Monthly Archives: February 2008

Not a zero-sum game, at all

During my recent visit to this mega-city, I collected some impressions — the first and foremost is that Lahore has expanded too much. It is such a large city that one can’t be sure where it begins and where it ends. It has so many facilities but its problems are also gigantic.

By Riaz Missen

Frankly speaking I have not seen most of Lahore. Many historical places that I had read about in school days still remain a mystery for me. Reason is that Tahir Baig is too much busy with his ‘Red Woods’. Last summer he confined my movements to the Karim Block in Gulshan-e-Iqbal where he was painting his shop red. This time he was thinking about establishing franchises in other cities of Punjab, including Bahawalpur.

I have not visited Lahore frequently though it is the capital of the province I live in. My fifteen years in Islamabad did not make me a frequent visitor of this city, for trains and buses plying between Bahawalpur and the federal capital have found short cuts to escape it.

That the city is hundred of miles away from Bahawalpur is not an issue now when district government being are in place, Lahore has devolved some powers to Bahawalpur, but there is lot the people of this far off region have to seek in Lahore. I mean by this jobs, promotions and justice.

During my recent visit to this mega-city, I collected some impressions — the first and foremost is that Lahore has expanded too much. It is such a large city that one can’t be sure where it begins and where it ends. It has so many facilities but its problems are also gigantic.

 The suburb of Lahore is as underdeveloped as many areas of Punjab. A little ran could make life miserable. It is what I had seen when I was returning to Bahawalpur. It was daytime and I could see a glimpse of the towns of my own region in the suburb of Lahore. The industrial units were surrounded by filth. Poverty was flourishing under the shadows of skyscrapers.

To my understanding city ended where a link canal is flowing southward. I saw its waters keenly for I had once seen a report in Multan based daily that industrial waste of Lahore was being flown to the Sutlej River. I don’t know whether it is the same link canal that empties itself in the Sutlej but I am sure that its water was polluted.

 While passing through Lahore’s suburb I remembered the claims of the ex-chief minister that his government had allocated record funds for the uplift of Southern Punjab. The projected figure is Rs. 130 billion. I have not seen rest parts of the region but what I know is that my own village has got its streets brick-lined and a network of mettle roads is in place.

 Too, the Bahawalpuris have found health infrastructure operative now after a neglect of decades. The Bahawal Victoria Hospital (BVH) is serving patients free of cost (almost). I myself had the opportunity to visit a nearby Basic Health Unit and found both the staff as well as the patients satisfied with the newfound love of the government with public health system.

Education was another passion of the Punjab government for last five years. It deserves the credit of making it free up to the High School level. That it was gender sensitive adds more to its achievements. Many parents have put their girls in schools due to the reason that not only it does disturb their budgets.

 The happiest moments this time in Lahore were those in which I had opportunity to chat with Tahir’s school going daughters. They want to become teachers — nay, educationists! I don’t know what their third sister, Fatima, really thinks about her career. But I know Tahir since last ten years. He will encourage them to make their way through life on their own choice.

The next day when he was on the road to drop me on the bus terminal, he was ready to give credit to the last government for road expansions and a better-managed traffic system but still he thought it necessary that the ‘Lion’ should come out of its den. Too much ‘cycling’ has badly affected the cultural side of his city.

Lahore has developed specific civic norms, which it can’t now compromise. When Tahir said this I clearly understood that Lahore is looking not around but on itself. “Do you think the next elections will be fair?” I asked. He was quick to remind me of the statement of Ghulam Mustafa Khar: If Moonis Elhai wins his seat from Lahore the elections are rigged, for sure.

The journey to Lahore was a happy exercise. It is connected with all major cities of Punjab with motorways. The buses running at more than 100 km/ hour take now fewer hours to reach Lahore from any part of the province. From Bahawalpur the promised hours are six but it takes more than seven. The situation is far better when the figure used to be 10.

“Lahore has the potential to even grow more if it just takes care of itself.  It should not expand further and contain itself to certain limits. It should also think about getting smart and slim, if possible,” I thought loudly when the bus was crossing over the Sutlej River. By that time night had fallen. There was some water in the river but I can’t tell exactly whether it was polluted or clean.

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