20pc of all households in Lahore now own at least one car


Published 2014-01-20 07:19:06

“IF one were to go by all this flaunted wealth, it would appear that people in this city are living life in another country.” A friend of mine from Karachi made this observation whilst standing outside a glitzy shopping mall in a well-kept part of Lahore. The caustic remark made me take stock of the surroundings, and had it not been for the sagging electricity wires and the rusting, ugly poles carrying them, the entire setting would’ve been perfectly at home in some decidedly un-Third-World country.

There is little doubt that Lahore, at a glance or a gaze, appears to be a very prosperous city. The level of infrastructure development — exhibited through a web of flyovers, underpasses, and highway-esque roads — is far superior to other urban settlements in the rest of the province. Along the way are obvious markers of consumer-driven modernisation — restaurants, consumer goods retailers, hotels, and shopping malls — all of which cater to a restricted income spectrum that has the lower-middle class on one end and the ultra-elite on the other. Finally, inhabiting this garish landscape is a population that takes extra pride in gratuitous exhibitions of wealth and ostentation. These displays are humorously chalked down to the ‘big hearts’ (khulay dil) and other such essential traits of the city’s natives.

An obvious outcome of Lahore’s development has been rapid suburbanisation. This refers to the development of spacious, gated communities and commercial areas further away from what’s traditionally been considered the centre of the city. Nearly all of the southwestern parts of Lahore district have seen a conversion from low-income settlements or mid-sized agricultural holdings to private or publicly run housing societies and marketplaces designed for the nouveau riche/upwardly mobile middle class.

This rapid demand for relatively spacious housing, planned neighbourhoods, and other accompanying amenities — such as the Beaconhouse School System branches, and fast food chains — comes in the face of rising incomes for a certain portion of the population. According to the Punjab government’s cluster survey, 20pc of all households in Lahore now own at least one car (the figure is as high as 40pc in some areas), so they obviously need space to park them and roads to drive on. Similarly, inter-generational cultural change means joint holdings get distributed, and as family structures get ‘nuclearised’, the demand for new housing goes up.

However, the darker side of Lahore is its rapid gentrification. This refers to significant increases in land and rental prices, and development of higher-end commercial spaces, resulting in the purposeful or inadvertent elbowing out of low-income households from residential and public spaces.

This current process of gentrification is not just a market-based phenomenon, arising out of private-sector growth, but also an outcome of government planning priorities that appear to favour people with cars and fetishes for consumer goods.

Areas within the city previously designated for low-income families, such as Nishtar Colony and Kot Lakhpat, have seen no form of rent control or government action against speculative activity. As a result, rental rates now hover around Rs15-20,000 per month — twice the rate of minimum wage — for two-bedroom portions. This astronomic rise is taking place in a city where 26pc of the population, mostly from the lower-income group, lives in rented accommodation.

A few weeks ago, the government announced it would be acquiring 45,000 kanals of land in the southeastern fringe of the city for a new middle-class housing scheme. This scheme will be served by a dedicated new road, thus ensuring higher plot prices, and will displace people living in at least four villages, many of whom actually work in the city as labourers.

A fraction that own land in the villages will be given exemption plots, while everyone else will have to find new spaces further out to populate. This displacement will be similar to the one seen during the army-managed expansion of Defence Housing Authority in the eastern end of the city.

Such processes are common in other parts of the Third World too, but what is striking is the near-consensus within Lahore on this particular pattern of development. Unlike in Karachi, where organisations like Shehri, or in some cases even political parties, have sought to protect low-income populations from displacement, not many people seem to be bothered about the biased nature of development, or the accompanying elbowing out of the poor.

Everyone who matters seems to passively buy into the idea that low-income, ‘less-modern’, spaces need to be hidden from view, and the city garlanded with concrete and glass.

Even some inner quarters of the old city, the few remaining residential pockets for low-income households, have undergone rapid commercialisation or ‘beautification’. This is to ensure that ‘real Lahori’ neighbourhoods, and their accompanying artifacts, can be consumed and enjoyed by those living elsewhere.

By visiting these older neighbourhoods for exotic food, or for staging wedding photo-shoots amidst Mughal architecture, the better-off attempt to fulfil their need for cultural authenticity, given that sterile gated communities offer no such solace.

None of this gentrification and careful manicuring of space can alter the reality of Lahore’s heavy reliance on low-income labour. They work in factories, retail outlets, restaurants, and households, forming an integral, albeit rarely acknowledged part of everyday life. Without them, the city’s economy and many segments of its population would simply be unable to function.

Knowing this, a bare minimum would be to expect that they be given some stake in the way the city is designed, managed and maintained. However, given the overwhelming consensus for the status quo, this expectation will likely remain unfulfilled for quite sometime.

The writer is a freelance columnist.


STILL Largest MINORITY of Pakistan are HINDUS, Polls with Army, Lahore Population size

1)    Approximately 4.2 million Hindus are living in Pakistan, making it the largestminority in the country.

