Islamabad is NOT a city you would like to move to, trust me

Published: February 10, 2016

The CDA has been criticised for not taking action against the illegal slums in the city. PHOTO: FILE

To millions of Pakistanis, Islamabad is a city they would like to move to. The assumption is, it being the nation’s capital, it will naturally be blessed with luxuries their lives have been spent dreaming about; such as uninterrupted supply of basic utilities such as water, gas, and electricity. Most importantly, a peaceful environment.

In the past 10 years, successive governments have tried to make up for the disparity.

No, not by lifting the standard of living of people in the rest of the country up, but by letting the capital residents down too.

Even in the posh areas of the federal capital, gas, electricity and water shortages are a norm. Residents are forced to buy water from private tanker owners. To ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity, they either use UPS batteries or electric generators.

Similarly, even though, use of gas cylinders can result in life-threatening incidents, but people here have little choice but to use one. The deplorable state of affairs does not end here, since the police are ineffective against criminals, those who can afford have hired private security guards while the rest… well the rest of us just pray.

If this is the state of the role of our government in the capital, one can only imagine how difficult lives of ordinary Pakistanis would be in other parts of the country.

The shape of public healthcare and the education sector is equally appalling. Given a choice, no one in his/her right mind would like to take his/her loved ones to a government hospital or child to a public school.

Photo: Express

Photo: Express

Photo: Express

Construction work on the hospital had been held up since 2007.
Photo: Express

What if someone cannot afford the cost of purchasing these necessities from the private sector? The government’s response is not an effort to fix the public system, make it more accountable and efficient so that the poor continue to benefit from it. Instead, the government’s answer is a simple “you are on your own”.

If we, the people, are on our own, the question is what good is the government for?

If the government is not willing or able to even provide basic utilities, what defines the contract between the citizens and the State?

The situation is not much different when you leave the house. The roads in the capital are riddled with potholes and patchwork, streetlights are rarely switched on and some flyovers are literally crooked, as if built using half-kneaded dough. The dismal streets scream for a government that has been absent for some time now.

Photo: Waqas Naeem/Express

Photo: Waqas Naeem/Express

Meanwhile, the conservative policy of privatisation of national assets being followed by the current government, I believe, is not going to help the economy at all. The policy is analogous to a man who runs a household by borrowing, and pays back the loans by selling various items in the house that have started to rust due to his own negligence.

It is important to understand that a system that is skewed in favour of the rich is not sustainable.

It has to change. A system that does not care and caters to the needs of millions of the poor is not representative enough – not truly democratic. The government has to work for the poor. Those responsible for the deplorable state of the public sector institutions should be held to account.

The poor must not be made to bear the burden of neither the inefficiency of the public sector nor should they be left with no choice but to shoulder the high cost of basic necessities associated with private ownership.

A nation’s worth is measured best by the strength of its people. Any investment in human development and cultivating human potential has the highest of all returns. That is the reason the world’s most developed nations invest in their people. As a nation we need to set our priorities right.

Today, the entrenched and ill-founded differences of tribes, languages, castes and religions mean the poor in the country cannot come together and demand from the government what is their right. The absence of a just society means accidents of birth continue to override merit. The middle class, on the other hand, is busy blaming the poor and the weak, instead of collectively holding the powerful to account. Unknowingly, we all are paying the price of disingenuity and apathy to the other, and that is mind numbing.

Would want to live in Islamabad?

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Hammaad Khan

Hammaad Khan

The author likes writing on national and international political issues.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Alam

    The writer seems to be super negative. I am more worried about his selection of ‘selective photos’.
    The pictures he has selected, he can find worse in London and New York!
    For example, look at these links:

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Karachi is the only place to live for any modern pakistani in pakistan. Lahore may be second best only because the film and arts have acceptability there.
    Every other city basically gives out the look of a typical backward pind.
    Its not about the infrastructure but the mentality of the people living in the city.
    Radical islamic values have a very strong hold in punjab and kpk, not so much in sindh.Recommend

  • Amir

    What a lame article. The situation described for Islamabad is the same for all cities in Pakistan, where lack of infrastructure, health facility, education, law and order is prevalent.Recommend

  • Mustafa

    Yes, the author has a selective narrative.

