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Once a city of gardens, Lahore is now a concrete jungle

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Lahore

Frightening

When I finally returned to Lahore, the city I spent the better half of my life in, it broke my heart to see what had become of it, so much so, I decided to write an article about it.

Lahore is dying.

Disastrous skimming of the stars or just gross negligence, either way, Lahore is going through a severe environmental crisis. The Land Cover Project driven by the Geomatics of Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL,) Belgium, observed that in a period of just eight years, the provincial capital lost over 75% of its total tree cover. In numbers, that’s 8839 hectares of urban forest cover lost.Lahore

In the midst of its ‘infrastructure’ dream, the city has lost its charm. There are bridges, flyovers, high-rise buildings, wide roads, and brand new housing schemes where ring-necked parakeets used to wander around, and fields of mulberry, guava, and mango trees used to sprout.

Hammad Naqi Khan, the director-general of the World Wide Fund for Nature Pakistan (WWF Pakistan,) said that an overpopulated, urban city like Lahore cannot survive rapid and unsustainable development, which exerts enormous pressure on existing natural resources, leading to water problems, pollution, and changes in the city’s temperatures.

Honestly

If I’m completely honest, in my decade long stay in Lahore, I found the city to be rather unpleasant and rushed, so much so, it took my friends eight years to finally convince me to visit what they called the majestic Shalimar Gardens. “Majestic?” What a dump, I thought to myself.

A dump.

My apologies. I wasn’t the smartest person when I first visited the Gardens, but I knew better the next time around. On my second visit to the centuries’ old gardens, I tried to see more than just what my eyes showed me. I observed that the Gardens were severely affected by development projects in the area. There was a flyover being built right above the Gardens that threatened to intrude upon their very existence.

Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. PHOTO: ALAMY

Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. Photograph: Alamy

The lesser-known gardens left behind by history: the Garden of Mahabat Khan, Naulakha Garden, Bagh-e-Dara, Anguri Bagh, Gulabi Bagh, Badami Bagh, Gardens of Raja Teja Singh in Chah Miran, Garden of Raja Dina Nath on Shalimar Road, Garden of Bhai Maha Singh near Shah Alam Gate; all have been lost in the name of ‘development’ and ‘infrastructure.’

The Anarkali Garden, Iqbal Park, and Lahore Zoological Gadens are fighting for their survival as well.

Maddening

Maddening. During my last days in Lahore, the Jail Road underpass, which is complete now, was under construction. “Why would the government spend millions on a project that would probably need another update in a decade or so?” I used to wonder everyday, stuck in the traffic on my way to tuition in Liberty. “It’s hideous to look at, anyway.”

Hideous.

Not long after the project was completed, the Lahore Development Authority (LDA,) the organization responsible for the construction of the underpass, was taken to the court. A consulting engineer of the organization confessed that the underpass was ill-planned and that it should be replaced with a new and well-planned underpass soon. And just like that, millions of taxpayer money was lost.

Lahore

Jail Road underpass. PHOTO: HABIB CONSTRUCTION SERVICES.

Let’s not judge the government just yet, though, for Lahore’s rapidly increasing population has made such projects a necessity. Housing schemes are just another baggage the government has to shoulder for its failure to contain the population. Since there exists no law, whatsoever, which stops the conversion of prime agriculture and plantation lands for commercial or housing purposes, hundreds of hectares of land that could potentially be used for planting trees are lost. This is called the ‘opportunity cost.’

Opportunity cost is defined as the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.

Keeping in mind the concept of opportunity cost, let’s just imagine, for we can only imagine our government would take such a step, that the government went for the other alternative that is that it didn’t go for the mega projects like the construction of flyovers, underpasses, metro lines, and orange lines and instead, it decided to plant millions of trees where housing schemes exist today. Would it have solved all of our problems? No.

If the government had taken such a step, there would have been an acute shortage in the housing sector, and an acute shortage would have increased the demand, and an increase in demand would have skyrocketed the prices of the houses available in the city, and an increase in prices would have decreased the spending by the people, and a decrease in spending by the people would have brought the city’s economy to a standstill for the majority of Lahore’s business community is involved in real estate.

