Poverty in Pakistan 

Definition of the Problem

The United States-Pakistan Relations

The Role of the Military in Pakistan

Poverty In Pakistan

Political Parties and Ethnic Groups

Map of Pakistan

 History of the Taliban
Policy Alternatives

Costs and Benefits

 Policy Recommendation


Poverty in Pakistan

            Poverty in Pakistan is estimated using a poverty line set at the inflation adjusted cost of achieving a minimum bundle of basic needs, including food, fuel, housing and clothing. Pakistan is a low-income country with an estimated GDP per capita of U.S. $470 (U.S. $1,757 in purchasing power parity terms) in 1999. More than eighty five percent of the poor population in Pakistan lives in rural areas. Between July 1986 and October 1991, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) conducted a study on a sample of 686 households from fifty two villages representing all Pakistani provinces and ethnic groups in rural areas and found that sixty percent of the households in the survey had experienced some level of poverty over the five years. The table below shows the number of years households experienced poverty during the five years.

Number of years in Poverty 

Number of households 

Percentage of households

0 (i.e. never poor) %















               5 (i.e. always poor) 



Note: There are 686 households in the survey. Percentages do not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.






            The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) found that the number of poor households in Pakistan has risen from 20.1 percent in 1986-87 to 29.3 percent in 1990-91. Between 1990-91 and 1998-99, the national poverty rate in Pakistan remained almost unchanged. Also, the rate of poverty in rural areas is much higher than the rate of poverty in urban areas. In 1998-99, the rate of poverty in rural areas was 35.9 percent, while it was 24.2 percent in urban areas.
            Inequality in land ownership is a major cause of poverty in Pakistan. As illustrated in the chart, two percent of landowners in Pakistan possess seventeen percent of total farm area in Pakistan, whereas 54 percent of the landowners account for only twelve percent of the Total farm area. This unequal distribution of land in Pakistan is a major factor of poverty because most families in rural areas depend heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods.     
            Educational attainment and enrolment rates in schools have shown little improvement. The Gross Enrollment Rate has declined in some Pakistani provinces while it stagnated in others. For example, Baluchistan, where many of the Taliban militants are located, the enrollment rate has declined from 63 percent in 1991 to 58 percent 1999. In North West Frontier Province, the command center for the Taliban, the enrollment rate has remained stagnant, increasing by one percent from 66 percent in 1995-96 to 67 percent in 1998-99.
            The chart below shows the increase in Gross Enrollment Rate across gender and urban and rural areas. While the overall enrollment rate in urban Pakistan is 84 percent, it is only 48 percent in rural areas. The enrollment rate among females is much lower than the enrollment rate among males both in urban and rural areas.


“Poverty in Pakistan in the 1990s: An Interim Assessment.” 24 Jan. 2002. World Bank. 3 March 2008 <http://siteresources.worldbank.org/PAKISTANEXTN/Resources/pdf-Files-in-Events/Poverty+Paper.pdf>.