Category Archives: society

Top 10 restaurants in Lahore: Where to eat in 2015

This article was originally posted on Dawn

By Foha Raza
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Clockwise from top: Mouthful, Pompei, Lakhnavi, Tiramisu.

A city that boasts of history and tradition, Lahore is also a paradise for food lovers. From the simmering rich, spicy curries in Food Street to classic fine dining, Lahore has so much to offer that one might struggle to find something they don’t like.

Over the years, the city has become synonymous with dining out in style. And so, as the new year rolls in swinging, here’s our list of the top 10 restaurants to try in 2015 in Lahore and the reasons to do so:

Cosa Nostra, La Tavola

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Costa Nostra. – Photo courtesy: Kfoods.com

Anyone living in Lahore has been to Cosa Nostra numerous times and probably knows the menu by heart. However, one of the most coveted restaurants in town now has a new and revamped menu in their La Tavola section that deserves to be tried.

The Lahore Social

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The Lahore Social. – Photo courtesy: Official Facebook Page

Located in the dead centre of the city, The Lahore Social is a fancy, new place to try this year. It has a comfortable ambiance, a diverse menu and is a definite fine dining gem.

Continue reading

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Pakistan’s Identity Battle Plays Out in Lahore

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The battle for Pakistan’s identity is playing out in Lahore’s streets and – oddly, on its thoroughfares and intersections. On 23rd March, this year, a group of civil society representatives gathered at Lahore’s Shadman Chowk to commemorate the 82nd death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, a Sikh freedom fighter renowned for his revolutionary struggle as part of the independence movement, and who became stuff of legend when he was hanged by the British in 1931 after a brief but eventful insurrection against colonial rule. The gathering, however, was disrupted by members of a religious group which was holding a protest aimed at denouncing the idea of renaming the chowk after Bhagat Singh, simultaneously.

The chowk and the adjacent area used to be Lahore’s central jail during the British Raj, and Bhagat Singh is believed to have been hanged at the site of what is now Shadman Chowk.

Late last year, a group of Lahoris made progress in getting local officials to rename a busy traffic circle for Bhagat Singh, a Sikh revolutionary who. They see it as a chance to honor a local hero who they feel transcends the ethnic and sectarian tensions gripping the country today — and also as an important test of the boundaries of inclusiveness here.

But in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, questions of religious identity also become issues of patriotism, and the effort has raised alarm bells among conservatives and Islamists. The circle was named in 2010 for Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, a Muslim student who coined the name Pakistan in the 1930s, and there was an outcry at the news that it might be renamed for a non-Muslim.

“If a few people decide one day that the name has to be changed, why should the voice of the majority be ignored?” asked Zahid Butt, the head of a neighborhood business association here and a leader of the effort to block the renaming.

The fight over the traffic circle — which, when they are pressed, locals usually just call Shadman Circle, after the surrounding neighborhood — has become a showcase battle in a wider ideological war over nomenclature and identity here and in other Pakistani cities.

Although many of Lahore’s prominent buildings are named for non-Muslims, there has been a growing effort to “Islamize” the city’s architecture and landmarks, critics of the trend say. In that light, the effort to rename the circle for Mr. Singh becomes a cultural counteroffensive.

“Since the ’80s, the days of the dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq, there has been an effort that everything should be Islamized — like the Mall should be called M. A. Jinnah Road,” said Taimur Rahman, a musician and academic from Lahore, referring to one of the city’s central roads and to the country’s founder. “They do not want to acknowledge that other people, from different religions, also lived here in the past.”

A recent nationwide surge in deadly attacks against religious minorities, particularly against Ahmadi and Hazara Shiites, has again put a debate over tolerance on the national agenda. Though most Sikhs fled Pakistan soon after the partition from India in 1947, the fight over whether to honor a member of that minority publicly bears closely on the headlines for many.

A push to honor Mr. Singh has been going on here for years. But it was not until the annual remembrance of his birth in September that things came to a head. A candlelight demonstration to support renaming the traffic circle had an effect, and a senior district official agreed to start the process. As part of it, he asked the public to come forward with any objections. The complaints started pouring in.

