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Re-Inventing Lahore

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    Re-Inventing Lahore

    Some good ideas have been mentioned in this article, I am sure many lahore Guppies could comment better?

    RE-INVENTING LAHORE: Lahore’s development paradigm must change

    Dr Abdus Samad

    The regulators must recognise that sleepy country estates are for the countryside and should be pushed further out into the country and suburbia. City fathers should take pride in their urban structures

    We were dining in Cairo at a lovely restaurant in the 33 floors Le Meridien overlooking the Nile. The skyline with its tall well-finished buildings comprising numerous hotels, office blocks and beautiful apartment complexes inspired me to remark, “Why can’t we have tall buildings and hotels in Lahore?” My friend Ghazala from Lahore spontaneously responded, “I like Lahore the way it is! We have lovely gardens at a convenient distance from our haunts, the Punjab Club and Liberty. Let us preserve it!”

    Ghazala had quite succinctly encapsulated the development paradigm for Lahore that our bureaucrats/city planners have held close to their hearts for the last 50 years. They believe that, “the city is for the convenience of the kothiwallahs.” The residential convenience of the kothiwallahs and their clubs and social haunts is all what the planners cater for. It is not surprising that what has been allowed to develop with rapidity in our fair city is golf courses and highways for the kothis.

    GOR in Lahore typifies it all. It boasts of two social clubs — the Punjab Club and the Officers Club — in its midst. Yet efforts by some owners to plan a hotel or a school in a large four-acre estate in the heart of GOR were blocked on the grounds that it could not be allowed in a residential area. At the same time, GOR boasts of a four-acre mansion for the high court chief justice that has been vacant for most of our history. It is maintained at the taxpayer’s expense so the occasional wedding can be held there. Yet nowhere in GOR or on the Mall is there any room for commercial development.

    Lahore has been developed on the basis of housing schemes typified by the DOHA. The idea is to build little rectangular plots with very poor quality commercial construction based on small marla plots. No wonder, all commercial construction has the look of small provincial colonial towns. But the rich do not want large hotels and shopping malls. For that they can go to the West or even to Dubai. All they want is little convenience stores for grocery and perhaps tailoring shops.

    Office space is available on a very limited basis in Lahore. You have to rent a house and convert the bedrooms to offices. The same goes for schools and other commercial enterprises. Even then you live with the fear that the regulator may at any time force you out for they only reluctantly allow such property to be used on a commercial basis. It impinges on kothi life.

    On the other hand, land is available for clubs. It is interesting that the Punjab Club and the Sindh Club that at partition allowed only white members were not designated evacuee properties but were gifted to the elite who promptly became members. The land that has been transferred to them at hugely subsidised rates constitutes a transfer from the poor taxpayers of Pakistan to the kothiwallah elite.

    Similarly, the Gymkhana Golf Course continues to be leased out at a nominal annual rent in the heart of the city when there is no room for street hawkers or a market where the poor can run shops. Land for clubs is available more easily than land for commercial development that will generate jobs or even land for schools.

    These clubs are commercial ventures and should be treated as such. Their land should be properly priced and they should be taxed at market rates so that the rich pay a fair price for their entertainment.

    The poor have had to struggle for space. Canal Park, Jail Road and in many other streets, they have fought for small kiosks. It is a constant struggle. Carpenters, weavers, tailors, and all manner of artisans set up informal shops to earn a living. For years they live under threat of expulsion. Every now and again the regulators push them out and they set up a stall elsewhere. If they are lucky, as in Canal Park, regulators will bless these businesses and they will be allowed to set up a diminutive unappealing set of shops. The very architecture and ambience of these places dooms these businesses to a bleak future.

    This mindset has to change if Lahore is to be a premiere Asian city. Cities have been proud of their commerce and their urbanisation. Florence, London, Paris, Amsterdam and Venice long ago established separate markets for gold, stocks, calico, flowers crafts etc. To make room for thriving commerce, estates gave way to consolidated mixed-use urban space. And with the advance of technology, they built taller buildings.

