GORs (Government Officers Residences) were built by the colonists to isolate ‘Gora Sahib’ from the locals. For public dealing and official work a ‘Civil Secretariat’ also called ‘Latt Sahib ka Daftar’ was built on Lower Mall close to the city. The only building where residence and office facilities were available was the Governor’s House. It was in the decade of the seventies that one residential building located on 7 Club Road was upgraded to accommodate the Chief Minister (CM). Being an ‘Awami Hukamat’, the People’s Party followed an open-door policy for the public, for which another building on 6 Club Road was added for public dealing.
The CM, CS (Chief Secretary), Inspector General Police (IG) all worked from the secretariat where the public had free access. It was during the term of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi that a CM Office Complex was built at 8 Club Road after encroaching on an adjoining park and road. The CS and Commissioner followed the CM by upgrading their home coordination offices to full-fledged complexes within the GOR. For security purposes, controlled entry was enforced. Now the three pillars of governance in the province work in the serenity of the residential area, isolated from the public they are required to serve.
Understanding the actual matter
In the residential areas of Cantonment and DHA, offices are not allowed to operate. A few years back CDA (Capital Development Authority) forcefully shut down all offices located in private bungalows. In principle, I am opposed to the basic idea of GORs but in the short term, it must be decided to either move out all the offices from here or convert the entire area into an ‘Adminstrative District’ where all government offices can be moved for better coordination and facilitation of the public. This hybrid model is not working. The CM is located in GOR, the CS in the secretariat, and the IG in the headquarter. It is a perfect recipe for misgovernance.
In Islamabad, the first planned city of Pakistan, all government secretariats are located in close proximity, while in the largest province of the country they are scattered causing hardships for the public. Only this week I was denied entry into the GOR as I did not have permission to enter. Access to the secretariat is easier but then no one is available there. Walton Airport is being converted into a very lucrative ‘Business District’. The wasted land at GOR is equally expensive which can be put to good use. As a child growing up on the Mall, I know every nook and corner of this huge estate that is grossly underutilized and mismanaged. There is also a replica of Tollington Market in the area where at one time people used to shop before the mega stores opened in the city.
In other words, the CM Secretariat is the equivalent of the GHQ of Punjab. At one time entire West Pakistan was run from the Governor’s House which is now also underutilized. Chaudhry Sarwar lives in DHA Phase 5 while he works out of this huge colonial mansion. It was in the PTI Manifesto to shut down the Governor’s House, which can be easily be accomplished by moving the office to the Old Freemasons Hall located on 90 Shah-rae-Quaid-e-Azam not too far. An ‘Education District’ can be built here. With three new districts (Administrative, Business, Education) in the provincial capital together with the Ravi Front Project, Lahore can be converted into a very prosperous metropolitan city which can then be a model to be replicated in the entire country. The complete potential of the city remains unexploited due to the lack of vision and faulty planning of the people at the helm.
Why change is not always a good idea
A few years back on my visit to the Attock Oil Company in Rawalpindi, I was completely transformed in time. It seemed like reincarnation, a familiar place where I had been before. After days of thinking, I found the answer. It was the Lahore of the decades of fifties and sixties where I grew up playing in the well-kept green patches around the LMC (Lahore Municipal Corporation) building with redbrick buildings, clean roads with very little traffic. The Colonists ran a very efficient civil administration to achieve their objectives.
After August 14, 1947, instead of realignment of the services to serve the people of the city, chaos, confusion, and corruption started to raise their evil heads. ‘Gora Sahib’ left, GOR was now occupied by the ‘Brown Sahib’ who started to behave like them. For the interim settling period perhaps the residences were put to good use but instead of dismantling the colonial leftovers more, GORs were constructed during the Ayub era. Lahore now has four or five of them where the ‘Brown Sahibs’ live, out of touch with the ground realities of the land.
Why does Pakistan need to focus on land reforms immediately?
Acres and acres of valuable land have been underutilized for decades. Instead of putting it to good use for the common welfare, the ‘Qabza Groups’ have moved in. Recently the old PR Golf course where we went swimming has been taken back from the foreign investors who had a field day by controlling expensive Railway property to their advantage.
Elections for the Mayor of the city are being planned. For the first time, the people of Lahore will have a chance to directly elect the City Chief. In most developed democracies of the world, cities are under the control of an elected Mayor. Those who deliver in this position are then elevated as CMs and Presidents. Hopefully, a son of the city will come forward to serve the land and its inhabitants. Mian Amir Mahmood builds a huge empire after his stint as Mayor of Lahore during the Musharraf regime. Indirectly elected individuals under dictatorships seldom serve the people, they build their own empires like the Sharifs of Gawalmandi and Chaudhry’s of Gujrat.
This time the election will be direct and perhaps credible to ensure honest able leadership which can then turn the city around by dismantling the wasteful colonial relics. Those who live in GORs under protection cannot serve the people, at least they should be pushed out from there to their designated place of work to directly interact with their customers who are no longer their subjects.
The writer is an Ex-Chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.