Face-lifting Islamabad | By Zaheer Bhatti


Face-lifting Islamabad

IT is indeed a welcome initiative by Chief Commissioner ICT Amer Ali, the illustrious son of a top former bureaucrat Saeed Mehdi, even though holding additional charge as CDA Chairman following disastrous political experimentation over the office, to take a number of steps in order to face-lift Islamabad the country’s metropolis, which like any other country must present a representative image.

In doing so nonetheless, it is hoped that the Chief can also address some issues which have been retarding pace of development in the Capital Town and save it from wearing a discordant look turning into shantytowns around its fringes.

In itself a whole time job, it is heartening to see the ICT Chief take out time from his main responsibilities, starting major work to revamp the Industrial Area, make Basement Parking compulsory for high rises in the Blue Area and elsewhere besides raising multi-storied parking Plazas around all commercial centres.

Focusing attention on effective waste management, ordering construction of 300 public toilets around the Capital and ensuring functional street lights, carpeting of roads and repainting of setbacks and road signs are a great sight.

While his zeal after the incredible Kamran Lashari who really moved the earth to turn around Islamabad which was fast succumbing to the infamous mafias, sounds commendable, there are a few areas of concern which may not have been brought to his notice by vested interests, and need to be placed before him for immediate attention.

Replacing Karachi as the Capital Town in 1960 in the foothills of Margallah Range in the Pothohar region, the Master Plan of this virgin chunk of green pastures promised to make it Pakistan’s Switzerland but started to be tampered like every single entity in this country from day-one; and crime set foot in Islamabad the moment a single Resident Magistrate Outpost was converted into a regular Kutchehri (District Courts) and a Police Force was raised in the late sixties ironically to make District Administration functional.

In contrast to its inaugural years when no one was prepared to accept leave alone seek allotment of a plot of land in a locality still to be born and developed, lo and behold! the troika of the local revenue staff, CDA field officials and the police set in motion registration and sale/purchase of land in the Capital Master Plan Area which ought to have been forbidden and the entire land purchased compensating local villagers and settling them in nearby Government land by the Federal Government in one stroke.

But unlike other Development Authorities elsewhere in the country, the CDA Administration failed to promptly settle acquisition and compensation issues, resulting in inordinate delay culminating into encroachment under shady regularization of shanty towns like Ghauri and other townships along the entire Zone earmarked as Farmland Area which was to supply fruit and vegetable to the twin cities.

While one wonders why in a tailor-made virgin land, its Master Plan did not provide for a Circular Underground Subway and an overhead road transport bypass branching into the City centres of the twin cities right at the start of the ground-breaking, it is mind boggling why development of the earmarked Capital Area which ought to have been completed in the six decades of its creation appears almost halted now for over three decades.

The reason behind such inordinate delay one discovered besides red tape and graft happens to be timely and fair compensation.

There is, on the one hand, a chain of never-ending affectees including fake claimants of compensation and, on the other, some very irrational CDA laws and practices of acquisition.

Firstly, the Development Authority acquires land without notice or intimation to the owner and then requires those of them surrendering 22 marlas of land to find and apply along with three other affectees of similar dimensions who would together be allotted a one kanal developed plot.

It is a preposterously unfair requirement to require four strangers to find each other, pool an application and then share the resulting allotment which is not practicable.

CDA should either allot each one in their own right a 5/6 marla plot in a developed sector or compensate them at the prevalent market price.

This is just one instance in one’s knowledge, and the Chairman is requested to kindly have such irrational rules revisited to address grievances of mostly senior citizens promptly before they hit the grave.

Digging to replenish water connections being understandable you need to stop the internet providers digging up home-front greeneries and road shoulders to lay their cables without an approved organized plan; rendering all streets wear a discordant look.

And while metal carpeting of roads over existing surface on the main boulevards may be done up to a limit, it is criminal to allow this to contractors in residential streets where the existing road level must be maintained by digging up the previous surface and relaying it at the same level.

Some house owners are already facing the dilemma; requiring not just their drive-ways but entire house floor levels to be relayed.

The CDA also must strictly ensure that standard road shoulders are not violated by owners in the streets, which results in a shabby-looking zigzag carpeting job.

While natural greenery is the beauty of Islamabad and its green-belts between sectors a welcome provision, it is time to do some environmental correction in plantation.

Right now, trees are being planted indiscriminately, creating hazards of sun and shade in winters and summers for the inhabitants in the streets besides damaging sewerage lines and boundary walls.

It is strongly suggested that while trees may be allowed in green belts, along parks, dead-ends, nullahs and main boulevards, only ornamental plants and shrubs be allowed in the streets and within the home premises.

And lastly for now Mr Chairman! Wearing your first hat, you will actually change the look of the Capital Town if you could somehow banish beggary from the Metropolis which is a matter of national shame.

—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.