view of the city
All the year long, what make up the shehr stories are non-existent or non-functional civic amenities, heritage sites falling apart, roads that refuse to be built and so on. 2009 saw some positive changes in Lahore. TNS picks on a few…
Last year Lahoris found a group of people cycling on the busiest city roads on Sundays in a bid to promote environment-friendly private transport. Critical Mass Lahore celebrated its first anniversary last week. It organised 54 cycle rides over the course of the year, from Jallo Park to Walled City to Bahria Town.
Urban planning in Pakistan facilitates automobiles, to the exclusion of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. Whereas people once boasted about Lahore being the city of gardens, pro-automobile urban planning has replaced public recreational space with tarmac, cars and air pollution.
Critical Mass Lahore is a step towards raising awareness on urban planning issues. It seeks to highlight that cycle transport is environmentally safe, sustainable and, more importantly, a friendly and democratic means of getting around. It is a cycling group that meets every week and is open for everyone and anyone.
So far, Critical Mass Lahore has focused on cycling activities. This year, it resolves to work with the traffic police and local administration to lobby for car free Sundays.
Free for all
Chief Minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif's decision to abolish entry and parking fees at all parks of the province was like a breath of fresh air.
Government is taking effective measures for the promotion of healthy recreational activities and free entry into parks is a gift for the people who are disturbed by the price-hike.
The announcements were made through loudspeakers in different parks of Lahore to inform people about this decision.
Entry ticket and parking-fee were abolished on receiving a great number of complaints of overcharging at the public parks.
According to PHA estimation, approximately 100,000 people visit the parks and gardens daily. PHA used to earn Rs20 million annually from these fees. People welcomed the move as now they had the opportunity to roam in the parks free of cost.
Lahorites have been hoping that in the next phase Shahbaz Sharif should order the concerned authorities to take care of the green belts and sports grounds in the city. According to PHA data there are 856 parks, green belts and sports grounds in the city, out of which only eight are in good condition while the condition of 442 needs attention.
The year 2009 witnessed the surfacing of a group of students, calling themselves 'Responsible Citizens', cleaning the city squares of dirt and garbage.
The group of students, studying in reputed schools and belonging to well-off families, took the initiative by making a group/community of like-minded students and parents on Facebook. They had dedicated their day-off -- Sunday -- from their schools and colleges to spruce up the city.
Talking to the scribe, the students said that they were inspired by the success of the lawyers' movement -- to bring about some change in the society.
Girls and boys, often accompanied by their parents, encouraged shopkeepers to join the group too.
Comprising of not more than two dozen volunteers, the group has spread its message through Facebook and is getting support from the community, except the City District Government Lahore.
The group, interestingly, was lauded by the Secretary of State, United States of America, during her last visit to Lahore a few months ago. Referring to a report that appeared in the New York Times on the group, she admired the students. "A group of young Pakistani friends, sick of hearing their families complain about the government, decided to spite them by taking matters into their own hands: every Sunday they would grab shovels, go out into their city, and pick up garbage," she quoted the report while addressing a packed gathering of students, teachers and civil society activists in Government College University, Lahore.
If 2007 gave Lahore its first state-of-art cinema house in the shape of DHA, 2009 saw the coming up of at least two such theatres that were, however, as different from each other as 'old' is from 'contemporary'.
Cine Star, in the heart of Township, proved to be a close match, what with its large screen (largest for any cinema ever in the city!), an arched gallery exclusively for families overlooking the stall (meant for boys) that is a royal throwback to the old-fashioned décor. It also has a capacity for an impressive 580+ seats. Besides, its music system and A-class air-conditioning pulled in crowds from all over the city.
Bahria Town's Cine Gold, on the other hand, is a briefer version at 90-odd seats, but richer in its opulence and design has some unique features -- plush luxury seats -- all of which make for an exclusive cinema viewing.
Both Cine Star and Cine Gold took off from where DHA left -- in terms of a tastefully done interior; a smoke-free, pleasant environment; a well-stocked takeaway counter at the reception, and an online booking facility. What's more, they offer a competitive ticket price, Cine Star being relatively cheaper.
Interestingly, the much-talked about IMAX Theatre -- a multimillion-dollar project of PEC (Punjab Entertainment Company) that had grabbed some very attractive newspaper headlines in 2007 before it was even announced officially -- had a premature (as much as unfortunate) demise when the new Punjab government decided to use the marked Doongi Ground on M M Alam Road to build a digital public library and a study and research unit instead.
