With the creation of Pakistan, Karachi was naturally selected as capital, being the biggest city with an air and sea port and connected to other cities with land routes. In view of climate, infrastructure and existing buildings, planner badly felt the need to have a new capital. The layout and structure of the existing port city did not allow it to take on the functions of a modern capital.
The area north of Rawalpindi was selected as a new capital. Numerous factors influenced the decision regarding the location, such as transportation and communications, factors of national interest and defense, economic and civic factors. Another important factor was facilities in close proximity i.e. the neighboring city of Rawalpindi will play a vital role in the creation of Islamabad. Rawalpindi would offer Islamabad considerable aid in facilities and initial housing needs, the Chaklala airport will help air transportations, the Rawal dam will secure water supply, the existing railroad and highway connections will serve communication needs. All these will contribute towards avoiding large investments.
In its initial Islamabad plan, the city is divided into eight basic zones as under:
Main residential sectors have been designed like a grid system in rows. The central commercial area is known as Blue Area. One sector on each side of Blue area is established. Both sectors are divided into residential sub-sectors and these sub-sectors come with their own civic centre (business centre). The sectors separate each other with a dual parallel road. Thus each sector of Islamabad is self-contained and self-supported with respect to everyday life.
Islamabad's older sectors consist of large plots like farm houses where building structures are spacious and have large gardens. These older sectors were designed by a team of British architects. For many years these remained the typical structure for Islamabad. They had a charm of their own and were comfortable although architecturally not very exciting.
The main feature of the landscape near Islamabad is the many ravines that cut the fields from north to south. The ground continuously undulates in one direction, giving great variety and challenge for architectural treatment of buildings and green spaces.
Being on the foot of Margalla Hills Islamabad enjoys a natural vegetative cover and greenery in Islamabad is treasured and hence city has been endowed with natural beauty. The Margalla hills cover an area of approximately 12,000 hectares. The hills extend northwards and rise to a height of 1580m, a little of wildlife is present as well as there are a variety of species to be seen such as rhesus, monkeys, jackals (often heard cackling at night near the hills), wild boar, porcupines, mongoose and the pangolin or scaly anteater. The wild boar in particular can be seen at some of the least expected places in the city. The capital is full of natural terraces and meadows and the southern plain is drained by the Kurang River.
The city lies at latitudes 33° 49' north and longitudes 72° 24' east. The average rainfall is 1150 mm / year. The maximum average temperature is 29 °C and goes down to average minimum of around 14 °C. The surrounding hills are home to a variety of vegetation. Below 1000m territory is a mix of dry and green patches. On green patches acacia and olive trees mostly dominate, while dry patch are covered by scrubs which ultimately prevent soil erosion. Above 1000m, Pine and White Oak trees predominate, while other species include Wild Date Palm, Sheesham, Silk Cotton, Peepal, Cheerr, Eucalyptus Jacaranda, paper mulberry tree, Bottlebrush, Amalthus and Lilies.
Agriculture in the surrounding districts and various industries in Islamabad and Rawalpindi are the main ingredients of whole area’s economy. People in urban areas are either employed all kind of local industry or government employees.
Various business organizations are situated in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Organizations selling defense instruments to the army can be found here. Major industries includes flour mills, steel re-rolling, iron mills, beverages and fruit preservation, cigarettes, pharmaceutical, furniture, hosiery, glass products, marble processing, sewing machines, industrial gas processing, oil refining, etc
Islamabad Industrial Estate at Sector I-9 & I-10 comprises of some 115 industrial units. A similar number of industrial units or perhaps more comes under the jurisdiction of Rawalpindi chamber of commerce. Islamabad chamber of Commerce and Islamabad Stocks exchange are playing an important role and upcoming new building of Islamabad stock exchange will further boost the business for the whole area.
With two major rivers Indus and Jhelum close to Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the close by districts of Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal and Jhelum are rich in agriculture. Due to low precipitation, water is stored by building dams. Rabi and Kharif crops Wheat, Rice, Bajra and Maize are the main crops grown here, besides common vegetables. Most importantly among fruits, peaches, olives, plums, groundnuts, pears, apples, citrus, apricots, walnuts are also grown.
