Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan, and development in the city lives up to that title. Not only is it among the biggest of the country’s metropolises, it is also widely regarded to be the best-developed of all of them, a logically-planned city that also holds the record for the highest literacy rate in Pakistan. Not that it is lacking in ancient history either: a number of ancient artefacts have been discovered in its territories and environs, some of them even dating to prehistoric times.
The process by which Islamabad became the capital after Karachi (or more strictly, Karachi and then Rawalpindi) is nothing short of fascinating for those interested in geopolitical decision-making. The original capital, Karachi, was decided in the middle of the 20th century to be far too easy to attack from the Arabian Sea given its location, and not in a location easily accessible from other parts of the country. Islamabad was not chosen as a default: it was the winner out of several sites that were reviewed by a commission created specifically for the purpose of determining which location would be ideal for political as well as living purposes (even attributes of climate were considered by the commission). Once the new location was selected, the process of transfer began and the result was a liveable, grid-based city that was more centrally located than the previous capital and which lay just a short distance away from the major military forces based in Rawalpindi while being a moderate tactical distance from areas of contention like the current J&K or Jammu and Kashmir region (India’s Srinagar is just 300km away).
While Islamabad (Islam’s abode) is aptly named, having a majority of Muslims as the rest of the Pakistan does, there is a fascinating shift towards the modern in many of its Islamic expressions, not least in its architecture. Many people who come here are astounded by monuments such as the Faisal Mosque (once the biggest mosque in the world and known for having no domes whatsoever), the Pakistan Monument, and even office buildings such as the Saudi-Pak Tower, which provide sterling examples of what shapes modern Islamic architecture is taking. Not that the older styles are not represented, from Pharmala to Rawat Fort to the half-millennium-old Hindu temples of the original base for Islamabad, Saidpur, there are a great many places of historic and archaeological interest around. The shrine Aurangzeb built for Shah Abdul Latif Kazmi is here as well.
Those seeking more shall not be disappointed. Islamabad is not short of museums, has a decent zoo, a fine national park, a lake (Rawal Lake) where people do everything from diving to sailing, and some of the best eateries as well as shopping places in all of Pakistan. The city is quite friendly to the traveller too, with good transport services (taxis and autos for hire are abundant) and its own international airport, the Benazir Bhutto International Airport. More and more travellers entering Pakistan are actually choosing to enter by way of this airport first, as a matter of fact, which is not a bad way to get started on a trip to the country.