The bright, genuine, lively girl
By Noorzadeh S Raja
They say that to be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your path, and not worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest. Arfa Karim Randhawa was certainly illustrious in her own right, making her mark in her short lifetime in whatever she did.
The news of the Punjab govenment’s recent plan of initiating remodelling around 20 roads of the city has come as a shock to the commuters who already spend hours on the roads
By Waqar Gillani
“It took me
more than an hour to reach Model Town from The Mall. Normally, it is a
20-minute drive,” says Asgher Ali, a resident of Model Town who works in
the Mayo hospital.
Another commuter, Mrs
Khan says, “It takes me a couple of hours to pick my children from
school and drop them home. Traffic is shocking.”The CM’s obsession of
remodelling Lahore’s road network has further added to the traffic mess
of the city.
According to the Punjab
Excise and Taxation department figures, the total number of registered
motor vehicles in Lahore is more than 3.5 million as compared to 1.2
million in 2005 and 0.5 million in 1998. “The number of motor vehicles
is doubling after every five to seven years because there is no Master
Plan of the city at work,
except remodelling, rehabilitating and building underpasses and
flyover,” says an official of the department.
The Punjab government,
with the city administration’s help, has recently initiated a project of
remodelling and rehabilitating around 20 roads of the city in need of
desperate repair — to make the traffic smooth. The slow pace of work at
these roads and some other construction projects of the government have
further added to the traffic chaos.
These roads include
Model Town Link Road, Abul Ispahani Road, Moulana Shabbir Usmani Road,
Queens Road, Shalamar Link Road, Empress Road, Lytton Road, Circular Road
and some others. “An amount of around Rs800 million is being spent on
the repair and rehabilitation of the roads under this project to smooth
traffic congestion,” says a city government official.
“The project is to
upgrade the busy roads, remodel them, widen them and try to make the flow
of traffic easy,” says Commissioner Lahore Jawad Rafique Malik, who
approved the plan for remodelling 20 major roads in the city. He says, the
remodelling work has already been started and the work will hopefully be
complete by the beginning of March 2012.
“Around Rs330 million
will be spent on the roads by the city district government while Rs450
million will be spent by the Traffic and Engineer Planning Agency (TEPA),”
he says, adding, “We are trying to make them the best roads possible
with marked lanes, vigilant traffic wardens, and more law abiding
For the convenience of
the commuters, Malik says, traffic diversion plans are being published in
daily newspapers. Also, both sides of road rehabilitation and construction
are also not being undertaken simultaneously. Yet, traffic remains
deadlocked on these roads — “It seems the traffic situation will be
worsening in the coming weeks as several road projects get underway,”
says a traffic police official.
“There is already a
traffic mess due to the ongoing construction of a flyover at the Muslim
Town intersection on Ferozepur Road,” says a warden. The project is
scheduled to be complete by March 23, on the Pakistan Day.
The city government
officials say that the traffic situation on The Mall and Davis Road will
get worse as work on new projects continues. The Mall has become busy
because of the diversions from Ferozepur Road. Jail Road gets blocked when
Lahore College and Kinnaird College close in the afternoon. Previously
traffic was diverted at this time to Ferozepur Road, but is now directed
to The Mall.
The routine traffic jams
at The Mall and other nearby roads, especially Davis Road connecting The
Mall to Lahore Press Club also cause trouble in the centre of the city.
Muhammad Asif, who lives in Garhi Shahu, demands the government to specify
a place in the city for such protesters and rallies so that the rest of
the city should remain normal and traffic should go smooth and
The city district
administration authorities, mainly the police, uphold the peoples’ right
to protest. For them, it is a policy issue. They are not even allowed to
‘touch’ a rally without permission — because of the possible
The government has also
tasked the town municipal officers (TMOs) of nine towns of the city to
remove encroachments on service roads and footpaths of 20 major roads. It
is important, however, to point out that the government’s previous
campaigns to remove encroachment from Lahore has failed.
“We need Master Plans,
strong policies and political will to solve this traffic mess,” says
Muhammad Aslam, a senior citizen and former government employee. Aslam
adds that it is beyond his imagination how the remodelling of roads will
smooth out the traffic — “Nothing will improve because the government
is not paying attention to the main reasons: the speedily increasing
population and the culture of a general disobedience and disrespect to law
They say that to
be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your path, and not worry
about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest. Arfa Karim
Randhawa was certainly illustrious in her own right, making her mark in
her short lifetime in whatever she did.