CULTURE AND DEMOGRAPHY
The culture of Islamabad is not the one which can be defined. People from all walks of life and different cities are working and residing in Islamabad. Islamabad just like Lahore or Karachi is a cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic city with people from all regions of Pakistan and abroad are present here. The influx of people from various cities and culture and from abroad as well has led to a more 'metropolitan' mix of people in Islamabad.
In rural areas people mostly speak Potohari language. In urban areas, Urdu is the most widely used language. Because of presence of foreign diplomats and high commissions the use of English is common as well.
According to the 1960 master plan, land was to be utilized as following:
Islamabad (institutional & industrial), 220.15 sq km
Rawalpindi was excluded later and a separate authority was made for Rawalpindi and ICT was to serve capital city Islamabad only with 906.50 sq km area in its jurisdiction.
To establish a local government system in the ICT (Islamabad Capital Territory) just like other cities, the Ministry of Interior divided ICT into 40 UCs (union councils): 26 urban UCs & 14 rural UCs. This new system is not implemented yet and an older system with 20 union councils was as under:-
UC#5 (Khana): Gandhian, Gangal, Khana Dak, Sodhar.Tarlai Khurd,
UC#6 (Tarlai Kalan):
UC#11 (Bara Kahu):
UC#13 (Noorpur Shahan):
UC#14 (Kuri at Chak Shehzad):
UC#15 (Rawal Town):
UC#18 (Shah Allah Ditta):
UC#19 (Jhangi Sayeda):
On historical note, one prominent region around Islamabad is Taxila. The history of Taxila is traced back to 5000 BC. It was an important city during Alexander’s campaign in Subcontinent. Taxila remained under the influence of Greeks before Scythians and Parthian, who succeeded from Mauryans. Later it was under the control of Kushanas who were defeated by Huns and Turki Shahi and city was plundered. Later it can under the control of Muslims, remnants of which can be found in Taxila today along with centuries old Stupas and historical buildings.
Islamabad is a new city and developed after the creation of Pakistan. In February 1959 President of Pakistan named Dr. C. A. Doxiadis as his advisor to the Special Commission for the Location of the Capital. A report was issued by Dr. Doxiadis suggested two areas the new capital, one outside Karachi and other north of Rawalpindi. On the basis recommendations by the “Commission for the Location of the Capital”, President Mohammed Ayub Khan made a public announcement to set up new capital north of Rawalpindi on Potohar Plateau.
In September 1959, Federal Capital Commission was formed for the preparation of the master plan and program of the new capital. Simultaneously, Doxiadis Associates were appointed as consultants to the Federal-Capital Commission.
The first team Doxiadis experts arrived at Rawalpindi early in November 1959 and a methodical collection of data was started, in close collaboration with the Federal-Capital Commission and Pakistani experts and several reports prepared. These reports referred to the size of the Capital, the cost of the project, the facilities needed, highways and transportation in general, and so on. On February 24th, 1960 President and his Cabinet gave the New Capital of Pakistan the name of ISLAMABAD (the City of Islam or Abode of Islam). On May 24th, 1960 the preliminary master Plan of Islamabad and the planning principles that will make this capital a model for "A City of the Future", were presented to the Cabinet and approved.
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 Washington D.C., Islamabad joined the ranks of planned capital cities.
A special authority, the Capital Development Authority, which took over from the Federal-Capital Commission, was set up in Pakistan and charged with the overall development of the new capital. The greater area of the capital, the metropolitan area, has been planned for a future population of about 2,500,000 inhabitants within a period of two generations.
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 just outside Islamabad. The Margalla hills are excellent for hiking purposes and are rich in bird life.
Along with Margalla other nearby hilly areas are Murree, Nathia Gali, Ayubia etc. These are located at about an hour’s drive and are great picnic spots. The snowfall in these areas is the best attraction in winter. From November to February is always too cold and wet but from September to February is always good to visit.
Shah Faisal mosque, is set rightly at the foot of the Margalla Hills like a giant flower and is the national mosque of Pakistan. It is surrounded by four 90-metre high minarets. The central building is faced in white marble outside and decorated inside with mosaics and a spectacular chandelier. A Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay designed the mosque and financing was largely gifted from King of Saudi Arabia –H.H. Shah Faisal. Around 100,000 people can say the prayers at one single time.
