Category Archives: political

Lahore, the Policed City: Barbed Wire, CCTV Cameras, Electric Fences, and Dolphin Squads

This article was originally posted here

By Sabrina Toppa

Amid the deterioration of law and order across Pakistan, daily life in its second-largest city has given way to hyper-securitization.

An aerial view of Lahore, Pakistan, from Wazir Khan Mosque. Image credit: Aima Yusaf Jamal

An aerial view of Lahore, Pakistan, from Wazir Khan Mosque. Image credit: Aima Yusaf Jamal

We’re the last generation that’s seen a Lahore that was not paranoid,” said artist Naira Mushtaq, sitting in a restaurant in Pakistan’s second-largest city. Known as “the city of gardens,” Lahore’s lush greenery and Mughal-era gardens have lent it a vibrant, placid character over the centuries, as the cultural capital of Pakistan has long managed to avoid the violence so pervasive in other cities.

However, in March 2016, a Pakistani Taliban faction targeted crowds at the city’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, killing at least 78 people and injuring more than 300 on Easter Sunday. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar took responsibility for the attack, citing Christians as the primary target. The incident spurred a government crackdown on militants in the Punjab province, the country’s most populous state, as well as an aggressive securitization of its parks—some of the most open and vulnerable areas of the city.

With more than 800 parks to protect in Lahore, the city’s Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) stepped into overdrive to enforce a 10 p.m. curfew, temporarily shut down the largest parks, and install barbed wire, high walls, and CCTV cameras in the city’s most public areas. “We are trying to bring the security arrangements up to the mark as early as possible,” said PHA Deputy Director Shahzad Tariq in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

The security quagmire also prompted the government to dispatch elite-cadre security officers, called the Dolphin Force, across the metropolis to ensure swift mobilization of an emergency task force. Wearing dark uniforms atop motorcycles, the team is expected to ensure that law and order is maintained in a rapidly growing city.

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High boundary walls and fencing have emerged throughout Lahore’s public and private spaces.

Lahore2

A police car stands sentry in front of the gate to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park.

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A man talks to policemen at Gulshan-e-Iqbal, the day after a deadly suicide attack killed more than 75 people and injured over 300. Image credits: Sabrina Toppa

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Of Minto Park Lahore

This article was originally published in The News on the PTI “Jalsa” in Minto Park.

Sabir Shah

LAHORE: Lahore’s Minto Park (now called Iqbal Park), where the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan staged yet another big rally on Sunday evening, has previously seen nearly every political entity like the All India Muslim League, the Khaksar Tehreek, the incumbent PML-N, the Pakistan People’s Party, JUI-F, Pakistan Awami Tehreek, the MQM and the General Musharraf-led PML-Q etc holding widely-attended corner meetings during the last 74 years or since March 23, 1940.

Minto Park Lahore is also famous for breeding innumerable cricketing gems. Along with Pakistan’s Cricket legend Fazal Mahmood (1927-2005), with whom American actress Ava Gardener (1922-90) had requested to dance and whose fans included former Indian Premier Indira Gandhi, numerous Indian and Pakistani cricketers like Lala Amarnath, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Imtiaz Ahmed, Nazar Muhammad, Mudassar Nazar, Saleem Malik, Saleem Pervaiz, Sarfraz Nawaz, Shafqat Rana, Azmat Rana, Javed Burki, Majid Khan, Imran Khan himself, Zulfiqar Ahmed, Shuja-ud-Din, Amir Elahi,Gul Mohammad, Dr Dilawar Hussein, Ameer Hussain, Maqsood Ahmed and sub-continent’s quickest ever fast bowler, Muhammad Nisar etc. had polished their skills on these grounds.

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Lahore becomes Centre of Political Conflict

Malik Omaid

PTI’s 30th October, 2011 “Jalsa” was a big breakthrough, it changed the stagnant political scenario. We don’t comment on the Political ideology or ways of Imran Khan’s Politics. But PTI has gathered huge following in the “Sleeping Voters”. Those who never took interest in Politics are now campaigners/enthusiasts. Lahore’s Politics which was stuck in two parties for two decades have now changed and the third Party is enjoying huge support from the Lahoris. Yesterday a huge meeting of PTI workers and supporters gathered and it is being said that this will have huge implications of the cities Politics in the future.

PTI Jalsa 3
Huge enthusiasm among the supporters was seen all day around. Presence of families is always a difference of PTI “Jalsa’s” and other Political Parties.

Jalsa
Birds eye view of Lahore Jalsa, excellent use of lights and colors.

PTI-jalsaYes People were everywhere!
Selfies

Imran Khan’s supporters ranged from the underclass to the elites, many used their cell phones to capture the moment.

