Jun 072008

Noor Aftab
The revised master plan of Islamabad being prepared by concerned authorities would not provide anything constructive to Rawalpindi in terms of urban development despite the fact that both cities were designated as ‘twins’ in the original master plan of 1960, well-placed sources told ‘The News’ on Friday.

A UK-based firm — Mott McDonald Pakistan (MMP) — was assigned the task to revise the original master plan of Islamabad, covering current and future development needs of the city and various other aspects, including new housing sectors, extension in municipal limits, industrial activities, environmental protection, road repair, new parks and recreational areas and safety of existing water reservoirs. But the firm was not asked to prepare proposals to streamline urban development in Rawalpindi that was very much part of the original master plan.

“Relevant authorities are not interested in incorporating Rawalpindi in the revised master plan despite the fact that both cities were designated as ‘twin cities’ in the original master plan,” sources said.

Sources said that the master plan of Islamabad is being revised after a gap of 48 years. Its next revision is expected to take place after twenty to thirty years. So if now no proposals are prepared for urban uplift of Rawalpindi, then this issue would not be taken up in the next few decades. A review of the master plan in 1987 confirmed the impression that Rawalpindi was decided to be included in the ICT after shifting of the General Headquarters from Rawalpindi to Islamabad.

When contacted, former federal minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, who was a member of the four-member ministerial committee constituted by the prime minister to review proposals in the revised master plan of Islamabad, demanded the merger of Rawalpindi with Islamabad, arguing that it would help it to grow fast at par with posh sectors of the capital.

The former minister was of the view that Islamabad, planned as triangular in shape based on a grid system with its apex towards Margalla Hills, has encircled the city of Rawalpindi from both sides, so it was quite logical to include it in the vicinity of the federal capital.

“At one stage, President Pervez Musharraf was fully prepared to promulgate an ordinance regarding merger of ‘twin cities’ but later it could not be done due to unknown reasons. There would be no problem in including Rawalpindi in the Islamabad Capital Territory and it could be done through proper legislation,” he said.

“Rawalpindi has to bear the demand of lower income groups working in Islamabad that puts a lot of pressure on its urban area. If Rawalpindi is not included in the federal capital then it would have negative impacts on both cities.”

Sources in the CDA said that as per official agreement, consultants have also been assigned extensive study of matters relating to land acquisition, water shortage and its supply from Indus or Jhelum river, Zone IV, transportation, mega development schemes, unauthorised construction and other civic problems expected in the near future in Islamabad. But there is no mention of Rawalpindi in the whole scheme of proposals being considered by competent authorities.

Despite repeated attempts by this correspondent, CDA Chairman Kamran Lashari was not available for comments.

Rawal Town Nazim Sheikh Rashid Shafique said that Rawalpindi needed adequate financial resources and professional staff as provided to Islamabad. However it seems very difficult to provide these resources to Rawalpindi in existing institutional arrangements.

He said that concerned authorities sought proposals regarding revised master plan of Islamabad during a meeting held some time back. “But after the meeting, authorities did not respond to us and now we are totally unaware what is being considered for the revised master plan.”

“At the moment, we are not working to develop our own master plan for Rawalpindi and decision in this respect would be taken keeping in view the situation,” he said.

In the hierarchy, the CDA under the federal government is well-equipped with technical people and finances to deal with the spirit of planning for Islamabad. On the other hand, Rawalpindi’s civic bodies have inadequate technical and financial resources.

The Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) had prepared the Guided Development Plan in which ‘ring road’ around existing urban areas was the main proposal. However, the master plan for Rawalpindi prepared by the Punjab Housing and Physical Planning Department was officially approved in 1998. Both plans have considered urban areas of Rawalpindi, ignoring development happening in Islamabad.

As review of the original master plan started a couple of years ago, all kinds of reports did rounds. One that the Tehsil Fatehjang of District Attock would be included in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). The reports gained credence in view of government plans to build the new airport in an area close to FatehJang. The CDA, however, denied any such development by saying that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was the competent authority to forward such a proposal, as all airports of the country were under its control.

Courtesy: The News, 7/6/2008

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