    But Isb is certainly not what it appears to be, it is muc easier and better to have a life in Lahore. Saying this from the exp of having lived in both.Recommend

  • Tatom

    How can this article be selected in blog.Recommend

  • Rohan

    An artificially created capital of an artificially created countryRecommend

  • roughcheck

    Its like some one dropping in a five star hotel, taking picture of a filthy commode just after some one left it unattended and post it the next day on social network claiming the “The Egerton House is NOT a hotel you would like to move to, trust me”…Recommend

  • Nitin Jadhav

    Every City in the world has its unattended areas.
    But trust me Pakistan is not a country I would like to live in, I may love to visit but no way im staying at a place more than 4-5 hoursRecommend

  • vinsin

    No images of NY. One if of LA and other Yorkshire. Yorkshire says that is because of recent weather. Article was not about photos but about slow degradation of nation capital and abysmal state of basic necessities required for living a modern life.Recommend

  • Taxalian

    …and precisely the reason, even though I work in Islamabad but I can not spend even half an hour extra in this terrible city. I live in suburbs and I love it :) Roads in Islamabad are worst than many other cities in the country…Recommend

  • Sami

    Another rant of a Burger. Anyway you do not like Islamabad then you can move to FATA or Lyari or the best place is Katti pahari in Karachi. Every city has many problems. If you are looking for Utopia then this does not exist in this world.Recommend

  • Ali

    Yeah but london and new york are cities in developed and democratic countries. Recommend

  • Rafay Hayat

    If you are negative, every thing around you will look negative, sad for the writer. For me Islamabad is one of the best city in the world; greenery, Mounties, weather everything is amazing, I thank to God for blessing us with such a nice cityRecommend

  • Patwari

    If that was the case, PM Cameron would be digging ditches, himself.
    Or his govt. would fall. And the Mayor of New York City, Bill deBlasio,
    or the Governor of the State of New York, Andrew Cuomo, would be
    digging ditches in their undershirts. OR they would be recalled. Nope,
    they do not have off shore accounts, either, like, ALL the thug politicians
    of Pakland, who are looting the country blind.
    Forget the photos. How about the police? The most corrupt anywhere.
    No electricity? No gas? No water? Same situation in London and Paris?
    40% of ALL power generated in the Land of the Pure is stolen. Through illegal hookups. [ that’s called theft, in everyday simple language. 40% is STOLEN].
    Don’t you you think you should research and THINK, before commenting?

  • wb

    Pakistanis are used to very rich and comfortable and a high standard of living.

    We Indians see a thousand times worse infrastructure, bad road, bad air, bad traffic, bad people…yet we live on quietly. Or rather like sheep.Recommend

  • Hassaan Khalid

    Islamabad is going to ruins, and CDA is not doing shit about it.Recommend

  • FJ

    Excellent article, Hammad.
    I am living in Islamabad for a decade, and I agree with you. I thought this city is for the elite class, but recently I noticed that people in F-sector are also struggling for basic necessities.Recommend

  • Britisher Pakistani

    Well if you can live in India u can get along here very well. i mean if u have been raised and brought up in Switzerland only then i would accept ur inability of moving to Pakistan. so r u living in India? if yes then my friend this is purely because of the rivalry u have with pakistan.Recommend

  • Dr Ashraf Khan

    I have spent most of my childhood and adult life in Islamabad before moving to USA. I still maintain family home; take my children and nephews and nieces to visit this city on every important family event.

    I still love my city; this is best city in the world. I do understand author frustration and his comments on Islamabad, but, unfortunately Pakistan is a developing country. What you see in backyard of your house is a common in most of developing countries. So chill, and work on social issues and address them through a positive practical approach. Provide education, job and healthcare facilities to unfortunate one and elect more educated individuals who are in true sense “Islamabadi”.Recommend

  • Ahmed Ali Khan

    Islamabad residents even those living in posh areas of sectors F-7 and F-8 are not being provided with uninterrupted supply of electricity, water and gas by the government – one would call any writer ignorant if he/she finds the situation pleasant enough to write positive things about it. The image will change when the reality is changed. Residents of London and New York do not have to buy gas cylinders, UPS, and get water from private tanker owners. Yes there are problems everywhere but at least we can safely say there governments are providing them the basic utilitiesRecommend

  • Pukhnatwaney

    Well, Pakistanis, nearly all of them, eat ” BEEF “. They love “BEEF”.
    So you will have a hard time, getting a good, nourishing meal. Just
    tandoori naan or roti with vegetables and dals day in and out becomes very bland. Doubt there are dosas and idlis available, at all. Maybe in the rural
    hindu villages.The next best meats, such as lamb,chicken, goat are widely
    available. Perhaps your religion forbid these too? How about rabbit? It is available, so is deer meat, partridge, ‘battair’ and pigeon meat.
    Ooops! Forgot ! Fish is available everywhere. And good seafood in the coastal
    areas. [But ‘nihari and beef payas’ are revered,…almost the national dishes]