Shakar Parryan & Damen-e-koh are other places on top of Islamabad and whole view of Islamabad is available from here.
Rawal lake and dam, which cater to the drinking water needs of Islamabadites also serves as a picnic spot. Several museums, such as Lok Virsa Museum, Pakistan Museum of Natural history, Islamabad Museum and Museum of Pakistan are good places to visit.
Couple of Muslim religious sites include Golra Sharif & Bari Imam. Panja Sahib at Hasan Abdal is a religiously important place for Sikhs, who yearly pay visits in thousand across the border from India.
Islamabad has some of the finest educational institutes of Pakistan, including Quaid-e-Azam University, International Islamic University and National University of Science and Technology (NUST).
Quaid-e-Azam University located east of the Secretariat buildings and near the base of Margalla Hills is spread over 1500 acres of land. It occupies an enviable position in the academic world. Some other important universities are:
Allama Iqbal Open University
The Constitution Avenue is perhaps the most important avenue and is the nerve centre of Pakistan's government. On this beautiful wide boulevard are located most of the grandest buildings in the capital. The massive President House comprises President's Secretariat and other offices. Further down the road is the Supreme Court of Pakistan designed by the Japanese architect, Kenzo Tange. There is also Prime Minister' s Secretariat housing Prime Minister's chamber, air raid shelter, committee rooms and auditorium. The front of the structure has a mughal style landscaped garden with fountains, waterfalls and walkways. Behind this is the Prime Minister's House complex equipped with conference rooms, a library and office for the Prime Ministers Staff.
Foreign Office is located just opposite of Supreme Court. It is the oldest and first major building to be completed on constitution avenue in Islamabad. It was designed by an Italian architecture Gio Ponti. Other grand buildings include Secretariat Blocks, the State Bank Building and the National Library.
For shopping purpose main commercial area is the Blue Area and some older shopping areas are Kohsar, Covered Bazaar and Supermarket. The Blue Area which runs from East to West through the centre of Islamabad consists of three roads, central one being the dual carriageway with either side occupied by commercial plazas. You'll find many of the major banks, airlines, tour operators and electronic shops situated here.
Lots of foreign investment is poured into Islamabad recently and five star hotels and high rises are being built in and around the city. A prominent and beautiful project is the construction of Centaurus designed by W.S. Atkins, which will include a seven star hotel, residential apartments and shopping mall. Some new under construction mega hotels include:
Few notable upcoming business & shopping malls and residential apartments are:
The city government and federal cabinet are also looking towards the future needs of the city. Couple of new sectors is also being developed by city government to cater the housing needs of the people. Several road junctions are being converted into flyovers and underpasses are being built. Important and busy roads are being widened and new boulevards are being created. A new modern airport to cater the future needs of Islamabad, Rawalpindi is being built. It recently been inaugurated and hopefully will replace old airport by 2010 when its first phase is completed. Feasibility report for Rapid Mass Transit system in the city is under preparation, which will not only cater to the needs of Islamabad but Rawalpindi as well.
Islamabad is a rewarding place to live in many ways and if one has the drive and life then there are opportunities to explore in Islamabad.
Over the last 15 years though there has been a mushrooming of some extremely opulent structures. Most recently planning laws are not well adhered. Sadly, some of the older sectors are being 'redesigned' as money flows into the capital, more and more of the older houses are being knocked down and are being replaced by the newer and basher houses.
Originally plan visualized high rise buildings on either side of Khayabane Quaid-e-Azam. However, due to the objections of the residents only 6-storied buildings are allowed on the Southern side and 15-storied are on the northern side. Also, the Blue Area is not known for its excellent architecture. It is hoped that an alternate plan would ensure a complete face-lift for these eyesores.
Margalla Hills have been declared a protected zone there are incidents of areas of the Hills being cleared by the timber mafia. Margalla forests on fire is a spectacular sight and can occasionally be the result of the extreme heat of summer and sometimes due to carelessness of hikers or then the timber mafia covering up any evidence of logging.
In this age of environmental degradation, Islamabad remains comparatively well situated. However, the shockingly rapid demise of vegetation en route Murree and the nearby 'galis' points to the need for great vigilance. The natural environment of Islamabad is a treasure and must be protected.
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