Abbottabad, As It Was Never Meant To Be

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

21 Comments on “Abbottabad, As It Was Never Meant To Be”

  1. Rehan says:
    August 21st, 2009 12:30 pm

    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…

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

  2. Adam Insaan says:
    August 21st, 2009 12:41 pm

    …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:
    August 21st, 2009 12:52 pm

    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:
    August 21st, 2009 1:02 pm

    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 :-)

  5. mano says:
    August 21st, 2009 1:21 pm

    Rehan, the photograph looks more like a sketch…

  6. Rehan says:
    August 21st, 2009 1:49 pm

    I urge readers to follow other pictures of abbotabad on the flickr site which adil referenced. for example:

  7. Aurangzeb. says:
    August 21st, 2009 1:55 pm

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

  8. Former Abbottabadi says:
    August 21st, 2009 1:59 pm

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

  9. Owais Mughal says:
    August 21st, 2009 2:07 pm

    I was all over the place with my guesses :) and so were some other people. My favourite remains the guess of ‘Shaikhupura’ from a commentor on facebook.

  10. Adnan Ahmad says:
    August 21st, 2009 2:26 pm

    May be a little search on google or flickr won’t hurt next time before we respond.. :). I enjoyed the quiz. One suggestion for future quizzes is that may be you should make them more complicated along the lines of the game and also the tv program “Kasoti.” Needless to say that the readership of this blog has gone some ways from the summer of 06 and is capable of handling such not so easy quizzes.

  11. ATP Fan says:
    August 21st, 2009 2:27 pm

    I salute the creators of this website and posts like this.

    You take a simple picture of a city like Abbottabad that most of us would have ignored and you turn it into a meaningful and important conversation about what is happening to our cities, while other sites keep cribbing about politics and slogans and the nonsense we see from TV talk shows.

    Only ATP can do this and I thank you for it.

    What is happening to our cities is a real crisis. Part of this is population but even more it is attitude and values. That will make our future.

  12. Farrukh says:
    August 21st, 2009 6:28 pm

    You are right that does look like earthquake hit. It is sad what we have done to all our cities.

  13. August 22nd, 2009 4:22 am

    Hmm, I was wrong too.

  14. fuzair says:
    August 22nd, 2009 9:06 am

    Truly sad what we have done to our environment. Combine domestic overpopulation with Afghan refugees with overall jahiliyat and this is what you get.

    I remember Abbotabad from 1978-79 when my father was posted nearby; it was still a charming place then but you could see the signs of the future….

  15. August 22nd, 2009 9:47 am

    Well, After Earthquake 2005 mass migration has been noted to urban areas of Abbottabad and Mansehra, I am sure that Abbottabad would not be same if tragedy hadn’t occurred.
    2ndly, I am in favor of theory that urban areas have been badly neglected and been not properly managed for planning since we are having “Nazims” in place of Municipal Committees.
    Owais Mughal: What makes you think like that?

  16. Aqil says:
    August 23rd, 2009 5:41 am

    Good post about what we are doing to our cities and environment.
    Even the originally well-planned, beautiful Islamabad is being raped.

  17. August 23rd, 2009 12:01 pm

    You can have a look at my collection of Abbottabad Images

  18. Adnan says:
    August 24th, 2009 7:41 am

    In Abbottabad one must thank Pakistan Army for preserving whatever greenery and open spaces still left in the city.

  19. jawad says:
    September 3rd, 2009 2:00 pm

    nice article…

  20. WAQAS A QURESHI says:
    October 11th, 2009 8:49 am

    Hmmm….I born in abbottabad in the era of 1985, later on I migrated for studies to the different place, n then later on I left the country but still I keep visiting our homeland Abbottabad..As I have seen in all thos pics, buddies this is not Abbottaabd.this city is full of beauties whispering pines and cool envoirnment.So plz before making any image of my city plz do visit that place, and you will see that how beautiful it iz…
    thanks .keep traveling and smiling

  21. annie says:
    April 14th, 2010 2:37 am

    Great article. Very nice information.

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