Medical negligence onboard
The city's landscape changed towards the end of 2009 with huge billboards, banners and posters, carrying the picture of a three-year old girl Imanae Malik.
The girl reportedly died due to the negligence of the staff of a private hospital. Her parents, instead of resigning to their fate, raised the issue at all possible forums and launched an aggressive campaign against the hospital, its staff and administration for the death of their daughter.
The parents claim their fight was not against a single person, a group or a hospital. All they wanted to ensure was to ensure that all medical professionals valued human life in future. The struggle got a fillip when the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court (LHC) took a suo motu notice of the incident and the Punjab government initiated an inquiry and ordered raids on the hospital.
The doctors' community also took a rational approach and refrained from observing a strike or declaring the government action an assault on their whole community.
The much-touted Lahore Ring Road project launched by the Shahbaz Sharif government in 1997, and suspended in 1999 after the coup by Gen (retd) Musharraf, took up pace this year. Despite financial constraints, as construction costs had spiraled over the years, the progress on the project was more than satisfactory in 2009.
Because of the slow progress made on the road from 2004 onwards, when then Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi relaunched it, the project came to been known as the "Reeng (crawling slowly) Road".
People associated with the project say the problems related to acquisition of private land for the project and endless alterations made by the policymakers to benefit different people in power slowed the road construction. Right now, work on the project is in full swing leading to a considerable rise in the prices of real estate in areas from where this road passes.
The Lahore Ring Road serves the purpose of diverting traffic load from congested areas, linking different points in the city and reducing travel time by ensuring smooth flow of traffic. The government has also involved a Chinese company in the project and it is hoped that the momentum will not be lost in 2010.
The Shalamar Gardens has seen the much awaited uplift this year and it is heartening.
The Nigar Khana on the eastern side, on the first terrace, leading into Ranjit Singh's building is one of the edifices uplifted and renovated. The floor of the first courtyard of Nigar Khana has been re-laid and the work must be appreciated: the design patterns are the same as the original and blend in well with the surrounding.
A water tank near the Khawab Gah of the princess on the first terrace is being conserved. The summer pavilion, which is facing the water tank, is another site that has been preserved. Fine lime has been applied here too. The work that has been accomplished with the help of UNESCO funds in 2009 is indeed encouraging.
Watch out ladies!
By Haneya Zuberi
Red is the new black. Long is the new short. Skinny is the new boot cut. Fat free is the new low fat. Much to ladies' dismay size zero has stolen the crown, the limelight and now even the gentlemen's attention as well. I see you cringe; I can understand, even more so, can relate!
Since when was the thin one supposed to be the pick of all? Earlier, wasn't it supposed to be the "gori","chitti" one? It used to be the holy reason why ladies with greater amounts of melanin in their skin bought all the fairness creams of the world at the beauty shops, drug stores, grocery stores or even at convenience stores if they found a chance just to reduce the amount of melanin in their skins. For them, anything with the word "fairness" was a stamped "impulse purchase". Now, why was that so? It was because of the stereotype: the fair ones are the "prettier" ones.
Over the years the Pakistani mindset has changed. The focus has now deviated from the "gori" girl who had long hair and huge eyes and eyelashes the length to wipe out one's senses to the one who is slender, tall, size zero and of course has an angled bob (Just like Rihanna!) with optional high lights or low lights. Apparently skin shade does not remain the key criteria on which ladies are judged on the acceptability scale, it is how many bones crackle when you hug them. I mean what about the ones who are big boned and broad shouldered? Does this new fad give no leverage to those who cannot surrender the sight of the divine tiramisu, the celestial molten cake and the heavenly mithatti? Don't you think that this new fad is equally unfair to the ladies?
When my khala commenced the daughter-in-law hunt for her eldest son; I very vividly remember the criteria laid down before her by my very own grandmother: the girl should be as white as milk, have jet black long hair, beautiful large eyes and delicate fair hands and feet. What was it? To me it was a simile and a description which reminds one of a hybrid of Rapunzel and Cinderella. But to my grandmother it was the merit which a damsel would have to qualify if she was willing to marry her grandson. But now times have changed, I daresay. Not that the change has made the situation a little less tense for the ladies. The "gori bahu" has replaced the bony and lean creatures who give emaciated smiles. Very recently I was having a conversation with a few friends regarding the kind of girls that are preferred by the gentlemen of the day. Synopsis of the conversation: she can be tan or fair, have long hair or short, have huge eyes or not but one factor must be present, that is, she has to be thin. This four-letter word summed up the entire conversation so to say.