A tale of migrating Hindus * Patriotic Hindus, who had refused to migrate to India and remained in Pakistan after the partition in 1947, are compelled to leave the country because of feudalism, class system, religious discrimination, forced conversion and marriages and poor law and order situation in Pakistan
By Kashif Hussain

LAHORE: Patriotic Hindus, who had refused to migrate to India and remained in Pakistan after the partition in 1947, are compelled to leave the country because of feudalism, class system, religious discrimination, forced conversion and marriages and poor law and order situation in Pakistan.
The minority feels society has become more insecure for their young girls and it is also scared after court’s decision in Rinkal Kumari’s conversion case.
A special report prepared by Daily Times revealed that around 7,000 to 10,000 Pakistani Hindus (around 1,600 families) had left the country in the last two years.
Of them, around 450 families, comprising more than 3,000 members, have migrated to India in the last four months following conversion cases of one after another Hindu girl in Sindh.
Approximately 4.2 million Hindus are living in Pakistan, making it the largest minority in the country.
According to the data collected from independent sources of Hindu community and civil society organisations, around 3.2 million Hindus are living in Sindh, around seven million are settled in Punjab, 30,000 to 50,000 are living in Balochistan and others are settled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and northern areas of the country.
What is major reason for exodus? Talking to Daily Times, Hindus from interior Sindh, southern Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan said that lower class Hindu communities settled in different provinces were facing the same depression and problems as faced by lower class Muslim citizens. But, they added, all of these people were more patriot than upper, ruling class who were not only exploiting national resources and exchequer but also involved in money laundering.
They observed that a large majority of Hindus in Pakistan are not financially stable and belong to the working class or have poor agricultural background, particularly in interior Sindh and southern Punjab where feudalism is much stronger than other parts of the country.
In the past, whenever Hindus faced lawlessness, threat or any other problem from feudal lords, clerics, extremists, dacoits and other criminals, courts gave them relief. They said courts were their last hope but this door was closed for them after the Rinkal Kumari case. “So there is now no option for us but to leave our beloved country where no one is protecting us and our girls from forced conversion,” they said.
Interior Sindh situation: Hindu community members from Sindh told Daily Times that they had been facing several problems such as forced labour, unpaid or low-paid working conditions, kidnappings for ransom, abductions and rapes of girls, forced conversions, restrictions on religion and robberies in the last 65 years but the situation had worsened after the start of war on terror.
Resultantly, Hindu families have started migrating to India for their safety.
Initially, one or two Hindu families would silently migrate to India during a month, crossing the border illegally from Khokhrapar or other border areas of Sindh.
“But due to sharp increase in incidents of kidnapping for ransom of rich Hindu traders, their family members and abductions and rapes of poor Hindu girls in the last three years, more Hindus have started leaving the country,” they said.
They said that the major reason for the recent exodus was Rinkal Kumari’s case in which the court, which was their “last hope of justice”, “did not provide relief to Hindu victims”, stirring a sense of insecurity among the minority.
They said a sense of insecurity among Hindus increased after some extremists from another religion started a street campaign and made announcements using loudspeakers in different areas of interior Sindh to “choose and pick” Hindu girls for their forceful conversion. “The court’s decision in Rinkal Kumari’s case has given such a courage to these extremists,” Hindus said.
“Due to such hate campaigns which are backed by feudal-cum-parliamentarians, more than 450 Hindu families have already left the country using both legal and illegal ways of border crossing into India. They have migrated after selling their properties and other assets at low prices,” they said, adding that 60 to 90 families were migrating to India each month.
Migrations from other provinces: Hindus living in central and southern Punjab areas said that they had seen some Hindu families migrating to other places some time ago, but no such exodus had happened in the last two to three months.
They, however, confirmed that Hindu families from southern Punjab were gradually leaving their native cities or villages after facing suppression and insecurity from the Muslim society. Some elements of society, backed by feudal, are involved in criminal activities such as land-grabbing, torture of Hindu males or abuse of Hindu women.
A Hindu citizen from southern Punjab, who sent his family to India three years ago, said that he was a well-to-do trader and was kidnapped for ransom by some anti-state elements in 2009. He said that his family members, especially women, were also under threat and there was no option left for him but to send them to another country to save their lives and honour.
But he was still optimistic and coined the idea of calling his family back from India once the law and order situation gets better in Pakistan. He was committed to continuing his struggle for a better life in his beloved country.
A Hindu from Balochistan told Daily Times that although he had no exact figure about Hindu population in the province, he was sure that the number would be in five digits. He said that after the unrest started in the province during the military regime of Pervez Musharraf, several Hindu families left the province for other provinces or even India.
Hindus living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said that due to the war on terror and existence of hardliner Taliban in western parts of the province, they were afraid of being killed. That is why, they added, Hindu families had left their homes or were still moving. They, however, said that most of the Hindus were still living in the province and they had never tried to leave the country.
He said that only Hindus in western border areas of Pakistan had moved to other places.
Role of law enforcement agencies in addressing Hindus’ grievances: Pakistan has a strong ‘police culture’ and mostly laws were established by British rulers before the partition. These laws accommodated tactics of suppression, oppression, crushing, inhibition, quelling, beating and usage of third-degree torture against lower classes to avoid any revolutionary act or a demand for rights from them. Unfortunately, the same system is in practice in the 21st century in Pakistan.
The police culture continues to harm minorities and they claim that they have never got relief from police in the past.
They said that on one hand they were victimised by feudal or criminal elements and on the other, police and other law enforcement agencies did not give them protection but join hands with oppressors of Hindus.
Members of the Hindu community said that police in all four provinces were consisting of Muslims in a good majority along with some Christians or a few Sikh people, but no Hindu had been inducted in police force in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa or even in Punjab where more than 700,000 Hindus are living.
They said that no Hindu had been included in Sindh Police and few Hindu men were inducted in security forces in Tharparkar where Hindus are living in a huge number in villages.
Hindu traders said that they were in good numbers in different areas of Sindh such as Kandhkot, Badin, Galarchi, Umerkot, Mithi, Gharo, Thatta, Tharparkar, Jacobabad, Daharki, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Kashmore “but unfortunately our businesses are insecure as some policemen are allied with robbers and other criminals and they loot us”.
Hindus are also living in big numbers in nine districts in Punjab – Rahim Yar Khan, Sadiqabad, Multan, Sialkot, Narowal, Mandi Bahauddin, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Attock. But they also face the same problems as by Hindus in Sindh. “Hindus face similar problems in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan,” they added.
The Hindu traders said that people from other religions, especially majority community, usually borrowed loans on interest and made business deals with them in interior Sindh. “But instead of fulfilling their commitment, they dodge us to avoid paying back the money and start levelling allegations on us. They call us traitors, blasphemers or Indian agents and pressurise us in cooperation with police who always support them,” Hindu traders said.
“On the other hand, some policemen, linked to extortion mafias, also inform extortionists about the presence of a rich Hindu trader so that they kidnap him for a ransom.”
They said that these were basic issues which had forced Hindus to leave Pakistan. They said they wanted to stay in their homeland provided the situation normalises in their favour. They said that other law enforcement agencies working in the interior Sindh or other areas where Hindus were living in big numbers had also not protected them from criminals.

