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April 11, 1988, Page 00010 The New York Times Archives

Since it rose on a plateau of wheat fields and sugar cane in the 1960's, Pakistan's new capital of Islamabad has become nearly contiguous with its larger twin, Rawalpindi, whose importance had been largely as an industrial center and military station with a rail junction.

In fact, the planners who decided to locate the new capital in the northern Punjab foresaw this, expecting both northeastern cities to grow in tandem toward each other until they would be separated only by a slender industrial belt.

Islamabad came into being because the partition of India in 1947 left Pakistan without a real capital. For some years, Karachi served that function, but when Pakistan proclaimed itself an Islamic republic in 1956, its leaders were also looking elsewhere for a seat of government. Karachi Called Unsuitable

Karachi, which is on the Arabian Sea and is Pakistan's largest port, was deemed unsuitable, partly because business interests there seemed to exert undue influence on officialdom. In addition, Karachi's noise and bustle as well as its humidity made the idea of a completely new capital up in the country more attractive.

The site on the Potwar Plateau was chosen in 1959. Rawalpindi, a few miles to the southwest, served as interim capital from that year until 1969. Islamabad and Rawalpindi are believed to have a combined population today of about 1 million, not including the suburbs.

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Islamabad - which means the place of Islam - took on a suburban aspect as a living environment, far removed from the dowdy, even run-down garrison town nearby. It also offered the Murree Hills as a resort and summer headquarters for many diplomatic missions that arrived in the new capital. War Slows Construction

Many important Government buildings were designed by architects of international stature, such as Edward Durell Stone of the United States and the Italian Gio Ponti. The war with India in 1971 slowed down construction, but by that time the city had already become the seat of the University of Islamabad and the Grand National Mosque.

Rawalpindi replaced an old village inhabited by Rawals, a tribe of yogis. Sikhs settled in the area in 1765 and encouraged traders from elsewhere to move in as well.

In 1849, the British occupied the Punjab and made Rawalpindi one of their main military outposts in the region. Since the city is situated strategically on the road between the Punjab and Kashmir, it also became the headquarters of the Pakistani Army.

A commercial and industrial hub, Rawalpindi has an oil refinery, railroad yards and many factories turning out such diverse products as iron, hosiery, ordnance, tents, chemicals, furniture and flour.

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