My Islamabad – An Intro!

Designation as Capital: February 24, 1958
Construction: Started on October, 1961
Best time to visit: It looks beautiful in every season, every day of every week of every month!

slamabad was designated the capital of Pakistan in 1958 mainly as a way of offsetting the economic importance of Karachi and the political dominance of Lahore. As a result an overgrown, forested area was chosen as the site for the capital. Clearing the area was started in the early 1960s and on October 26th, 1966 the first building of the new capital was occupied. Along with Brasilia, Canberra and earlier than all these cities, Washington D.C. Islamabad joined the ranks of planned capital cities.

However, the early habitants of Islamabad apparently found little else in the ‘city’ than wild vegetation (even today, Islamabad stands in the middle of a hashish forest!) and few at that point ever thought of making Islamabad a permanent home. In fact it was quite a task to persuade people coming to Islamabad that they should buy land in the capital. There are stories of the Capital Development Authority practically giving away plots of land in order to get some kind of community to start up.

However for Government servants and their ilk, incentives in the form of lower rates were created to encourage residential plots to be bought in this new city. Houses on plots of land as large as 2000 sq. feet were bought for as little at Rs. 10,000 ($200). Today that same plot of land has a market value of over Rs. 1 crore. Those who had foresight were obviously able to make amongst the best investments possible in Pakistan through purchasing land in Islamabad.

The capital’s location was chosen according to the CDA publication ‘Islamabad the Beautiful’ with particular emphasis on “location, climate, logistics, defence requirements, aesthetic, scenic and natural beauty.” Islamabad was designed by a number of planners, including Edward Durrell Stone (who amongst other buildings also designed the Amoco Building in Chicago, which even today stands as one of the tallest buildings in the world). Ponti (who designed the present day Foreign Office building) and the Greek firm, Doxiadis Associates were called up to plan the city from scratch. Doxiadis drew up the master plan of Islamabad which envisaged the city being triangular in shape, based on a grid system, with it’s apex towards the Margalla Hills.

The result was a city far removed from the hustle and bustle that characterizes the typical Asian city. Instead Islamabad is characterized by wide, tree lined avenues, good roads, and a grid pattern which divides the city into sectors for government, commerce, residential, recreational and industrial use. There are also protected green belts in the city. The city itself nestles against the backdrop of the Margalla Hills at the northern end of the Potohar Plateau.

All this goes a long way to making Islamabad a modern city endowed with plenty of natural beauty. There are other advantages of living in Islamabad. Despite the increase in its size over the last two decades, it remains a city where you can go from one end to the other within 20 minutes. The recent census estimates Islamabad’s urban population at just over 500,000 – more than double its population in 1981 when it stood at just over 200,000. The roads are good and driving relatively stress free compared to most large cities. Traffic jams remain a rarity as well and pollution, so rampant in large third world cities is still controlled in Islamabad. While crime and disorder have plagued many of the provincial capitals, Islamabad being the hub of government and the focus of diplomatic missions is still comparatively safe.

The recent growth of farms around the outskirts of the city has begun to create a kind of Islamabad suburbia but even the farms are accessible and travel times rarely exceed 30 minutes. Islamabad is truly well positioned and it is easy to get away from the city to the hills or the surrounding plains within half an hour. There are plenty of scenic spots too, just outside Islamabad.

Probably the biggest criticism of the city comes from those looking for more than simply the scenic beauty of a place. Culture develops over time and Islamabad being a new city has little in tradition and has not yet been able to carve out a cultural setting for itself. The retort by those who come from Pakistan’s more vibrant cities is always that there is little happening in Islamabad and the few ‘events’ that do take place can hardly qualify as cultural activities.

Islamabad has no permanent theatre, the two or three cinemas in the capital are all but closed, musical evenings are few and far between and when organized tend to be at the initiative of foreign embassies. Islamabad has some way to go before it shakes off the tag of being a beautiful but soulless city lacking in intellectual and cultural vibrancy. But there are signs of improvement. In the absence of any government initiative, small, private groups are springing up and these groups do their best to inject some life into the city.

In addition, the influx of people from Lahore, Karachi and other larger cities in Pakistan during times when Karachi in particular was being plagued by endemic violence has led to a more ‘metropolitan’ mix of people in Islamabad. It’s a rewarding place to live in many ways and if you have the drive and life then there are opportunities to explore in Islamabad.

Via Hot Spot Islamabad Guide

wassalam

2 Comments so far

  1. mohummed (unregistered) on November 30th, 2005 @ 1:18 pm

    Actually the former governments were so jealous of Karachi that they planned to decrease its value by taking rather snatching capital from Karachi. they were so stupid , dumb , disloyal , & idiot enough to neglect the fact that Quaid E Azam made Karachi the capital of Pakistan. Karachi is safe by all means . Be it federally , economically , financially , strategically e.t.c.
    Islamabad is very unsafe strategically. Its only a minute supersonic flight from nearest airforce base in India !!!!. Even the GHQ in Pindi can be seen by a fighter taking off at 2000 feet altitude from India. Believe me this is true!!!!. I suggest the Government & the Honourable President General Pervez Musharraf to bring back the capital to Karachi as soon as possible. He is also a Karachiite & a military guy so he knows better the hazardous location of ISB.
    Still I can say that ISB is a beautiful city & i like it tooo & many of my relatives & frndz reside in ISB.


  2. muhammad imran aslam (unregistered) on February 4th, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

    i want to visit visa of spain.w want to online visit visa.i request u.ok



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