Written by

Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat

Officer of Pakistan Administrative Service (Erstwhile DMG). Did engineering then MPhil Public Policy.Got training in GB&FATA.Served in Sindh now Islamabad

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Cannoli, COVID-19, F-9 Park& PSL 6: DC Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat speaks on Recent Happenings

Q1: Let’s start with a recent and quite unfortunate event involving a restaurant in Islamabad which has sparked a national debate on our undying obsession with the English language. Being a successful bureaucrat yourself, we would love to hear your take on the issue.

It’s not right to mock people personally or to have a condescending behavior towards them. Keeping that in mind, if the person doesn’t have a problem with it, then boycotting the restaurant is probably not right too.

I think the owners of the restaurant have learned their lesson that mocking someone and displaying it in public is not something that public will appreciate. But see the other side as well, we have been making fun of people, be it celebrities, politicians or cricketers, we make fun of their English or their behavior, which is hypocritical. We all have to look at ourselves first rather than ridiculing the owners.

Q2: How is the capital city faring in terms of Covid-19 pandemic?

According to latest updates, we have tested more than one million people in Islamabad, which is approximately 50 percent of the population. We have had a strong surveillance system which has enabled us to flatten the curve once again. Our positivity ratio has dropped back down to 1 percent, at one time it had reached around 7 percent, the death rate is also around 1 percent. Apart from that, at this moment critical patients in the hospitals are around 30.

Total number of positive cases in the capital are slightly above 1,300. The situation currently is under control and as soon as we start the vaccination, which is going to take approximately a couple of weeks then the curve will flatten more.

Health workers will be the first one to get vaccinated as we believe that they are in the frontline and they were one of the main reasons for the spread of the virus, the situation will be under a lot more control.

By the end of March or start of April, the pandemic will be controlled and we feel we will be able to go back to our normal lives, the one’s we were living back in 2019.

Q3: The Federal Government is considering mortgaging Islamabad’s biggest park in F-9 sector to get a loan of around Rs500 billion. Tell us about that.

It’s not a mortgage, I think that is a misunderstanding, the finance department has also explained this. These are basically Sukuk Bonds which are issued by the government. When the Sukuk Bonds are issued some property has to be kept as a valuation, under previous tenure Islamabad expressway was part of the valuation as well, similarly Pak Secretariat was also part of the valuation once.

It’s not like if we are unable to pay the bonds, then F-9 park will be taken over by someone, these are just to measure the valuation of the bonds. That is to my best of understanding, but the finance department can explain it much better.

Q4: Tell us about the recent revamp of the investigation wing of Islamabad police that’s aimed to ensure speedy and quality investigation in criminal cases.

The new team, which includes new Inspector General (IG), Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Senior Superintendent (SSP) have revamped some crucial things.

Firstly, First Incident Report (FIR) will be registered on every call now. Previously the concept was that FIR shouldn’t be registered for everything because of overload of data. The number of FIR’s has increased from 24-25 to 74-75 daily.

Secondly, registering the FIR was one thing, but to follow it up was another. Previously there was no follow up as there was no Superintended (SP) on the cases, now they have changed it up and are making sure every FIR is being followed up.

Q5: We have heard about some major infrastructure projects including an observatory and astronomical museum, Urban Forestry Park, and new underpasses in F10 and E11, among many others. Tell us when we should expect these projects.

The biggest upcoming infrastructure project is the IJP road and Islamabad expressway. Apart from that we have nothing to do with the observatory and astronomical museum.

Urban Foresrty Park is being built in collaboration with Capital Development Authority (CDA) and underpasses will also be constructed. First of all a new underpass will be constructed on 7th Avenue, Srinagar Highway. Then we will move to IJP road and Islamabad expressway, then the rest of the projects will be started.

Q6: We have observed some maintenance projects being conducted around the city with a good pace, what brought the change?

For the past 3-4 years there was no work being done in the capital, the local government had funding issues. Now, since the CDA is back under control and Islamabad administration has the monitoring role, we have been able to assess and monitor the work being done in the capital on a daily basis.

Q7:Tell us about the progress of Islamabad Metro Bus Extension project from Peshawar Mor to New Islamabad Airport. Has the work resumed and if yes, when should we expect its completion?

Unfortunately, I don’t have positive news regarding metro. National Highway Authority (NHA) had to build it and hand over the project to us, but the construction has not been completed yet. After the construction is completed, then we will have to link it up with the metro authorities. Work on it is slow, according to NHA’s plan it will take another six months for it to be completed.

Q8:Who will you be rooting for PSL 6? Islamabad United?

Obviously as I am form the capital, I will be supporting Islamabad in the upcoming PSL 6.

Q9: Acquiring ITP traffic license is a tough and tedious process. Can the administration do something to facilitate citizens in this regard?

Unfortunately, the process has been slowed down due to Covid-19, we have closed it down temporarily. InshaAllah (God willing) as soon as the situation gets better within the next few months things will progress once again. We are launching an app for license renewal and hopefully people will not have to come physically.

Just like anywhere in the world, it is a bit tedious to get your traffic license, test is mandatory. Increasing population and shortage of resources have had an effect, but soon we will be able to resolve this issue as well.


Video link to a previous conversation: In conversation with DC Islamabad Mr. Hamza Shafqaat

Discussion

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