Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan, and is located in the Potohar Plateau in the north of the country, within the Islamabad Capital Territory, 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 North-West Frontier Province). Rawalpindi is considered its sister city due to the close proximity of the two cities.
The city was built during the 1960s to replace Karachi as Pakistan’s capital. The development of the country was focused on Karachi and President Ayub Khan wanted it to be equally distributed. Islamabad is a modern and clean city, especially in comparison to other cities in Pakistan. It is well-organized, with the city being divided into different sectors and zones. Islamabad 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 also home to the Faisal Masjid which is well known for its architecture and immense size. The construction cost of mosque was donated by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.
The young city of 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. Near Islamabad is an ancient site where stone implements made on a mass scale were sent down to the lower reaches of the Indus river. This area was the first settlement of the Aryans from Central Asia and is on the route through which passed all those who invaded India from the north and northwest. This region has witnessed the passage of ancient caravans from Central Asia as well as the bloody onslaught of the ferocious armies of Alexander and Tamerlane. The banks of the River Soan in Islamabad were host to stone-age man over 7000 years ago and human skulls dating back to 5000 B.C. have been found in and around Islamabad.
Construction of Islamabad began during the 1960s and was based on a master plan drawn up by the Greek firm of architects, Doxiadis Associates, which called for a triangular shaped grid system with its apex towards the Margalla Hills. The reasons for Islamabad’s construction included the following:
1. The development of the country was focused on Karachi and President Ayub Khan wanted it to be equally distributed;
2. Karachi was vulnerable to attacks from the sea in the event of war with other nations. Islamabad by contrast is safely surrounded by mountains.
3. It was also closer to the GHQ which was, and still is, in Rawalpindi.
The city is considered modern and clean, especially in comparison to the other cities of Pakistan. Islamabad 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 main area and park. Islamabad is also home to the Faisal Mosque which is well known for its architecture and immense size. Architect of the mosque is a famous Aga Khan winner, Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay. The mosque was a gift from King Faisal of Saudi Arabia in the 1970s. It is a source of pride for Pakistanis.
Since 2002, Islamabad has been undergoing a re-development phase. Nearly all of its main roads and highways are being expanded. A number of new under-passes have been built for the benefit of motorists, whose rise in number has been rapid. The city is seeing many new modern-style buildings, with the cars of the traffic police patrolling highways and roads, renovation of the parks, and a sharp rise in the sale of electronic goods and house furniture.
Geography and climate
The city is situated at the edge of the Pothohar plateau, south of the Margalla Hills. The modern capital Islamabad and the ancient Gakhar city of Rawalpindi stand side by side, displaying the country’s past and present. The area’s micro-climate is regulated by three man-made lakes (Rawal, Simli and Khanpur Dam). The city overall has an extreme climate with hot summers with monsoon rains occurring during July and August, and fairly cold winters with sparse snowfall over the hills and sleet in the city. The weather ranges from a minimum of -3.9 °C (25.0 °F) in January to a maximum of 46.1 °C (115.0 °F) in June
The modern city of Islamabad was envisaged as the new capital of Pakistan in the 1960s. In the mid 1960’s the capital was shifted from Karachi to Islamabad, with most of the Government machinery shifting to Islamabad, along with the foreign embassies, though off-shoots of some of these remain even today in Karachi. The city was built as a planned city and has been divided into various sectors on a “grid”. One axis is indexed numerically, the other alphabetically.
The surrounding areas of Islamabad include:
” East: Kotli Sattian/Murree
” North East: Murree / Kahuta
” North West: Taxila / Wah Cantt / Attock District
” South East: Gujar Khan / Kallar Syedian / Rawat / Mandrah
” South West: Rawalpindi
” West: North-West Frontier Province
The Islamabad area has surprising religious diversity of considerable antiquity. A shrine of Sufi Pir Mehar Ali Shah is at Golra while the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Kazmi is in Nurpur Shahan. Saidpur Village hosts Hindu temples that have striking architecture and “Bethak of Zinda Pir” which is famous for the traditional lamps (diyas).
Tourism and Sightseeing
Islamabad is a relatively young city compared to the other cities. However, the views from the sculpted gardens of Islamabad’s Shakar Parian Hills, National Monument, the fascinating Heritage Museum, and the huge marble Shah Faisal Mosque are the major highlights of the city. To the west of Islamabad is the town of Taxila, dating from 500 BC with heavy Buddhist influences. Sculptures here show a strong Greek influence, a result of Alexander the Great’s journey through the region. The commercial center of Islamabad is known as the Blue Area and runs along the length of Jinnah Avenue. Its eastern end runs into Parliament Road, where the majority of the country’s government buildings are located.
The city is very green, with much afforestation of what was formerly scrub forest and open ground. The city’s pleasant climate has enabled the introduction of many exotic plants to the area. There is also much wildlife in the north in the Margalla hills, which have been turned into a national park. The Margalla hills are home to various species of wild life including a variety of exotic birds and carnivores such as the rare and presently endangered Margalla leopards.