Rethink

I used to live in Defence Housing Authority (DHA,) Phase V, and it used to take me around an hour to get to my high school Aitchison College, which is situated at Mall Road. “The government needs to rethink its plan,” I used to curse every morning. “I just cannot keep waking up at 5AM anymore.”

Rethink.

Pakistan needs to rethink how it plans its cities. Only poorly planned cities grow ‘horizontally’ rather than ‘vertically’ – which increases the country’s carbon emissions, leads to a loss of fertile land and increases commuting time and cost. Lahore has turned into a little province of its own and if it continues growing unplanned, it will only make itself an example of failed urbanization for the world to study about. And I, or any Pakistani at all, would hate to read about this city’s failure.

Lahore

Minar-e-Pakistan, Lahore. PHOTO: UZAIR

Our government needs to realize that Lahore is more than just steel and concrete. It needs to protect the environment for every tree that falls, every new car that is placed on the roads, every family that makes a home in a housing scheme in the middle of nowhere, and every garden that is destroyed for making space for a flyover, our ecosystem will suffer. The heat waves will only get more intense, the smog will only get thicker, the next rain will only submerge the city deeper, and Lahore will only fall harder in the eyes of the world.

At the same time, the government needs to invest in other major cities like Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, and Sargodha and so, to stop the massive urban migration into Lahore. It also needs to introduce laws that limit the number of housing schemes that can be constructed in a period of five years or more. The government also needs to diversify the city’s dependence on real estate. It needs to give more power to public and private transport services in the city and reduce the number of cars on the roads somehow.

And we, the general public, must decide if we want to protect the environment and lead a healthy lifestyle or if we want to continue being involved or support practices that harm the environment of this glorious city.

***

About the writer: Shahzaib Tahir Awan is the CEO of The Bisouv Network and House of Entremuse. He is currently studying for B.A. Computer Science degree at Jacobs University, Germany.

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Opinion/Writings

Remembering Pakistan’s first foreign agent Fatima Jinnah

“They call her the Mother of the Nation,” sniffed Ayub. “Then she should at least behave like a mother.” For Ayub, well-behaved women didn’t make history.

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Fatima Jinnah

Soon after Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassination and Pakistan’s plunging into absolute political and economical abyss, The Mother of the Nation Fatima Jinnah decided to retreat to her Flagstaff House in Karachi. Her hair textured shades of grey and her eyes a little more tired than usual, Miss Fatima had fallen silent for a moment. With the memory of her dear brother fresh in her mind, she found herself aghast over the wreck they had made of her brother’s Pakistan, but the silence endured.

The silence endured Iskander Mirza’s mocking of the constitution, the silence endured the fading of the once-great Muslim League, the silence endured when the country entered its first martial law, and the silence endured the mistreatment of the East by the West. Miss Fatima was, in fact, one of the fiercest critics of the government’s neglect towards East Pakistan, so much so, when her good conscious couldn’t allow it anymore, she broke the silence.

READ MORE: Mr Khan, keep your Naya Pakistan to yourself

“The Big Stick” The Times called her as white-haired Miss Jinnah, 71, the candidate of five usually disunited opposition parties, entered the arena facing the powerful dictator Ayub Khan. Thousands over thousands chanted Jinnah’s name once again as Miss Fatima’s razor-tongued attacks on Ayub’s illegitimate reign left the authorities in utter shock. The eastern city of Dhaka cried END TO DICTATORSHIP as students enthusiastically proclaimed Miss Jinnah Week and in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, unrest forced the government to close all the schools indefinitely. Miss Jinnah’s sentiments saw the legal community come into one as well and when they did, they were quickly denounced by Ayub as “mischief-mongers.” In reply, the Karachi Bar Association overwhelmingly adopted a resolution urging “the party in power to get rid of the notion that wisdom, righteousness and patriotism are the monopoly of their yes men.” The media, for once, also refused to follow the dictator’s orders and the usually complaisant newspapers editors defied the regime’s attempts to make them endorse a restrictive new press law. Ayub soon started regretting ever calling the elections in the first place and on the other hand, Miss Jinnah was never stronger. It is often said, and advised, never to tackle a tiger into a corner for when the tiger stings, and it will, the hunter becomes the hunted. And Pakistan had found her tiger in Miss Jinnah.

