Category Archives: urban
Adnan Rehmat writes in The News
Taking a close look at a city is like reading the hopes, aspirations and pride of everyone who built it. Take a close look at Islamabad in all its pompous perplexity and clinical contradictions and not much popular ownership is apparent. Not that it prevents it from boasting a large number of peculiar characteristics even though these never show up in tourist brochures. It is, for instance, the ‘newest’ proper city in the country, the ‘newest’ city of Pakistan with a population of a million or more (the eighth in the country now) and even the ‘newest’ city in Asia that is also the capital of a country. Cynics could also emphasise Islamabad is the newest capital of Pakistan! (Karachi was the last, remember, anyone?) And, in this fact, emerges a side to the city that is debated little. Continue reading
By Zia Ahmad
Making eye contact with words ending with a Y does not make you chinky. Making eye contact with a prospective employer in this pure land of ours doesn’t do you any favors. At best it only makes the tongue of your mind go flat for some brief period of time. Continue reading
By Zia Ahmad
Notable scholar Frederic Jameson famously put forward the idea of the disappearance of a sense of history in his indictment of postmodernism, fitfully titled Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991). The idea briefly referred to the way in which the entire contemporary social system has little by little begun to lose its capacity to retain its own past consequently refusing to learn any lessons from it. In forming a critique of the postmodern condition, Jameson essentially pointed out the disconnection with history and the subsequent fascination with the present.
This broad interpretation holds true for the collective human experience and rings ever so true for Pakistan. It is interesting to note how seamlessly the above mentioned idea blends in with the rhetorical whining knowledgeable Pakistanis indulge in, whenever given the chance, something to the tune of we have forgotten our ways, we have lost our identity, etc, etc. Continue reading
bemoans Islamabad’s fall from grace
Many of the new roads in Islamabad have nothing to offer to those who do not own cars
The view outside the Diplomatic Enclave
Contitution Avenue, Islamabad
The Serena Hotel, an architectural gem, is no longer accessible to
|Today, sleepy Islamabad, with its clear skies and majestic hills, has turned into a classic capital under siege. It is not just under siege from Islamists; internal forces are also set to eat it up in pursuance of a suicidal streak that runs along the faultlines of Margalla-land|
Chiding me for returning to Pakistan when its end is nigh, this corporate type endlessly complained about what a s**t hole Pakistan had become. Predictions of decay and disintegration flowed out as his clean, nimble fingers played with a BlackBerry
Not long ago, Delhi and Lahore were vulnerable to hordes of foreign invaders. The Mongol fear was overwhelming and indeed Delhi, the capital of the Caliphate for nearly eight centuries, was time and again ravaged by Central Asian fortune hunters. The builders and beneficiaries of idyllic Islamabad may have forgotten the shrill lesson of history: once the central throne was weak and maladministration at its peak, invasions and insurgencies were almost a natural consequence.
Today, sleepy Islamabad with its clear skies and majestic hills has turned into a classic capital under siege. It is not just under siege from the Islamists; the internal forces are also set to eat it up in pursuance of a suicidal streak that runs along the fault-lines of the Margalla-land.
After a long time away, a day in the capital was a trip into a fear-zone. Although it was admittedly for work reasons, the experience was nevertheless insightful and a little melancholic, especially when one has lived in Isloo during peaceful times. It is not pleasant to see a loveable city turn into a ghetto of barricades, echoing of trepidation; and incessantly wobble on the slippery foundations of civilian power-sharing arrangements. Since the suicide bombing at the Chief Justice’s reception last summer, the slide of the city’s law and order into chaos has been remarkably swift and unrelenting. The Lal Masjid saga, its location, proximity to the invisible force of the power market and bungled operations were clearly reflective of the seething unrest within the polity.
My parents were locked inside the house and recounted those few days with curfews, blackouts, nightly explosions and panic in the air. This had never happened before and a new history akin to the mainland was being scripted for the capital. The rest is history as they say – from the targeting of foreign missions, restaurants, hotels and not to mention the excesses against the sitting Chief Justice and later the lawyers and the media personnel.
This has surely made the proverbially oxymoronic Constitution Avenue a no-go area. On the crisp Thursday morning when I arrived in the city to attend a meeting in the besieged diplomatic enclave, the multiplicity of barricades was astounding. The Serena Hotel, an architectural gem, is no longer accessible to the public; in fact, normal traffic cannot pass on the road that leads to Constitution Avenue. The diplomatic enclave, now proposed to be a gated hamlet within the capital, is also nearly impossible to enter unless you have passes, stickers on vehicles and various identifications ready for inspection.
I wonder what the inhabitants of the diplomatic enclave feel. Apparently, nervousness is rampant despite the sense of adventure that many an international staff share as a life trait. Once inside, life within the compounds replicates “home” with ex-pat clubs, festivals and international nights, or so I am told. My friend, LA, from Canada, is undaunted as she continues to attend parties and even sneak into local markets with Pakistani friends and acquaintances. Not all ex-pats are so lucky: most have sent their families back to the countries of their residence and are barred from going to local markets and restaurants. Essentially, they are limited to the securer circles of work and living.
The obvious question that evades the attention of foreign missions is how much are they, if at all, responsible for all that is happening to Pakistan, particularly Islamabad. If the NATO allies are unable to control Afghanistan despite the massive amounts spent on the war machine, then there is something wrong somewhere. And, if billions in relief, emergency and development aid have been unable to alleviate the miseries faced by Afghan people, then the aid architecture should be revisited or perhaps scrapped to avoid senseless technical assistance on sophisticated government machinery in a country where millions are maimed, hungry and shelter-less.
Islamabad is also a haven for all the planners, architects and beneficiaries of international aid industry. This is what has made Islamabad different from the rest of urban Pakistan. Men and women of all ages and ideologies are now in the service of the international development Continue reading
Monday, September 15, 2008
by Ahmad Rafay Alam
Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor of the Colombian capital of Bogota, will be visiting Pakistan under the auspices of the Clinton Climate Initiative this week. He will be addressing gatherings of senior government officials, policymakers and civil society in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
Mr Penalosa is most famous for rejecting, as mayor of Bogota, a proposal by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to construct a multibillion-dollar rapid mass-transit system and instead introducing a series of people-friendly urban-planning interventions. This was a marked shift from what is accepted as “development.” Mr Penalosa is of the view that this change in priorities is necessary for cities to remain competitive in today’s world.