Rawalpindi – A Step City?
Rawalpindi is not only a historic city of Pakistan but also a pseudo capital of Northern Punjab- the land of Pothwar Region. It is also the power centre of Pakistan, a home to Die-hard Muslim League politicians, a den of the most professional and patriotic army of the only Muslim nuclear state of the world, a city of martyrs of democracy, a city of champions of justice, a city of committed moderate conservative Muslims, a co-capital of Pakistan and unfortunately a step city of Punjab.
As a step son gets meals after the true son so is the case of Rawalpindi which gets development packages from budgets at the twilight of every government’s tenure. Having said that, there is no doubt that Rawalpindi is developing at a fair pace as second-best place in Punjab. Metro Bus project has brought a great relief to daily- travelling Babus from Rawalpindi to Islamabad. They used to suffer a lot due to local private transport systems in practice in terms of not only money but time and health also. The female employees were the ones who suffered the most but now are quite comfortable due to Metro Bus service.
Solid waste management setup for Rawalpindi again came to be another good effort to ease Pindiites after Lahore. Although it still needs to grow a lot bigger in order to handle even major Parts of Rawalpindi. However, it’s a good start that is working satisfactorily to an extent. Road infrastructure in the shape of ring roads and flyovers is the biggest need of the day in the face of tremendous growth of population and urbanization of surrounding areas. Choke points like Katchery Chowk and Islamabad linkages along-with a shorter signal free flyover between Rawat and Taxila for GT road travellers through Rawalpindi would be a solution for decades to come. Such a flyover would not only clear big mess in twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad caused by trucks, carriers and intercity bus services but will also reduce traffic load on local roads, express highway and GT road. This may also be an excellent effort to reduce huge spending on maintenance of these roads consequent to over load of traffic beyond their capacity. IJP road is another victim of this overload and traffic mess which inspite of continuous maintenance remains in a miserable shape.
Government has spent a lot in erecting overhead bridges for pedestrians on almost every major road in the city but due to poor education of masses and weak laws/ enforcement, they all remain critically under-used. At times one feels pity and frustrated at masses on witnessing road crossers right under the said bridges and meeting fatal accidents. These road crossing pedestrians are from all walks of life including young and old, educated and ignorant, males and females, children and parents alike. A pinch of fines may be a solution till people get educated on use of these bridges instead of giving them more such facilities. Development support communication campaigns may be solution to such issues instead of spending millions on development journalism.
Another sore issue somewhat related to waste management is sewerage planning and phased execution in a progressive manner to solve the issues of flooding by various riverine like Lehi, Swan and other sewerage outlets in twin cities. Such a plan has to be visionary, thinking minimum hundred year’s extrapolated data of requirements of expanding population like New York or any metropolitan city of the world. We know that poor sewerage system due to under capacity is the biggest cause of flooding streets, erosion of roads and damage to other public services like electricity, communication and drinking water contamination. Recent poisoning of Rawal Lake and huge fish loss is the consequence of lack of such planning.
Rawalpindi and Islamabad are twin cities which can only be differentiated by the looks and facilities otherwise there are no geographical differences. Islamabad does need an extra favour being capital city but Rawalpindi, left behind in development, needs much more. Recent announcement of development budget allocation and development plans by Punjab government is a highly-appreciated act. Pindiites look forward for delivery and execution at same Punjab speed as witnessed in recent development projects. A federal share to such activities along common grounds of twin cities from Rawat to Taxila would certainly raise morale of masses and bring commitments to ailing humanity around.
Rawalpindi, being one of the major hub of CPEC activities does deserve entitlement and focus of foreign funding too for development of its infrastructure to enable it for future assignments of CPEC activities. Mass transit systems along GT road may also be a good option between Rawat and Taxila linking current infrastructure and covering vital pickup points. A thought to consider is to widen current road network to accommodate metro in centre of current roads and linking stations can be through under or over passes of these arteries. This would not only reduce costs- which are tremendous due to sky-routes structure, but also be enjoying longer life and strength against earthquakes.
Rawalpindi is a natural hub and converging point to not only north-south but also east-west traffic especially from CPEC and Kashmir point of focus. It is also an ideological fortress of Pakistan and strong guard to Islamabad- the capital and face of Pakistan. It is a jump-off point to beauty of Pakistan- the northern areas. Rawalpindi needs due attention and share into development for getting ready to face future with open arms as usual and a big smile to its inhabitants and visitors. Wishing Pindiites a good luck, with completion of announced developments, at God’s speed.