Islamabad is an important example of modern urban planning, undertaken shortly after the formation of the new state of Pakistan to serve as its capital city. Islamabad received considerable attention at the time of its conception and its early stages of development. However, according to a recent piece of news, the master plan of Islamabad 1960 witnessed 43 significant amendments by successive governments. And in the process of making amendments, the authorities sought no input from any independent commission of experts. That’s a sad revelation. Perhaps, the socio-economic issues that the city is suffering from are a result of not consulting experts on the changes that the successive governments made.
Though it is not to suggest that the amendments were illegal, however, the inability to take experts’ opinion on these changes resulted in bringing profound changes in the lives of many people. Thankfully, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government approved a revision of the capital’s master plan last December. PTI’s master plan aims to revive the capital’s green image, control the mushrooming of unauthorised housing, overcome civic issues such as the water shortage and poor sanitation, and expand the city in a planned manner. A comprehensive revision of Islamabad’s master plan to cope with changing requirements and make it relevant to the present needs is urgently required.
However, the PTI government must understand that re-planning will be only useful if it is social. For a plan to be social, it must be inclusive. It must make the worst-off better. The residents of the city have seen many anti-encroachment orders by various courts and drives by authorities where only poor people have suffered from structural violence. Whereas, the wealthier ones are buying and illegally developing land just outside the Master Plan limits. Much of this undesirable development has already taken place within the Islamabad Park Area and in other locations with good access roads, frequently in complete disregard of the serious environmental consequences.
Many people correctly see the problems of Islamabad a result of making changes to the original master plan of the capital without having consultations with the experts. Hopefully, the revision of the master plan under the present government will answer the problems of the rapid and unplanned urbanisation. Moreover, given that the government has taken experts on board, it is not wrong to anticipate that the revision will maintain the concept and spirit of the original Master Plan. There is no harm in assuming that the revision exercise will also incorporate and rationalise all the changes that have occurred so far.