Author Archives: ralam420

Attack of the Clichéd byline

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that were only two universal constants: Death & Taxes. In Pakistan, once can safely add a third: the clichéd byline. Ever summer, for instance, you can bet your last Rupee someone will write an article on mangoes called “King of Fruit” in which Ghalib’s famed love of the tasty produce will be mentioned. Another other clichéd byline also comes every summer as a caption to a photograph showing children/women/men/birds drinking water. The caption will read: “Beating the Heat.” Classic.

I now introduce you to the third cliched byline. This one makes its annual appearance every March and is a reference to the unsolicited advice given to one J. Caesar just before some Roman Senators decided to make Swiss Cheese out of him. The award goes to Ikram Sehgal for, wait for it,

“Beware of the ides of March.”

The effects of Lahore’s urban sprawl

Yesterday, I posted an article about the LDA’s latest schemes in South Lahore.

Today, I’m posting my column as it appeared in The News:

Behind Lahore’s worsening crisis

Since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team at Lahore’s Liberty Market, nothing seems to make sense anymore. The country and its people appear to be drifting to anarchy and chaos. There is deep political crisis. The presidency has stolen the mandate of the people of Punjab and the Swat peace deal is crumbling at its foundations. A Pakistani Taliban is taking over the northern regions. The economy is in deep slide (getting more IFI financing is not the same as a dynamic economy). Poverty is near 40 percent, and violence, intolerance and extremism are on the rise. Government institutions have failed; others are crumbling fast. The integrity of our armed forces is under question. Even cricket is dead.

We can scream blue murder because it’s broken. We can try and blame one another for breaking it. Or we can set about fixing it. You don’t need to be a genius to do this; or be a natural-born leader of men. You just need to participate. This is our mess. We need to clean it up.
Continue reading

Urban Sprawl update: LDA launches two new housing schemes

by Yasir Habib Khan in The Nation, 23 March

LAHORE – Just few days before the new government is going to assume its charge in Punjab, the Lahore Development Authority has launched two new housing schemes with 2,10,000 plots.
These two schemes, situated at southern part of the city, are learnt to be run on the footstep of Defence Housing Authority. The LDA approved the housing schemes on October 31, 2006 with notification under LDA Act 1975 to meet the residential requirements of the city. The Punjab government has banned sale and purchase of land in the concerned areas.
One housing scheme covering around 25,000 kanal land will be situated at Raiwand road. while second housing scheme will spread on Ferozpur road spreading 2 lack and 25 thousands kanals of land
LDA Director General Muhammad Arif Khan announced the two schemes during a press conference held at LDA Plaza here on Saturday.
According to map of scheme, the housing scheme at Ferozepur road will touch from the North Hadiyara Drain, from the South Suaya Asal road, from the West main railway line. While front of the scheme would be stretched out million of kilometer on Ferozepur road. Raiwand road scheme includes 11 small townswhich include moza Janjate, Pajeyan, Khana Nepal, Dhondey, Rakh Raaye, Raaye, Rakgh Jaddo Dher, Jadu Dheer, Karyal, Raiwand and moza Jiya Bagga.
Both the schemes would involve 23 small towns including moza Sadhar, Pandoki, Jalkey, Chehdow, Rakth Chehdow, Toor Wariach, Tehpanju, Badooki, Khand, Asal Suleman, Aato Asal, Kachah, Kang Sharif, Jiya Bagga, Chak Boota, Dhodhey, Raiwand, Karyal, Jalal Pura, Jadu Dheer, Ladhu Key Acheh, Watney, and moza Kangra.
The housing schemes would focus low-income groups in the city besides preparing large number of three-marla plots for widows, orphans and the destitute. The LDA DG Muhammad Arif Khan said that in scheme No 1 there would be 7500 plots for one kanal plots, 7500 plots for 10 marlas, 8333 plots for 3 marlas.
In Scheme No 2, there would be 15000 plots for one kanal, 15000 plots for 10 marlas, and 16666 plots for 3 marlas.
It is learnt that Mian Amer Mahmood, who is also the chairman of the Lahore Development Authority, directed for selling these plots to the lower class on minimum possible prices, providing construction plans along with estimates to the people free of cost and exempting these plots from getting approved site plan.
The sources said that the district nazim asked for allocating big chunks of land for setting up four colleges, two each for boys and girls in these schemes as well as for reserving more land for public utility sites and establishing commercial areas in view of future requirements. “The nazim also directed to ensure electricity supply lines under ground and a water treatment plant included in the planning of these schemes, the sources concluded.

Urs of Mian Mir from 5th

Miniature depicting Hazrat Mian Mir and his disciple, Mullah Shah, in conversation with Prince Dara Shikoh.

