Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad is a modern and spacious city, located against the backdrop of the Margalla hills.
In 1958 President Ayub Khan’s government decided to build a new capital to replace Karachi. The aim was to offset the economic importance of Karachi and the political importance of Lahore but Karachi’s humid climate and poor geographic location were also determining factors. A more central site was chosen at the northern end of the Potohar Plateau, noted for its agreeable climate and good water supply. A Greek firm of architects, Doxiadis Associates, proposed a triangular grid system with its apex leading towards the Margalla Hills. In 1961 construction began on the site that is now Islamabad.
The city was divided into eight zones including a diplomatic enclave, a commercial district, an industrial sector and an education sector. Initially the government found it hard to entice people to the new capital. Plots of land were sold at low prices by the Capital Development Authority and lower tax breaks were offered to make the city more appealing.
The city is characterised by wide avenues, lined with trees. Population has risen, growing from 200,000 in 1981 to almost 800,000 in 1998. There is relatively little poverty. Traffic jams are rare and travelling across the city takes about 20 min. The pollution level is kept to a minimum. The city has an airport that caters for both international and domestic flights and is connected by road and rail to all the other major cities in Pakistan.
Institutes of higher education include, Quaid-e-Azam University (1965), Allama Iqbal Open University (1974) and the International Islamic University. Quaid-i-Azam university admits 550 students a year to its master programs and in 1998 its total enrolment stood at 2,650.
Places of Interest
The Shah Faisal Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world, is located at the foot of the Margalla hills. The Daman-e-koh viewpoint is located on the hills themselves and offers views of the city’s Presidential Palace and Legislative Assembly buildings.