Ranked as a beta world city, Islamabad is the capital city of Pakistan, located in the Pothohar Plateau in the north-eastern part of the country, between Rawalpindi District and the Margalla Hills National Park to the north. The region has historically been a part of the crossroads of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the Margalla Pass acting as the gateway between the two regions.
Located within the federal Islamabad Capital Territory, with a population of two million, it is the 10th largest city of Pakistan, while the larger Islamabad-Rawalpindi metropolitan area is the third largest in Pakistan with a population exceeding five million. The city is the political seat of Pakistan and is administered by the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation, supported by the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
Islamabad was built during the 1960s to replace Karachi as Pakistan's capital. The city's master-plan divides the city into eight zones, including administrative, diplomatic enclave, residential areas, educational sectors, industrial sectors, commercial areas, and rural and green areas. The city is known for the presence of several parks and forests, including the Margalla Hills National Park and Shakarparian Park. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Faisal Mosque, the largest mosque in South Asia and the fourth largest in the world. Other landmarks include the Pakistan's National Monument and Democracy Square.
It is categorised as very high on the Human Development Index, the highest in the country. The city has the highest cost of living in Pakistan, and its population is dominated by middle and upper middle class citizens. The city is home to sixteen universities, including the Quaid-e-Azam University and NUST. The city is one of the safest in Pakistan, and has an expansive surveillance system with 1,900 CCTV cameras.
The name of the city, Islamabad is derived from two words, Islam and abad, meaning City of Islam. Islam is an Arabic word which refers to the religion of Islam and abad is a Persian place name that means inhabited place or city.
Islamabad Capital Territory, located on the Pothohar Plateau of the Punjab region, is considered one of the earliest sites of human settlement in Asia. Some of the earliest Stone Age artefacts in the world have been found on the plateau, dating from 100,000 to 500,000 years ago. Rudimentary stones recovered from the terraces of the Swaan River testify to the endeavours of early man in the inter-glacial period. Items of pottery and utensils dating back to prehistory have been found.
Excavations have revealed evidence of a prehistoric culture. Relics and human skulls have been found dating back to 5000 BC that show this region was home to Neolithic people who settled on the banks of the Swaan River, who developed small communities in the region at around 3000 BC. One end of the Indus Valley Civilization flourished here between the 23rd and 18th centuries BC. Later the area was an early settlement of the Aryan community. A Buddhist town once existed in the region. Many great armies such as those of Zahiruddin Babur, Genghis Khan, Taimur and Ahmad Shah Durrani used the corridor through Islamabad on their way to invade the rest of the Indian Subcontinent. Modern Islamabad is based on the old settlement known as Saidpur. The British took control of the region from the Sikhs in 1849 and built South Asia's largest cantonment in the region.
When Pakistan gained independence in 1947, Karachi was its first national capital. In the 1960s, Islamabad was constructed as a forward capital for several reasons. Traditionally, development in Pakistan was focused on the colonial centre of Karachi, and President Ayub Khan wanted it equally distributed. Moreover, Karachi having tropical weather conditions, was located at one end of the country, making it vulnerable to attacks from the Arabian Sea. Pakistan needed a capital that was easily accessible from all parts of the country. Karachi, a business centre, was also considered unsuitable partly because of intervention of business interests in government affairs. The newly selected location of Islamabad was closer to the army headquarters in Rawalpindi and the disputed territory of Kashmir in the north.
In 1958, a commission was constituted to select a suitable site for the national capital with particular emphasis on location, climate, logistics, and defence requirements along with other attributes. After extensive study, research, and a thorough review of potential sites, the commission recommended the area northeast of Rawalpindi in 1959. A Greek firm of architects designed the master plan of the city based on a grid plan which was triangular in shape with its apex towards the Margalla Hills. The capital was not moved directly from Karachi to Islamabad. It was first shifted temporarily to Rawalpindi in the early sixties and then to Islamabad when the essential development work was completed in 1966.
