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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Mayor of Lahore: Will the new ideology prevail?

In case of an election, a road map of service to the people is needed. Considering the overall decline of my city and country in the last four decades, it has turned into big business with very impressive/unbeatable ROI figures. Once the duel comes to an end and the term of office of the Mayor starts, it usually is back to the old ways, " No money no service"

With 7.5 million voters the election for the Mayor of Lahore poses to be an epoch contest. As the son of Lahore who grew up on the Mall in close proximity to the historic building of the Lahore Municipal Corporation (LMC), I decided to throw in the gauntlet for this fight. After opening my campaign office in my sectorial property located in the Anarkali-Mall intersection, I started to do some homework. The very first friend I consulted wanted to know about my election budget. He had a big laugh when I revealed the budgeted amount of Rs 5 Million (0.5 Crores).

He suggested a minimum amount of Rs 50 Million (5 Crores) which baffled me. Then I decided to get in touch with political heavyweights who had recent experience of contesting national elections. I was shocked with the required finances to reach this coveted office, according to their professional estimate an amount of Rs 500 Million is needed (50 Crores).

Read more: How Nadir Shah could have fixed Lahore?

It raises a question, Is this an election or investment?

If it is an investment then there has to be a return (ROI: Return on Investment Plan). In case of an election, a road map of service to the people is needed. Considering the overall decline of my city and country in the last four decades, it has turned into big business with very impressive/unbeatable ROI figures. Once the duel comes to an end and the term of office of the Mayor starts, it usually is back to the old ways, ” No money no service”.  The Mayor enjoys the perks of office till the term comes to a close. In the end, he has only excuses and stories to share and a personal empire to enjoy but no results to show on the ground.

The sewerage gutters continue to overflow, the city remains littered with a lack of basic amenities of life while the ‘Lord Mayor’ helplessly watches from his office in the historic building from which once the city of Iqbal and Faiz was kept functional. Even the massive public transport system was launched from there on the London model. Buses and Double Deckers plied on the roads through LOS (Lahore Omni Bus Service).

Even today, there is a place on Ferozepur Road near Mozang Chungi called ‘LOS Stop’ but no ‘Buses’. Instead, the highly subsidized ‘Metro Bus Service’ and the above-ground ‘Orange Metro Train’ runs causing a financial burden on the state exchequer. The cash-rich LOS was replaced with ‘ Urban Transport Corporation whose depot on Ferozepur Road near Garden Town was taken over for building a huge plaza under the garb of foreign investment which never came. Now a huge dug-up fenced area remains to pose a serious safety challenge to the unfortunate people who live around.

While the seat of power in the Indian Subcontinent was Delhi, two cities had special significance (Lahore, Calcutta). Quaid-e-Azam called Lahore the ‘ Heart of Pakistan ‘ while Quaid-e-Awam termed it the Leningrad (St Petersburg) of  Pakistan. The resolution for the new land was passed here in March 1940. The two mainstream genuine political parties were launched here as well ( Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ) all others came from Rawalpindi. I had the chance and honor of growing up in this city of intellect that has produced six Nobel Laureates perhaps the only place in the world.

Read more: Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar speaks on dilapidated system

Unfortunately, now I endure the pain of its decline mainly because of mismanagement and loot which continues unabated. Once Nadir Shah used to come from the North for the siege and plunder of this historic trade center of the region. Some popular terms to define this phenomenon was also coined here, “Khaya Pai Ly Da  Baki Nadir Shahi Da ” ( Nothing is safe from Nadir Shah except what one has consumed). While the city grew and prospered till 1985 before it came under attack of ‘ Nadir Shahi ‘ once again. City records were burnt and its land was grabbed by powerful ‘Qabza Groups’. This time around the ‘ Mafia’s came from within not from the North through the historic Khyber Pass.

In the year 1975, a resolution was passed by the legislature to shut down the ‘ Settlement and Rehabilitation Department ‘ as most properties had been settled by then. BOR ( Board of Revenue ) was tasked to handle the unsettled cases. In 2014 in order to facilitate the ‘ Qabza Group ‘, BOR issued a directive under which all settled cases were re-opened for scrutiny of ownership documents in violation of the 1975 Act. No property transaction can take place unless papers are verified by BOR. The procedure has opened the flood gates of corruption with harassment of the property owners.

Today (December 28, 2021) around 12 Noon, I was coming back after a hearing at the Punjab Information Commission office located on Nursery Lane off Lawerence Road where the road was blocked by a White Land Cruiser and an escort car with green plates. With great difficulty, I finally managed to come through, on scrutiny I saw the Mayor of Lahore casually talking to some of his friends unaware of the traffic hazard he had created. I shouted ” Mayor Sahib you have blocked the road “, hearing my shout he was kind enough to apologize which was quite unusual of the customary arrogance of people in authority.

Col. (Retd) Mubashir Javed the incumbent is a retired officer of the Corps of Engineers, it is surprising that he is more popular in the corruption-laden party he joined after retirement than his peers in uniform. While the city remains in shambles, the Mayor seems to be enjoying the perks of office using expensive transport which causes roadblocks for the public. It was the government of Muhammad Khan junjo which had restricted all government officers to use automobiles under 1000 CC capacity. In the original PTI 100 Days plan, it was proposed to restrict official transport to under 1300 CC but it seems the austerity measures have been overlooked.

I intend to write an article about the city leadership titled; “From Chaudhry Muhammad Hussain to Mian Amir Mahmood”. While empires were built by these individuals the city sank in dirty gutter waters and the stench of litter. Lahore has been under the rule of Nadir Shahi since the days of Chaudhry Sahib. I need not say much about the phenomenal growth of the Mian Amir Group after his four-year stint in office. Recently I saw a write-up on Kesha Ram the great-great-granddaughter of the legendry son of the city Sir Ganga Ram who was sworn in as Senator in the State of Vermont in the USA.

Read more: Past, present and the future of Pakistan

While the legacy of Ganga Ram is all over the city, our Chaudhry’s are nowhere to be found, nothing to write home about. Lahore needs a Mayor who can restore the glory of the city of Dr Iqbal and Ganga Ram, where people can live in comfort and peace as it used to be before the ‘ Desi Nadir Shah’s took control and started its decline by unchecked loot and plunder. The ‘Kim’s Gun’ faces the Museum, it’s time to change its direction towards the Mayor’s office forcing him to work for the city or face the consequences. Only through a well-thought idealogy, my Lahore can be turned into Lahore where I opened my eyes and played on its well-kept fields. No more ‘ Nadir Shahs ‘ in the 21st century, it’s time for ideology in order to move forward.



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.