  • vinsin

    He is most likely a non-Muslim.Recommend

  • vinsin

    You cannot stay in India anyway even if you want as you are a non-Muslim.Recommend

  • vinsin

    That is bound to happen when overnight 14.5% of people were given 25% of resources. When Muslims got hold of business and lands of Hindus and Sikhs.Recommend

  • Shah

    Seems as if the author resides in Rawalpindi and is quite jealous.Recommend

  • M Waqas Sajid

    Many people wishing, if they could have been in Islamabad, atleast for today, when Margalla hills were covered with snow.. You beauty, Islamabad.Recommend

  • M Waqas Sajid

    Many people wishing, if they could have been in Islamabad, atleast for today, when Margalla hills were covered with snow.. You beauty, Islamabad.Recommend

  • Sami

    India fathered this kid known as Pakistan. So be proud of Pakistan.Recommend

  • SP

    You miss one important aspect which is that the rich of islamabad need to pay their taxes so that the poor may benefit.Recommend

  • Alam

    I have been to New York and many other world capitals. These are much richer places and should not be compared with Pakistan…. Still if we want, we can easily find places that are surprisingly dangerous and ugly. That was just an example. Google yourself!! And I can myself provide you pictures of these things in London if you wish!

    I was staying in New York and the area was just 2/3 metro stops from from Manhatten (which is the poshest area). I saw people washing their cars on roads by opening council water pipes with ranches and then using that high pressured water to tease friends! There were many potholes on roads (like the picture). The area is not bad by New York standards. You could see all the tall buildings as it was very close to centre. I was paying $300 dollars for small hotel.

    In the centre of Dubai, I got off in downtown and was looking for mosque (Jumeirah?). Someone pointed me to a way and I had to walk across a place which was like a village in Pakistan with dirty/old/small houses and then I reached Satwa area. Just looking back I could see beautiful downtown Dubai in 10 minute walk.

    I have noticed a pattern all over the world. There are two three miles of tall, beautiful buildings and then the rest of the city ranges from average to really bad. Even Toronto disappointed me when I travelled outside city centres.Recommend

  • Alam

    I have requested you before to please have decent discussion and start stop SHOUTING (with caps lock on). I know PTI has many people who are mentally challenged and it is difficult to have decent discussion. Why use the illogical phrases as Cameron digging ditches. There is no comparison between London and Pakistani citizens. I gave an example how one can focus on something negative.

    As far research, maybe you would like this news from yesterday.
    Woman dies after life support power supply runs out of batteries (PM cameron hasn’t come to replace batteries yet!)

  • Alam

    It also seems that you either have never been outside a country and are trying to impress us with unnecessary using names of lakes (in previous posts), people and places Or you are a kind of person who has never left Desi areas and desi restaurants and use internet to impress others!Recommend

  • Ali

    What? India is far more developed than Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ali

    At least India doesnt have a blasphemy law, or laws on raped women.Recommend

  • Alam

    If you want to write a negative article, it is very easy anywhere in the world. Look at these two links. Had this happened in Pakistan, it would have been a big 24/7 media news. I found these two because I read the press very closely. One is from the US and the other from the UK (again, it is just an example on negativity and I do not intend to compare super powers with a developing country like Pakistan.

  • Rebea Firdous

    I was just reading 10 reasons Islamabad is not lame
    and obviously the comments were vitriolic! So five years has not done any thing to us. Some might love Islamabad , some might hate it, its an emotion. Let us try to have a balanced approach please.

    Go with the facts. Islamabad has issues and with increasing population those issues are evolving. Its no longer green and clear rather it is dusty and smogy. It snowed yesterday and now due to haze you cannot see the beautiful margalla hills. The trees are another story. Ever heard of Paper mulburry and the havoc it raises in allergy season? Yes! We do have an allergy season here in Islo. Lahore and Karachi, we win over here!
    As for the roads and infrastructure issues, grant the kid some leverage people, at least he is trying some sort of “fix it” approach by pointing it out on media.
    Our international friends who want to visit or who don’t want to visit, it is your choice and budget.


