Islamabad master plan as inconsistent
as basic law
By Sher Baz Khan
Like its Constitution, the national capital of Pakistan today is not what it was visualised and planned to be.
It appeared a strange coincidence when the National Assembly was informed on Friday that 17 major changes have been made in the Master Plan of Islamabad since the Greek architects Doxiadis Associates prepared it in 1960 - the same number of times that the 1973 Constitution has been amended.
Change is a constant in life, but one wishes that the civil and military rulers who made the changes had done so to benefit the masses not themselves and their classes.
The first change in the Master Plan was decreed in 1964 when the location of Islamabad University -- later renamed as Quaid-i-Azam University -- was shifted from the National Park Area southeast of Rawal Lake to northeast of Diplomatic Enclave.
In 1988, the university's original site was allocated to Zoo -- cum-Botanical Garden that was originally sited southwest of Rawal Lake. Land where the Convention Centre and Serena Hotel stand today was designated in the Master Plan as green area and right of way of the Kashmir Highway. The changes were made in 1995.
While citizens may wonder why the original map of their young capital needed continuous scissor work, environmentalists would be shocked that the city managers' ideas of development swallowed many green zones.
They allowed polluting industries to sprout in areas on the periphery meant for trees and bushes.
In fact, the Cabinet Division, which furnished the information to the National Assembly, provided by the Capital Development Authority (CDA), did not mention at all the relocation of the army's General Headquarters (GHQ) in Sector E-10.
Half of that sector had to be preserved as green area under the Master Plan but in 1972, the federal government converted the whole sector into a residential area. At that time, no one knew who would ultimately reside there.
Sectors E-8, E-9 and E-10 were originally meant for public and government residential facilities. But, in 1973, the three sectors were designated for the Armed Forces residential-cum official facilities.
In 1985, President Gen Ziaul Haq approved the setting up of the Fecto cement plant in the Margalla Hills National Park area in violation of the master plan. The factory badly degraded the environment and the park area.
After eating away the limestone mountains, the factory is now said to have started digging underground.
Commercialisation of the city space is also evident from the extension of the alignment of its Central Business District along Jinnah Avenue, known as Blue Area, up to F-10 in 1969. The Master Plan had suggested varying depth and alignment of this business area.
About the same time, Sector F-9, which was originally designated as residential area, was converted into a park - the Fatima Jinnah Park.
Conversely, Sector I-8, designated as Transportation Centre, was converted into a residential sector in 1988.
Even the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) does not stand where it was meant to. Its original location was close to the National Institute of Health (NIH) near Chak Shahzad. But, the hospital was shifted to its present location in Sector G-8/3 in 1974.
According to the original plan, Sector E-11 was to be acquired and developed for low-income private and government housing. But in 1964, CDA was stopped from acquiring the area in consideration of the location of Golra shrine there. Now seven private housing developers are doing what the CDA was supposed to do.
Originally, half the H-Series was designated as green buffer and the other half for special institutions. But, in 1974, upper half of H-8 was given to buildings for different institutions and H-9 was converted into orchard, and H-10 and H-12 were turned to private educational institutes.
Half of the sectors I-14, I-15 and I-16 were planned for industrial units and the other half for housing their workers.
But the entire three sectors were converted into residential areas in 1991.
Earlier in 1969, the rural periphery of Islamabad along Kahuta Road was turned into an Industrial Triangle for medium scale industries.
Similarly, Zones-II and V were part of the Islamabad rural periphery but in 1992 were given to developing new residential, institutional and industrial series 17 was identified and housing was allowed in Zone-V.
Originally, the Exhibition Area, including the present Lok Versa, was sited in the National Park Area near village Tarlai Kalan. But in 1975, they were shifted to their present locations south of Shakarparian Park near Faizabad on Islamabad Highway.