India’s dealing with migrated Pakistani Hindus:

Do Pakistani Hindus, who have migrated to India in recent years particularly in the last four to five months, have a bright future and is there any possibility that Indians will accept them as a citizen? When the question was raised by Daily Times before members of the Hindu community, they said that some of the families, which had crossed the border into India in an informal way, had told them that Indians did not accept these Pakistanis and consider them “spy” of Pakistan. “Pakistani Hindus are not able to move freely in different parts of India,” they added.
Sources said that the Hindus, who had gone to India, had told their community that Indians were not happy and considered the Hindu exodus from Pakistan a “new game of Pakistan”. On the other hand, Pakistani authorities are also considering this phenomenon as “some kind of conspiracy against its government”, and resultantly Hindus have been grinded between two sides of the border and find themselves helpless.
About laws regarding migration, they said that usually Hindus, who use a legal way of going to India, obtain a 30-days travelling or pilgrimage visa and there are less chances of getting it extend until a convincing reason such as death of a relative in India or personal illness is given.
They also said that some of Hindu families, which had migrated to India from Pakistan several years ago, had yet not been granted Indian citizenship and they were still passing a hard life there as their movement had been restricted in that country.
Solution to the problem: Although the Pakistani government, political parties and human rights organisations have shown serious concerns over the issue of minorities migrating from Pakistan, unfortunately no concrete step has been taken to address grievances of Hindus living in the country.


2 ) Next polls be held under army, says Musharraf

DUBAI: Former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf has asked the chief election commissioner to conduct next general elections in the supervision of the armed forces.
Addressing an iftar dinner from Catholic Club to Dubai via video link, Musharraf said that fair and transparent general elections would bring change in the country. He said he would announce his coming back to Pakistan prior to the next general elections. Musharraf termed terrorism a curse and stressed that this menace should be shackled. He said sectarianism was destroying the country. He said he had no knowledge about who was involved in the Karachi unrest. online


3 )   3.5 million non-native Lahoris leave city

By Shabbir Sarwar
LAHORE: At least 3.5 million non-native Lahoris such as students, politicians, businessmen, workers and government employees had already left the city for their homes to celebrate Eid with their families while remaining left late night on Sunday, giving the second largest business and residential hub of the country a deserted look during Eid days.
According to careful estimates, around 3.5 million outsiders live in the city for business, educational and other purposes. Out of them, nearly three million had already left the city to enjoy Eid festivity at their native places, while another 0.5 million left the provincial metropolis late on Sunday.
A lot rush of people, which is normally seen on city roads, business centres, educational institutions and hostels, was now seen at railways stations, general bus stands and airports.
According to the national census of 1998, Lahore’s population was 6,318,745 and estimate for 2010 was 8,592,000, which makes the provincial metropolis the second largest city of the country after Karachi. Lahore is also the 30th largest city of the world.
The city has become the second home place for around 3.5 million non-native Lahoris, who leave the city on Eid and other such occasions.
Out of them, around 60 percent live in rented houses, 30 percent in hostels and around 10 percent have purchased their own houses in Lahore.