Effect of the earthquake on Islamabad

Though virtually all the damage done by the 8th October earthquake was in the north of Pakistan, around the Kashmir region, things have certainly changed for the capital. Only a single apartment block collapsed in Islamabad and the death toll was a few dozen, but few buildings have been left without cracks or other structural damage.

People have started moving out of high-rise apartments into houses and businesses are also considering doing the same. A friend of mine, who runs a software company in the high-tech Evacuee Trust Complex, hasn’t even stepped into his office since the quake. He’s now looking to sell the office and shift operations to a rented house.

This shifting has caused the already inflated property prices to skyrocket. A house portion another friend wanted to rent was going for about Rs.30K (~USD 500) per month before the quake. Now the demand is over Rs.36K and is likely to increase if he doesn’t take it now. That’s already an increase of 20 percent.

The earthquake, coupled with the holy month of Ramadan, has also changed people’s attitudes about religion and their way of life. Islamabadians were becoming somewhat hedonistic, caught up in their hectic lives and not caring much about anything else. Now, they seem to have shifted to a sober, more charitable pace. If not for the unfortunate people further north, they are certainly concerned about their own future. A lot of my friends now make less fun of each other and have decided to give up anything that may be morally degrading or harmful, which includes everything from smoking to listening to music, and becoming more regular in their daily prayers.

My prediction is that very soon, people will start moving to other cities (few citizens have their roots in Islamabad anyway) after getting tired of the aftershocks. This may provide a much-needed cooling down of property and other prices. Once things seem more stable geologically, they’ll return and everything will get back to the way it was earlier, perhaps just before the next big earthquake. Such is the way the masses think.