Student architects to help build 5 mln cheap homes in Pakistan

An aerial view of Orangi town, Karachi August 26, 2016. (File/ reuters)
Updated 19 September 2019

Student architects to help build 5 mln cheap homes in Pakistan

  • By 2030, more than half of Pakistan's projected 250 million citizens are expected to live in cities
  • Prime Minister Khan banned the use of farmland for new housing

BANGKOK: An ambitious plan to build five million affordable homes within five years in Pakistan will tap student architects and use local materials and new technologies to keep costs low, a senior government official said on Thursday.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has committed to build four million homes in rural and urban areas, and one million homes in peri-urban areas over the next five years.
It is the biggest government-backed housing program ever attempted, and will meet half of Pakistan’s needs, said Zaigham Rizvi, chairman of the federal task force on housing.
“Affordable housing is not just an issue in poor countries; it is an issue in nearly every country,” Rizvi said on the sidelines of a housing forum in Bangkok.
“But the promise of ‘housing for all’ is usually nothing more than a political slogan, and rarely implemented because of a lack of will or because the institutional framework is lacking,” he said.
By 2030, more than half of Pakistan’s projected 250 million citizens are expected to live in cities, compared to 36% now, according to the United Nations.
About a quarter of the country’s population currently lives below the poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank.
Authorities in Pakistan are developing more than two dozen pilot villages in Punjab, the nation’s most populous province, using common lands — wasteland or grazing land — and unused public lands, Rizvi said.
The homes are designed by student architects who will use technology and local materials to keep costs low, while taking into account cultural and geographical needs.
“We want to engage the youth in solving the nation’s problems. In the village, they are not used to high-rise buildings, so they will be at most one-story buildings,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Similarly, most homes keep cattle, so there will be a common area to keep them,” said Rizvi, a former consultant to the World Bank and the UN’s housing agency, UN-HABITAT.
It is hoped the pilot projects will be scaled up once deemed a success, he said, adding that several local and foreign firms are keen to build the low-cost homes.
The government will tailor financing schemes for people who want to become homeowners but may not have bank accounts or have only a seasonal income, he added.
Globally, about 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing, with most living in slums and informal settlements in cities, according to UN estimates.
In neighboring India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to provide “Housing for All” by 2022, with a goal of building 20 million urban housing units, backed by subsidised loans and incentives for developers.
The rapid growth of cities in Pakistan is expected to accelerate the conversion of farmland into built-up land.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Khan banned the use of farmland for new housing, in a bid to stop cities encroaching on agricultural areas.
Housing had traditionally not been a part of urban planning, which had led to a piecemeal approach, said Rizvi.
“With increasing urbanization and migration, housing has to be a critical part of urban planning. Otherwise we risk neglecting the needs of millions of vulnerable people,” he said.

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

Updated 12 January 2020

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

  • Work on foreign minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States being done
  • Pakistan’s strong relations with regional countries has made it an important player

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated on Thursday that the country was going to play its role in restoring peace in the Middle East by working with other international stakeholders in the region.

“Pakistan welcomes de-escalation and wants to play its role in ensuring peace and stability in the region. We have seen that indication in United States President [Donald] Trump’s speech and are evaluating its contours,” the country’s foreign office spokesperson, Aisha Farooqui, said in her weekly media briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.

She said that Pakistan’s geographical position, along with its strong relations with regional countries and the United States, had made it a significant player in the Middle East.

“Pakistan has maintained that war is not the solution to any issue and made it clear that it will not become part of any regional conflict,” she said.

The spokesperson noted that Islamabad had enhanced its efforts to defuse tensions in the region and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had contacted his counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and many other important states in this connection.

“All the international players, including Saudi Arabia, have said that the region cannot afford another war and asked for restraint from both parties [the US and Iran]. It’s a collective objective of all countries to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East,” she said.

Commenting on the foreign minister’s upcoming visit to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the US, she said that “work on these tours has already started and they will take place as soon as dates are finalized with the respective countries.”

“We are very mindful for our brotherly and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other regional countries. Pakistan and the US also enjoy longstanding relations and have contacts with each other through multiple forums including political and military leadership,” Farooqui said, adding that the foreign office had established a task force to continuously monitor the situation in the Middle East and inform the government about it along with its suggestions on a daily basis.

The spokesperson expressed hope that recent developments in the Middle East would not affect the ongoing Afghan peace process.

“Pakistan hopes that progress made on Afghan peace process will not come to a halt and the world community will not lose its focus as a result of the ongoing tensions in the Middle East,” she said.

Asked about the safety of Pakistani nationals in Iraq, she said the country’s embassy in Baghdad was on the alert to deal with any emergency situation.

“We are concerned about the safety of Pakistani citizens in Iraq and have issued an advisory in this regard. We have also instructed our mission in Baghdad to remain vigilant to deal with any emergency,” Farooqui said.