Islamabad has attracted people from all over Pakistan, making it one of the most cosmopolitan cities of Pakistan. As the capital city it has hosted a number of important meetings, such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit. Year 2014 has brought in major changes in Islamabad. Construction of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro-bus began on 28 February 2014 which was completed in March 2015, with 60 buses plying on the route. The Rawalpindi Development Authority looked after the project with a cost of approximately Rs. 24 billion, which was shared by both the Federal government and the provincial government of Punjab.
The modern capital and the ancient Gakhar city of Rawalpindi stand side by side and are commonly referred to as the Twin Cities, where no exact boundary exists between the two cities. To the northeast of the city lies the hill station of Murree, and to the north lies the Haripur District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Kahuta lies on the southeast, Taxila, Wah Cantt, and Attock District to the northwest, Gujar Khan, Rawat, and Mandrah on the southeast, and the metropolis of Rawalpindi to the south and southwest. Islamabad is located 120 kilometres SSW of Muzaffarabad, 185 kilometres east of Peshawar, 295 kilometres NNW of Lahore, and 300 kilometres WSW of Srinagar, capital of the Indian occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The city of Islamabad expanses the area of 906 square kilometres. A further 2,717 square kilometres area is known as the Specified Area, with the Margala Hills in the north and northeast. The southern portion of the city is an undulating plain. It is drained by the Kurang River, on which the Rawal Dam is located.
The climate of Islamabad has a humid subtropical climate, with five seasons: winter (November–February), spring (March and April), summer (May and June), rainy monsoon (July and August) and autumn (September and October). The hottest month is June, where average highs routinely exceed 38 °C. The wettest month is July, with heavy rainfalls and evening thunderstorms with the possibility of cloudburst and flooding. On 23 July 2001, Islamabad received a record-breaking 620 mm (24 in) of rainfall in just 10 hours. It was the heaviest rainfall in Islamabad in the past 100 years and the highest rainfall in 24 hours as well.
The coolest month is January. The highest monthly rainfall of 743.3 mm (29.26 in) was recorded during July 1995. Winters generally feature dense fog in the mornings and sunny afternoons. In the city, temperatures stay mild, with snowfall over the higher elevations points on nearby hill stations, notably Murree and Nathia Gali. The temperatures range from 13 °C in January to 38 °C in June. The highest recorded temperature was 46.6 °C on 23 June 2005 while the lowest temperature was −6 °C on 17 January 1967. The city has recorded snowfall.
The main administrative authority of the city is the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) with some help from Capital Development Authority (CDA), which oversees the planning, development, construction, and administration of the city. Islamabad Capital Territory is divided into eight zones: Administrative Zone, Commercial District, Educational Sector, Industrial Sector, Diplomatic Enclave, Residential Areas, Rural Areas and Green Area. Islamabad city is divided into five major zones: Zone I, Zone II, Zone III, Zone IV, and Zone V. Out of these, Zone IV is the largest in area. Zone I consists mainly of all the developed residential sectors while Zone II consists of the under-developed residential sectors. Each residential sector is identified by a letter of the alphabet and a number, and covers an area of approximately 2 km × 2 km. The sectors are lettered from A to I, and each sector is divided into four numbered sub-sectors.
Series A, B, and C are still underdeveloped. The D series has seven sectors (D-11 to D-17), of which only sector D-12 is completely developed. This series is located at the foot of Margalla Hills. The E Sectors are named from E-7 to E-17. Many foreigners and diplomatic personnel are housed in these sectors. In the revised Master Plan of the city, CDA has decided to develop a park on the pattern of Fatima Jinnah Park in sector E-14. Sectors E-8 and E-9 contain the campuses of Bahria University, Air University, and the National Defence University.
The F and G series contains the most developed sectors. F series contains sectors F-5 to F-17; some sectors are still under-developed. F-5 is an important sector for the software industry in Islamabad, as the two software technology parks are located here. The entire F-9 sector is covered with Fatima Jinnah Park. The Centaurus complex is a major landmark of the F-8 sector. G sectors are numbered G-5 through G-17. Some important places include the Jinnah Convention Centre and Serena Hotel in G-5, the Red Mosque in G-6, and the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, the largest medical complex in the capital, located in G-8.