In no time, Miss Jinnah had Ayub running scared for after six years of insisting that Pakistanis were not ready for democracy, Miss Jinnah’s fierce campaign had only shown Ayub that he was the only one not ready for it. Miss Jinnah had managed to focus every form of discontent in the country and political gurus predicted the election was hers. To brake her bandwagon, Ayub abruptly decreed that elections would be held January 2, instead of March, as originally scheduled. Explaining lamely that the situation is “a little tense,” the government also rescinded a law specifying that political rallies must be open to the public. And when it didn’t work, Ayub, as uniformed cowards do, set out to portray Miss Jinnah as pro-Indian and pro-Pakhtoonistan. Dozens of columnists were paid to paint Miss Jinnah in colors of blue and saffron. In one pamphlet, Miss Jinnah was accused of conspiring against Pakistan alongside Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan by trying to establish Pakhtoonistan and in another episode, full page government ads claimed “Miss Fatima Jinnah was greeted in Peshawar with the slogans of ‘Pukhtoonistan Zindabad.’”

At closed meetings with groups of electors, Ayub answered practical questions sensibly enough, but kept lashing out at the opposition with growing anger. “They call her the Mother of the Nation,” sniffed Ayub. “Then she should at least behave like a mother.” For Ayub, well-behaved women didn’t make history.

Despite the usual dirty tricks, Miss Jinnah marched on. To Ayub’s claim that he was trying to develop “basic democracy,” Miss Jinnah replied: “What sort of democracy is that? One man’s democracy? Fifty persons’ democracy?” As for Ayub’s charge that the country would revert to chaos if he was defeated, his rival snapped: “You can’t have stability through compulsion, force and the big stick.”

READ MORE: Paris

The stage was set. It was the great Miss Jinnah against a field marshal who had never won a war, a president who was never elected, and an army chief only because his superiors had died in an air crash. Not in a thousand years could Ayub overtake Miss Jinnah but he did, anyway. Miss Jinnah lost the election amid allegations of mass rigging. Her only mistake was that she endured in silence.

And so did Pakistan. First, by perpetuating military rule, its democracy suffered. Ayub had given the armed forces a right, so much so, a privilege to rule the country. The army began to think that it was their duty and responsibility to take over the country whenever they thought right. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a prominent figure in Ayub’s government, was only the first politician used and thrown away by the army.

East Pakistan, which gave Miss Jinnah a spectacular welcome and where Miss Jinnah secured an astounding victory in the polls would be condemned to the most brutal blood and gore just seven years later, tearing the country in two. Bengalis had dominated Miss Jinnah’s electoral alliance. It is now left for us to wonder what could have been, had they been given their say. And let’s not forget that East Pakistan’s situation was much like KPK’s today: Bengali rights groups were only ever addressed with a stick and abuses, their rallies were censored, their foreheads carved with the words ‘traitor,’ and their houses searched and ripped apart in the dark of the night.

In Karachi, where the Urdu-speaking community came out for Miss Jinnah in droves and where, like East Pakistan, Miss Jinnah had swept the city, the voters were rewarded by a ‘victory parade’ led by Ayub’s goons. They were beaten red and blue, their houses raided, and their places of work destroyed and sealed. Karachi soon erupted in ethnic rioting that saw over thirty dead. It would be the first of many.

The aftershocks of Miss Jinnah’s rigged defeat against the tyrant Ayub are still felt to this day. Pakistan and her people have suffered greatly because of one man’s greed but all hope is not lost. By not forgetting Miss Fatima’s struggle against dictator Ayub and by revisiting Miss Jinnah’s fierce campaign against him, we, as a nation, can learn from our mistakes and flourish.

A dictatorship, a puppet government, or a selected one can never be healthy for a young nation’s growth.

***

About the writer: Shahzaib Awan currently heads the Bisouv Publications and House of Entremuse Media Group. He’s an ex-Aitchisonian and is currently studying Computer Science at Jacobs University, Germany.