Traders of Shadman Market, the local trade group led by Mr. Butt, threatened a strike. Chillingly, warnings against the move were issued by leaders of the Islamic aid group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, largely believed to be a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Clerics voiced their opposition during Friday Prayer.

The issue quickly became a case for the city’s High Court, which said it would deliberate on a petition, initiated by Mr. Butt and a coalition of religious conservatives, to block the name change. That was in November, and the case still awaits a hearing date. The provincial government has remained in tiptoe mode ever since. “It is a very delicate matter,” said Ajaz Anwar, an art historian and painter who is the vice chairman of a civic committee that is managing the renaming process.

Mr. Anwar said some committee members had proposed a compromise: renaming the circle after Habib Jalib, a widely popular postindependence poet. That move has been rejected out of hand by pro-Singh campaigners.

Mr. Rahman and other advocates for renaming the circle paint it as a test of resistance to intolerance and extremism, and they consider the government and much of Lahore society to have failed it.

“The government’s defense in the court has been very halfhearted,” said Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer representing the activists. “The government lawyer did not even present his case during earlier court proceedings.”

The controversy threatens to become violent. On March 23, the anniversary of Mr. Singh’s death, police officers had to break up a heated exchange between opposing groups at the circle.

Mr. Rahman and the other supporters have vowed to continue fighting, saying it has become a war over who gets to own Pakistan’s history.

“There is a complete historical amnesia and black hole regarding the independence struggle from the British,” Mr. Rahman said, adding of the Islamists, “They want all memories to evaporate.”

 {Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/world/asia/plan-to-rename-traffic-circle-provokes-outcry-in-lahore-pakistan.html?ref=global-home&_r=1&}

Critical Mass Lahore, July 2009

Critical Mass -II
It’s time for Critical Mass July 2009

We meet at Zakir Tikka intersection on Sarwar Road in the Lahore Cantonment at 6.15pm on Sunday 26 July 2009.

Critical Mass is about having clean cities that provide mobility and accessibility. Critical Mass is about clean transport. Critical Mass is about putting public good over private interest. Critical Mass is about making friends. Critical Mass is about reclaiming public space. 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 not an organization. It is an idea. It is about making a statement. Everyone in Lahore knows how bad the traffic is. Critical Mass Lahore is a step towards making our city clean and taking our streets back.

Critical Mass
is an idea. Make it yours.
What do I need to participate in a Critical Mass Event?
All you need is a road-worthy cycle and an sense of fun. Buy, beg, borrow or steal a cycle if you have to, but join the Mass. Come, cycle around Lahore. Reclaim your city, and have more fun than you think!
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. For information about Critical Mass Lahore, be at Zakir Tikka at 6:15pm this Sunday 26 July 2009 or visit the Critical Mass Lahore Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=38992998526). Important: Be on time!!!

DHA illegally occupying 4,638.19 kanals of government’s land: Punjab govt

LAHORE: The Punjab government is likely to send a letter to the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) to either vacate its illegally occupied land or pay its value, Rs 40 billion.

Sources told Daily Times on Thursday Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif directed the Lahore commissioner to take necessary action in response to an application by Member of Punjab Assembly (MPA) Mian Naseer Ahmed. They said the commissioner informed the CM that a meeting would be held between the DHA and the authorities concerned and a letter would also be sent to the DHA. MPA Ahmed confirmed he had filed an application to the CM. Despite repeated attempts the commissioner was not available for comment. Continue reading

Critical Mass Lahore February 2009

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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 http://www.critical-mass.info. For information about Critical Mass Lahore, some to Zakir Tikka at 10am on Sunday 22 February 2009.

Dancing Girls Of Lahore Strike Over “Taliban” Law

Patrick Cockburn and Issam Ahmed in Lahore
Friday, 12 December 2008

The dancing girls of Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, are on strike in protest against the tide of Talibanisation that is threatening to destroy an art form that has flourished since the Mughal empire.

