.
[6] UNHCR (n.d.) see, accessed on 11 January 2008.
accessed on 26 January 2008.
[8] The National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) started on 15 October 2006 the 10-week registration of Afghan refugees across the country. Upon registration, the Afghans were issued Proof of Registration cards valid for three years. As of the end of 2006, the Nadra had issued Proof of Registration cards to more than 700,000 Afghan refugees (AMN, 31 December 2006).


© Scalabrini Migration Center, 2000. All rights reserved.