***

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Opinion/Writings

Top 10 schools of Pakistan (2018-19)

The Bisouv Network’s Top 10 schools of Pakistan aims to provide a non-academic League Table of the top 10 schools in Pakistan on unbiased and valid metrics, studies, and opinions.

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In creating the Top 10 schools of Pakistan list, The Bisouv Network processed over 150 of Pakistan’s education ministry recognized schools/colleges that meet the following selection criteria:

  • Being accredited, licensed and/or chartered by the education ministry of Pakistan.
  • Offering at least two-year matriculation and/or at least one-year intermediate programs.
  • Delivering courses predominantly in a traditional face-to-face, non-distance education format.

The Bisouv Network’s Top 10 schools of Pakistan aims to provide a non-academic League Table of the top 10 schools in Pakistan on unbiased and valid metrics, studies, and opinions.

Top 10 schools of Pakistan (2018-19)

10 – Military College, Jhelum:

Military College Jehlum

Military College, Jehlum

Designated to nurture cadets for the Pakistan Army, Military College, Jehlum (MCJ,) is one of the country’s top military schools. It provides an environment similar to that of the Pakistan Military Academy.

MCJ was established in 1922 as King George Royal Indian Military School (KGRIMS) and its foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales. At that time, MCJ was under the jurisdiction of Jhelum and Jallandhar (now in Indian state of Punjab) cantonments. Regular classes at the college began on September 3, 1925.

2016-17 ranking: 13
2017-18 ranking: 9

Academics: 11/16
Co-curricular: 7/14
Sports: 8/10

Environment: 6/13
Faculty: 11/17

University admissions: 7/20
Prestige of notable alumni: 4/10

Overall score: 54/100

9 – Sadiq Public School, Bahawalpur:

Sadiq Public School

Sadiq Public School, Bahawalpur

Spread over an area of 451 acres, Sadiq Public School (SPS) is the largest school in Asia. It is dedicated towards teaching children from KG through A’Levels. After opening a girls boarding and school section within the campus in 2004, it now teaches over 600 female students.

SPC was established with the help of then Ameer of Bahawalpur Sadeq Muhammad Khan V who allocated a sum of one million and nine hundred thousand for the construction of the school. The Ameer also sold the land (some 2,050 acres,) on which the school is situated to the government at a very low price. A total of nine buildings were constructed and the foundation stone was laid by Sadeq Muhammad Khan V. Regular classes at the school began in 1954.

Today, SPS is one of the most competitive schools of Pakistan in terms of both academics and sports. Politicians such as Muhammad Mian Soomro (former President, Prime Minister, and Chairman of Senate of Pakistan) and sportsmen such as Waqar Younis (former captain Pakistan Cricket Team) are among its alumni.

2016-17 ranking: 13
2017-18 ranking: 8

Academics: 10/16
Co-curricular: 7/14
Sports: 9/10

Environment: 6/13
Faculty: 11/17

University admissions: 8/20
Prestige of notable alumni: 4/10

Overall score: 55/100

8 – Convent of Jesus and Mary, Lahore:

Convent of Jesus and Mary, Lahore

Convent of Jesus and Mary, Lahore

An all-girls school in Lahore, the establishment of Convent dates back to 1876. Their students are known for scoring well in both Board and Cambridge examinations and it is among the few top schools that offers both GCE O Level and Matriculation curricula.

The school’s special focus on equality in education is exemplified by the opening of the Thevenet Centre – a school for special children.

Many of the country’s most prominent women including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Maryam Nawaz and late human rights lawyer/social rights activist Asma Jahangir were educated here.

2016-17 ranking: 12
2017-18 ranking: 6

Academics: 14/16
Co-curricular: 6/14
Sports: 5/10

Environment: 8/13
Faculty: 13/17

University admissions: 10/20
Prestige of notable alumni: 9/10

Overall score: 65/100

7 – Lawrence College, Ghora Gali:

Lawrence College, Ghora Gali

Lawrence College, Ghora Gali

Lawrence College (LC) was established in 1860 in the memory of Sir Henry Lawrence who served in the Bengal Artillery as a Brigadier General and helped the British-Indian government in many other matters of concern such as revenue system, canal system, roads, and orphanages.

