The October 2005 Earthquake was a turning point in the history of Pakistan since many businesses that had demonstrated flourishing trends before this earthquake plummeted in a fashion never witnessed before. Although economic aftershocks were felt throughout the country, we shall focus on how Islamabad reacted to the challenge. Real estate prices in Islamabad fell rapidly and investors, who were the main beneficiary of the ongoing business activity, suffered huge losses. Consequently, huge amount of investment was withdrawn from real estate market, which therefore allowed the genuine purchasers of property to demonstrate their presence during the coming years. PWD Colony, Bahria Town, Soan Garden, Doctor’s Town, National Police Foundation (Sector O-9), Pakistan Town, Korang Town and the neighboring areas were the most approachable areas for genuine buyers of Islamabad; both in terms of prices and access.
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A quick look at the conditions of these areas before 2010 is essential to get insight into how rapidly this area transformed during the following years. Perhaps the most well developed town in this area, before 2010 was Bahria Town. The most densely populated areas were PWD, Pakistan Town and Korang Town. As a result, property prices in these areas were higher as compared to the other towns in this area. Schooling opportunities were limited and most families living in the area were compelled to send their children to Rawalpindi or Islamabad for this purpose. Health care services were also very limited and most families living in these areas had to travel to health facilities located within the main city areas. Perhaps the most widely prevalent business in these areas was real estate business; PWD main double road, which today has become the main commercial center of the area, contained businesses like property dealing, barbers, general stores and the likes. Not even a single superstore was operating on this road before 2010.
These areas witnessed a rapid change during the years following 2010. One prominent example is that of PWD main double road. People, who owned properties on the PWD main double road, started using their residential properties for commercial purposes. This trend became widely prevalent; so much so that within two years, many businesses had already established themselves on this road. This tendency became more widespread when franchises of many nationally famous businesses started appearing on this road. Financial institutions, especially banks spotted this opportunity and responded by establishing their branches in a competitive manner. Investors of the area who were already looking for an opportunity to invest, found this trend to be very lucrative and hence started investing in development of huge buildings that could cater to the needs of emerging businesses.
Most families that shifted to these areas from within Islamabad or Rawalpindi, belonged to the working class who had jobs in these cities. They moved to these areas for better accommodation at comparatively cheaper prices, since living within main city was expensive. Moreover, many families from Karachi also shifted to these areas due to the political instability that was prevalent there at that time. This rapid influx of people contributed towards increasing the number of consumers in these areas, which benefitted the businesses further. This influx of people coupled with rapidly expanding business opportunities concluded in extreme 'gentrification', which increased living costs in the area.
Although these areas continue to progress at a rapid pace, and many facilities like education and health have demonstrated a growing trend, (which has contributed towards improvement in living conditions of residents), many problems have also emerged simultaneously. One major problem is the huge burden of traffic that is evident on Islamabad expressway during office hours. Internal roads of these areas also get choked very frequently. Well-designed areas like the DHA are less affected; since they have developed their road plans accordingly. It is expected that extension plan of Islamabad expressway (upto T-Chock, Rawat) will contribute significantly towards reduction of traffic problem in this area.
As more and more brands and businesses continue to emerge in this area, the residents are becoming more adopted to the lifestyle that is shaped by these businesses. Shopping habits of residents are rapidly changing and many families that used to visit main markets of Rawalpindi or Islamabad, are now turning towards local businesses for their purchases. Recreational activities in the form of swimming pools, bowling clubs, fun lands, restaurants and 3D cinemas etc. are increasingly becoming available in different towns/societies of the area. The gold mine is therefore inviting more and more miners; a trend that will perhaps continue for an extended period of time.