The strike, which is supported by the theatres where they perform, was sparked by the decision of Lahore High Court last month to ban the Mujra, the graceful and elaborate dance first developed in the Mughal courts 400 years ago, on the grounds that it is too sexually explicit. 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

Sin and the City

By Saad Javed

Amidst its layers of histories and cultures, with its contrast of crumbling monuments, bustling food-streets, sprawling gardens, broad avenues with rickshaw trumpets, red sandstone colonial buildings, serene canal-cum-dynamic-public-bathtubs, labyrinthine old quarters, high rise glass and steel towers and ancient city gates, Lahore has so many pleasures to offer, so many virtues to display. And so much to hide. To hide and to nurture, the biblical seven cardinal sins…

Lust

He arrived at the famed Salahuddin haveli and saw that the party was in full swing. Familiar to the quarters, he found his way through the dancing, swinging bodies and managed to be served with the right blend of whisky. And he saw her first over the top of an ambassador’s bald head. Continue reading

Divorces in Lahore

A newspaper says that wealthy women (alas) have happier married lives

* Clinical psychologist says people in affluent localities try to keep their social status intact by not making their disputes public
* Advocate Surayya Farzand says if a dispute starts in a less privileged family, the husband usually beats wife and forces her to leave home

By Rana Tanveer

LAHORE: It seems that women in posh localities are happy with their marital life, because a less number of women from these areas go to courts to get divorce, compared to women from less privileged areas, reveals courts data available a survey conducted by Daily Times.

The survey, which was completed after analysing 300 cases out of 12,000, pending before family courts of the city, revealed that 7.8 percent women of Gulberg, DHA and Model Town (Gulberg 3 percent, DHA 2.2 percent and Model Town 2.6 percent) moved the courts.

These cases are about suits for dissolution of marriage, maintenance, repayment of conjugal rights, and suit for recovery of dowry.

The survey revealed that Bund Road alone has eight percent women who moved the courts to resolve their family disputes. About 32.7 percent women of less privileged areas have moved the courts to resolve their divorce disputes.

7.1 percent women in Cantonment demanded marital rights through courts from their former husbands, the study reveals. The Cantonment includes Saddar, Burki, and Manawan. Continue reading

Lahore goes green – Roshni’s German-style bread is growing popular

Rina Saeed Khan writing for the Friday Times, Lahore

Roshni’s German-style bread is growing in popularity in Lahore

As the demand for pesticide-free fruits and vegetables has spiked in Pakistan over the last few years, organic farmers have seen a boom in interest. In organic farming, vegetables and fruit (and wheat, rice etc.) are grown without the use of synthetic chemicals. Organic farmers rely instead on crop rotation, integrated pest management, crop residues and animal manure to maintain soil productivity and to control pests and weeds. The stated aim of organic farming is to “sustain and enhance the health of ecosystems and organisms from the smallest in the soil to human beings.”

Organic farming relies on the earth’s natural resources to grow and process food. It is not a new concept – before the use of agro-chemicals became popular, this is how our forefathers grew their own food!

 With this humble beginning we want to highlight the idea of organic farming and environment friendly lifestyle and make organic products available to you,” said the notice inside the newly opened Roshni Organic Shop opposite Shapes Gym in Lahore’s Gulberg area. For years now, Lahoris have been feasting on Roshni bread, the delicious and healthy wholegrain bread, made by the Roshni Organic Bakery. The various kinds of Roshni bread (linseed, rye flake, plain, toast) are sold in different outlets throughout Lahore and are made from natural ingredients grown by organic farmers. The small and simply decorated Roshni shop now offers these breads along with other bakery items like quiches, cupcakes and pastries. The shop also offers other organic food items like fresh vegetables, dry fruit, herbal teas, natural oils, sugar, rice and cereals. It is a treat for all those who are concerned about their health and the environment. Continue reading

New Lahore bookshop revives reading culture

By Kamila Hyat, for the Gulf News (April 28, 2008) 

Lahore:  For years, book lovers in Lahore, a city reputed for its literary history as well as its architectural inheritance, have mourned the apparent loss of the love of reading.

