The Man behind Unplanned Revolution

An architect by profession, Arif Hassan initially went the traditional route of working for private firms after his academic training. Later he returned to his hometown of Karachi in 1968 and established his private practice which went on to tackle pressing development and planning issues. His prolific career as a social activist, planner, architect and teacher culminated in his writings which went on to become bestsellers, providing excellent resources for all equitable planning enthusiasts.

Book in focus The Unplanned Revolution Observations on the Process of Socio Economic Changes in Pakistan by Arif Hasan - Sheet1
Arif Hassan the Author of Unplanned Revolution_©newslinemagazine

His book “The Unplanned Revolution” remains one of his best-known works for its comprehensive coverage of Pakistan’s socioeconomic and development-specific issues. Going by an area-wise approach, the book reads like a journey through the country’s diverse geography and cultures, giving meaningful context to the current planning/development-related problems of Pakistan. The author paints an immersive picture of the various regions of Pakistan; leading the readers through the treacherous mountains of Gilgit Baltistan, navigating the Indus Plains and the desert of Tharparkar. The journey terminates at the troubled Urban after carrying us through the river and the coast, giving a fitting finale to the current development trajectory of the country. Almost all the anecdotes about interacting with locals and learning to see the region through their eyes offers valuable insight into the inner workings of the indigenous communities.

Structure of the book

The book knits together extracts from reports, field notes for different development-related work, articles prepared by the author, and extracts from his diaries. It is loaded with insights on how systems of development work in this region of the country. From a brief overview of how the construction process for a community-built school comes about in the mountains to the market processes that connect the local desert-inhabiting artisans with their urban consumers. These enlightening essays on the processes that build local communities and the active threats they face from uncontrolled greed offer us much perspective. There are stories of hope, resilience alongside unavoidable loss in habitat and livelihood.  

Book in focus The Unplanned Revolution Observations on the Process of Socio Economic Changes in Pakistan by Arif Hasan - Sheet2
Cover photo of ‘The Unplanned Revolution: Observations on the Processes of Socio-economic Change in Pakistan’_©

Divided into six parts, with each chapter assigned to a specific geography, we get a sense of the diversity in the landscape and the inhabitants of Pakistan. Each chapter offers a set of conclusions that ties up the various observations and arguments being made for the development of each region. We get a historical overview followed by the current situation analysis which offers recurring trends and patterns observed on-site. There is a real understanding of how the systems have evolved and the factors that led to the eventual changes occurring. Be it a shift from Bartering to a monetary economy, desertification, or urban sprawl, we see the region as a product of many facets. The historical overview provided in each chapter helps the reader’s piece together a more informed narrative of the place.

Book in focus The Unplanned Revolution Observations on the Process of Socio Economic Changes in Pakistan by Arif Hasan - Sheet3
Nagarparkar Artisanal skills of Meghawars_©

The landscape and general environment of a place impact the inhabitants greatly, whole livelihood and cultural patterns emerge based on how remote, vulnerable, or bustling a place is. However, it is important to note that the impact of human activities on these places is often driven by consumption and short-term profit. This is a theme that was explored by the author who is a strong proponent of sustainable development. Balancing the competing demands on nature is key to the longevity of a place. Ultimately the book explores the relationship between communities and their surroundings.

NORAD Evaluation Northern Areas Self Help School Building Program_©

Arif Hassan’s prolific bibliography, his contribution to his city Karachi and the field of participatory planning is a testament to how people can be drivers of change against the most impossible of challenges. This book beckons to the resilience of whole communities in the face of obstacles. The writing presents a realistic picture whilst avoiding the trope of cynicism and hopelessness. Planners, architects, and all those who share a passion for equitable development would find this book to be a fascinating resource. The social and cultural systems presented in the book aren’t just unique to Pakistan but are prevalent around the Global South. Most of the themes covered in the book apply to different contexts and would feel relevant to people from across the globe. 


Unplanned Revolution isn’t just a compilation of essays that cover one troubled and complex country in the global South. It’s a book that presents stories of communal resilience through the lenses of planning and development. There is something for every reader, be it a student of architecture jaded by the consumerist nature of their practice or planners who wish to incorporate modes of participatory planning. The ideas of community engagement would appeal to all those working in the public sector who wish to get greater insight as to what makes a project successful and what beckons disaster. Environmentalists, social scientists, economists, history enthusiasts and the list goes on. Ultimately this book inspires its reader through tales of resistance to insensitive development and the power of community mobilization to enact social change.


Hasan. A (2003). NORAD Evaluation Northern Areas Self Help School Building Program. Available at:

Hasan. A (2009): Nagarparkar – Artisanal Skills of Meghawars. Available at:

Hasan. A (2009): The Unplanned Revolution: Observations on the Processes of Socio-Economic Change in Pakistan. Available at:


Fresh out of architecture school Ana is actively exploring the intersection between architecture and planning in her role as an Urban Designer in Lahore. Questions of inclusive planning systems in the south Asian context with a focus on climate change ,affordability and gender are her key areas of research.