The H sectors are numbered H-8 through H-17. The H sectors are mostly dedicated to educational and health institutions. National University of Sciences and Technology covers a major portion of sector H-12. The I sectors are numbered from I-8 to I-18. With the exception of I-8, which is a well-developed residential area, these sectors are primarily part of the industrial zone. Currently two sub-sectors of I-9 and one sub-sector of I-10 are used as industrial areas. CDA is planning to set up Islamabad Railway Station in Sector I-18 and Industrial City in sector I-17. Zone III consists primarily of the Margalla Hills and Margalla Hills National Park. Rawal Lake is in this zone. Zone IV and V consist of Islamabad Park, and rural areas of the city. The Swaan River flows into the city through Zone V.
When the master plan for Islamabad was drawn up in 1960, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, along with the adjoining areas, was to be integrated to form a large metropolitan area called Islamabad / Rawalpindi Metropolitan Area. The area would consist of the developing Islamabad, the old colonial cantonment city of Rawalpindi, and Margalla Hills National Park, including surrounding rural areas.
However, Islamabad city is part of the Islamabad Capital Territory, while Rawalpindi is part of Rawalpindi District, which is part of province of Punjab. Initially, it was proposed that the three areas would be connected by four major highways: Murree Highway, Islamabad Highway, Swaan Highway, and Capital Highway. However, to date only two highways have been constructed: Kashmir Highway (the former Murree Highway) and Islamabad Highway. Plans of constructing Margalla Avenue are also underway. Islamabad is the hub of all the governmental activities while Rawalpindi is the centre of all industrial, commercial, and military activities. The two cities are considered sister cities and are highly interdependent.
Islamabad's architecture is a combination of modernity and old Islamic and regional traditions. The Saudi-Pak Tower is an example of the integration of modern architecture with traditional styles. The beige-coloured edifice is trimmed with blue tile works in Islamic tradition, and is one of Islamabad's tallest buildings. Other examples of intertwined Islamic and modern architecture include Pakistan Monument and Faisal Mosque. Other notable structures are: Secretariat Complex designed by Gio Ponti, Prime Minister’s secretariat based on Mughal architecture and the National Assembly by Edward Durell Stone.
The murals on the inside of the large petals of Pakistan Monument are based on Islamic architecture. The Shah Faisal Mosque is a fusion of contemporary architecture with a more traditional large triangular prayer hall and four minarets, designed by Vedat Dalokay, a Turkish architect and built with the help of funding provided by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. The architecture of Faisal Mosque is unusual as it lacks a dome structure. It is a combination of Arabic, Turkish, and Mughal architectural traditions. The Centaurus is an example of modern architecture in Islamabad. The seven star hotel was designed by WS Atkins PLC. The newly built Islamabad Stock Exchange Towers is another example of modern architecture in the city.
Islamabad had an estimated population of around 1.67 million in 2011 which according to the estimate of Population Census Organization will rise to around 2 million in 2020. The mother tongue of the majority of the population is Punjabi, at 68% and the major dialect is Pothohari. 15% of the population are Pashto speakers, 18% speak other languages. The total migrant population of the city is 1 million, with the majority (691,977) coming from Punjab. Around 210,614 of the migrated population came from Sindh and rest from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir. Smaller populations emigrated from Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Balochistan, and Gilgit–Baltistan.
The majority of the population lies in the age group of 15–64 years, around 59.38%. Only 2.73% of the population is above 65 years of age; 37.90% is below the age of 15. Islamabad has the highest literacy rate in Pakistan, at 88%. 9.8% of the population has done intermediate education (equivalent to grades 11 and 12). 10.26% have a bachelor or equivalent degree while 5.2% have a master or equivalent degree. The labour force of Islamabad is 185,213 and the unemployment rate is 15.70%.
Islam is the largest religion in the city, with 95.53% of the population Muslim. In rural areas this percentage is 98.80%. Per 1998 census in urban areas the percentage of Muslims is 97.83%. The second largest religion is Christianity, with 4.07% of the population, 0.94% in rural areas and 5.70% in the city. Hinduism accounts for 0.02% of the population, and other minorities 0.03%.