Expanding the idea of "skinny" from the girth of our part of the world, "thin" has always been "in" in the west! Recently, an auction of Audrey Hepburn's clothes was held. The delicate little beauty had a waist of mere twenty two inches only and fitting into the clothes had turned into quite an issue for the ladies present at the auction. Despite the barrier of the twenty two inches; they did not seem to hesitate while bidding for the clothes. "I mean I would go on a diet, starve myself but somehow manage to get into these clothes," one said enthusiastically when another added, "I could try to fit in my leg or my arm, its Audrey Hepburn's clothes after all, anything for her!"
The concept of being stick thin has always existed amongst the celebrities. Teenagers worship the steps these celebrities walk on because they perceive them as their role models. They try their utmost to achieve their physique and style. This is one of the reasons why Anorexia Nervosa is on the rise in the United States. Not to mention many stars have been reported to have it. Victoria Beckham, Mary-Kate Olsen, Keira Knightley to name a few. Brazilian fashion model Ana Carolina Reston and Brittany Murphy died of complications of anorexia. Victoria Beckham has admitted to a struggle with anorexia that started when she was a member of the Spice Girls. In 2003 she said: "I was very obsessed. I mean, I could tell you the fat content and the calorie content in absolutely anything."
We have always been inspired by what is done in the west; hence we have adopted this new stereotype! Watching American television has just catalyzed the whole process. Instead of heading to the fairness creams sections in stores, girls now head to "fat free" food section. This "fat free" food becomes almost impossible for them to digest later when they watch America's Next Top Model. I mean "like duh"; they have to count how many calories they are taking in! It is not their skin shade but their waist measurement that bothers them. When they watch Gossip Girl; it becomes mandatory for them to wear skinny jeans and carry huge handbags because that is what "cool" girls are doing. That is exactly what the society then demands from them. Earlier it was the "gori" girl, now it is the size zero stylish girl who pouts at the sight of a camera. What is next?!
* Exhibition titled 'Char Rah' at The Drawing Room Art Gallery till Jan 18. The gallery remains open from 5pm-8pm daily. The works on display are of Nizakat Ali Depar, S.Sajjad Hussain, Mahnoor Hussain and Qurat Ul Ain Shams.
* Free Seminar on Windows Mobile Development at Alliance Training and Solutions on Wednesday, Jan 06 from 6:30 pm-8:30 pm. Presenter: Dawood Aziz.
* Faiz: Understanding Poetry every Wednesday
at Faiz Ghar. Timing: 6-7 pm.
* 3rd International Conference On Sustainable Building Design In South Asia: Past, Present and the Future "SBD10" at National College of Arts on Sat-Sun, Jan 9-10.
Lahore invited you to "Weekend Cycle Ride"
on Sunday, January 3 at 10:15am.
* Festival: Weekend Cycle Ride today from Zakir Tikka intersection, Sarwar Road at 10:15am.
End time: 12:30pm.
Execution of the Supreme Court's order or vendetta against political opponents, a step in the right direction or a city hit by drones, the demolition drive in the city has received a mixed response
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
The Punjab government's decision to launch this drive against illegal buildings has received a mixed response from the public. There are people who have declared it a daring step taken in the right direction at right time. They think this action will teach the violators of building bylaws and the corrupt officials a lesson of their lifetime. At the same time there is a group that believes the action is too drastic and the government should go for less severe punishments. There is yet another group that terms the drive discriminatory and full of vendetta against political opponents.
Punjab government, that has declared itself a mere executor of the Supreme Court order, has recently come under fire for transgressing its limits and "acting against the spirit" of the order. Another debate doing the rounds is about the liability of the corrupt LDA and city district government officials who allowed these constructions in the first place and the fate of the cheated buyers of properties at these plazas.
Yousaf Ahad Malik, PML Lahore President and owner of Ahad Towers at Kalma Chowk tells TNS that the Punjab government has not even provided them copies of the court order. He says five floors of his building are being demolished despite the fact that he had received clearance letters from the environment department.
Ahad says the government has been asked to act against these high-rises as per the bylaws. The bylaws, he says, prescribe fines and remedial measures for violations and demolition only when an irregularity is compoundable. "But the Punjab government has started from the step that should have been taken as last resort, if the builders had not paid fines etc."
Last week's interesting feature was Punjab Governor Salman Taseer's statement in which he asked for winding up the demolition drive as, according to him, the city seemed hit by drone attacks. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah criticised this statement on the ground that it tantamounts to contempt of court as the Punjab government was acting according to SC's directions.