Miniature depicting Hazrat Mian Mir and his disciple, Mullah Shah, in conversation with Prince Dara Shikoh.

LAHORE (APP) – The 385th annual urs of Hazrat Mian Mir will begin on March 5 (Thursday). Secretary Auqaf Punjab Khizar Hayat Gondal will inaugurate the two-day urs celebrations by performing traditional chadar laying ceremony on the grave of sufi saint.
Punjab Auqaf Department has granted Rs 200,000 for holding urs celebrations and facilitating the visitors coming from all over the country, a spokesman of Auqaf Department told APP on Sunday.
Ulema and Mashaikh will highlight the teachings of Hazrat Mian Mir during urs days. Mehfil-e-Sama will also be held in which renowned qawwals will present religious poetry on the occasion.

The Life’s Too Short short story Prize

Entries are invited to the first ever Life’s Too Short short story prize.

For more information, go to

Entries will be judged by a panel consisting of Muhammad Hanif, Kamila Shamsie and Daniyal Mueenuddin.

First prize is Rs. 100,000/-, Second prize is Rs. 20,000/- and Third Prize is Rs. 10,000/-.

The ten best short stories selected by the judges will be published as an anthology.

Participants must be of Pakistani origin. Stories should not exceed 5,000 words. Entries must be in English. Poetry will not be accepted.

Entries must be mailed to

Submission deadline is 30 June 2009.

Critical Mass Lahore February 2009

The last Sunday of the month is approaching. You know this means it’s time for Critical Mass.
Join us at 10am this Sunday 22 February for Lahore’s 3rd Critical Mass cycling event.

Cyclists in China coined the term Critical Mass to describe the phenomenon that takes place when cyclists can take over streets and traffic dominated by automobiles. Critical Mass now takes place in over 200 cities around the world.
Critical Mass is not an organization. It is an idea. Critical Mass is about having clean cities that provide mobility and accessibility. Critical Mass is about clean transport.
Critical Mass is about showing a man on a cycle is the same as a man in a ten lac car. Critical Mass is about democracy. Critical Mass is about having the right to mobility.
Everyone in Lahore knows how bad the traffic is. Critical Mass Lahore is the first step in taking our streets back.
Critical Mass is an idea. Make it yours.

What do I need to participate in a Critical Mass Event?

Nothing but a road-worthy cycle and an sense of fun.

Where and how else to Critical Mass Events take place?

Critical Mass events are typically held on the last Friday of each month in cities all over the world. Get more information at For information about Critical Mass Lahore, some to Zakir Tikka at 10am on Sunday 22 February 2009.


Check out this video of a free volunteer school that’s doing the most unbelievable work in a working class abadi in Saddar, Cantonment.  Watch this to see the amazing philanthropic work of the people responsible for this great school.

You can find out more by visiting the Foundation’s website at

Critical Mass Lahore


Critical Mass is a cycling event that takes place in over 200 cities around the world. Lahore has just become a Critical Mass city. The purpose of Critical Mass is to raise awareness, to be healthy and to have fun.

This Sunday’s event is Lahore’s second ever Critical Mass Event.  It’s open to anyone with a road worthy bicycle and a healthy sense of fun. See you there!!!

Lahore Canal to developed into a picnic spot?!

Lahore Branch Canal

Lahore Branch Canal

LAHORE: The Punjab Irrigation Department will rebuild the Lahore Branch Canal (LBC) in coordination with the Parks & Horticulture Authority (PHA) to promote the canal as a picnic spot.The project aims at adding to the natural scenic beauty of the canal, said Senior Minister Raja Riaz Ahmad while inspecting the desilting of Lahore Branch Canal. Secretary Irrigation Babur Bharwana, Chief Engineer Irrigation Lahore Zone Waqar Ahmad and other concerned officials of the Irrigation Department were also present on the occasion who apprised the senior minister about the pace of desilting works.

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Goodbye, Walton

lahore-flying-clubby Ahmad Rafay Alam

This summer I was the lucky recipient of a very special birthday gift: a charter flight over Lahore. I recommend the experience to everyone, more so now, given the tale that is to tell.

