Islamabad: “If you have forty or fifty million rupees, you can get a good house in the best sectors in Islamabad, F6, F7 and F8. But only a few would have that kind of money,” says Zahid Khan, a senior staff member in one of the best printing presses in the city.
“I have a good job and I have done quite well financially,” he says. “But I cannot even dream of living in Islamabad. Therefore, six years ago, I bought a plot in Bahria Town, Phase 8, in Rawalpindi. But it is a bit far from my workplace in Islamabad.”
“The plot cost me a million rupees. Now, I could sell it for four million. The land is about two hundred square yards, and I am building a good three-bedroom, two-story house on it. True, it is a little palace, costing some six million rupees to complete. My mother-in-law will live there,” Zahid says.
“I and my family will build another house in Bara Kahu for ourselves, where I have bought a five hundred square yards plot for three million rupees. That area is good, with plots for people of varying incomes,” says Zahid Khan.
Another printer, M. Asim, bought a good plot of 250 square yards in Islamabad’s E11 sector, for six and half million rupees, three years ago, where he is building a two-story family house along with his brother.
“We have estimated that the cost will be close to eight million rupees, and we don’t have that kind money in the savings. If we go bust, we can always, but sadly, sell the plot and the semi-finished house, which is now worth around twenty million rupees,” he adds.
In one of the prime areas of the F7 sector in Islamabad, a contractor is building three top-class houses for sale. Each house has three independent units on the three different floors. One or two of the floors can be rented out and the internal stairs can be blocked off. The standard is high with spacious rooms and high quality finishing.
But how much does this kind of luxury cost?
“We paid only twenty-five million for each plot several years ago, and the cost of building each house is above twenty-five million,” says M. Qasim, one of the two owners of building company.
“Today, we believe, the houses will be sold for much over a hundred million each, and the largest one will sell for about a hundred and fifty million,” says Qasim.
“Unfortunately, such houses are only for the rich,” says Muzaffar Mumtaz a foreign trained lawyer and a businessman who has recently returned from Norway.
“I rented a large portion in a new house in the E11 sector for fifty thousand per month, but gave it up because the sector is still under development and therefore very dusty and not suitable for families with children. My house was spacious, but there were often problems with water and many other things,” he says.
“I looked for other houses and portions of houses in good, middle-class areas in Islamabad. But eventually, I gave up,” Muzaffar says he then decided to move to his hometown, Sialkot, at least for some time.
“Islamabad is a great city”, Muzaffar says. “But I wonder why it is so expensive, almost as expensive as the Norwegian capital of Oslo.”
“I believe the politicians and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) should take a serious look at what it is that drives the prices so high in Islamabad. They should introduce regulations and honest control mechanisms to avoid Islamabad becoming a deeply class-divided capital, a city where only the rich can live,” says Muzaffar Mumtaz.