Islamabad’s architecture walks a tight-rope between modernity and tradition. The Saudi-Pak Tower is a good example of the combination of modern and traditional styles into one building. The city is also home to the Faisal Mosque, which is well-known for its architecture and immense size. Quaid-i-Azam University is also located in the capital city along with numerous government buildings and foreign embassies such as the National Assembly building, the Supreme Court building, the President’s official residence (Aiwan-e-Sadr) and the Prime Minister’s secretariat. Another landmark is a giant silver-colored Globe statue, installed in 2004 to mark Pakistan’s hosting of that year’s SAARC Summit. Recently, Atkins UK have designed a striking building for the capital, the Centaurus, reflecting the Margalla hills surrounding it. This will be the tallest structure in Islamabad, second only to proposed taller skyscrapers in Karachi and Lahore.
According to the 1998 census, Punjabis account for 71% of the population followed by the Muhajir Urdu at around 10%, Pashtun at 10% and others (Sindhi, Balochi, Kashmiri’s, etc) at 9% . The city is also host to many foreigners from around the globe and families of dignataries.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has intended to carry out a feasibility and reference design for a rapid mass transit system for the twin-cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. On April 5, 2007, Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that a railway station would be built near the planned Islamabad Airport at Fateh Jang to facilitate passengers called “New Islamabad International Airport”.
The New Islamabad International Airport is a 3,600-acre (15 km²) international airport that is being built to serve the city of Islamabad, Pakistan. The airport is located in Fateh Jang, which is 30 km south-west of the city. Construction of the airport began in April 2007, after a decade long postponement. It is expected to be completed and operational in approximetely three years. It will then take all the commercial flights that are currently operating out of the Islamabad International Airport. The Airport will be named as “Gandhara International Airport” after the ancient Buddhist kingdom.Estimated to cost about $400 million, the new Airport facility, which is the first green-field airport in Pakistan, shall comprise a contemporary state-of-the-art passenger terminal building, control tower, runway with a provision of a secondary runway, taxiways, apron, cargo complex, and hangar together with all the necessary infrastructure and ancillary facilities. It would cater to the requirements of latest generation of modern passenger aircraft.
Islamabad is divided into several different sectors, each identified by a letter of the Roman alphabet and a number, with each sector covering an area of approximately 2 km x 2 km (11/4 x 11/4 mi). Each sector is further divided into 4 sub-sectors. The sectors currently in use are lettered from D to I.
Currently, there is only one D sector, D-12. Although this sector is underdeveloped with its development to be completed in 2008, it will be considered as one of the most beautiful sectors of Islamabad because of its location near the Margalla Hills. However, in the revised Master Plan, CDA has decided to develop new sectors including D-13 and D-14.
The E sectors are numbered from E-6 to E-18. Many foreigners and diplomatic personnel are housed in this sector. But with new revised Master Plan, CDA has decided to develop a park on the patterns of F-9 park in sector E-14. Sector E-8 and E-9 contain the campuses of three Defense universities Bahria University (Sector E-8), Air University (Sector E-9) and National Defence College (now National Defence University).
The F sectors are numbered F-5 through F-12. F-5 is an important sector for the software industry in Islamabad, as both of the two software technology parks are located here. The entire sector of F-9 is dedicated for the Fatima Jinnah Park. The Centaurus complex (including a 7 star plaza, 5 star hotel and apartments) will be one of the major landmarks of F-8.
The G sectors are numbered G-5 through G-16. Some important landmarks include the Convention Center, CASE and Serena Hotel in G-5, the Lal Mosque and Melody Market in G-6, the Karachi Company shopping center in G-9 (named after a construction company from Karachi who made one of the first flats in this area in and around 1978) and the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) hospital in G-8 which is the largest medical complex in the capital and is hence also known by the locals as simply the ‘Complex Hospital.’ The Institute is a national centre of excellence and tertiary referral centre. With its own helipad it was the focal point of rescue missions and the point of referral for the most seriously wounded in the Northern Areas earthquake of 2005.
The H sectors are numbered H-7 through H-12. The H sectors are mostly dedicated to educational and health institutions. Sector H-12 is allocated to National University of Science and Technology (NUST) for construction of it’s new campus.
The I sectors are numbered I-8 through I-18. Except for I-8, these sectors are primarily set aside as part of the industrial zone. Only Two sub-sectors of Sector I-9 and one sub-sector of sector I-10 is used as Industrial Area. Sector I-11 is proposed site of a state-of-art Vegetable and Fruit Market. CDA has planned to relocate the operating Veg. and Fruit market from I-11 to Sangjani. Sector I-15 is a new sector for Low-income group. CDA is planning to set up Islamabad Railway Station in Sector I-18 and Industrial City in proposed sector I-17.
There is no proper District Government setup in ICT but efforts are being made towards the establishment of a local Government system in the ICT, which is still not in place in ICT as local government systems exist in other parts of the country. In 2005, the Ministry of Interior divided the ICT into 40 union councils – 20 union councils in rural/urban areas of the ICT. However, the Union Council system is yet to be implemented. The 20 union councils each cover the following regions of the ICT (the name in brackets refers to each council’s jurisdiction, named after a main town in the area covered by each council, e.g. Rewat or Tarnol):
” Union Council No. 1 (Rewat): Rewat, Bhangreel Kalan, Bhangreel Khurd, Kortara, Takht Pari, Shadi Dhamial, Mohra Amir, Sood Gangal, Mohri Khumbal, Sheikhpur, Hoon Dhamial, Chuchkal and Bhima Kanait.
