Abbottabad, As It Was Never Meant To Be

Posted on August 21, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Architecture, ATP Quiz, Environment
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Adil Najam

I must confess that the response to our last ATP Quiz came as a bit of a surprise.

The picture was taken in 2005 and is a birds-eye view of Abbottabad. As readers have pointed out, there is plenty wrong with it. What had prompted me to ask the question was that this picture was so very (and sadly) different from whatever Abbottabad is in the imagination of most Pakistanis.

Maybe it is only our imagination playing games with us, but even so, what a sad thought that is!

I found the picture at a flickr page dedicated to the heritage and environment of Abbottabad (and elsewhere) and full of amazing pictures of Abbottabad and of how the heritage and environment of this wonderful place is being squandered. At another time we should carry more pictures from that page here. but this particular photograph so Infuriated my sensibilities that I had to put it up. Yo can see a much bigger version of the picture here, and an annotated version here.

Of the three pictures above, the first (larger one) is of the Abbottabad that was, circa 1956. The second, of course, is the picture in the quiz (click for larger view) and the third, interestingly, is a view of something called Pine View Road. “Pine View”, indeed.

Abbottabad, at least in my constructed memory is meant to be serene, cool, quiet, quaint, peaceful, natural, fresh, nostalgic, clean, and so much more. This picture shows that the reality of Abbottabad today is anything but. Indeed, it is so much less.

Sad indeed. As the original title of the picture suggests a concrete jungle has replaced old pine and chinar forests of yore. And in the mind-boggling of urban sprawl. That people did not see roads is because the roads are small and encroached. That they did not see people may just be the scale of the photograph.

But what was most telling was how many people thought this was a picture from after an earthquake. With urban planning like this, who needs an earthquake to mess up a wonderful city!

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21 responses to “Abbottabad, As It Was Never Meant To Be”

  1. Rehan says:

    Ahh.. Shame on me ..i belong to this city and I was unable to guess it. I thought its Muzaffarabad after earthquake like many others.
    Here is a real Old picture of Abbottabad published in a London newspaper in 1863…

    http://www.old-print.net/MAR1009/MAR1009299.jpg

    You will be surprised that there are hardly any tree in the picture :-s

  2. Adam Insaan says:

    …so sadly it is . We need some visionary city-achitechts, we need some infrastructure-planning indeed in Abottabad
    (as well as in other cities of Pakistan) , and we might need a modern Pakistani a l

  3. ASAD says:

    As Adil says, it may only be our imagination, but yes this is not what I imagine Abbottabad to be. Whether it ever had many trees or not, it was a place with a character and visitors would talk about it and want to go there. From this picture I wonder if they still do.

  4. ASAD says:

    Interesting… just saw this in the ATP 3 Years Ago section that on this day 3 years ago you also had a GUESS THE CITY quiz that most people had also gotten wrong :-)

    http://pakistaniat.com/2006/08/21/picture-of-the-d ay-guess-the-city/

  5. mano says:

    Rehan, the photograph looks more like a sketch…

  6. Aurangzeb. says:

    I thought its Muzaffarabad after earthquake like many others.Here is a real Old picture of Abbottabad published in a London newspaper in 1863

  7. Former Abbottabadi says:

    I was born in Abbottbad in 62. Moved to Islamabad in 72. (I was Adil Anjum

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