BENAZIR BHUTTOS PLAN TO DEMOLISH LAHORE
The strangest vision of them all
It was hard to believe when we read it in the newspaper. The new Government of Benazir Bhutto (years ago) had thought of the most craziest idea possible. The idea to demolish Lahore completely (old city) and to build a new city on it, and to allocate that new city with its many quarters to their so called ‘jialas’. Is this possible for any sensitive person to dream of demolishing the entire history of a city, more than 1000 years old? It looked like a joke but was not. She was pretty serious about it, and perhaps nurtured a deep hidden hate of the city. Those people were able to do anything and Lahore was lucky to escape the wrath of the PPP, otherwise this damage could have been greater than all the damage inflicted on the city by the combined wrath of the Sikhs and the British.
Hundreds of monuments are crumbling down into ruins. Many of them are uncharted by any archaeological department. Old buildings, and gardens, are still there for exploration. Every day some journalist turns up something new. It is reported to be lost again. The administration loves the British period buildings as the legacy of their Masters, not previous, even the present ones. TV channels show privately owned bridges, gardens and what not? No one cares. The education of bureaucracy is suspect, as for the politicians, it is actually not there. Stolen identities, stolen degrees that is all. When something is discovered, everybody tries to hide it, for fear of theft from the persons in power.
A new scheme was put into place to revive the old Royal entrance into Lahore. But from where? Not one person had the common sense to know that the Delhi Gate made by Muhammed Sultan Contractor is not the actual Delhi Gate at all. It is a newly reconstructed Gate made in the 19th century on a new site. Mughal construction was such that the Gate would face the smaller Chitta Darwaza inside it as well as the Wazeer Khan mosque gate in a straight line. Dr Abdullah Chaghatai has drawn a straight line as to where the Gate must have existed in his book on the Wazeer Khan mosque and it needs to be referred, for analysis of the case. But then we are poor at history! Most present day archaeologists are merely clerks with little knowledge or passion for Lahore. The obsession with the Shahi hammam is good but it was in private possession for such a long time and no one really cared for it. Good that it is receiving greater attention now. And with it being discovered more and more riddles. Obviously Kamran Lashari is a man of work and needs to be congratulated for his personal passion in the scheme. More need to be done. But no restoration is better than poorer restoration. The results in the Lahore Fort testifies to this philosophy, that if you cannot do it correctly, leave it as it is. It is better that way.
For whom are you making this Lahore? Certainly not its residents, but for tourists and others who would walk in the lanes and eat the meals on the food streets. This would not make Lahore a living city again. It would make it comparable to Mohenjo Daro, the city of the Dead. Give Lahore back to Lahorites! Let the filthy rich and the corrupt enjoy themselves in posh areas. Give us our city back!