Is Pakistan collapsing? A father and a citizen speaks

By Ali Dayan Hasan

At my daughter’s annual school parent’s day event in Lahore last month, the tension was palpable. Bewildered at the speed with which this innocuous annual event had transformed into a maximum security operation, anxious parents filed in their hundreds past security guards, metal detectors and bag searches into Theatre Number Two of the Alhamra Cultural Complex – a modernist structure that the citizens of Lahore would tell you proudly is amongst the largest public-funded exhibition and theatre complexes in Asia. They were there to see their children, none older than seven, perform the usual amalgam of tableaux on “Peoples and Festivals of the World”, a smattering of Kathak – a North Indian classical dance, a “Chinese dance” performance and, of course, my daughter’s favorite – a Disney-esque version of the Bangles hit – “Walk Like an Egyptian.” The event began, as always, with recitation from the Quran. Tense primary school teachers grappled with security issues and as I walked in; a very public stand-off between a security posse comprising teachers, local police and plain clothes personnel and a random man who was on the premises for “no known reason” was underway. The man was eventually deemed harmless and let go but there was no parent who entered that hall without making note of the exits. Two hours later, as we filed out, I and virtually every relieved parent thought and said the same thing: “One more year like the last one and next year there will be no Parents Day. Another month or two like the previous ones and there might be no school left open.”

Since December 27, 2007 – the dreadful winter’s day when streets across Pakistan fell silent in the aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistanis have understood and expressed in varying degrees, or disagreed in desperate denial, that the Islamization project unleashed by the United States and implemented by the Pakistani military since 1979 had turned on its creators, snarling at the United States, devouring Pakistan and exposing its army for the megalomaniac but intensely incompetent institution that it is. And the narrative of impending disaster, brutal dispossession and disembodied lives in exile for stateless citizens harking back pathetically to a lost life, hitherto the preserve of Palestinians and Cubans, Afghans, Somalis and the ethnic mosaic of the Balkans, beckons to Pakistanis as well. One could argue that Pakistanis are scared of a future comprising daily doses of floggings, beheadings, daisy cutters and drones. They might be too. But no one has had time to think that far ahead. The truth is more prosaic: After all, if your children cannot go to school, the future has ceased to be. And when societies cannot have a future, they die. Continue reading

In City of Tolerance, Shadow of the Taliban

Published: November 2, 2008

LAHORE, Pakistan — This city has long been regarded as the cultural, intellectual and artistic heart of Pakistan, famous for its poets and writers, its gardens and historic sites left over from the Mughal Empire.

In Lahore, Pakistan, sellers of CDs and DVDs complained of slumping business after threats.

The New York Times

Panic over an insurgency has found its way to Lahore.

The turmoil sown by militancy may have reached into the capital, Islamabad, but it rarely seemed to intrude here among the leafy boulevards that are home to many of Pakistan’s secular-minded elite.

But in recent weeks, panic has found its way even here, with a series of small bombs and other threats that offer a measure of just how deeply the fear of militant groups like the Taliban has penetrated Pakistani society.

On Oct. 7, three small bombs exploded in juice shops in a sprawling, congested neighborhood called Garhi Shahu. The shops, which had gained a reputation as “dating points,” offering enclosed booths for young couples to cuddle, were gutted in the blasts. One person was killed, and several others were wounded.

An unknown group called Tehreek-ul Haya, or Movement for Decency, claimed responsibility and warned of more attacks against “centers of immorality” in the city. Continue reading

Lahore remembers October 18th tragedy

Civil society activists light candles at Faisal Chowk in memory of people who lost their lives in blasts at the welcome rally of Benazir Bhutto on October 18, 2007 in Karsaz, Karachi. President Zardari paid tributes to those killed and said it was due to their sacrifices that democracy had been restored in the country..

Courtesy Daily Times

Long march: No crowds, no bigwigs, no traffic jams — business as usual


Daily Times Reporting

LAHORE: The bigwigs of civil society organisations did not show up at the Allama Iqbal International Airport to receive sacked chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Wednesday.

The organisations that remained active throughout the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of the judiciary did not take to the roads contrary to the lawyers’ expectations. Although the activists of Pakistan Labour Party, Khaksar Tehreek and the Concerned Citizens of Pakistan (CCP) reached the airport carrying placards and set up a welcome camp, their turnout remained quite low compared to what it was the last time Justice Chaudhry had come to Lahore to address the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA). Continue reading

Lahore will progress under Shahbaz Sharif – let’s hope so

 

The NEWS: Former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif is effectively back in the provincial assembly. Following the decision by the three candidates opposing him to withdraw their papers, Sharif has won his seat from Bhakkar without contest. The victory is significant given that the PML-N had claimed efforts continued to be made to block their entry into the assemblies. Just days ago, a taped conversation allegedly featuring arch Sharif rival Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and containing an assurance that senior members of the judiciary had been asked to reject the candidature of the Sharifs, stirred up a new furore. It is a reflection of reality in our country that little has since been heard of this whole matter, and it is unclear if any effort is being made to investigate the alleged effort to influence a key judicial verdict.

