Islamabad-One of the core announcements made by the newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan to convert his official residence, the Prime Minister House into an advanced research university is not permissible under the existing master plan of the capital city.
Islamabad’s master plan was prepared by a Greek firm, Doxiadis in 1960 and it had bifurcated the federal capital into different zones, areas and centres according to their specific use. There was a great wisdom behind each and every component of the master plan and implementing the same in letter and spirit can only preserve the image of Islamabad as one of the most well-planned cities of the world.
According to the master plan, the Prime Minister House is located at the Admin Centre, which is elaborated as a seat of the government functionaries. Admin centre is an area starting from Prime Minister Secretariat to the Kohsar Complex at Margalla Avenue while it is surrounded by 4th Avenue and Constitution Avenue on its east and west sides respectively. The Admin Centre is earmarked for government buildings only i.e. PM office, Supreme Court, Parliament House, Pakistan Secretariat, Cabinet Secretariat etc. and there is no possibility to house a public or private university in any of the building situated inside Admin Centre.
“The master plan does not permit to use Prime Minister House as a university”, a senior officer of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) maintained, adding; “But, if the premier will stick to his idea then he will have to amend the master plan.” The officer explained further that the Federal Government is only mandated to make changes in the master plan but an initial summary in this regard is to be prepared by CDA. On the other side, security experts believe that the presence of a huge number of students inside the red zone is otherwise a continuous threat to the security of the area and they consider it as an unwise decision.
“There is a whole H-series having multiple sectors, which are reserved for educational institutions”, a senior town planner said, commenting: “Imran Khan should develop new and existing universities in these reserved institutional sectors instead of violating master plan.” However, the city managers at large while responding to Imran Khan’s decision, suggested that the government should use Prime Minister Office as a State Guest House instead of a university or research centre. They argued that using Prime Minister House as State Guest House will not only save billions of rupees planned to spend on the latter’s construction but the purpose is also be consistent with the use specified in the master plan.
The State Guest House was announced by the previous government envisioning that it would accommodate the visiting heads of state and government and other foreign dignitaries because of the absence of a state guest house, the high-level foreign guests are accommodated at a five-star hotel in the capital.
A piece of land measuring 25 acres alongside the Margalla Avenue was already earmarked for the construction of the said guest house. The estimated cost of the purposed building having capacity to accommodate eight heads of state and their staff and delegations at a time is seven billion while an amount of Rs500 million has been allocated in Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2016-17 for the said project.
When contacted, the Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry responded that it was the personal wish of Prime Minister Imran Khan but the final decision would be made by a committee constituted in this regard. Replying to a question about the possibility of using PM House as the State Guest House, Chaudhry said: “The committee will discuss the matter in detail and a final decision would be announced soon after taking all the aspects into consideration.”