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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Lahore: The new hotspot of Pakistan’s politics?

PML-N senior vice president Maryam Nawaz on Saturday asked the nation to “have faith in Ishaq Dar [and] God” to steer the country’s deteriorating economy out of the current quagmire, in her first speech after her return to Pakistan after a nearly four-month sojourn in London.

The feeble reception accorded to Maryam Safdar on arrival at the Lahore Airport on February 28, 2023, indicated that Lahore had finally been liberated from the clutches of the corrupt mafia imposed by the establishment in the year 1985 through partyless/manipulated elections which were boycotted by the mainstream political parties. Historically the city of Lahore has been the main battleground.

Undoubtedly it’s the Political Panipat of Pakistan where warriors are launched. It was here in March 1940 that the resolution for the creation of Pakistan was unanimously passed by a charged crowd despite being under the Unionist Rule of the Toadies. Ayub Khan the first usurper ruptured the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and launched a new faction called PML (Convention). Muslim League House on  Davis Road Lahore was dedicated to the cause of hijacking democracy and building an ‘Evil Empire’.

Understanding the matter better

When Bhutto launched the first real political party of the country in November 1967 at the YMCA Hall on Mall Road, he declared that Lahore was the Leningrad of Pakistan. Inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 that created the Soviet Union, he promised not only democracy but also Roti, Kapra, and Makan (Food, Clothing, Shelter) to the suffering masses who had been left in the lurch by the dictatorial regime.

As a tribute to the leader of the Russian uprising, the historic city of Saint Petersburg was renamed after Lenin. In the traditions of free-thinking, Imran Khan (IK) opened his political innings in April 1996 under the banner of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Both Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and PTI have the unique distinction of being Lahore-based real political entities. Despite several onslaughts by the third usurper, PPP survived till the assassination of Benazir Bhutto (BB) finally being hijacked by her husband Asif Zardari, it’s now Zardari Party.

It was Muhammad Ali Jinnah who liberated Lahore from the clutches of the ‘Toadies’ who had historically ruled over it. While the All India Muslim League (AIML) was waging the freedom struggle, Punjab was being ruled by the likes of Sir Sikander Hayat and Malik Khizer Tiwana who were part of the Raj. After independence in August 1947, Jinnah tried his best to steer the Muslim League in the right direction but the party was hijacked. With the first Martial Law in October 1958, the freedom struggle was seriously dented.

The politics of Lahore has changed

Nawab Amir Muhammad Khan started to run the province defying all democratic norms. Lahore became a battleground for change. Finally, it was Bhutto who overcame the forces of status-quo to win back the city in the 1970 free and fair elections. Dr. Mubashir Hasan an activist polled the highest number of votes. Bhutto himself got elected from here leaving the Muslim League to bite the dust.

Zia the third usurper decided to win back the city of intellect. He launched the ‘Sharif ‘ of Gawalamandi to control the brain center of change. Since 1985 Takht-e-Lahore headed by Nawaz Sharif established control of the metropolis. Thus started an era of manipulated elections to get the desirables elected. Imran Khan, the son of the city decided to challenge the hegemony of the Establishment Politicians. For him, it was a long drawn struggle. Finally in October 2011, the city of Lahore gave its verdict in his favor. His party was denied election victory in the 2013 electoral contest. Two PML-N elected MNAs from Lahore were de-seated by the Election Commission of Pakistan (Khawaja Saad Rafique, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq).

Finally, the Takht-e-Lahore was threatened by IK. Finally, in the 2018 elections, he managed to get power but was denied the majority. In April 2022 his government was shown the door to bring back the old order. Pakistan is at a crossroads again.

The crowd at Zaman Park is charged with round-the-clock vigil for their leader. Another epic is unfolding. In March 1940 the atmosphere was also very similar. Jinnah stayed at the Momdot Villa on Habibulla Road off Davis Road. Volunteers of the Muslim Students Federation provided security. The Khaksars under the leadership of legendary Allama Inayat Ullah Khan Mashriqi opposed the division of India.

Despite the threat to his life, the resolution for the partition of India was passed at Lahore. Jinnah returned safely to Bombay to return back as Governor General of Pakistan in August 1947. Bhutto was awarded the death sentence by the Lahore High Court. He was physically eliminated in April 1979 but his daughter returned to a hero’s welcome in the year 1986. She went on to win the 1988 elections after the demise of the third usurper. She managed to get elected as Prime Minister two times.

Now it is IK leading the charge. He has decided to contest himself from all the thirty-three seats vacated by his party men. Despite threats to his life, he will be campaigning all over the country. Being a fighter he will fight till the last ball till his country and city have been liberated and cleansed. Takht-e-Lahore can no longer rule the city of Iqbal where he lies buried. The aroma of freedom is in the air. From Jinnah to Bhutto to Imran the struggle is ongoing, the tide has now turned.


The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at fmaliks@hotmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.