I had the pleasure of
meeting Arfa this year in my capacity as deputy head girl of my school to
discuss the possibility of a collaborative event between the various
Lahore Grammar School branches. From our very first meeting, it became
evident that she was a hard-working, dedicated head girl with a real flair
for teamwork. Her intelligent, insightful input and consideration for
others’ views made her stand out.
Apart from these
discussions, though, we had some personal conversations that I will always
value. She was good-natured, had an amazing sense of humour and had a
smile which would light up the room. Despite her long list of
achievements, she was incredibly humble and down to earth. The fact that
she was just like other people her age, sharing their concerns and worries
about college applications and impending exams is what renders her
untimely death unbelievable. The last time I talked to her, she spoke of
planning to retake the SAT in order to improve her score. It is memories
like these that make her demise so hard to grasp.
In school, she was
friendly and caring towards her peers. An eager participant in
parliamentary debating, she would often give her nervous juniors pep talks
before major tournaments. In the classroom, she would amaze her peers and
teachers with her thought-provoking questions. Arfa attended two schools
in Lahore — Learning Alliance and LGS Paragon. After shifting to the
latter, she continued to visit her old institution on a regular basis and
sustained the bonds she had made there.
The fact that Arfa
accomplished in such a short time what many achieve in years makes her an
unparalleled source of inspiration to those who knew her, as well as to
the entire youth of Pakistan. At the age of nine, she became the world’s
youngest Microsoft Certified Professional, after which she received a
plethora of awards including the Fatimah Jinnah Gold Medal, Salaam
Pakistan Youth Award, and the President’s Pride of Performance. Very few
of us are fortunate enough to discover what we truly love early in life.
Added to Arfa’s God-given genius and talent was an undying passion for
computers and information technology. Her successes, which are a source of
great pride and honour for Pakistan, were achieved through hard work and
perseverance which makes her an example for all those who want to excel.
Arfa’s death has
brought much grief to everyone who knew her. I consider myself very
fortunate to have known the bright, genuine, lively person behind all the
accolades and distinctions. She will remain in our hearts forever.
“In order to
understand what needs to be done about traffic, it should be first
understood where traffic comes from and why.
A very simple answer is
that cars cause traffic. They cause traffic, congestion, air pollution and
they kill people. If you want to get rid of traffic congestion, the answer
is simple and intuitive: get rid of the cars. A doctor advising a patient
with lung cancer will scarcely tell him he can continue smoking.
But it’s not simple.
Automobile traffic is
caused when people drive cars to get from A to B, to work, school, the
market, to socialise, etc.
Congestion occurs when
there are too many cars for the roads and intersections to handle. There
are many other ways to get from A to B. One should be able to take a
subway, tram, bus, taxi or rickshaw (public transport), one should be able
to cycle or walk and, of course, one may use a car. The existence of these
options plays an important part in where traffic comes from. If there are
no alternatives to get from A to B except the car, there will be traffic.
To reduce traffic there
needs to be serious investment in public transport that will give people
the option of using alternative (and cheaper) forms of transport. Also
important is that the public transportation system is efficient, safe,
clean and respectful. Next time there is a traffic jam, the ratio of
private cars to public transport vehicles should be calculated. This would
probably come to about 50:50.
Other than the lack of
transport options, automobile traffic occurs when there is a need to get
from A to B. People fail to realise, but quite often, traffic is created
when our cities are designed not for people but for cars. The DHA area has
the highest number of cars per capita than anywhere else in the city. It
is also a place where there are great distances between the simplest of
conveniences. When you need a dozen eggs, you have to drive to the nearest
Why? Because our cities
are designed by segregating land use (no commercial activity in a
residential area). This segregation creates the need for trips. If a city
were designed with shops, school, work and home close together — what
planners call high-density mix-use — there will be little need to depend
on motorised transport. One could walk to the shop, take a bus to school
or work and a taxi to the cinema.
Can these things happen
in Lahore? Of course they can. But first, we have to stop designing our
cities for cars. Then we have to provide safe and efficient public
transport. Then we need to start discouraging car dependency (higher
parking rates, a better taxi service) and encouraging alternative forms of
transport. All these measures, taken together, is how one can evolve a
strategy, not just for clearing up traffic, but making the city more
VIP protocol movements
The people must
become better citizens in order to avoid serious traffic congestions. For
example, there are traffic laws that must be obeyed, and followed. In a
traffic jam, or if it is the peak of a rush hour there are cars
crisscrossing each other as if they would make it easier for themselves to
get out of the mess. In fact what actually happens is they get stuck
further into the jam, and cause a negative fallback upon cars on other
sides of the road.
