Karachi (kəräˈchē) [key], city (1998 pop. 9,269,265), largest city and former capital of Pakistan, SE Pakistan, on the Arabian Sea near the Indus River delta. The capital of Sind prov., it is Pakistan's chief seaport and industrial center, a transportation, commercial, and financial hub, and a military headquarters. It has a large automobile assembly plant, an oil refinery, a steel mill, shipbuilding, railroad yards, jute and textile factories, printing and publishing plants, media and entertainment industries, food processing plants, and chemical and engineering works. Karachi airport is one of the busiest in Asia. Karachi has a university and other educational institutions; the national museum, with a fine archaeological collection; and the tomb of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan.
An old settlement, Karachi was developed as a port and trading center by Hindu merchants in the early 18th cent. In 1843 it passed to the British, who made it the seat of the Sind government. Steady improvements in harbor facilities made Karachi a leading Indian port by the late 19th cent., while agricultural development of the hinterland gave it a large export trade. Karachi served as Pakistan's capital from 1947, when the country gained independence, until 1959, when Rawalpindi became the interim capital pending completion of Islamabad. The political base of the Bhutto family (see Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali and Bhutto, Benazir), Karachi has been troubled since the 1980s by violence between local Sindhis and the descendants of muhajirs, the Muslim immigrants who fled to Pakistan following partition in 1947. The lawlessness in the city was further aggravated by Sunni-Shiite fighting beginning in the 1990s and by ethnic tensions involving migrant Pashtuns in the 21st cent. Government efforts beginning in the late 1990s to suppress the violence have been only sporadically successful.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.