Happiness for some in Pakistan's gated communities

Happiness for some in Pakistan's gated communities

RAWALPINDI - On the edge of Rawalpindi, Islamabad's scruffy, congested twin city, a grand arched gateway opens to a rather different Pakistan, one of tidy lawns, golf courses and constant, reliable electricity.

Welcome to Bahria Town, where Pakistan's new middle class takes refuge from the Taliban attacks and endless power cuts that plague the rest of the country.

Cars glide softly over the smooth tarmac carpeting the gentle hills of Pakistan's largest gated community, past immaculate green verges dotted with statues of cattle - which, unlike their real counterparts elsewhere in the country, pose no threat to traffic.

There's a horse-riding centre, a golf course, a posh cinema, an immaculately air-conditioned cafe and a mini-zoo with "the only black panther in Pakistan", whose growling excites young couples taking a walk.

Elsewhere 20-metre models of the Eiffel Tower and Nelson's Column - complete with lions - watch over this vision of suburbia which seems a world away from the rest of Pakistan's seething, traffic-choked and crumbling cities. For Riaz, an employee of a multinational firm, it is heaven compared to the sprawling, violent metropolis of Karachi that he left a few months ago.

An unprecedented wave of murders and kidnappings gripping the port city, Pakistan's economic capital, forced him to quit for the quiet comfort of Bahria Town.

"Here we have peace, though it's a bit lacking in life and cafes," Riaz told AFP as he walked through the zoo with his young son.

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