People doing business at Gulberg Centre, Main Boulevard, Gulberg also came on roads and protested against inclusion of the centre's name in the list of buildings facing action. Later on, it was revealed that the name was not there in the list prepared by the SC commission and included by some LDA official.
A divide has also appeared among the architects on the issue as well as civil society groups. A group of builders, architects and shop-owners held protest against the demolition drive under the banner of Lahore Bachao Tehreek (LBT) last week. Soon afterwards, Imrana Tiwana, Convener LBT disassociated herself from the participants of the protest saying they had nothing to do with the body. Talking to TNS, she says LBT cannot support anything done in violation of rules especially when it risks lives of people. Tiwana says an architect Khalid Abdur Rehman who was involved in construction of many illegal plazas arranged this protest and used the name of LBT without their permission.
PPP MPA Sajida Mir has come out with a suggestion for the Punjab government which she thinks is fast losing its popularity for depriving thousands of people of their livelihood. She says the government should stop the demolition drive immediately and take control of the illegal plazas for five years.
"The government should collect the rent received by the owners for this period as fine," she suggests. Sajida thinks this would be enough punishment for these people. She says it is not fair to demolish a building by declaring its structure weak. "These buildings are there for ages and haven't collapsed. Secondly, what's the guarantee that a properly built building will survive an earthquake," she adds.
Yousaf Ahad tells TNS that several political parties have joined hands against the protest against this demolition drive which threatens structures that cost around Rs1,000 billion and livelihood of more than 600,000 people. He says there are 52 allied industries that suffer when there are bad times for construction business. "So one can easily imagine how much damage this drive has done," he adds.
Ahad says LDA workers are causing damage to the structures as they are using hammers to demolish upper floors. With every blow of the hammer, the building experiences a tremor. So in demolishing one or two floors, LDA workers can damage the whole building, he adds.
Ahad says demolition, only and only if necessary, should have been done with the help of advanced equipment like jet cutters as announced by the government. He laments that LDA is demanding Rs184 per sq ft from owners to demolish their buildings. He says the builders will never pay this kind of money which is higher than what the labour charges for construction which is Rs100 per sq ft.
Ahad says LDA officials are never available at the office and meet at undisclosed places and at odd times. This scribe agrees with Yousaf's assertion as he found it impossible to contact LDA officials despite trying repeatedly for a week. Even the cell number of LDA spokesperson Suhail Janjua was switched off and his landline remained constantly busy, or was kept busy.
Khawaja Imran Nazir, MPA and media coordinator for Punjab CM, tells TNS that there is no truth in the allegation that the government is targeting its political opponents. He says the government is following court directions and there is not even a single instance where anybody has been victimized. Imran says Punjab CM has formed a committee to protect the interest of small investors. The committee, he says, would see how the individuals, who had purchased properties in illegal plazas, could be compensated.
On notices to Gulberg Centre, he says it's true that the name was wrongly added to the list. "We immediately took notice of this irregularity and cleared the name," he says. Imran says the corrupt officials will not get away easily and their suspension from service is not the ultimate punishment for them. "Their cases have been referred to Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) which is conducting raids for their arrest."
Archaeology Department and other organisations working for the preservation and promotion of culture of Lahore should take notice of the mounds in Daulatabad and commence excavation at the spot
By Haroon Khalid
Many historians believe that original city of Lahore is not the walled city of today but in fact the locality of Ichhra a few kilometres from the area. Various evidences are shown to prove this thesis, one of which is that the oldest Hindu temples exist in the locality.
Right now we would not delve upon the already established evidences but would try to look at new traces that can shed some light on the history of the city. In popular myths and legends it is believed that the city of Lahore originates in antiquity. A popular myth is that this city was founded by one of the twin sons of Sri Ram and Sita, Lahu whereas the other son establised the twin city of Kasur.
In Lahore Fort there is a small temple attributed to this son of Ram, called the temple of Lahu. Keeping beliefs and myths at bay, the first concrete historical evidence of the city comes during the tenure of Mahmud Ghazni, who is said to have attacked the city, and defeated the Hindu King Jaipal. Al Beruni in his famous Al-Hind mentions of this city. This is the beginning of the 11th century CE. If we are to prove that Lahore is older than one thousand years, we need to substantiate our claim with real evidence, and given the hypothesis that the original Lahore finds its origin from Ichhra, we need to look for evidences around that locality.
