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The Development of Rural Areas in Context of Islamabad’s Master Plan and Urbanization

By 10/11/2021 November 15th, 2021 0 Comments


Islamabad, the renowned capital city of Pakistan, was designed by the Greek architect and town planner Constantinos Doxiadis. The aerial view of Islamabad presents the city in a distinguished ‘Grid-Iron Pattern’, expanding on the array of parallel lines emanating from the centre. (Hull, 502). The original Master Plan divided the city into five zones: In Zone 1, the Islamabad Capital Development Authority (CDA) was allowed to acquire land for purposes of development of the capital; Zones 2 and 5 were reserved for the development of housing societies; Zone 3 was classified as the Reserved Area; while Zone 4 included parks, educational institutions and agricultural activities. The city was planned as an exclusive administrative city designed for the ruling elite of the country (PIDE, 2020). The Master Plan, as revolutionary as it looked at the time of inception, was not as futuristic and practical in approach as it could have been. The planned city did not include a Commercial Business District in any zone(s) or a plan of expansion of the peripheral rural areas. Doxiadis called Islamabad a ‘dynapolis’, which means a dynamic metropolis expanding unhindered into the future, however, he designed Islamabad on the sole premise of ‘exclusion’, in a way that each sector was excluded from the other, limiting people to their sectors with everything available within the confines of a particular sector (Hull, 2008). Perhaps, the ideology of the Master Plan infiltrated the mindsets of the people inhabiting Islamabad, reminiscing the dead-city in its old glory, unapproachable and exclusive, but strikingly beautiful capital city of Pakistan.

This research article by the Iqbal Institute of Policy Studies will discuss the future development of rural areas in Islamabad, the possible socio-legal issues arising out of such development, and the zoning of Islamabad in urban space and expansion of the city.

Development of Rural Areas in Islamabad

Urbanisation is arguably the most critical issue of the 21st Century. In the context of Islamabad, the various reasons for the uncontrolled urbanization include the exclusionary design of the city, lack of development in rural areas, outdated technologies used for agriculture, particularly in the context of agrarian economies like Pakistan, surplus capital being invested in housing societies, land acquisition or expropriation by CDA for purposes of housing societies, and exploitation of the law. Recently, the Government of Pakistan, through the Minister of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, Mr Asad Umer, announced that they would improve the governance in rural Areas of Islamabad by re-structuring them on the basis of Zones. This is a prodigious step towards humanizing Islamabad and preserving its essence as the true capital city of Pakistan. The rural structure of Islamabad comprises 23 Union Councils, including 133 villages, whereas the urban structure comprises 21 Union Councils (UNICEF, 2020). It is disheartening to say that the focus of the state and its functionaries has always been on the development of the urban areas. The grave neglect of the rural areas is evident from a bleak comparison of the quality of life and basic facilities of the rural areas as compared to the urban localities. One may argue that urban centres generate economic activity; however, for agrarian economies, the development of rural areas is equally important for the growth and prosperity of the nation as a whole. The rapid growth of population vis a vis the expansion of the city demands rapid action on the development of rural areas. The population of Islamabad in the year 2020 was 1,095,064, and it is estimated to grow up to 2.2 Million by the year 2030 (UNICEF, 2020). Moreover, there has been an apparent increase in the propagation of slums across the city and its rural areas, including Sihala, Barakahu, Tarnol etc.

These contributive factors point us back to the Master Plan of Islamabad, which needs a revision to accommodate the changing needs of the city. The original [exclusionary] Master Plan is not sufficient to sustain the rapidly urbanizing city with regards to the new spatial dynamics developing in the context of rural areas.

Redressal of Issues Arising from The Development of Rural Areas

As discussed, the development of rural areas is crucial to mitigate the issues arising from widespread urbanization. However, the interplay of various social, legal, political and economic factors must be taken into consideration. First and foremost is the Right to the City; the original Master Plan of Islamabad conveniently excluded the rural areas as well as the underprivileged sections of the society. According to the imminent scholar, David Harvey, the incorporation of diverse social, economic and cultural aspects are important in the production of urban space; making it a collective experience, rather than an individualistic or exclusionary reality, where everyone is ‘accepted’ and ‘incorporated’ in the space thus produced (Harvey, 2012). To this end, the right to the city becomes important in relation to urban space, and the city is the custodian of this right socially, politically and economically. Secondly, for the development of rural areas, the government must protect the stakeholders’ interests while acquiring property(s) for such development. The government should learn from history and not repeat the injustices committed by the CDA for land acquisition in the 1960s at the time of the development of Islamabad. Thirdly, the implementation of the Islamabad Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2020, should be the priority for the government to streamline the process for rural development. The government has also announced the consolidation of local government laws of Islamabad, where the power will flow from MCI, and CDA will act as a regulator. Therefore, it is imperative to develop the rural areas to control the impacts of urbanization and haphazard expansion of the city, and to create a diverse social fabric; fitting for the most beautiful capital city of the world.


Islamabad was planned on the pattern of grid-like structure with green belts, public parks, educational institutions, housing societies and agricultural lands, divided into different zones. One of the most well-known planned cities in the world at the time, the Master Plan of Islamabad needs revision, in the context of the expansion of the city and urbanization. The Master Plan excluded the underprivileged communities as well as the rural areas. The disproportional development and deteriorating rural sectors in the agrarian economy of Pakistan is one of the most pressing reasons for the uncontrolled urbanization in Islamabad. The announcement of the Government of Pakistan to develop the rural areas of Islamabad, and by dividing them into zones, is a steppingstone for rural development, which entails proper planning and a futuristic approach to avoid making mistakes of the past.


Harvey, D. (2012). Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. Verso Books, MPublishing, University of Michigan Library. Retrieved from

Hull, M. S. (2008). Ruled by Records: The Expropriation of Land and the Misappropriation of Lists in Islamabad. American Ethnologist, 35(4), 501-518. Retrieved from

Report of Profile of Slums/Underserved Areas of Islamabad City – The Federal Capital of Pakistan. (July 2020). UNICEF. Retrieved from of Underserved Areas of Islamabad City – The Federal Capital of Pakistan.pdf.

The Islamabad MasterPlan. (2020). PIDE POLICY VIEWPOINT, 16 (2020). Retrieved November 09, 2021, from

Research Questions

How is Islamabad’s development history important for the future of the city’s rural development?

What is the impact of Islamabad’s master plan on city design and infrastructure?

What can be done to address the issues associated with developing urban areas of Islamabad in context of the city’s master plan?

Key Takeaways

The Master Plan of Islamabad is exclusionary and does not include the underprivileged sections of the society and the rural areas of Islamabad.

The re-structuring of Islamabad by developing the rural areas is imperative to development of rural areas is imperative to control the impacts of urbanization.

The right to the city must be re-imagined by incorporating diverse social, economic and cultural aspects to create a collective urban space.

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