The city was built during the 1960s to replace Karachi as Pakistan's capital. However the capital was not moved directly from Karachi to Islamabad but first moved from Karachi to Rawalpindi then to Islamabad. The development of the country was focused on Karachi and President Ayub Khan wanted it to be equally distributed. Islamabad is a modern and clean city, especially in comparison to other cities in Pakistan. It is well-organized, with the city being divided into different sectors and zones. Islamabad was divided into eight zones: the diplomatic enclave, the commercial district, the educational sector, the industrial area and so on, each with its own shopping area and park. Islamabad is also home to the Faisal Masjid which is well known for its architecture and immense size. The construction cost of the mosque was donated by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.
Construction of Islamabad began during the 1960s and was based on a master plan drawn up by the Greek firm of architects, Doxiadis Associates, which called for a triangular shaped grid system with its apex towards the Margalla Hills. The reasons for Islamabad's construction as a forward capital included the following:
Islamabad is home to people from diverse regions, which gives the city a rich cross cultural atmosphere. It is well organized, and divided into different sectors and zones. The city is known for the nearby beauty of Margalla Hills; the sculpted gardens of the Shakarparian National Monument; The Heritage Museum; and Faisal Mosque which is well known for its architecture. Since 2002, Islamabad has been undergoing a re-development phase. Nearly all of its main roads and highways are being expanded. A number of new under-passes have been built for the benefit of the rising number of motorists. The city is seeing many new modern buildings, with the cars of the traffic police patrolling highways and roads, renovation of the parks, and a sharp rise in the sale of electronic goods and household items and furniture.
The city is situated at the edge of the Pothohar plateau, south of the Margalla Hills. The modern capital Islamabad and the ancient Gakhar city of Rawalpindi stand side by side, displaying the country’s past and present. The area's micro-climate is regulated by three man-made lakes (Rawal, Simli and Khanpur Dam). The city overall has an extreme climate with hot summers with monsoon rains occurring during July and August, and fairly cold winters with sparse snowfall over the hills and sleet in the city. The weather ranges from a minimum of in January to a maximum of in June.
The modern city of Islamabad was envisaged as the new capital of Pakistan in the 1960s. In the mid 1960's the capital was shifted from Karachi to Islamabad, with most of the Government machinery shifting to Islamabad, along with the foreign embassies, though off-shoots of some of these remain even today in Karachi. The city was built as a planned city and has been divided into various sectors on a "grid". One axis is indexed numerically, the other alphabetically.
The surrounding areas of Islamabad include:
The Islamabad area has surprising religious diversity of considerable antiquity. A shrine of Sufi Pir Mehar Ali Shah is at Golra while the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Kazmi is in Nurpur Shahan. Saidpur Village hosts Hindu temples that have striking architecture and "Bethak of Zinda Pir" which is famous for the traditional lamps (diyas).
Islamabad is a relatively young city compared to the other cities. However, the views from the sculpted gardens of Islamabad's Shakar Parian Hills, National Monument, the fascinating Heritage Museum, and the huge marble Shah Faisal Mosque are the major highlights of the city. To the west of Islamabad is the town of Taxila, dating from 500 BC with heavy Buddhist influences. Sculptures here show a strong Greek influence, a result of Alexander the Great's journey through the region. The commercial center of Islamabad is known as the Blue Area and runs along the length of Jinnah Avenue. Its eastern end runs into Parliament Road, where the majority of the country's government buildings are located.
The city is very green, with much afforestation of what was formerly scrub forest and open ground. The city's pleasant climate has enabled the introduction of many exotic plants to the area. There is also much wildlife in the north in the Margalla hills, which have been turned into a national park. The Margalla hills are home to various species of wild life including a variety of exotic birds and carnivores such as the rare and presently endangered Margalla leopards.
Islamabad's architecture walks a tight-rope between modernity and tradition. The Saudi-Pak Tower is a good example of the combination of modern and traditional styles into one building. The city is also home to the Faisal Mosque, which is well-known for its architecture and immense size. Quaid-i-Azam University is also located in the capital city along with numerous government buildings and foreign embassies such as the National Assembly building, the Supreme Court building, the President's official residence (Aiwan-e-Sadr) and the Prime Minister's secretariat. Another landmark is a giant silver-colored Globe statue, installed in 2004 to mark Pakistan's hosting of that year's SAARC Summit. Recently, Atkins UK have designed a striking building for the capital, The Centaurus, reflecting the Margalla hills surrounding it. This will be the tallest structure in Islamabad, second only to proposed taller skyscrapers in Karachi and Lahore.