While approaching the Walton Airport runway – Walton is Lahore’s original airstrip and is the home of the erstwhile Lahore Flying Club (est. 1930) – and about where our tiny single-propeller Cessna, the Suzuki Alto of the air, crossed Ferozepur Road, I noticed a very large ditch almost directly under the flight path.
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On Cavalry Road, Mughalpura

On Cavalry Road, Mughalpura

by Ahmad Rafay Alam

We all know mosques are places of worship. But occasionally stepping outside the confines of this limited relationship can be rewarding. Few see mosques as anything other than places of worship. But, as a type of structure, I wager there are more mosques in Pakistan than any other type of structure. Continue reading

First ever Critical Mass event in Lahore


Be Part of the First Ever
Critical Mass Event in Lahore
10am Sunday 28 December 2008
Starting from the Zakir Tikka intersection
Sarwar Road, Lahore Cantonment
(Route maps will be available at the venue; the Event should last no more than 1 hour 30 minutes)

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The not-so-great Ali Mardan Khan

Salman RashidBritish historians wrongly made too much of Ali Mardan’s skills as an engineer and we who do not read followed blindly. In reality the man was a charlatan, a fraud. In April 1657, he died of dysentery while on his way to Kashmir. At that time his total assets which, according to law were attached to the crown, were in excess of a whopping ten million rupees!

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Martin Lings Memorial Lecture & Environment Symposium

Alam-al-Khayal and WWF-Pakistan invite you to

Quranic Clarifications on the Environment Crisis

18-20 December 2008, Ali Auditorium, Ferozepur Road

“It is the nature of God to wish to communicate itself”- Alam-al-Khayal aspires to participate in this self-revelation of the Sovereign Good, doing so with a particular emphasis on reviving traditional knowledge and disciplines through lectures, symposie, film documentaries and workshops on sacred scholarship.

You are invited to attend

  • The Martin Lings Memorial Lecture, “Art and the Real” by Kamil Khan Mumtaz Sahib at 7pm on 18 December at the Ali Auditorium;
  • “A Quranic Response to “An Inconvenient Truth” by Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi at 7pm on 19 December at the Ali Auditorium; and
  • “Sacred Signs & Environmental Solutions” – An Environment Symposium (in Urdu) at 10.30am on 20 December at the Ali Auditorium.

Speakers at the Symposium will include

  • Mr. Iqbal Ahmed Qarshi, Qarshi Foundation
  • Mr. Ali H. Habib, WWF-Pakistan
  • Ms. Nudrat B. Majeed, Alam-al-Khayal
  • Mr. Masood Arshad & Ms. Marriyum Aurangzeb
  • Mr. Suheyl Umar
  • Mr. Ahmad Rafay Alam, Advocate (and Lahore Nama contributer!)

New transport company proposed

Tuesday, December 02, 2008
By Atif Nadeem (writing in The News)


THE Provincial Transport Authority (PTA) has proposed establishment of a new transport company “Lahore Transport Company” (LTC), to tackle various issues regarding public transport in the city.

Talking to The News, sources said Chief Minister Task Force on Improvement of Transportation Chairman Tasnim Noorani on Monday chaired a meeting of PTA officers and office-bearers of the Urban Transport Union. Transport Department Secretary Shehzad Cheema, the additional secretary and traffic planning chief were also present.

The meeting discussed various matters, including reduction in fares of public transport. Sources said the idea of establishment of Lahore Transport Company (LTC) was discussed with the transport owners which would be run with the cooperation of the transport unions in the city.
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A Tale of Two Cities (part II)

by Ahmad Rafay Alam

To paint another picture, there are nine Food Inspectors in Lahore. These are the people that ensure the food Lahoris eat is hygienic. For this important task, there should be 70 food inspectors. Because of the lack of enforcement of food regulations, our hospitals are full of patients with typhoid, cholera and diarrhoea (Pakistan is the second-highest in South Asia for number of child diarrhoea cases). And guess what? When these patients come to government-run hospitals, they find underperforming doctors. The quality of hospitals, basic and rural health in Punjab, which are supposedly decentralised to the local level, is deplorable. Another reason people are streaming into hospital ill-equipped to deal with them is the incredible amount of pollution in our cities, including Lahore. The air quality in Lahore is the worst in history and the World Bank estimates there are some 45 million estimated cases of respiratory diseases in Pakistan each year. To add to this is a rundown water and sanitation system. Because of sub-standard water quality, because sewage pipes regularly leak into water mains, because the sanitation department of Lahore employs only 1,700 men (there should be more than 7,000), the number of such cases can only increase.

What do sanitation, health and air pollution have to do with the Canal Road? Let me explain. In order to even be considered as having safe habitation for its residents, a city must also provide sanitation and health facilities. They are like two sides of the same coin. Without good sanitation and health facilities you cannot be said to have safe habitats. At the moment, Lahore is very lucky. Although the P&D Department of the Government of Punjab issued a report in which it admitted that half of urban Punjabis live in slums and katchi abadis, Lahore is a relatively well-designed city with a relatively lower percentage of its residents living in squalor. But this is set to change. In the next two decades, if our sanitation, health and air quality do not improve, this city will become unliveable. It will stretch from Shahdara to the north-east to the Indian border on the west and halfway to Kasur to the south-west. But, as things stand, most of this area has already been taken over, plotted up and sold by private real-estate developers. By the time the next twenty million people pour into Lahore, these areas – automobile-dependant and without a single environment impact assessment or mitigation measure between them – will be choking under the weight of the urban necropolis they have become part of. Continue reading

Strange things I’ve seen in the city

I was driving down the Mall the other day when something caught my eye that nearly caused an accident.  Yes, that’s right, I caught a dead horse being driven down the Mall.  Living in Lahore, you see just about everything.