LC is one of the few schools in Pakistan that pays a special focus to mental as well as physical development. LC is popular for its sports fixtures with different schools and known to have among the most skilled sports teams.

Academically, the school reported an overall GPA of 5.93 (on a scale of 6), with students scoring 1000+ marks in SSC examinations.

It has educated many of Pakistan’s leading male politicians including former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

2016-17 ranking: 8
2017-18 ranking: 7

Academics: 12/16
Co-curricular: 7/14
Sports: 10/10

Environment: 9/13
Faculty: 12/17

University admissions: 10/20
Prestige of notable alumni: 6/10

Overall score: 66/100

6 – Cadet College, Hasan Abdal:

Cadet College, Hasan Abdal

Cadet College, Hasan Abdal

Established in 1954, this military school is one of the finest boarding institutions in all of Pakistan. It’s sole purpose is to educate high school students, many of whom score top positions in the Rawalpindi BISE.

The school is nationally recognized for their sports team and often sends students to play sports fixtures with its sister schools.

As a military school, most of its graduates pass out to join the military. Many of the graduates have risen to high ranks in the Pakistan military, including former Chief of Naval Staff Muhammad Zakaullah and former Chief of Air Staff Abbas Khattak.

2016-17 ranking: 6
2017-18 ranking: 4

Academics: 13/16
Co-curricular: 5/14
Sports: 9/10

Environment: 10/13
Faculty: 14/17

University admissions: 12/20
Prestige of notable alumni: 6/10

Overall score: 69/100

5 – Lahore Grammar School JT Boys, Lahore

Lahore Grammar School JT Boys, Lahore

Lahore Grammar School JT Boys, Lahore

LGS JT may be a relatively new institution but its lack of historical presence relative to the aforementioned schools has not allowed any compromise on academics at all. The school reported a total of 431 A*s and 647 As in 2017 May/June session results and is expected to do equally well this year.

In addition to its excellent academic record, LGS JT co-curricular success at the national and international levels in the recent years have seen it climb to the position 5 in our rankings.

2016-17 ranking: 11
2017-18 ranking: 6

Academics: 15/16
Co-curricular: 7/14
Sports: 3/10

Environment: 8/13
Faculty: 15/17

University admissions: 15/20
Prestige of notable alumni: 7/10

Overall score: 70/100

4 – Lahore Grammar School 55 Main, Lahore:

Top 10 schools of Pakistan

Lahore Grammar School 55 Main, Lahore

Established in 1979 by a group of women, LGS 55-main is the first branch of the acclaimed Lahore Grammar School system. Academically, it is one of the best all-girls schools in the country. In the year 2017, it reported 6 distinctions in the Cambridge International Examinations across O and A’Levels curricula.

The school is known for taking several initiatives in the field of performing arts, particularly with respect to cultural tradition. Their students regularly participate in cultural exhibitions globally, and some of their most recent excursions have been to Turkey and Poland.

They also regularly boast admissions into prestigious universities such as Yale, Stanford, UPenn, Columbia, Oxford, and Cambridge. Hina Rabbani Khar, former Foreign Minister, is a proud alumni.

2016-17 ranking: 2
2017-18 ranking: 5

Academics: 16/16
Co-curricular: 11/14
Sports: 3/10

Environment: 9/13
Faculty: 11/17

University admissions: 19/20
Prestige of notable alumni: 5/10

Overall score: 74/100

3 – Pakistan Air Force College, Sargodha:

Top 10 schools of Pakistan

Pakistan Air Force College, Sargodha

Established in 1951 and headed by many renowned Educationists since, the Pakistan Air Force college possesses more than a strict military environment.

The school is the most notable in Sargodha district and popular in the fields of academics and sports.

Since 1993, its students have held several positions in the F.Sc and Matric Examinations and the institution’s sports teams are among best in Pakistan – with all A-Class Air Force coaches.

Their notable alumni include Air Chief Marshal Farooq Feroze Khan (also former Chief of Air Staff) and former Federal Minister for Education Ahsan Iqbal.

