Islamabad: A city of slums?


That Islamabad has been built strictly in accordance with its master plan – designed by a reputed firm of Greek architects – will be nothing but a misleading statement.

Different sectors or neighbourhoods on the capital’s peripheries such as Golra and Bara Kahu and a large number of slums certainly do not fit into the original plan that was aimed at building one of the world’s picturesque capitals; these are strongly characterised by utter poor planning.

Rapid urbanisation of Islamabad, which attracted a large number of people from across the country and beyond over a period of time, turning it into a cosmopolitan town, has deprived it of considerable flora and fauna that was otherwise the hallmark of every street and artery of the capital.

Nor has the humungous Metro Bus concrete infrastructure in the middle of the capital added to its natural beauty and nor will the abandoned tunnel plan through the Margalla hills that aptly reflected the prime minister’s tunnel vision. That Lahore and many towns alongside the GT Road, for example, showcase more green foliage or vegetation at this point in time than Islamabad is a statement that cannot be termed outlandish.

The shifting of capital from Karachi took place owing to a variety of factors, particularly its vulnerability to an enemy attack from the Arabian Sea. The other major factor was Karachi’s woeful sanitary and housing conditions that had become a formidable challenge for the civic authority because of massive demographic transformation that this backwater town had witnessed following the Partition of the sub-continent.

Unfortunately, however, Islamabad has lately witnessed the emergence of slums or katchi abadis in its midst. The Islamabad administration has awakened from deep slumber after it decided to move against the construction of illegal settlements.

That a violent resistance to law enforcement agencies to evacuate encroachers on government land (dwellers of an Afghan Basti) on Thursday was expected, it was highly disappointing nevertheless as the sector I-11 of capital virtually turned into a battlefield; the residents of this neighbourhood launched a massive protest as soon as the Capital Development Authority machinery began to remove this illegal neighbourhood where dwellers and police clashed for several hours, resulting in injuries to many.

It is however interesting to note that CDA had not taken this initiative on its own; it was acting in accordance with an Islamabad High Court (IHC) directive that had asked the CDA authorities to prepare a strategy for the removal of slums from the federal capital.

More violent scenes in the federal capital in coming days and weeks are a strong likelihood because the number of slums that are to be uprooted or dismantled is as greater as 24! Those Greek architects who are no longer in this world have a reason to turn in their graves while those who are alive have a reason to have heart attacks to show their enormous disfavour to the present-day Islamabad landscape.

Source: Business Recorder