The new traffic wardens
are very good. They appear to be conscientious, and strict for law
breakers, but it must be the public also who follows the rules.
Then there are VIP
protocol movements which must be taken into check. The trend for these
must be stopped. Neither are the citizens informed about these beforehand,
nor are they well planned. Instead ordinary people are told to move to one
side, not even bothering to understand that there may be an emergency
situation for someone, and the VIP cars speed past.
Similarly, MPA and MNA
bearing number plates, cars with press stickers and the like are also
included in those who openly flout traffic rules, only because they belong
to powerful circles. In fact I have usually even seen people who drive
these cars, who probably are not the name bearers themselves. This is very
wrong. So before we point to others, each should think about what he is
doing wrong. This would definitely reduce the traffic blockades that
happen so often in Lahore.
down on cars
“Cut down on
cars. That is the number one solution that pops into my mind. Where there
are cars, there will be traffic. If there are 50 cars on one road,
person each, will it not be better if there is one bus on that road
carrying those 50 people all at the same time? Imagine how much reduction
in the traffic there would be then.
All over the world cars
are being discouraged. This is the new trend. There have been
consultations and agreements where experts world over have decided that
they will reduce the number of cars but this is not being done in
Pakistan. Here the public transport is so bad, that people themselves
never want to stop using their own cars. Despite the fact that there is a
serious shortage of fuel, nothing is being done about this.
The next thing is
connected directly with this issue: improve public transport. Once there
is a better network of bus routes, more buses are introduced and public
transport gives citizens cheaper and safer incentives to commute
throughout the city, cars will become ‘out of fashion’ automatically.
Also, instead of
continuing to make megalopolis cities like Lahore is at present, each city
should be divided into small towns. At the moment Lahore has 14 towns, but
there should be about 50 to 60 towns. These should have all kinds of
incentives for the public, starting from employment, down to recreation,
and also including schools, hospitals, shops, etc, so that people do not
have to travel long distances to get things done. This is the only way in
which traffic can be reduced.
If the number of
vehicles keeps rising at this pace of 18 percent annually, the roads in
Lahore, in the next five years will become inadequate for smooth traffic
flow. So, the traffic planners and the concerned authorities need to come
up with a plan on how to reduce the load of vehicles on roads.
According to the Lahore
Motor Vehicle Registering Authority statistics gathered by The News on
Sunday, 238,790 vehicles of all kinds were registered in 2007, while in
2011 the authority registered 290,919 vehicles, which is an 18 percent
increase in vehicles. We can project on the basis of this data that about
343,000 more vehicles will be registered four years later in 2015.
topped the list among the four-wheelers, leaving aside the case of
motorcycles and scooters as they are not relevant to our topic at this
point. While, 39,347 cars were registered in 2009, the number shot up to
51,852, indicating an increase of about 32 percent. By 2013 subsequently
almost 12,505 more cars will be registered.
Why do the authorities
not consider imposing certain effective and harmless restrictions in a bid
to regulate traffic flow?
One such restriction is
called the ‘odd-even bar under’ according to which on three days of
the week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — only the
odd-numbered motorcars, such as LEE-9335, LEV-6743, LER-1187, will be
allowed to ply the roads; while on other days of the week — Tuesdays,
Thursdays and Saturdays — the even-numbered private motorcars, such as
LEN-7654, LEG-7868, LEK-8442, will be allowed to use the roads. And
Sundays will be free of any restrictions. Traffic is already thin on the
The urgent need of the
day is to reduce the load of motorcars on roads.
In countries like Japan
a person cannot have a car unless he ensures the authority concerned that
he or she has a proper garage to keep the car. In Singapore, only one car
per family is permitted.
According to a survey
conducted by TNS, on busy chowks and roundabouts like Chairing Cross and
Club Chowk, ten out of twenty cars were found with only a driver and no
In order to reduce load
of traffic on roads, the timings of educational institutions should be
different from those of the government offices. There always remains great
rush of vehicles during 7pm to 9pm due to the overlapping timings of
offices and educational institutions. Similarly, there should be at least
one hour difference in closing timings of schools, colleges and
universities. This will reduce traffic load on roads and help avoid