Islamabad is a net contributor to the Pakistani economy, as whilst having only 0.8% of the country's population, it contributes 1% to the country's GDP. Islamabad Stock Exchange, founded in 1989, is Pakistan's third largest stock exchange after Karachi Stock Exchange and Lahore Stock Exchange, and was merged to form Pakistan Stock Exchange. The exchange had 118 members with 104 corporate bodies and 18 individual members. The average daily turnover of the stock exchange is over 1 million shares.
As of 2012, Islamabad LTU (Large Tax Unit) was responsible for Rs 371 billion in tax revenue, which amounts to 20% of all the revenue collected by Federal Board of Revenue. Islamabad has seen an expansion in information and communications technology with the addition two Software Technology Parks, which house numerous national and foreign technological and information technology companies. The tech parks are located in Evacuee Trust Complex and Awami Markaz. Awami Markaz houses 36 IT companies while Evacuee Trust house 29 companies.
Islamabad is home to many migrants from other regions of Pakistan and has a cultural and religious diversity of considerable antiquity. Due to its location on the Pothohar Plateau, remnants of ancient cultures and civilisations such as Aryan, Swaanian, and Indus Valley civilisation can still be found in the region. A 15th-century Gakhar fort, Pharwala Fort, which was built on the remains of a 10th-century Hindu fort, is located near Islamabad. Rawat Fort in the region was built by the Gakhars in 16th century and contains the grave of the Gakhar chief, Sultan Sarang Khan.
Saidpur village is supposedly named after Said Khan, the son of Sultan Sarang Khan. The 500-year-old village was converted into a place of Hindu worship by a Mughal commander, Raja Man Singh. He constructed a number of small ponds: Rama kunda, Sita kunda, Lakshaman kunda, and Hanuman kunda. The region is home to many Hindu temples that are preserved, showing the history of Hindu civilisation and architecture in the region. The shrine of Sufi mystic Pir Meher Ali Shah is located at Golra Sharif, which has a rich cultural heritage of the pre-Islamic period. Archaeological remains of the Buddhist era can also still be found in the region. The shrine of Bari Imam was built by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Thousands of devotees from across Pakistan attend the annual Urs of Bari Imam. The event is one of the largest religious gatherings in Islamabad. In 2004, the Urs was attended by more than 1.2 million people.
The Lok Virsa Museum in Islamabad preserves a wide variety of expressions of folk and traditional cultural legacy of Pakistan. It is located near the Shakarparian hills and boasts a large display of embroidered costumes, jewellery, musical instruments, woodwork, utensils and folkloristic objects from the region and other parts of Pakistan.
Islamabad boasts the highest literacy rate in Pakistan at 88%, and has some of the most advanced educational institutes in the country. A large number of public and private sector educational institutes are present here. The higher education institutes in the capital are either federally chartered or administered by private organisations and almost all of them are recognised by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. High schools and colleges are either affiliated with the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education or with the UK universities education boards, O/A Levels, or IGCSE. According to Academy of Educational Planning and Management's report, in 2009 there were a total of 913 recognised institutions in Islamabad (31 pre-primary, 2 religious, 367 primary, 162 middle, 250 high, 75 higher secondary and intermediate colleges, and 26 degree colleges). There are seven teacher training institutes in Islamabad with a total enrolment of 604,633 students and 499 faculties.
The Gender Parity Index in Islamabad is 0.93 compared to the 0.95 national average. There are 178 boys only institutes, 175 girls only and 551 mixed institutes in Islamabad. Total enrolment of students in all categories is 267,992; 138,272 for boys and 129,720 for girls. There are 16 recognised universities in Islamabad with a total enrolment of 372,974 students and 30,144 teachers. Most of the top ranked universities; National University of Sciences and Technology, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology and Pakistan Institute of Engineering & Applied Sciences, also have their headquarters in the capital.