Recently, Islamabad has seen an expansion of information and communications technology, Call centers for foreign companies have been targeted as a significant area of growth, with the government making efforts to reduce taxes by as much as 10% in order to gain foreign investments in the IT sector.
According to the 1998 census, Punjabis account for 71% of the population followed by the Muhajir Urdu at around 10%, Pashtun at 10% and others (Sindhi, Balochi, Kashmiri's, etc) at 9% . The city is also host to many foreigners from around the globe and families of dignataries.
The New Islamabad International Airport is a international airport that is being built to serve the city of Islamabad, Pakistan. The airport is located in Fateh Jang, which is 30 km south-west of the city. Construction of the airport began in April 2007, after a decade long postponement. It is expected to be completed and operational in approximetely three years. It will then take all the commercial flights that are currently operating out of the Islamabad International Airport. The Airport will be named as "Gandhara International Airport" after the ancient Buddhist kingdom.Estimated to cost about $400 million, the new Airport facility, which is the first green-field airport in Pakistan, shall comprise a contemporary state-of-the-art passenger terminal building, control tower, runway with a provision of a secondary runway, taxiways, apron, cargo complex, and hangar together with all the necessary infrastructure and ancillary facilities. It would cater to the requirements of latest generation of modern passenger aircraft.
Islamabad is divided into several different sectors, each identified by a letter of the Roman alphabet and a number, with each sector covering an area of approximately 2 km x 2 km (1 x 1 mi). Each sector is further divided into 4 sub-sectors. The sectors currently in use are lettered from D to I.
Currently, there is only one D sector, D-12. Although this sector is underdeveloped with its development to be completed in 2008, it will be considered as one of the most beautiful sectors of Islamabad because of its location near the Margalla Hills. However, in the revised Master Plan, CDA has decided to develop new sectors including D-13 and D-14. The E sectors are numbered from E-6 to E-18. Many foreigners and diplomatic personnel are housed in this sector. But with new revised Master Plan, CDA has decided to develop a park on the patterns of F-9 park in sector E-14. Sector E-8 and E-9 contain the campuses of three Defense universities Bahria University (Sector E-8), Air University (Sector E-9) and National Defence College (now National Defence University).
The F sectors are numbered F-5 through F-12. F-5 is an important sector for the software industry in Islamabad, as both of the two software technology parks are located here. The entire sector of F-9 is dedicated for the Fatima Jinnah Park. The Centaurus complex (including a 7 star plaza, 5 star hotel and apartments) will be one of the major landmarks of F-8.
The G sectors are numbered G-5 through G-16. Some important landmarks include the Convention Center, CASE and Serena Hotel in G-5, the Lal Mosque and Melody Market in G-6, the Karachi Company shopping center in G-9 (named after a construction company from Karachi who made one of the first flats in this area in and around 1978) and the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) hospital in G-8 which is the largest medical complex in the capital and is hence also known by the locals as simply the 'Complex Hospital.' The Institute is a national centre of excellence and tertiary referral centre. With its own helipad it was the focal point of rescue missions and the point of referral for the most seriously wounded in the Northern Areas earthquake of 2005.
The H sectors are numbered H-7 through H-12. The H sectors are mostly dedicated to educational and health institutions. Sector H-12 is allocated to National University of Science and Technology (NUST) for construction of its new campus.
The I sectors are numbered I-8 through I-18. Except for I-8, these sectors are primarily set aside as part of the industrial zone. Only Two sub-sectors of Sector I-9 and one sub-sector of sector I-10 is used as Industrial Area. Sector I-11 is proposed site of a state-of-art Vegetable and Fruit Market. CDA has planned to relocate the operating Veg. and Fruit market from I-11 to Sangjani. Sector I-15 is a new sector for Low-income group. CDA is planning to set up Islamabad Railway Station in Sector I-18 and Industrial City in proposed sector I-17.
There is no proper District Government setup in ICT but efforts are being made towards the establishment of a local Government system in the ICT, which is still not in place in ICT as local government systems exist in other parts of the country. In 2005, the Ministry of Interior divided the ICT into 40 union councils — 20 union councils in rural/urban areas of the ICT. However, the Union Council system is yet to be implemented. The 20 union councils each cover the following regions of the ICT (the name in brackets refers to each council's jurisdiction, named after a main town in the area covered by each council, e.g. Rewat or Tarnol):