Half the world’s population now lives in urban centers, the majority of it in towns and secondary cities surrounding metropolitan centers. All of these together constitute the economic geography of a region. The health of the region depends on the interactions among its constituent elements.

It is matter of concern that the focus of policymakers in many developing countries remains cities as isolated entities rather than as parts of a network to be optimized. There are rarely any policy or vision statements that articulate the role that secondary cities might play in national development. This is a serious omission in countries where the urban transition is underway and the contours of the future are very much in flux. Many different trajectories are possible depending on the policy choices and interventions that are made at this time.

The objective of this initiative is to highlight the issue of economic geography and to make it a part of academic and public debate in Pakistan.

One of the main objectives of this initiative is to establish links with representatives of small cities, understand the nature of the connections among cities in the region, agree on a collaborative agenda for research, and find a vehicle for strengthening the voice of small cities in their interactions with provincial and national policymakers. The project is intended as an exploratory attempt to pilot a new, bottom-up process for the formulation of public policy in Pakistan.

Initially, six secondary cities located around the metropolis of Lahore were included in the initial stages of this project. Three are within a 30 mile radius and the others within 60 miles. The coordinates of the cities are as follows: (distance and orientation with reference to Lahore; urban population is a 2012 estimate rounded to the nearest ten-thousand):

Kasur (30 miles SE, 400,000); Sheikhupura (24 miles NE, 500,000); Kamoke (30 miles N 190,000); Nankana Sahib (38 miles SW, 80,000); Daska (55 miles NW, 160,000); Pattoki (46 miles SW, 150,000).