Tag Archives: Marriott

Islamabad: this too shall pass

Raza Rumi
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
the public

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

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Filed under Citizens, Islam, Islamabad, Pakistan, Society, south asia, Terrorism, urban

Islamabad, the miserable

by Zafar Iqbal Kalanauri

Mujhey koi achee khabar sona, meray khush nazar, meray khush bayan,
Meree kashtian hain bhanwar bhanwar, meree bastian hain dhuan dhuan…..

(Amjad Islam Amjad)

The Islamabad Marriott Hotel is no more. Islamabad – the beautiful, has turned into Islamabad – the miserable.

The Islamabad incident while highlighted monumental security lapses and loopholes in the country, it also raised questions about efficiency and professionalism of country’s disaster management infrastructure. Usman Manzoor reported in The News:

“The Capital Development Authority (CDA), like Nero of Rome, was playing the flute when its icon of security, The Marriott, was burning in the heart of the capital”.

“Saturday’s blast not only exposed the fire-fighting unit of the civic authority but also raised fingers at the high officials of the CDA and the cabinet division whose negligence left Marriott burned down completely. According to well-placed sources, the civic body had spent Rs 600 million on fire-fighting equipment but due to the contractor, who was to supply the fire-fighting equipment to the CDA, did not do so in three years and the hotel was reduced to ashes on Saturday night”, he added. Continue reading

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The secret life of a doomed hotel: remembering Islamabad’s Marriott

By Mark Corcoran of ABC’s Foreign Correspondent

A CCTV still shows security personnel gathering around a truck, on fire at right, that tried to crash through the barrier at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad. (Reuters TV)

It’s hard not to get emotional and very difficult to play the dispassionate journalist as I sit here, watching the Marriott Hotel burn on my computer screen courtesy of online news. Initial reports say rescuers still can’t reach the upper floors. How many colleagues, friends, acquaintances lie buried in the wreckage is unclear.

It’s the holy month of Ramadan, and the suicide truck bomber struck in the evening, just as hundreds of people would have been gathering to break the daily fast. Having attended such gatherings at the hotel, I suspect most of the crowd would not have been the Western infidels so detested by the extremists, but Pakistanis – and Muslims. Continue reading

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Filed under Terrorism, violence, war

9/20 is Open War on Pakistan

CRSS Weekly pager

9/20 is Open War on Pakistan

If the 9/11 events in 2001 changed the security paradigm in the United States and elsewhere, the 9/20 deadly attack on Islamabad’s five-star Marriott Hotel meant the same to the state of Pakistan. It in fact amounts to a watershed in Pakistan’s long-held defense strategy that partially relied on proxies as a low-cost mechanism to pursue strategic objectives.

The ghastly strike left about 80 people dead sent all and sundry in a state of shock and awe. This undoubtedly underscored the gravity of what government and military officials meanwhile acknowledge as a “full-fledged insurgency” a war that has killed 10,267 Pakistanis in five years, most of them since January 2007 in nearly 100 suicide attacks. These are 6,000 Pakistani deaths more than the total number of Pakistani lives lost in the Pak-India War of 1965. Continue reading

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Marriott bombing: `Pakistan’s 9/11′?

Beena Sarwar

Comment for de Volkskrant, Holland

The truck laden with 1000 kg of explosives that suicide attackers rammed into the high-security Marriott Hotel in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad on September 20, 2008 demolished a major power symbol, prompting many to call it “Pakistan’s 9/11”. Although the number of casualties, around 60, was far below the over 150 killed in the attack on late former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s welcome procession of October 18 last year, this attack had greater symbolic significance.

Many foreigners patronize the five-storey, 290-room hotel that was also reportedly being used for a covert operation by US Marines, who were seen unloading a US Embassy truckload of steel boxes the night of September 17 — the day Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani met US Admiral Mike Mullen in Islamabad and convinced him to cease America’s military incursions into Pakistan. Continue reading

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Islamabad blasts: Pain and agony

By Hamid Mir

Islamabad: I was very close to Marriott Hotel and reached the spot within a few minutes of the terrible blast. By that time only a few police constables from the nearby Frontier House and Balochistan House were trying to rescue the drivers who got killed sitting in their cars parked outside the hotel on Aga Khan Road. The road was in complete darkness since the intensity of the blast had destroyed all the street lights. Hearing some cries coming from the rubble of the Marriott entrance, I rushed there with another journalist colleague.

A badly injured security guard of a private company was lying in the rubble and was weakly shouting in Punjabi: “Stop the truck, stop the truck.” He was still holding his pistol in his right hand. It took at least 10 minutes to shift him from the blast site to an ambulance. He was an eyewitness but at that time he was shell-shocked. The initial rescue work was started by some police constables and journalists who were helping those who were still alive. We ignored the bodies because we were short of hands. In the next 15 minutes a lot of hotel occupants rushed out from the back door. Most of them were injured by broken glass. I realised that most of those killed in the blast had been the ones standing outside the hotel building – poor people who were working for the security and comfort of those who were inside the hotel. Continue reading

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