Abbottabad, the quiet Pakistani town where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden evaded U.S. forces for several years, is attempting to restore its family-friendly image with a new sprawling 500-acre development.
Officials insist the ambitious project, which breaks ground this month, has nothing to do with bin Laden, but there's no denying officials are eager to put such a dark piece of history behind them.
"The specific idea for this park is to show that this is a safe area," Javed Abbasi, a provincial MP, told the UK Guardian
. "There is no militancy over here, no terrorism; the people are safe."
The $25 million initial stage of the new project will include a 50-acre riverside amusement park complete with artificial waterfalls, restaurants, heritage center and much more.
"The amusement city will be built on 50 acres in the first phase but later will be extended to 500 acres," Syed Aqil Shah, the provincial minister for tourism and sports, said. "It will have a heritage park, wildlife zoo, food street, adventure and paragliding clubs, waterfalls and jogging tracks."
He added that Pakistan is making every effort to increase access to activities for families and young people. "We want to keep young people away from terrorism and extremism," he said. "We think healthy activities are a way to engage them in positive things."
The three-story compound in Abbottabad where bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces in 2011 has since been demolished. It is estimated that the new park will take up to five years to complete.