Many book shops have gradually vanished and in others, magazines have taken the place of more substantial tomes.

Teachers and parents have lamented the fact that in an age of television, DVDs, computer games and numerous other forms of jazzy electronic entertainment, children had turned away from books.

But, a single experimental idea has proved much of this conjecture about the relationship between Lahoris and books to be false.

The large Readings bookstore, which stocks row after row of used books, encyclopaedias and other literary material from the US, has within the two years or so of its existence become one of the most popular spots in the city. Continue reading

Lahore Snaps: Marks It Bears

Courtesy sepoy

I have been having these vivid dreams. Places and conversations continued from Lahore. Waking up every morning is quite a disorienting experience. The landscapes are stuck, the tape paused. I guess it can all be ascribed to jet lag or to this rather unmoored feeling that envelopes me. Whatever the case may be, I find myself existing, still, in Lahore.

Lahore is an imperial city and often, an impersonal city. It is aloof to most visitors and residents. It breathes around you, moving at a hectic pace here and just somnambulant there. But it has never seemed distant to me or impersonal. I have memories imprinted on almost every nook and cranny of that city of rooftops and minarets. This is Lahore.

Rooftops

But, no. That isn’t really Lahore. Those rooftops and minarets are but a blink of an eye in the history of this city. It will forget them soon enough.

No, Lahore is much more organic.

Alley Regal Cinema

This has grown, in what must have been once, the widest swath of the flattest earth on god’s green world. Perhaps the alley that swallowed it some 80 years ago was itself a stream before that. I don’t know. This alley, now, is a long one. The front is used for parking motorcycles and suzuki 80s. The back lies forgotten except for the mechanics who have set up their shops in the shade of the tree. Continue reading

Pawning the family jewels – in Lahore

Ahmad Rafay Alam

Rent-seeking is destroying our cities. I know that’s a strong statement, but it’s more than deserved. Let me explain.

The phrase “rent-seeking” is an economic term originally identified in connection with monopolies. It has now grown to provide a better understanding of government regulation and, more sinister, abuse of power and privilege. It doesn’t really have much to do with leases, which is where you hear the word rent thrown about quite a bit. It actually stems from Adam Smith’s tripartite division of income, namely profit obtained from investment, wages earned through labour or rent earned through the lease of an asset. Rent-seeking is the practice of making income without the risks (and rewards) normally associated with investment or the toil and effort normally associated with labour. It represents money made without the rent-seeker actually making a real contribution to the productivity of the economy.

Another way to identify the practice of rent-seeking is to examine incidents of when a third part interferes in the availability of an otherwise accessible transaction. In a more obvious context, take the billboards in our cities. Anyone who wants to put a billboard up has to get the approval of the local government authority that regulates the advertising we see in our cities. In Lahore, it is the Parks and Horticulture Authority. The PHA, thus, interferes with the free availability of advertising space in the city and the income it makes from regulating permission to erect billboards is income in the form of rent-seeking. Last year, the PHA netted some Rs350 million in “revenue” collected from the regulation of billboard advertising. Continue reading

LAHORE LAHORE AYE: Lahore, the way it was

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A Hamid, the distinguished Urdu novelist and short story writer, writes a column every week based on his memories of old Lahore. People in their late-twenties like me, remember him well for his novels. It was later that I discovered him as a columnist and perhaps as a historian. I am talking about the era when Ishtiaq Ahmed and Ibn E Safi were still read by a good percentage of our youth. This one, published in Daily Times, has been translated by Khalid Hasan (I am a BIG BIG fan :)) and I thought it would be very appropriate to share it here today.

On the lawns facing the Punjab Assembly, there used to stand a statue of Queen Victoria under a canopy, ringed by magnificent trees. If you walked towards the Assembly from the Plaza cinema side, so thick were the trees that you could barely see the entire Assembly building. They were such lovely trees that I could never tire of looking at them. For many years after the establishment of Pakistan, the trees stood at that spot in all their splendour, but then they were cut down, for what reason I am not sure. One day, as Munir Niazi and I on our stroll down the Mall, came to Charing Cross, I looked towards the Assembly building and said, “There used to be such lovely trees there with impenetrable foliage, but since they were axed, the beauty of this spot is gone.” Munir replied, “But have you not noticed that the removal of the trees has opened up this vista and brought in heaps of sunlight that could never reach it before.”

