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Pakistan: The mighty ruler of Punjab — Yasser Latif Hamdani


The whole of Lahore rues the day he went to Istanbul and got this fantastical idea. Turkey has a lot to offer to Pakistan in terms of how a Muslim majority society can reconcile with modernity but the rapid bus transit system is not one of those things.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: Daily Times | Pakistan
By Yasser Latif Hamdani | December 10, 2012

After the Lahore High Court’s verdict, Mr Sharif’s bravado is calculated to rally the people of Punjab behind the PML-N

‘Shahinshah-e-Punjab’

Shahbaz Sharif is the great Muslim ruler of the mighty province of Punjab in this ‘Islamic’ Republic of ours, or at least he likes to think so. He thinks and acts not as the elected chief executive of the largest province of the country, responsible to the provincial Assembly, but more as a despotic Mughal emperor.

Maybe the ‘Hakim-e-Ala’ has heard the saying of the Ummayad Caliph Umar Bin Abdul Aziz who said that he was responsible even for a dog starving on the banks of Dajla. Religious minorities, forced or otherwise, in the province of Punjab are treated worse than even animals. At least that is what Chief Minister Sharif’s conduct makes us believe.
The last years of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) government in Punjab have been the worst for religious minorities in the province since the bloodletting in the immediate aftermath of partition in 1947. Then at least you had men like Iftikhar Mamdot, Mian Iftikharuddin and Sir Francis Mudie in the government of Punjab who made every effort to stem the massacre of Hindus and Sikhs. Mr Sharif’s government is either unable or unwilling to act.

Consider the plight of the much maligned and hated Ahmadi community. The May 2010 attacks on Ahmadis as well as the recent desecration of graves happened in a one-mile radius of the chief minister’s residence. To date no security has been provided to the Ahmadis. Should we be surprised? This is the same chief minister under whose watch the Auqaaf department holds regular government funded conferences against this community. Ahmadis are not the only community at the receiving end of this government’s ‘anti-minorities’ policy. The ethnic cleansing of Christians in Gojra in 2009 happened during this government’s tenure. Countless Christians and Hindus have suffered under this government, the latest being the Swedish Christian NGO worker who was shot the same day as the desecration of the Ahmadis’ graves, again a stone’s throw away from the chief minister’s residence. Countless places of worship have been destroyed in the name of development. A church (not to mention the beautiful Kufic Kalima Chowk sculpture) on Ferozepur Road razed to make way for the concrete monstrosity that Mr Sharif says is a flyover. Even the parking plaza in Liberty market was built on the United Christian Hospital’s property in flagrant violation of the Protection of Communal Properties Ordinance of 2001. Nor has Mr Sharif even tried to justify his prejudiced policy. Not long ago, he appealed to the Taliban that they should spare Punjab because the Punjab government had the same objectives as them. Now his party’s alliances with the sectarian anti-Shia organisations have become known.

Just so that we are clear, Mr Sharif’s development record does not inspire any confidence either. First of all the blatant favouritism for Lahore at the cost of the rest of Punjab in terms of development funds is itself indicative of the lopsidedness of this government. Really, Mr Sharif is better suited to be Lahore City Nazim than the chief minister of a province that on its own is also the 40th largest economy in the world. However, even in terms of Lahore, his record is abysmal not just on the security and law and order front. Consider his rapid bus transit system. The whole of Lahore rues the day he went to Istanbul and got this fantastical idea. Turkey has a lot to offer to Pakistan in terms of how a Muslim majority society can reconcile with modernity but the rapid bus transit system is not one of those things. The essential issue in Lahore is of space, which meant that any transit system would either have to be a monorail or a subway system. Our solution in this case lay in looking eastwards to that great city of the subcontinent: Delhi. Instead the chief minister has created an eyesore, which will remain an eyesore and not solve the traffic problems of the city. Given the urgency of elections, the work on the panacea of all our traffic problems has been accelerated. This has brought untold misery on the hapless residents of this once great city who every morning are forced to calculate alternative routes to their destinations only to find alternative routes also dug up. There has to be an impartial investigation and analysis of the total costs of this bus transit project, i.e. not just the cost of building, which is allegedly close to Rs 100 billion, but the social cost, i.e. environmental pollution and other hidden costs such as the fuel costs that have been incurred as a result of continuous traffic jams in the city. I do not hold a brief for the Chaudhries of Punjab who had their own shortcomings, but one cannot help but feel that Lahore was a much better governed city under them.

A clue to his predicament comes from Mr Sharif’s recent statements regarding the Kalabagh Dam. After the Lahore High Court’s verdict, Mr Sharif’s bravado is calculated to rally the people of Punjab behind the PML-N. Having miserably failed in providing even the most basic form of government to the people of Punjab, do not be surprised if he continues to talk about the Kalabagh Dam because the citizens of Punjab are likely to be fooled by that promise. It is the personal opinion of this writer that the Kalabagh Dam should be made but it should not become a cheap slogan for electioneering, either for or against. All the parties concerned know that the Kalabagh Dam is unlikely to see the light of day but it is a good issue to play politics over.

———————-
Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Jinnah; Myth and Reality. He can be contacted via twitter @therealylh and through his email address yasser.hamdani@gmail.com

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