Mun­dane but el­e­men­tal

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Za­heer Bhatti

gov­er­nance was shifted from the sprawl­ing city of Karachi to a vir­gin land along the Mar­gal­las. Un­for­tu­nately so far Is­lam­abad Pak­istan’s cap­i­tal town fifty years down the line is still a city in the mak­ing in a stop-gap man­ner, rather than set out to churn a role model which could serve as a cat­a­lyst for else­where in the coun­try.

Here was a city in the mak­ing in the 21st cen­tury where Pak­istan could have made it into a mod­ern town with all essen­tials had it been planned and ex­e­cuted with a sus­tained na­tional vi­sion aim­ing at least 50 years hence. But in­stead of pro­vid­ing for in­stance, an un­der­ground train cater­ing for the sprawl­ing twin cities, or at least ad­her­ing to the Master Plan for the vir­gin town, that has time and again been tam­pered with. The Na­tional Or­chard Scheme which was sup­posed to be­deck the Is­lam­abad Ex­press­way as the green­est of pas­tures yield­ing fruits and veg­eta­bles for the in­mates, has been doled out to favourites and cronies who have erected pala­tial houses leav­ing vast chunks of land un­cul­ti­vated, while over a whole stretch of sev­eral kilo­me­ters along the eastern side of the Ex­press­way from Faiz­abad upto the Air­port in­ter­sec­tion, a com­plete shanty-town has emerged. One can­not help in­fer­ring that the Cap­i­tal Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity in league with lo­cal Po­lice, Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the land mafia have not only failed to ex­e­cute devel­op­ment of Sec­tors at pace re­quired, but have been fa­cil­i­tat­ing sale and pur­chase of land in col­lu­sion with ill-famed Rev­enue Staff, in ar­eas in­cluded in the Master Plan which the Govt­was sup­posed to have ac­quired.

Un­der a du­bi­ously planned com­pen­sa­tion scheme lo­cals were al­lowed to pur­chase a Kanal of land and raise a small struc­ture to claim a plot in a de­vel­oped sec­tor upon ac­qui­si­tion, and one saw hut­ments Email: za­heerb­ emerge all over where there was noth­ing but green­ery, and the poor lo­cals who hith­erto were un­able to earn a square meal, propped up to file claims many times over in the name of next of kins lamentably not only mak­ing the quick buck but also be­com­ing a ma­jor hin­drance in the Devel­op­men­tal process re­fus­ing to va­cate sec­tors al­lot­ted through the bal­lot decades ago de­spite hav­ing been paid com­pen­sa­tion, in some cases many times over.

En­force­ment has been a chronic prob­lem with suc­ces­sive Gov­ern­ments for no other rea­son but lack of will. One must give some credit though to the sit­ting MNA with a Min­is­te­rial port­fo­lio, who has launched a much awaited cleans­ing of Res­i­den­tial Sec­tors from Com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties, mostly pri­vate schools, par­lours and of­fices cre­at­ing a nui­sance for the res­i­dents and de­stroy­ing their pri­vacy be­sides cre­at­ing road-blocks and park­ing haz­ards. But con­sid­er­ing the gap­ing paucity of health ser­vices to cater to the masses, the only dis­ci­pline where like else­where in the world ex­cep­tions should be made is for Pri­vate Hos­pi­tals and Clin­ics, pro­vided that they are lo­cated on dual car­riage-ways where there are am­ple park­ing spaces.

While the said MNA has os­ten­si­bly suc­ceeded in rightly knock­ing down hut­ments raised pre­dom­i­nantly by Afghan Refugees in a cleans­ing op­er­a­tion, a 4 kilo­me­ter stretch of green belt be­tween Sec­tors F and G, 11 and 12 com­monly re­ferred to as Maira Abadi has con­ve­niently been glossed over, which has not only been oc­cu­pied but made into a thriv­ing busi­ness hub with solid struc­tures and all kinds of mer­chan­dise. Why pray! Have suc­ces­sive Gov­ern­ments both Civil and Mil­i­tary closed their eyes to this heinous crime? That is the real chal­lenge Mr. Min­is­ter! Green belts are sup­posed to be the beauty and hall­mark of the Cap­i­tal Town where ei­ther Road net­work Av­enues or sa­fari parks, play­grounds and shaded trees are sup­posed to pro­vide breath­ing space be­tween bricks and mor­tar.

There are gross vi­o­la­tions of road­side set-backs al­lowed to res­i­dents as their drive-way con­verges be­yond road shoul­ders re­sult­ing in a very poor look of zigzag met­aled streets, only to the con­trac­tor’s ad­van­tage who is paid ac­cord­ing to the stan­dard width of the road no mat­ter. Talk­ing of cleans­ing, waste dis­posal and san­i­ta­tion is be­gin­ning to give the Cap­i­tal par­tic­u­larly the storm wa­ter culverts a very dirty look, and calls for a proper san­i­ta­tion drill in­volv­ing clear­ing and self­com­bus­tion of refuse by the san­i­ta­tion staff of CDA, which is ei­ther ill-pro­vided or rank un­du­ti­ful. An­other area of con­cern is wa­ter fil­tra­tion plants which un­der the very nose of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment are dys­func­tional half the time, what to talk of else­where in the coun­try. As for road main­te­nance, the pri­or­ity is all up­side down as car­pet­ing of roads is as­signed to main Boule­vards, which are al­ready in bet­ter shape com­pared to roads and the streets which are never re­paired in time.

Beg­gary is an­other men­ace the Cap­i­tal town can and must get rid of. Although a com­mon and unchecked sight in the rest of the coun­try, it is a shame for the na­tion. A mean­ing­ful swoop can earn the me­trop­o­lis the dis­tinc­tion of tak­ing a start in the right di­rec­tion. While erad­i­cat­ing pro­fes­sional beg­gary which is also a source of crime, the State must make its Zakat sys­tem work ac­cord­ing to Is­lamic dic­tates which if done in earnest will leave no poor in our midst. Mun­dane but el­e­men­tal to our Faith is also the com­mon man’s dream to see a road­block and alien Se­cu­rity Op­er­a­tives-free Is­lam­abad some day soon. Don’t tell me we need a Ra­heel Sharif to do all this as well! — The writer is a me­dia pro­fes­sional, mem­ber of Pi­o­neer­ing team of PTV and a vet­eran former Direc­tor of pro­grammes.

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