By Ayaz Amir
In the national temple dedicated to the worship of the leading Pakistani deity, the holy glitter of real estate, how could Pakistan Air Force be left behind? Iqbal, the national poet – whom we’ve given sufficient reason to turn in his grave – saw the Falcon, the Shaheen of his poetry, dwelling on the peaks of the highest Himalayas. PAF has slightly amended the image. The Shaheen henceforth will be mostly found among the luxury apartment blocks erected by the PAF’s own housing society, Fazaia.
Tu shaheen hai basera kar fazaia kee chatanon par.
In the beginning was the Word, saith the Bible. Everything else followed. In Pakistan it was slightly different. In the beginning was the Defence Housing Colony, Karachi, made into the Defence Housing Authority through military statute by that defender of the faith, General Ziaul Haq. As a colony it was like any other housing colony. As an authority it was endowed with statutory power – lord in its own domain, answerable to no civic body.
The property in its jurisdiction was already valuable. With the bestowal of authority status, it became still more valuable.
The British set aside vast tracts of land for cantonment purposes. In the Lahore cantonment area there used to be firing ranges, drill areas and regimental locations. The eye of the Momin was more ingenious and found other, more lucrative uses for those rolling fields. If Karachi had developed a choice defence housing colony by the sea, how could the Lahore Garrison stay behind? So Defence Lahore came up, which through another military statute was given authority status by that other soldier of Islam, General Pervez Musharraf.
His then Lahore corps commander, Lt Gen Zarrar Azeem, opened up so many defence housing sectors that in military circles he came to be known as Zarrar Zameen.
Pakistan acquired a unique distinction. Whereas elsewhere on the planet the word ‘defence’ conjured up a vision of cannon, tanks and earthworks thrown up against threatening armies, in its case defence came to symbolise real estate. That unknown wag deserves a prize who first said that F-16 was a corner plot.
Somewhere in the 1990s in the time of that enterprising naval chief, Grand Admiral Mansoor-ul-Haq, the navy, bahria in Urdu, following the army footsteps, entered the real-estate business in partnership with that legendary figure now the uncrowned king of this holy endeavour. The navy provided the logo, which gave the partnership credibility; from the budding tycoon came the drive and the expertise.