In order to commemorate the golden jubilee of Pakistan’s federal capital, Islamabad, and to understand and examine its governance structure the Centre for Civic Education (CCE), Pakistan and the Forum of Federations arranged a roundtable conference on ‘Governance of the Federal Capital’ on December 7, 2010 in Islamabad.

The capital cities in most of the federally organized countries represent national diversity and are often viewed as symbols of national pride. Although many of the political, cultural, and symbolic functions of the capital cities in federal countries are similar but there is a considerable variation on how the capital cities are organized, managed and governed. In Pakistan, however, very little academic research has been done on the issues related to the governance of the federal capital. It is to fill this gap that the Centre organized a roundtable in which political leaders, economists, teachers, students, civil society activists, government officials, lawyers and journalists participated to share their views on the topic.

Mr. Zafarullah Khan, Executive Director, CCE, Pakistan during his opening remarks said assumptions were that authorities running the civic affairs of country’s federal capital will celebrate the golden jubilee but there was no such event. “We, therefore, decided to organize an event for collective soul searching on how much the federal capital is representative of the diversity of the federating units,” he said. This roundtable, Mr. Khan said was an opportunity to assess Islamabad’s role in representing cultural and social diversity of Pakistan’s federating units; how the capital had been governed over the years; what are the grey areas; and how to move forward.

Dr. Werner Thut, Vice President, Forum of Federations introducing the Forum said that it had been working to promote democracy and academic debate on federalism in federal systems across the world. Dr. Thut said that they only disseminated advice and share information on federalism. “As for as today’s topic is concerned, I believe that each capital has its own history and challenges. All we need is to identify the potential within so as to cope with the challenges. Solutions are always provided by the pioneers but sometimes need redemption efforts. So is the case, I think, with Islamabad’s case”, he said.

Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmad, Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi gave an overview of different models for the governance of federal capitals across the world. He said there is no one way of administering a federal capital as it always has a national role as well as a local role. “There are two types of capitals in federalist systems: historic and evolved like London and Delhi; and designed and planed like Washington, Canberra and Islamabad. Both types have different governance systems as is the case with three major models that are: Central districts e.g. Washington: federal territory with a legal status established constitutionally; City states e.g. Belgium and Germany: tend to have more powers than other cities but they don’t enjoy it; and Cities in provinces e.g. Canada, Switzerland, and South Africa: they may receive special funding from the federal government,” Dr. Jaffar said.

During his presentation on ‘Governance of Islamabad’ Mr. Zafarullah Khan talked about the reasons for choosing Islamabad as federal capital and why it remained controversial to this day because of its geographic proximity with military’s General Head Quarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. “Over-indulgence in controlling the affairs of Islamabad during military regimes clearly establishes the fact that military dictators always sought to strengthen the Centre so as to rule the country without any democratic consensus of federating units,” he said. He said Islamabad was the city of democratic imbalances. With more than three dozen parliamentarians living permanently in Islamabad it has also four seats in the Senate which if compared with the population and quotas of other federating units was bigger in ratio. He added that the city had two National Assembly seats but no provincial assembly seat and no local bodies system. “So it’s not fair to say that Islamabad is the seat of democracy as democracy is denied here,” he reiterated. He said that the citizens of Islamabad deserved better as far as the management of civic affairs was concerned. He also proposed establishing a Citizens’ Assembly in Islamabad.

Senator Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, Leader of the House in the Senate said that over the years a bad perception was created about efficiency and management of peoples’ representatives. “Established in 1960 Islamabad has grown up now much enough to have its own local bodies system,” he said adding that the Capital Development Authority (CDA) should remain a development authority only and all other matters should be given to public representatives. Senator Bukhari said that over the years governments had plundered job quotas of the natives of Islamabad. Referring to the Civil Service Rules he said all appointments from pay scale 1-15 should have been made from local people. Welcoming the establishment of Islamabad High Court he hoped it would help in speedy dispensation of cases.
He said local bodies system was direly needed for Islamabad not only to provide decent transport facilities but also to put an end to environmental degradation and illegal development and construction.

Dr. Pervez Tahir, Former Chief Economist of Pakistan, during his presentation on Financing Federal Capital said that Article 1(2) of the Constitution of Pakistan, mentioned Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) as a separate entity in the territorial definition of Pakistan. It is not a province and had no share in the National Finance Commission Award nor it is an area like Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) which is financed by a federal ministry, he said. “The interior ministry controls the ICT administration, which performs the traditional functions of a district and division. The rural area lies in its domain. The urban area is managed by the Capital Development Authority (CDA),” said Dr. Tahir.

Ex-Senator Dr. Shahzad Waseem, Former Minister of State for Interior said that despite being seat of democracy Islamabad was not being governed democratically. “Ironically, Islamabad’s most acute civic problem is water shortage. This is so because only five officers of CDA are running the affairs of local governance. Elected local bodies bring accountability mechanisms with them, absence of which is creating a mess in governance of the federal capital,” he added.

Mr. Khawaja Zaheer, Former Federal Secretary, said that we had overburdened the public exchequer with two sets of governance structures for one city. “As head of Islamabad Capital Territory I mapped every inch of rural Islamabad and we planned to develop it in collaboration with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). But nobody let us function despite our repeated efforts. The CDA purchase everybody with plots,” former federal secretary said. Dr. Ehtasham Anwar, Director Excise Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) said the biggest dilemma was that Islamabad had no local government. “The city is being administered by two different departments which in turn are being managed by two different ministries i.e. CDA by the Ministry of Interior and ICT by the Cabinet Division which often results in confusion”, said Dr. Ehtasham.

Mr. Rawal Khan Maitla, Director General Civic Management, a department of the CDA said they would welcome recommendations to correct flaws in governance of the federal capital. Dr. Afzal Babur, representative of Private Schools Network, Islamabad said around one hundred thousand children in Islamabad had no school to attend to. “Many students, mostly girls, cannot continue their education after intermediate due to affiliation of colleges and institutes with University of the Punjab in Lahore. Non-availability of a proper transport system is another hindrance. The people have become victims of the conflict of Responsibilities between CDA and ICT,” said Dr. Babur.


  • A local government system for Islamabad is must as it is the seat of democracy in Pakistan and can’t deny this right to citizens of Islamabad.
  • Founding of Citizens’ Assembly in collaboration with the civil society organizations working for the democratic rights of the people of Pakistan.
  • The Capital Development Authority should remain a development authority and all other matters should be given to the elected representatives.
  • All colleges in Islamabad must be affiliated with Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
  • Environmental considerations must be taken into account well before planning and executing developmental projects. Industrial zones should be shifted to locations at distance from residential sectors.
  • Regulations and by-laws of Pakistan Environment Protection Agency should be complied in letter and spirit.
  • Natives of Islamabad should be given their full quota in jobs from pay scale 1-15 in all future appointments within the territorial limits of federal capital.
  • Special efforts need to be made to bridge the gap between urban and rural population of Islamabad.
  • Efforts should be made to make Islamabad reflect the cultural diversity of the federating units of Pakistan.
  • New housing societies should be developed in transparent manner under the oversight of Development Working Committees consisting of public representatives.
  • In order to provide the 1.5 million population of Islamabad the CDA and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) should provide with decent transport facilities particularly for students. It may be done by seeking financial assistance from Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
  • Effort to eliminate the revenue deficit by increasing tax revenue base especially through property taxes.
  • Need to come up with a long-term financing vision for the Federal Capital.