The world's second largest general university by enrolment, Allama Iqbal Open University is located in Islamabad for distance education. Other universities include Quaid-i-Azam University, Air University, Bahria University, Center for Advanced Studies in Engineering, Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, Hamdard University, National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences, Capital University of Science & Technology, National Defence University, Shifa Tameer-e-Millat University, National University of Modern Languages, Iqra University, International Islamic University, Virtual University of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah University The University of Lahore, Abasyn University and The Millennium University College.
Islamabad has the lowest rate of infant mortality in the country at 38 deaths per thousand compared to the national average of 78 deaths per thousand. Islamabad has both public and private medical centres. The largest hospital in Islamabad is Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) hospital. It was established in 1985 as a teaching and doctor training institute. PIMS functions as a National Reference Centre and provides specialised diagnostic and curative services. The hospital has 30 major medical departments. PIMS is divided into five administrative branches. Islamabad Hospital is the major component with a 592-bed facility and 22 medical and surgical specialties.
The Children's Hospital is a 230-bed hospital completed in 1985. It contains six major facilities: Surgical and Allied Specialties, Medical and Allied Specialties, Diagnostic Facilities, Operation Theatre, Critical Care (NICU, PICU, Isolation & Accident Emergency), and a Blood Bank. The Maternal and Child Health Care Centre is a training institute with an attached hospital of 125 beds offering different clinical and operational services. PIMS consists of five academic institutes: Quaid-e-Azam Postgraduate Medical College, College of Nursing, College of Medical Technology, School of Nursing, and Mother and Child Health Centre.
PAEC General Hospital and teaching institute, established in 2006, is affiliated with the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. The hospital consists of a 100-bed facility and 10 major departments: Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatric, General Medicine, General Surgery, Intensive Care Unit/Coronary Care Unit, Orthopedics, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Radiology, and Dental Department. Shifa International Hospital is a teaching hospital in Islamabad that was founded in 1987 and became a public company in 1989. The hospital has 70 qualified consultants in almost all specialties, 150 IPD beds and OPD facilities in 35 different specialisations. According to the Federal Bureau of Statistics of the Government of Pakistan, in 2008, there were 12 hospitals, 76 dispensaries, and 5 Maternity and Child Welfare Centres in the city with a total of 5,158 beds.
Airports: Islamabad is connected to major destinations around the world through Benazir Bhutto International Airport, previously known as Islamabad International Airport. The airport is the third largest in Pakistan and is located outside Islamabad, in Chaklala, Rawalpindi. In fiscal year 2004–2005, over 2.88 million passengers used Benazir Bhutto International Airport and 23,436 aircraft movements were registered. The Islamabad Gandhara International Airport was built west of the city at a cost of $400 million and is expected to be operational by 14 August 2017. This will be the first green field airport in Pakistan with an area of 3,600-acre (15 km2).
The Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metrobus is a 24 km (14.9 mi) bus rapid transit system that serves the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad in Pakistan. It uses dedicated bus lanes for all of its route covering 24 bus stations.
M-2 Motorway is 367 km (228 mi) long and connect Islamabad and Lahore. M-1 Motorway connects Islamabad with Peshawar and is 155 km (96 mi) long. Islamabad is linked to Rawalpindi through the Faizabad Interchange, which has a daily traffic volume of about 48,000 vehicles.
Islamabad has a multi-purpose Sports Complex opposite Aabpara. The complex includes Liaquat Gymnasium for indoor games, Mushaf Squash Complex and Jinnah Stadium for outdoor games, which is a venue for regular national and international events. 2004 SAF Games were held in the stadium. There is another Multipurpose Sports Complex in the F6 Markaz. Offered facilities include Tennis courts, a basketball court with fibre-glass boards and a Futsal ground which introduced artificial turf to the people of Islamabad. Major sports in the city include Cricket, Football, Squash, Hockey, Table Tennis, Rugby and Boxing. The city is home to Islamabad United which won the first ever Pakistan Super League in 2016. Islamabad also has various rock climbing spots in the Margalla Hills. Swimming pools of Pakistan Sports Complex are good. There are three pools for children. These facilities attract a large gathering on weekends. Few swimmers, however, demand more hygienic conditions in showers and rest rooms.