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Pakistan bus stops get spiritual make-over

ISLAMABAD - Agence France-Presse | 6/22/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Pakistan is decorating bus stops with Quranic verses and Islamic calligraphy to give a more spiritual flavor to the capital Islamabad.

Pakistan is decorating bus stops with Quranic verses and Islamic calligraphy to give a more spiritual flavor to the capital Islamabad.

The Capital Development Authority, or CDA plans to roll out 100 new bus shelters – known locally as sunshades – painted with flowers and religious verses to spruce up the 1960s purpose-built capital.

"The new sunshades will not only provide protection to commuters from inhospitable weather but will also project the art of Islamic calligraphy and our rich heritage," CDA official Haji Mehboob Ahmad told AFP.

The CDA intends to erect 30 in the next two months, the hottest and wettest of the year as the monsoon season sets in, at a cost of 400,000 rupees each after the public responded well to a pilot program.

Set up near Islamabad's commercial Blue Area, not far from the seat of government, the first stop has been lavishly painted green, purple and yellow, inscribed with verses from the Quran seeking protection from evil.

The name of God has been painted in Arabic calligraphy and there is a public service message exhorting bus users to respect public property.

"This bus stand belongs to you. Please take care of this sunshade and keep your city green and clean," the message says.

The project has attracted local press attention and residents said they were fans of the new shelters.

"It really looks great to see beautifully designed sunshades with calligraphic art," said Imran Hussain, a telecommunications worker, waiting at the new bus stop surrounded by huge trees.

"I have decided to approach the CDA management to put up one in an area where I live. It really looks beautiful," he said.

The municipality, which is heavily committed to mega building projects such as new under-passes and fly-overs in the growing city of more than one million, says the bus stops have a practical benefit.

"These messages will be meant to enhance awareness among people on crucial issues of water conservation, sanitation and an anti-littering campaign," CDA official Ramzan Sajid told AFP.

He said that the municipality was conducting detailed surveys to designate appropriate places for the new bus stops pending top-level approval.

The bus stop calligraphy inscribing names for God has been inspired by renowned Pakistani calligrapher and painter Syed Sadequain Ahmed Naqvi.

Known internationally for his skills, Sadequain is credited with something of a renaissance in Islamic calligraphy in Pakistan.

"We needed these sunshades to provide relief to commuters using public transport from harsh weather conditions and to project our rich Islamic heritage and message of Islam through Quranic verses," Sajid added.

Talib Hussain, a bearded student at a local school, is also a fan of the new bus stops.

"It is kind of a prayer to see and read verses and the names of God written in calligraphic art on the sunshade," he said.

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