By Our Correspondent, Islamabad
ISLAMABAD — Nestled amidst the bustling streets of Islamabad, the Royal Tabak Restaurant has long been more than just an eatery. It’s a community hub, where students bury their heads in books over a cup of chai, families create lasting memories, and where the ‘Green Pakistan’ initiative visibly comes to life in its meticulously crafted back lawn.
But on a crisp evening of September 25th, this idyllic scene was shattered.
Without warning, at around 5:00 pm, heavy machinery from the Capital Development Authority (CDA) rumbled into view, beginning a demolition operation that left the beloved restaurant’s vicinity in disarray.
Junaid Awan, the soul behind the Royal Tabak, along with co-owner Abrar Khan, is more than just perplexed. “It’s like watching a part of your soul being dismantled,” Awan lamented, speaking of the green sanctuary they built, aligned with Pakistan’s green vision.
The absence of any forewarning adds a layer of mystique to the incident. Why was Royal Tabak singled out? As many locals point out, numerous establishments, including cafes and superstores, have seemingly encroached upon far more land in the vicinity but remain untouched by the CDA’s actions.
Beyond the tangible loss lies the impact on the community. With over 40 employees, many of whom have families depending on their incomes, the potential repercussions of a closure ripple outwards. A temporary shuttering not only affects these workers but also leaves a void for countless students who regarded Royal Tabak as their tranquil oasis amidst the urban chaos.
In the aftermath, Awan and Khan are seeking redress:
A thorough investigation against the alleged CDA personnel – Bilal, Aftab, and Arif.
An immediate compensation of approximately Rs 0.8 million to aid in restoration or, alternatively, a commitment from the CDA to return the eatery to its former glory.
A guarantee that establishments like Royal Tabak, which serve the very essence of Islamabad, are safeguarded against arbitrary decisions.
As this story unfolds, it’s more than just a tale of one restaurant’s plight. It’s a reflection on urban development, the nuances of bureaucracy, and most importantly, the essence of community spaces in modern cities.
The Royal Tabak’s story resonates globally, urging cities everywhere to recognize and respect the sanctuaries that provide solace and community amidst the urban hustle.
An Oasis Amidst Concrete: The Royal Tabak’s Battle and What it Means for Islamabad and Beyond
The evocative aroma of freshly brewed chai, the soft rustle of pages turning, the sound of laughter — these are the sensory delights one expects at the Royal Tabak Restaurant. A culinary institution in Islamabad, its charm extends beyond its menu, drawing in locals and tourists alike.
It represents an emerging trend in modern cities: community spaces that transcend their primary function. These are places where urban citizens seek refuge from their hectic lives, forging bonds over shared tables and communal experiences. In many ways, the Royal Tabak is not just an eatery; it’s a microcosm of Islamabad’s evolving urban culture.
The unannounced CDA operation is emblematic of broader challenges faced by such community spaces worldwide. From New York to Nairobi, from São Paulo to Sydney, the conflict between rapid urban development and preserving community sanctuaries is a recurring narrative.
Dr. Yasmeen Iqbal, an urban sociologist based in Lahore, weighs in: “Such spaces are the heartbeat of a city. They are where culture, history, and modernity intertwine. When authorities act without recognizing this intricate balance, it’s not just a business that’s affected; it’s the very soul of the community.”
Indeed, the Royal Tabak’s ordeal echoes the stories of many global establishments that have faced similar bureaucratic bulldozing. The iconic Cornelia Street Café in New York, the cherished Java House in Nairobi, and the historic Mercado de San Telmo in Buenos Aires — all have tales of battles with urban developers, changing regulations, and the ever-evolving cityscape.
For Junaid Awan, the immediate concern might be the restoration of his establishment, but the implications are more profound. “This isn’t just about one restaurant,” Awan reflects. “It’s a wake-up call. Today, it’s the Royal Tabak. Tomorrow, it could be any other community space. Where does that leave our cities and their people?”
The international community watches with bated breath. The outcome of the Royal Tabak’s confrontation with bureaucracy will be more than a local news story. It will serve as a precedent, a beacon for similar establishments across the globe, emphasizing the importance of community spaces in our increasingly urbanized world.
The question then remains: will cities evolve by recognizing the heartbeats of these community hubs or will they march forward, silencing them one by one?
As the sun sets over Islamabad, casting a golden hue over the now disturbed back lawn of the Royal Tabak, one can’t help but wonder about the future of such oases amidst the relentless march of concrete and steel