2016-17 ranking: 3
2016-18 ranking: 3

Academics: 14/16
Co-curricular: 7/14
Sports: 9/10

Environment: 10/13
Faculty: 15/17

University admissions: 14/20
Prestige of notable alumni: 6/10

Overall score: 75/100

2 – Karachi Grammar School, Karachi:

Karachi Grammar School, Karachi

Karachi Grammar School, Karachi

An extremely selective, co-educational institution established in 1847, KGS is the oldest private school in Pakistan and the second oldest in South Asia.

Since its inception, KGS has spread into three campuses and is now responsible for teaching over 2000 students.The school is critically acclaimed for an exceptional number of O and A Level distinctions every year and a debating team that has conquered championships globally.

Among its notable alumni are the late Benazir Bhutto, former PM of Pakistan and the country’s first elected female head of state, and Akbar Bugti, former Governor of Balochistan. Their students regularly gain admission to the world’s top undergraduate institutions, and the class of 2018 has acceptances from universities to the likes of Princeton and Yale.

2016-17 ranking: 1
2017-18 ranking: 2

Academics: 16/16
Co-curricular: 14/14
Sports: 3/10

Environment: 13/13
Faculty: 17/17

University admissions: 20/20
Prestige of notable alumni: 7/10

Overall score: 90/100

1 – Aitchison College, Lahore:

Top 10 schools of Pakistan

Aitchison College, Lahore

Spread over 200 acres and situated deep in the heart of Lahore, Aitchison is a semi-private boys school for boarding and day students from KG to A’levels.

Established in 1886, it has been a breeding ground for many of Pakistan’s aristocrats- the most prominent being newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan. Other notable alumni include Ex-President Farooq Laghari and Ex-Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali.

Aitchison’s tradition of providing an education that combines academics, sports, and co-curricular is evident in the many facilities it boasts – including an equestrian centre, a hospital, numerous sport complexes, and boarding houses.

A testament to its long-standing reputation of student development, the college this year reported several admissions into top-tier schools across the globe, including Ivy League universities, Stanford, Harvard, and MIT.

2016-17 ranking: 4
2017-18 ranking: 1

Academics: 15/16
Co-curricular: 14/14
Sports: 10/10

Environment: 13/13
Faculty: 12/17

University admissions: 19/20
Prestige of notable alumni: 10/10

Overall score: 93/100

***

Previous editions

Top 10 schools of Pakistan (2017-18)

Read now: Top 10 schools of Pakistan (2017-18)

  1. Aitchison College, Lahore
  2. Karachi Grammar School, Karachi
  3. Pakistan Air Force College, Sargodha
  4. Cadet College, Hasan Abdal
  5. Lahore Grammar School 55 Main, Lahore
  6. Convent of Jesus and Mary, Lahore/Lahore Grammar School JT Boys, Lahore
  7. Lawrence College, Ghora Gali
  8. Sadiq Public School, Bahawalpur
  9. Military College, Jehlum
  10. Bai Virbaijee Soparivala Parsi School, Karachi

Top 10 schools of Pakistan (2016-17)

  1. Karachi Grammar School, Karachi
  2. Lahore Grammar School 55 Main, Lahore
  3. Pakistan Air Force College, Sargodha
  4. Aitchison College, Lahore
  5. Sadiq Public School, Bahawalpur
  6. Cadet College, Hasanabdal
  7. BeaconHouse SS Gulberg, Lahore
  8. Lawrence College, Ghora Gali
  9. Chand Bagh, Muridke
  10. Cadet College, Kohat

***

Writers: Fatima Nawaz
Data analysts: Ahmad Qasoori, Malik Muhammad Shehryar, Mohammad Haseeb Murtaza
Algorithm developers: Ibrahim Ahmed, Mohammad Haseeb Murtaza
Scouts: Ahmad Qasoori, Malaika Ara, Khadija Farooqi, Asghar Khan, Ahsan Amir, Malaika Hoti, Malik Muhammad Shehryar, Mohammad Haseeb Murtaza, Ibrahim Ahmed

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Opinion/Writings

Mr Khan, keep your Naya Pakistan to yourself

Taking in consideration everything the country has been through in only the first year of Khan, it does not take a lot for one to conclude that Pakistan is going through the worst. Thank God our prime minister is handsome, though.