One such testimony could be hidden under the tomb of Shah Jamal, which is next to this small town. The fact that the Saint rests atop a huge mound leads us to believe that there could be traces of an old establishment there. However, now that this tomb has been constructed and has thousands of devotees, one can not talk about looking at hints here. Maulvi Nur Ahmad Chishti in his seminal work talks about a small locality known by the name of Daulatabad, situated in between Central Jail, and Mozang. However, he also states that all traces of that settlement have been lost. In his work he also mentions that the tomb of the famous Saint Syed Abdul Sani is situated near this area. Chishti says that now only five forts are found here. All the subsequent historians bought Chishti's thesis, and denied the existence of any remains of Daulatabad.
Recently, while working on a chapter in his Encyclopedia of Lahore, Iqbal Qaiser located the tomb of Syed Abdul Qadir Sani, flanked in between the Birdwood road, and Waris road. There is no trace of the five forts mentioned by Chishti anymore, just the tomb. This sanctuary is located in an empty plot of land, which now falls under the jurisdiction of the army. While he was looking around for traces of anything else, an army man approached him, and offered to show him around. He told him that nothing lies here, and that the real treasure lies across the Birdwood road where the office of provincial Health Development Centre stands. On being taken there, he came across two huge mounds, taller than the building itself, standing right in the middle of the complex.
Our initial reaction was that they were the remains of the destroyed forts but the sheer magnitude of the mounds, and the presence of various layers presented a different story. This led us to the conclusion that these have to be the remains of the lost town of Daulatabad. Amongst the various layers, one was composed of modern bricks, which came in vogue during the later Sikh and early British period - burnt bricks, bigger bricks, perhaps from Mughal era or earlier, and fibres of wood having been buried for a long period of time. Pieces of pottery can also be seen scattered all over the place. Clearly, we are talking about a city built, destroyed and rebuilt many a times. These are the remains of not just the forts but an entire town. This is where the history of Daulatabad and antiquity of Lahore converge.
Given the proximity of these mounds to the town of Ichhra, our hypothesis is that buried in between those mounds is the ancient history of Lahore. We believe that archaeological excavation at the site would take the history of Lahore further back from the date that we start right now. If our hypothesis is correct, this could be the most important discovery in the history of the city.
However, there is an urgency. This entire area came under the sway of the Pakistan army, after the creation of the country. In 2001, they decided to sell it to get funds for the creation of a new GHQ at Islamabad. However, the Government of Punjab intervened, claiming that the property belongs to them, therefore the army can't sell it. Now the land across the Birdwood road, where the tomb of Syed Abdul Qadir Sani stands, is under the army, and the place where the mounds lie, is under the control of the Government of Punjab. The government at the moment is expanding the offices here and has already gotten rid of some mounds. If the Department of Archaeology doesn't intervene anytime soon, then these mounds would also be lost, taking us back to square one.
A question to be answered is: what is the town of Daulatabad. There are two possible answers to this particular question. There are two Daulats in history, that can be attributed with the name of this town. One of them is Daulat Khan, who was the Governor of Lahore, during the tenure of Ibrahim Lodhi, before the arrival of the Mughal conqueror Babar. Many historians believe that the name of this town is derived from this Governor. Naqoosh Lahore Number relates that there was a Sarai Daulat Khan, Bagh Daulat Khan, and a Fort here, which fell into disrepair when Humayun was ousted from India.
The second Daulat is Daulat Shah, son of Syed Abdul Qadir Sani. According to Chishti, his real name was Syed Ghayasuddin. Daulatabad is named after his nick name, Daulat Shah. He was born here, became famous here, and was later interred here. Maulvi Nur Ahmad Chishti claims that the Khanqah of Meer Yaqub, and the well of Meer Yaqub were also present here. The five forts that he mentioned and claimed to have seen in the late 19th century CE were named as following: Killa Meer Mohammad, Killa Meer Arshad Khan, Killa Kafiat Khan, Killa Nawab Meer Mahmud, and Killa Meer Akbar. The first three of these are named after the sons of Syed Abdul Qadir Sani.
These forts were isolated during the raid of the Afghan King Shah Zaman. Later, during the tenure of Ranjit Singh, this locality was taken over and used for military purposes. This policy was perpetuated by the subsequent British, and Pakistani governments. In 2001, for some reason that only the military can explain, these forts were razed, and so was the history associated with it. The unanswered questions regarding the origin of Daulatabad and Lahore are buried somewhere in between these two mounds. Therefore it is our plea to the Archaeology Department and other organisations working for the preservation and promotion of culture of Lahore, to take notice of this dire situation, and work towards commencing excavation at the spot.