” Union Council No. 2 (Humak): Humak, Kotha Kalan and Naizian
” Union Council No. 3 (Sihala): Sihala, Gagri, Mughal, Chak Kamidar, Nara Sayedan, Sandu, Chitroh, Herdogher, Jabi Gakhran, Ladhiot, Kangota, Sayedan, Jandala and Kangota Gujran.
” Union Council No. 4 (Koral): Koral, Lohi Bher, Choocha, Rakh Lohi Bher, Pagh, Panwal, Bora Bangial, Bukher, Khathreel, Dhaliala, Pind Dia, Paija, Darwala, Sher Dhamial, Pindi Malkan, Pindori Hathial, Pindori Sayedan, Bhimber Trar, Gohra Mast, Sigga, Channi Mahsu and Khan.
” Union Council No. 5 (Khana): Khana Dak, Gangal, Gandhian, Tarlai Khurd and Sodhar.
” Union Council No. 6 (Tarlai Kalan): Tarlai Kalan, Chaper Mir-Khanal, Tramri, Tamma, Gohra Sardar, Chatha Bakhtawar and Khardapur.
” Union Council No. 7 (Kirpa): Kirpa, Jhang Sayedan, Partal, Saknal, Panjgran, Frash and Ali Pur.
” Union Council No. 8 (Cherah): Cherah, Herno Thanda Pani and Ara.
” Union Council No. 9 (Tumair): Tumair, Kijnah, Sihali, New Simbli, Jandala, Jandgran, Garathian, Darkalai, Rakh Tumair A, Rakh Tumair B, Dakhian and Pind Begwal.
” Union Council No. 10 (Phulgran): Phulgran, Shahpur, Sakrila, Dohala, Bbbri Betha, Athal, Maira Begwal, Chattar, Karlot, Hotran, Kathar, Mangal, Chaniari, Rakh Maira A & B and Malot.
” Union Council No. 11 (Bhara Kau): Kot Hathial.
” Union Council No.12 (Malpur); Malpur, Shahdara (Malpur Rural), Jhang Bangial, Mandla, Subban, Mangial, Quaid-e-Azam University and Muslim Colony.
” Union Council No. 13 (Noorpur Shahan): Noor Pur Shahan, Ratta Hoter, Talhar, Gokina and Saidpur.
” Union Council No. 14 (Kuri at Chak Shehzad): Kuri, Rehara, Chak Shahzad, Majuhan, Mohrian, Gohra Baz, Mohra Jijan, Jagiot and Nogazi.
” Union Council No. 15 (Rawal Town): Mohra Noor, Rawal Tonw, Rawal Colony, Mochi Mohra, Sumbal Korak (Katchi Abadi) and Sumbal Korak.
” Union Council No. 16 (Sohan): Sohan, Kana Kak, Jaba Taili, Shakrial, Pindori, Sihana, Lakhwal, Chak Bera Sing, Kartal, Bohan, Dhoke Sharaf, Ojri Kalan & Khurd and Poona Faqiran.
” Union Council No. 17 (Golra): Golra, Maira Bairi, Baker Akku, Dharek Mori, Maira Sumbal Aku, Maira Sumbal Jafer, Dharmian (F-11), E-10 (Sihala), Badia Rustam and Khan.
” Union Council No. 18 (Shah Allah Ditta): Shah Allah Ditta, Seri Seral, Pind Sangral, Sara-e-Kharbooza, Johd, Siray Madhu, Bara Dari, Bakhar Fateh and Bakhsh.
” Union Council No. 19 (Jhangi Sayeda): Jhangi Sayedan, Nothia, Thala Sayedan and Chailo, Sheikhpur, Kak, Noon, Narala and Bokra.
” Union Council No. 20 (Tarnol): Bhadana Kalan, Tarnol, Pindi Parian, Naugazi, Dorey, Ahi Paswal, Sangjani and Bhadana Khurd.
There are a large number of educational institutions in Islamabad. They include public and private sector schools, colleges and universities. Almost all of the higher education institutes in the capital territory are federally chartered, and recognized by the Higher Education Commission. Most notable higher education institutes include:
” Air University
” Allama Iqbal Open University
” Bahria University
” Center for Advance Studies in Engineering
” COMSATS Institute of Information Technology
” Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science & Technology
” Hamdard University
” Hunerkada College of Visual and Performing Arts
” International Islamic University
” Iqra University
” Mohammad Ali Jinnah University
” National Defence University
” National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences
” National University of Modern Languages
” National University of Science and Technology
” Pakistan Institute of Engineering & Applied Sciences
” Quaid-i-Azam University
” Shifa College of Medicine
” Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology
” National University of Modern Languages
” Bogota, Colombia
” Ankara, Turkey
” Beijing, China
” Paris, France
” Frankfurt, Germany
” Sydney, Australia
” Cologne, Germany
” Amman, Jordan