ISLAMABAD: Many residents of the federal capital were surprised by certain revelations made by a development historian regarding the development of their city.

Dr Markus Daechsel, a senior lecturer at the Royal Holloway University of London, was speaking at the launch of his book titled ‘Islamabad and the Politics of International Development’ organised at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) on Tuesday.

Dr Daechsel’s research is based on government data as well as the memoirs of Dr C. A. Doxiadis, the architect who designed Islamabad’s master plan.

Dr Daechsel told the participants that his research revealed that former President Gen Ayub Khan was hesitant about making an official mosque in the city to avoid tensions between religious leaders of various sects. Moreover, he was afraid of criticism regarding the Islamic character of the mosque.

“It was decided that all basic needs should be provided to people of Islamabad, so there would not be any politics in the city,” Dr Doxiadis said.

####Development historian reveals surprising facts about the capital’s history

Dr Doxiadis faced many challenges as a number of his ideas were rejected by bureaucrats at the time. Many in the audience were surprised to find out that the architect actually wanted people from various economic classes to live in the same sector. His idea was that the underprivileged might gain from living in close proximity to wealthier, more educated people.

However, Dr Doxiadis’ idea was rejected by those in power.

Dr Daechsel informed the participants that Islamabad’s master planner had come to Pakistan in 1954 from Greece. He managed to get foreign funding for Korangi Town in Karachi, a township which housed refugees from India and successfully oversaw its planning and construction.

Dr Doxiadis was rewarded by Ayub Khan for his efforts with Kornagi Town by giving him the project for designing the federal capital, Dr Daechsel said.

Dr Daechsel elaborated upon the ideological debates which marked the capital’s early development as many opined that the city should be a model of Islamic culture while others posited that the new capital should be modern city.

“There were even debates about what buildings and designs were Islamic,” he said.

“Ayub Khan allowed Dr Doxiadis to make the master plan but he was not told to design buildings currently located in the Red Zone such as the Supreme Court, National Assembly and other buildings,” he said.

“Dr Doxiadis also suggested that the city be constructed on the style of Mohenjodaro and Harappa because in both areas all the facilities including sewerage and water were available. These cities also had the same houses for the head of the village and other people. Ayub Khan and the CDA believed Islamabad would be a city for rich people,” he said.

“Another idea was that Islamabad will be a place like Shimla where influential people would live in peace,” he said.

Dr Doxiadis’ memoirs also revealed his belief that Muslims do not prefer living in apartments so none were designed in the city and he also built covered markets and mosques in every sector.

“Then foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto visited Islamabad a number of times and he was pleased with the pace of the construction work,” he said.

While replying to questions from participants Dr Daechsel said that usually developmental historian depend on data provided by the government but he was lucky to have gotten access to memoirs of Dr Doxiadis.

Retired Lieutenant General Mohammad Asad Durrani said the talk had been an eye-opener for those in the audience and helped improve understanding of why Islamabad was distant from common Pakistanis and their issues.

“We now know Islamabad’s elitist character is not the architect’s fault,” he said.

Former civil servant Muhammad Riyazul Haq commented that although legal mosques had been designed for every sector, there are 245 illegal mosques in the city.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2015

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