I liked what he had said. It was true that the Punjab Assembly garden had gained more space and it did look beautiful. There are many other spots in Lahore whose beauty has been enhanced because of new construction or other improvements. For example, if you went towards Simla Pahari from Abbott Road, in front of the old radio station, to the left, there used to stand a decaying, forlorn yellow house, dating back to British times. Next to it was an empty plot of land, overgrown with bushes and infested with heaps of discarded things. Someone had set up a teashop on the spot that had come to be known as Phoons Hotel because its makeshift roof was covered with grass. A few broken chairs and wobbly tables had been placed under the ramshackle canopy for the customers who came there to drink tea. All that is gone.

Today, if you come towards Simla Pahari from Abbott Road, to your left you will find several high-rise buildings with glass fronts, which shimmer when they catch the sun. Those who remember that wretched old hotel and see what has replaced it have no reason to lament the passing of that eyesore. Several years into independence, when you went from the Wahdat Colony square towards the Muslim Town canal, you could not help noticing a mud road that ran along the canal and was always full of clouds of dust. There was no proper footpath on the other bank of the canal at the time. This was the road which led to what was to become Punjab University’s New Campus. Where a footpath now runs, there used to be scraggly trees and wild bushes. Today, there is a carpeted road on either side of the canal, fringed by tall, shady eucalyptus trees. The two roads carry one-way traffic. Continue reading

Election 2008: Results of Lahore seats

Raza Rumi

We are listing the results of the election in Lahore – PML-N remains synonymous with Lahore…

NA 118 Lahore –I

Muhammad Riaz of the PML-N won the election by securing 55,900 votes. Muhammad Asif Hashmi of the PPPP got 24,712 while Mian Muhammad Azhar got 11,073 votes.

NA 119 Lahore II
The election was not held because one of the contestants Tariq Banday of the PML-Q had died. Muhammad Hamza Shehbaz Sharif of the PML-N and Muhammad Zakria Butt of the PPPP were also contesting from this constituency.

NA 120 Lahore III
Bilal Yasin of the PML-N bagged the seat by getting 65,946 votes. Jahangir Badar of the PPPP got 34,331 votes while Khawaja Tahir Zia of the PML-N got 4,270 votes.

NA 121 Lahore IV
Mian Marghoob Ahmad of the PML-N won the election by securing 72,028 votes while Aurengzeb Shaafi Burki of the PPPP secured 27,835 and Mian Muhammad Asif of the PML-Q got 7,521 votes.

NA 122 Lahore V
Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of the PML-N got 79,628 votes while Mian Omar Misbah-ul-Rehman of the PPPP secured 24,934 votes and Mian Muhammad Jahangir of the PML-Q secured 10,610 votes. Continue reading

Mohsin Hamid’s Letter from Lahore

Reinventing Pakistan
BY: MOHSIN HAMID

LETTER FROM LAHORE

Welcome to Lahore, where an explosion of art and media
is offering a vibrant alternative to the strictures of
religious conservatives and is transforming one of
America’s most important–and most ambivalent– allie.

ONE NIGHT, as troops from Pakistan’s army massed 300
miles away to hunt for remnants or Al Qaeda in the
tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, I went to a
concert in my hometown of Lahore. It was a pleasant
evening, warm, with a fight breeze carrying the smell
of April flowers: flame trees, magnolias, jasmine. We
sat outside on carpets spread across the lawn of a
white bungalow, the audience ranging from teenagers
with soul patches and ponytails to elegant matrons in
saris. My back ached slightly and I mentioned this to
a friend as I reached for the only available cushion I
could see.

“Don’t even think about it,” she said, patting her
very pregnant belly “It’s mine.” Continue reading