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The Role of Planning and Planners in Developing Safer Cities in Pakistan: From Counter-Terrorism to Planning for Democracy, Equity and Diversity in Lahore and Islamabad

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posted on 2023-01-19, 11:21 authored by Humaira Tabassum
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia.

Urban planning in Pakistan is ineffective. Complex urban challenges and inadequate professional practices result in irregular growth, deficient urban facilities, and ubiquitous delinquency in Pakistani cities. For the last two decades, Pakistan’s fraught geo-political setting witnessed a severe wave of terrorism focused on cities. The state adopted securitisation and militarisation as solutions, and planning institutions bolster these measures. Despite extensive security investment, safety indices depict uncomfortable, unsafe and unpredictable urban living which eclipse the benefits city life promises. This research explores the role of urban planning in promoting or countering terrorism in two cities namely: Lahore and Islamabad Rawalpindi – two cities that represent different traditions of urbanism in Pakistan. Lahore is typical of central Asian and South Asian inland trading cities such as Delhi with long vibrant traditions of pluralistic urbanism. In contrast, Islamabad represents capital of nation-state created on modern ideologies analogous to other twentieth century capitals such as Brasilia, Canberra, Chandigarh and New Delhi. Close economic and social ties makes Islamabad a twin city with older Rawalpindi. The research approach for comparing the two cities and their planning is multi method including, preparation of terrorist incidents maps, customised terrorism database, fieldwork interviews with relevant stakeholders, and structured observations. The analysis covers planning policies, regulations, perception of planners, and outcome of the current system for both cities. Moreover, terrorism and counter directions in Pakistani cities, and variables that make cities vulnerable are assessed with particular attention to the difference in both cities under review and some recommendations tailored accordingly. This thesis adapts Susan Feinstein’s social justice approach and unwraps the notions of democracy, equity and diversity to understand the directions where planning and planners might make a constructive contribution to social welfare of these two cities. It argues that militarised solutions eliminate symptoms of terrorism but rooted social injustice may result in its resurgence or appear as escalation in crimes, conflicts, and persecution of disadvantaged. By uncovering dynamics of practices, and their potential contribution in security issues, this research necessitates a rethinking of critical and normative purposes of urban planning. One such conclusion is that the tactics of planners for the capital city, Islamabad are necessarily different to that of the commercial city, Lahore.


Center or Department

College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce. School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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This thesis contains third party copyright material which has been reproduced here with permission. Any further use requires permission of the copyright owner. The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over all other content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

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