  • Ahmed Ali Khan

    Alam how hard is it to understand that if a government has failed even the residents of posh areas of the capital when it comes to smooth supply of basic utilities water, gas, and electricity – in addition to most of the rest of its citizens in basically all the other parts of the country – it is okay for the media to point that failure outRecommend

  • Pukhnatwaney

    That’s because of the hindus, like you, have a secret wish.
    They wish they were Muslims.Recommend

  • Patwari

    So what’s left?
    Just lash out.
    Writing jingoistic comments, that are childish, ridiculous,
    immature, show your lack of knowledge Recommend

  • Saj

    If you’re comparing Islamabad with London and New York, sure… I’d leave Islamabad in a blink of an eye for these two. But the constraints of the hypothesis limit our choice to Pakistani cities. Also atleast one of the images (7th one, with falcon complex sign) is from Rawalpindi, where falcon complex is located.

    The problems highlighted are much worse in other cities of Pakistan, which is why Islamabad is one of the fastest growing cities in the world attracting people from all over Pakistan.Recommend

  • Alam

    I don’t disagree with you. They should run serious programmes and invite ministers and highlight issues. What they do is continuous ‘sayapa’ with low standard discussions with third class participant, shouting abuse at each other. How many media graduates and proper journalists are doing these shows? Most of them call themselves doctor (medical) and show poor very knowledge of the issues.Recommend

  • Ali

    Haha. Critisizing the uncivilized and inhumane barbarians makes one a hindu huh? In case you dindt know, making takfeer takes you out of islam.
    Learn to embrace tolerance of others, gender equality, and criticism.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Are you joking. India is far better than Pakistan . Ever heard of any Indian leaving india and going PakistanRecommend

  • stevenson

    For me Islamabad is the only place to live in Pakistan for expatriates because it gives you a semblance of organization and normalcy compared to your typical 3 rd world type city that confronts you elsewhere in Pakistan. It’s relatively cleaner, less congested, the weather agreeable and most amenities are available. Islamabad and cities in Punjab like Lahore, Faisalabad and Sialkot are safe and developing well but overall Islamabad is still the best for those coming back from overseas. Lahore is the most fun and you don’t have to worry about going out late at night or issues of security but it is just too hectic for me. In our family it’s pretty evenly split between Islamabad and Lahore.It shouldn’t matter in a few years since services are improving in both Islamabad and Lahore. If things keep going like they are now, much of the infrastructure, roads, energy, water and amenities issues will be resolved.Recommend

  • stevenson

    A lot of people would argue that living a comfortable life in Islamabad or Lahore is preferable to living in some low income ghetto in New York or London. We all have relatives in Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford or the Queens in NYC. Living a hand to mouth existence in a dangerous neighborhood where most people are on welfare ( khayrat ) or low income labourers in the West is worse than living in many Pakistani cities. Try living in both and decide yourself !Recommend

  • stevenson

    Just leave India out of this. No Pakistani in his right mind would go to India to live ( the exception being Adnan Sami who is money hungry ) and no Indian wants to live in Pakistan. Obviously there is much more abject poverty in India where people are literally living and sleeping on streets and there are more beggers there with starvation but then again Pakistan doesn’t have the same population as India. My Urdu speaking friends from Karachi who go to see family members in India will attest to the levels of poverty that exists in India but has no equal in Pak.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Well, why didn’t you ask your “Urdu speaking friends from Karachi” – why not all those poor people come to Pakistan if Pakistan is in better condition than India?Recommend

  • stevenson

    Forgot that India was created and given its freedom by the British in 1947. Tell me who designed and made New Dehli. Your British saviors who freed you. Your hating on Pakistan only shows your own ignorance of history!Recommend

  • stevenson

    Most Pakistanis who travel back and forth between India are those who have migrated from the there and still have family there. Why should poor people of India move to Pakistan when their home country is India?Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Every year 3000-4000 Pakistanis migrate to India foreverRecommend

  • Jack

    Looks like New Jersey and I’m not joking Recommend

  • from isb

    isb is very good if u compare it with other cites of pk so keep quietRecommend

  • Syed Faizan Hayder

    These are not true photos of Islamabad. I don’t like express news for this. Do you know that Islamabad is one of the Best cities in the world in 2016. Syed Muneeb Haider , Class 4. Guidance House School & College System MirpurRecommend

  • Nayer Abbas Sipra

    You are wrong…Islamabad is very beautifull city of pakistan..YOu just point out bad things ..Recommend