Shahbaz Sharif has indeed already been to a large extent acting as the Punjab chief minister, advising and instructing the young Dost Mohammad Khosa, who has proved he is a politician with considerable ability during his brief stint in top office. However, the official return of Shahbaz is still significant. For one, it is expected he may be able to adopt a tougher line on issues that range from the widespread hoarding of ‘atta’ currently taking place in the province to matters such as delays in the completion of road projects. These issues make a great deal of difference to the lives of people. In Lahore, the city that received the lion’s share of attention under the Sharifs, people still recall the improvements made in traffic, sewage systems, parks and much else. They hope these will be repeated under this second coming of the younger Sharif brother. But, one must also hope that, learning from the errors made in the past, the ruthless gunning down of people in murders labelled ‘police encounters’ does not once more become a reality. Along with his zeal for good governance, Mr Sharif was also known for a spirit of vindictiveness that was too a hallmark of his tenure. This time round, one must hope the years in exile have helped temper this aspect of his style of governance, enabling Punjab to benefit from the more positive aspects of his administrative ability.

Image credit here

Lahoris dominate the Punjab cabinet

By Faizan Bangash writing in the NEWS

LAHORE has become the city with largest representation in the Punjab cabinet as four out of total 14 ministers who took oath on Tuesday belong to the provincial metropolis.

The cabinet members from Lahore include Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor, Farooq Yousaf Ghurki, Mian Mujtaba Shuja ur Rehman and Kamran Michael.

Besides, the Deputy Speaker Punjab Assembly Rana Mashood also hails from Lahore. Lahore is also likely to wear the crown of Punjab after PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif becomes its chief minister of the province after being elected in the bye-polls.

Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor, who has been given the portfolio of Prisons, is the most experienced parliamentarian of PML-N from Lahore in the present cabinet who has reached the Punjab Assembly for the third time. Continue reading

The dilemmas of a Lahori voter

Fesiel Naqvi a lawyer and a writer at Pak Tea House, voted in the election on February 18. Here is what he has to say:

The problem with Pakistan is not that there are shades of grey which are being missed by casual observers. The problem with Pakistan is that it is a checkerboard with lots of blacks and lots of whites. Whether you think of Pakistan as shining or screwed up, you can find all the evidence you want. What you won’t find is a definitive answer either way.

So where does that leave the undecided voter?

Well, I decided to take the Sherlock Holmes approach and first rule out the impossibles. So, vote for Zardari? Hell no. Vote for Nawaz Sharif? Over my dead body. Vote for Moonis Elahi? Only if you took me aside later and shot me in the back of the head.

But who did that leave? A bunch of no-names including the no-name running under the sign of the elephant whose house happens to be opposite mine. But that would mean wasting my vote, my precious democratic vote. At that point, I was sorely tempted to use my seven-year-old’s solution to all complicated issues: eeny meeny mina mo, catch a tiger by his toe…

I wish I could give a coherent explanation as to why I finally settled on the PPP but I don’t think I can. When I reached the polling booth, my head was still spinning from the lack of decent choices.

Inside the polling station, all was confusion. There was a PPP polling agent but he could not figure out my name on the list and so told me to go outside. Outside was no better, as the PPP booth was literally unmanned, being staffed only by a gaggle of ladies who told me in the most shaista Punjabi that they had no lists and did not know what to do with them anyways. Not knowing who else to approach for help, I went to the PMLQ booth where a bunch of efficient organised workers soon had me all set up and ready to vote.

After I had gone back in and managed to manoeuvre my way through the whole finger-painting, thumb-stamping process of casting a vote, I asked the PPP’s polling agent why his party was so woefully disorganised that I had to get my slip filled out by the PMLQ guys. His first reaction was, “Challo ji Moonis Elahi da koi ta faida hoiya na!” And when that excuse did not quite pass muster, he tried a different tack. “Sarkar, we have no computers. Only the Q wallahs have computers”.

At this lovely riposte, I have to say that my heart sank. All I could think of were the lyrics to an old Ray Charles song titled, “Here we go again”.

Here we go again
She’s back in town again
I’ll take her back again
One more time
I’ve been there before
And I’ll try it again
But any fool knows
That there’s no way to win

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