I’m starting a blog series here on the strange things I’ve seen in the city.  If you have any strange experiences, write them in the comments section or, if you have photos, email them to me and I’ll see if we can’t get them posted.  But to kick things off, here’s a dead horse, lying upside down in the midst of rigor mortis, being driven down Lahore’s Mall Road.

Strange things I've seen

Strange things I

Punjab Entertainment Company dissolved

Mohammad Ali Jinnah once said (on the 11th of July 1947 to a session of the Constituent Assembly of the yet-to-be-formed Pakistan) that the first duty of a State was to protect the life and liberty of its citizens – the classic Magisterial role of the State.

Somehow, the previous Punjab Government of Pervaiz Elahi got it into its head that, having solved all of the Punjab’s other problems, the second duty of a State was to provide entertainment – the classic diversion employed by Roman Caesars and others to distract the population from important matters.  Thus the Punjab Entertainment Company was formed and an IMAX cinema planned for the well-to-do on Lahore’s M.M. Alam Road.

Now, about 1.4 billion wasted Rupees later, the Punjab Government of Shahbaz Sharif has seen the light and have decided to shelve the project.

IMAX theatre project shelved

Staff Report

LAHORE: The Punjab Entertainment Company (PEC) has been dissolved following Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s directives on Saturday night.

Director General Public Relation (DGPR) Mohyuddin Wani has been given the additional charge of the company to monitor its wrap-up process.

According to the sources, several politicians and bureaucrats have reportedly benefited from the PEC’s IMAX project, which is worth Rs 1,411.271 million. The officers were drawing hefty salaries and enjoying perks without doing any work, they added Continue reading

LCD Billboards – Why I don’t like them!

1.  They’re ugly and quite often trees are cut to accommodate them;

2.  They are incredibly dangerous unsafe traffic hazards;

3.  They are the source of light pollution;

3.  They are on public land yet the public gets nothing of the million of Rupees that change hands between advertiser, billboard owner and the public authority which collects advertising fees;

4.  They’re meant to be in high-pedestrian areas, but our government has allowed them to be set up in high-automobile traffic areas;

5.  The generators that run them are noisy and are a source of noise pollution;

6.  The generators that run them spew diesel fumes onto the road and are a source of air pollution;

7.  They come with their own security guards (How humiliating a job must that be);

8.  The massive advertising budgets required for billboard advertsing keeps the costs of those commodities high – and the billboards are on public land!!!

9.  They are evidence that city fathers are more interesting in making money than the health and safety of residents.

Note traffic light just below bottom left corner of the screen.

Note traffic light just below bottom left corner of the screen.

Enrique Penalosa to speak about sustainable cities at LUMS




With a fast growing population, and increasing pace of urbanization, Pakistani cities, like many other in the developing world, are facing mounting problems related to provision of municipal services, public transport, land for housing, and the deteriorating quality of drinking water and ambient air, amongst myriad others. Confronted with growing challenges, many cities around the world are re-thinking ‘traditional’ approaches to urban development, emphasizing different priorities and approaches which factor in the needs of the many against those of the few.

To highlight some of the major challenges facing large cities around the world and how these cities are responding, the Environmental Law and Policy Class at the Law and Policy Department at LUMS in collaboration with Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), a programme of the Clinton Foundation has organised a talk by Mr. Enrique Penalosa, world renowned urban strategist and former mayor of Bogota (Columbia) who transformed that City of 7 million inhabitants into a living example of sustainability – building schools and dispensaries, improving transport, increasing public spaces, and reducing crime rates. Mr. Penalosa has been featured in The New York Times, Herald Tribune, PBS Television, BBC and many others and has advised cities throughout the world such as Cape Town, Denver, Berkeley, Seattle, Melbourne, Sao Paulo.

Mr. Penalosa’s talk will be followed by a brief presentation on issues and challenges of public transport and mobility by Mr. Oscar Diaz, Sr. Director of the Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP).

To benefit from this opportunity the LUMS School of Law and Policy invites you to join members of the civil society, professionals, architects, planners, academics and students to the event at 11am on 19th September, 2008 at the Sayeed Saigol Auditorium at LUMS Campus, DHA, Lahore.