    The regulators must recognise that sleepy country estates are for the countryside and should be pushed further out into the country and suburbia. City fathers should take pride in their urban structures (shopping malls, office and apartment blocks, hotels, entertainment centres etc) and not just a collection of kothis. It should be recognised that commercial construction is pro-poor since such construction creates a vast number of jobs during and after the construction. Our development paradigm must therefore shift from its current emphasis on “kothis for the rich” to “commercial development for the poor.”

    Dr Abdus Samad is a leading economist
    How can a man die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the Temple of his Gods?

    looks like Dr. Samad's application for membership to these clubs was refused

    Let's not forget the hideous Sadiq Plaza overshadowing a beautiful mosque, or Panorama.. carelessly placed in the center of the city when almost all it's space has been used up by clothing and jewellery retailers.

    Maybe it's the wrong city altogether to be compared to Cairo.... Karachi might be a closer comparison to such cities.. Lahore may not have that kind of a volume of visitors to warrant high rise hotels.

    Let's leave Lahore be, I for one like it without the high rises and the 'downtown' and traffic/parking woes. Let's make more clubs and parks.

    Maybe Dr. Samad needs a walk around the Race Course or Gulshan Iqbal or Model Town parks among others. They're all open to the public AND the beurocrats/city planners alike.
    JaddoN kaddya jaloos ghareeba tay shehr ich choatalee lug gayee


      >>without the high rises and the 'downtown' and traffic/parking woes<<

      Oh there are plenty of parking woes, especially in the Neela Gumbad, Bank square area, for what I remember.

      I am kinda double minded about this whole article. Its true, the GORs of Lahore are a legacy of the past, and waste of quite valuable state land. I wouldn't be sad, if they re-develop all that prime land to make it more useful to the people.

      By the way, I totally adore Liberty market's design... atleast compared to he drab design of Defence's markets. And the drive along the Mall is nice, even if mostly its palatial official buildings.

      The best thing about Lahore is its ability to grow outwards. The newer societies past New Campus, and in some cases across the Hanjarwaal, are pretty neat... Lahore is actually getting some real suburbs. The drive into downtown from there is atleast 35 mins, which is normal for a city that size. Though I am glad, many of the downtownish kinda commercial real estate is moving towards Jail road and Main Boulevard. That oughta reduce the impossible traffic mess of Mall road.

      Ofcourse, the real Lahore, being androon-shaher (inner city), has its own unique aspects and problems. This article, doesn't even come close to talking about those.
      "Let your friends underestimate your virtues. Let your enemies overestimate your faults." - Godfather.


        I lived most of my life in Lahore and worked for some time there .. the above article gives a few thoughts in vague manner.. the ever growing poulation and limited land makes it really hard for planners. I had often discussions with city planners and developers how the future would look .. personally I would like to see these changes in short term planning..

        - Governer's house is a big white elephant sitting in heart of Lahore. Governers residence can be transfered to one of the 30-40 kanal houses in GOR-1. This land could be used for so many purposes like new University, Govt Offices, schools, along with commercial plazas for revenue..

        - As de-centralization in management group continues we need more local offices in health, education and finance department away from Lahore decreasing burden on Secretriat..

        -Making it compulsary for new developmental societies to have adequate space for schools and commercial shops and offices..

        - Gymkhana can be moved out of city as rich can drive few miles whilke that land can be used for commercial purposes increasing city's revenue..
        Saints are fine for Heaven, but they are hell on earth.


          I have lived all my life in lahore and worked there for about 2 years before moving to London.

          I dont really agree with just to build taller buildings for the reason to look good on skyline of lahore. when we need it, it will be built. there two plazas completed 2-3 years ago now. but they are still vacant.

          we do need to drive business people to have proper offices and not convert residential houses to office and simply ban this trend.

          but we do need to get rid of useless GOR to proper usage of space with some multi story appartments in stead. not 10-14 kanals for one govt officer.

          parking spaces are very limited or doesnt exist at all and most of the buildings dont have parking spaces in the design.

          I agree we have to sit and plan for next 20 years or so keeping mind the problems city is facing now.

          crowding, parking, transport, and housing.

          and if there is a need then do plan for taller buildings. but govt should adopt a policy and make a plan and then implement that rather accepting plans for small projects from private sector. plan and then invite private sector to develop according to that Plan.
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