Cities/Urban / 26.05.2013

A Citizens' Initiative By Anjum Altaf The presence of international borders that are closed is unfortunate in many ways. However, to a social scientist they present the possibility of fascinating natural experiments in which locations close to each other but separated by the border can be studied to advantage. For example, the Punjab border separates Kasur in Pakistan from Ferozepur in India by a distance of 39 miles. One would not expect much to change over such a short distance except for policies that are decided at the national or regional levels, e.g., those related to land, taxation, subsidies, etc. If we study the two cities in depth perhaps we might be able to infer the impact of such policy differences on the prospects of the cities and the lives of their residents. It was such a thought experiment that prompted me to propose a study along these...

Modernity / 05.10.2008

By Anjum Altaf In an earlier post (What is the Future of the City in South Asia?) we had mentioned that the dynamic in small towns was quite different from that in the major metropolitan centers. In this post we speculate about some of the possible differences. An unusual approach is to work backward from the observation that while all attention is focused on the tribal areas in Pakistan, the breeding grounds of religious extremism are actually the small towns in the Punjab. Why might this be the case? One hypothesis is that small towns in Pakistan that have declined economically have become socially more conservative with a possible link to the increase in religious extremism. There is little doubt that the economic function of small towns has changed significantly over time. Earlier, most of them were busy market (mandi) towns serving as points of interaction between rural hinterlands...