Dead City No More

December 23, 2017
Zara Maqbool

By Zara Maqbool

I am not a native ‘Isloo-ite’ but as a child this city with its beautiful hills, the high and low slanting roads and serenity and quiet always fascinated me. Growing up I always felt excited visiting family and friends in Islamabad. While my Lahori friends used to complain of how dead this city was with no entertainment and no nightlife, I loved how you could hardly see anyone post 8 o’ clock and it would seem like all the residents migrate at night and come back the next morning.

2008 – I moved here and spent some very happy years in this city. I used to love driving own Margalla road at night with my husband with hardly any traffic and few dim road lights. There were a few very selective eating out places to visit and for me having less choice meant I would always run into some friends at restaurants. It seemed like a big happy family. An old soul by nature, this capital city seemed like a quaint little town nestled amongst the Margalla hills. I found the local people to be very different from Lahore or Karachi with their low profile attitude and quite manners. Yet the VIP culture could be experienced more than any other city too but even waiting at signals for a long queue of black cars didn’t dampen my love for Islamabad.

2013 – I moved back after spending a few years in Lahore and counting the days to when I could get out. Slowly and gradually the city started changing in front of my eyes. I think the catalyst was the Metro project and many other underpasses and interchanges that started getting built. Malls became another hit thing and so for few years I felt the sky was no longer as blue as before and someone had cast an evil eye on my beautiful city. I know its selfish of me to not applaud the public transport that is required for so many people who do not have private transport but its more than the developing roads that has changed the entire dynamic of this city.

You name any restaurant form Lahore and Karachi and it has started opening up here. Its like the entire business community has turned towards Islamabad aiming to convert this into a commercial jungle bringing in ostentatious flavors from Lahore and other cities. I don’t ever remember seeing so many new outlets, restaurants opening up in the longest time. And they mostly offer average food and nothing to write home about.

A year or so back CDA forced all the business ventures to shift to commercial buildings, which was a blessing in disguise. But then I feel it made the markets busier than ever before and the old charming Jinnah market was never the same.

Traffic perhaps causes me the greatest pain. I could never imagine that it would take me 45 minutes from my home to work place or to hear the blaring of horns in my beloved city where one could hear the rustle of the leaves and the wind blowing. And the icing on the cake is PTI introducing ‘dharnas’ as a way of getting your way and after every few months a group gets up and decides to make this clean city dirty and ruin the peace and tranquility. I seriously don’t understand the role of CDA in this change that is coming and not sure if others feel the pain of this change that is coming faster than I like at least. I hope the natives wake up sooner than later and take ownership of Islamabad before it becomes another commercial city like Lahore or Multan.