Karachi's Bahria Town being built on the outskirts of Pakistan's financial capital is among the world's largest privately developed and managed cities. It is spread over an area of a little over 70 square miles, larger than the 49 square miles area of San Francisco. When completed, Bahria Town will house over a million people, more than the entire population of San Francisco.
Bahria Town Karachi
The city comes complete with private roads, community parks, mosques, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, libraries, business parks, restaurants, recreation facilities, sports grounds, shopping malls etc. It has been the subject of litigation by local villagers who claim that their land was unlawfully taken away from them to build this new city. Pakistan Supreme Court recently reviewed their cases and forced a settlement worth Rs. 406 billion to be paid by Bahria Town developer named Malik Riaz Hussain.
Bahria Town and other similar private cities and gated communities are popular with Pakistan's rising middle class. They are looking to escape the chaos of the nation's burgeoning cities unable to cope with the massive and uncontrolled waves of urbanization. The issues facing Pakistani cities range from lack of basic services to rising urban crime.
The private city promises to “turn the vision of modern Pakistan into a reality”, with private and secure supplies of water, gas and electricity, garbage collection as well as private security and well maintained wide tree-lined roads.
In a recent article published by India's Scroll.in, Samira Shackle argues that "the reason a privatized city is so much quicker and easier to build is not down to the inherent superiority of the free market, but because it removes power from people and communities and centralizes it into the hands of one person or corporation". "This is the same dynamic at play in China, for example, where the nominally communist government has been able to build vast new towns and cities from scratch because it doesn’t have to worry about eminent domain or democratic accountability", Shackle explains.
Eden Housing Gated Community in Lahore, Pakistan
These communities cater to insatiable demand for world-class and well-appointed housing with modern infrastructure including well-built wide roads and reliable supply of water and electricity. Additionally, they offer various state-of-the-art amenities such as schools, hospitals, mosques, restaurants, theaters, shopping malls and parks located within secure communities, according to a report by Adrian Bishop, editor of Opp.Today.
Gated communities are being offered at multiple price points and payment plans that suit not just the rich but the middle class buyers as well. They offer condos (flats), townhouses and single-family homes on lot sizes ranging from 125 square yards to 2000 square yards. These communities are fueling a construction boom in Pakistan.
Defense Housing Authority (DHA), Bahria Town (Malik Riaz), Eden Housing (Aleem Khan), Emaar Properties (of UAE) and Ghurair-Giga (of UAE) are among the biggest developers of gated communities in Pakistan.
Bahria Town Islamabad
In addition to major Pakistani cities of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, new gated communities are being developed in second and third tier cities as well. Recently, Bahria Town announced its newest development of a gated community in Nawabshah, a city of just over a million residents in southern Sindh province.
Here's an excerpt of a 2013 AFP report on Bahria Town gated community in Islamabad:
Cars glide softly over the smooth tarmac carpeting the gentle hills of Pakistan’s largest gated community, past immaculate green verges dotted with statues of cattle — which, unlike their real counterparts elsewhere in the country, pose no threat to traffic.
There’s a horse riding centre, a golf course, a posh cinema, an immaculately air-conditioned café and a mini zoo with “the only black panther in Pakistan”, whose growling excites young couples taking a walk.
Elsewhere 20 metre models of the Eiffel Tower and Nelson’s Column — complete with lions — watch over this vision of suburbia which seems a world away from the rest of Pakistan’s seething, traffic-choked and crumbling cities.