Happy Birthday, Islamabad!


Ishrat Hyatt

Today was Islamabad’s birthday and whether it was celebrated by the civic bodies is not known but those of us who have seen the city grow from scratch certainly remembered!

Islamabad came about because President Ayub Khan expressed his desire of moving the capital from Karachi for strategic reasons — he felt that the development of the country was focused on Karachi and he wanted it to be equally distributed, while some of those who did not approve said it was because it would benefit Haripur, his home district which is nearby. A commission was set up in 1958 and entrusted with the task of selecting a suitable site, with particular emphasis on location, climate, defence requirements and scenic and natural beauty.

After the extensive research, feasibility studies and thorough review of various sites, the commission recommended the area Northeast of Rawalpindi. After the final decision of the Cabinet on August 1 it was announced that ‘Islamabad’ would be the new capital of Pakistan. A Greek firm, Doxiadis Associates was commissioned to draw up a master plan and produced one, which was triangular in shape, with its apex towards the Margalla Hills. It was divided into eight zones: the diplomatic enclave, the commercial district, the educational sector, the industrial area and so on, each with its own shopping area and park.

Islamabad is preceded by thousands of years of history. This is the site of one of the earliest human settlements in Asia and is at one end of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. The area has historically been a part of the crossroads of Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province (the Margalla pass being a historic gateway to the NWFP). Rawalpindi is considered its sister city due to the close proximity of the two.

Over the years Islamabad has changed tremendously from being a city ‘twenty miles from Pakistan’ to a hub of business, social and cultural activity. Since the past few years Islamabad has been undergoing a re-development phase and nearly all of its main roads and highways are being expanded, with multi-storey plazas proliferating at a fast rate. Not everyone is happy with the depletion of the green areas for which the site was selected but others say it is the price you pay for development.

Anyway, it is still a beautiful city with many attractions, so let us hope it grows and prospers and does not become a victim of retrogressive forces.

Source: The News, 2/8/2008

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