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Imran Khan

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN’s) leader Rana Sanaullah’s arrest only serves as one more barrier cleared for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s smooth sailing through. While the country’s economy is in shackles, inflation is out of control, and the rupee can’t find a slab to stand on, Khan has found himself weirdly obsessed with the idea of clearing the parliament of any opposing voices.

One can almost argue in favor of the many arrests that have taken place in the last couple of months as to be in line with the pre-poll promises Khan made to the public, but at what cost? Plus, there is always the genuine argument of selected accountability. If Khan is actually loyal to the justice that he has been preaching for so long then how come dictator Perez Musharraf gets a free pass? Khan’s failure to contain the army’s growing influence in the country’s very garment has also raised a lot of eyebrows. All in all, one has to ask the question: Is this the change Khan promised us?

Crippling Economy

The first annual budget unveiled by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was almost scrapped apart in the parliament for its “anti-poor” nature as described by the opposition voices. The opposition further threatened the government with protests in and out of the parliament over perceived, and liable, mismanagement by the government.

The Pakistan Economic Survey, a government-issued report that precedes the annual budget presentation, showed that almost all financial indicators have seen a downward trend. The country’s growth rate fell by almost 50 percent from 6.2 to 3.3 percent and is expected to dive to at least 2.4 percent by next year. The national rupee has lost a fifth of its value against the dollar since the beginning of the fiscal year and still cannot be predicted to halt any time soon. Inflation, on the other hand, is hovering at shocking figures of 13 percent and can rise even more by the end of year.

Khan’s dismissal of his once-favorite Asad Umer only highlights the severity of the issue that the government has tried so well to downplay. And let us not forget the ever-increasing debt of the country, which now eats up some 30 percent of the budget every year.

Selected Accountability

In an almost comical scene at the parliament a week earlier, the speaker of the National Assembly, banned the word ‘selected’ from being said when addressing the honorable Prime Minister Khan. This led to a protest followed by the clever use of alternates of the banned word, thoroughly focused on, by the opposition. Although it is wrong to call a sitting prime minister ‘selected,’ Khan has surely earned it.

A massive crackdown that followed the arrests of the major opposition voices including the opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan People Party (PPP’s) chairman Asif Ali Zardari, and PMLN lawmakers Khawaja Asif and Saad Rafique have only allowed the idea of targeted accountability to be born.

The lookers of Khan’s style of justice question why Khan’s ever-increasing arm on opposition hasn’t reached the neck of dictator Musharraf yet who’s currently on the run from the many cases registered against him in the courts of law. Khan’s government, much like previous governments, has shown absolutely no interest in pursuing the cases against him.

Whether it is the case of 2005 Stock Exchange swindle, the Pakistan Steels Mills privatization, 2006 sugar scam, financial bungling in multi-billion rupee clean drinking water project, alleged kickbacks in defence procurement including PAF surveillance aircraft deal, the doling out of military land to political leaders and his (Musharraf’s) personal staff, alleged corruption in 2005 earthquake funds, ghost pension scandal, controversial sale of Pakistan’s property in Jakarta, or the unconstitutional appointments made by the dictator, the National Accountability Bureau and the government have closed their eyes on everything even slightly related to Musharraf.

Uniformed Pakistan

Recently, Hamid Mir’s interview with the former President Asif Ali Zardari was taken off air for no reason whatsoever. The sources within the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA,) on the promise of anonymity, said they didn’t have anything to do with incident. This led Hamid Mir to speculate the hidden forces behind the move and conclude that there is “no difference between Zia’s Pakistan, Musharraf’s Pakistan, and Naya (Khan’s) Pakistan.”

Khan’s decision to make Ijaz Shah the Minister of Interior has also raised a lot of eyebrows, only if there were enough eyebrows for every member of Mushrraf’s cabinet now in Khan’s cabinet. Ijaz Shah, a former spymaster, had always shown keen interest in entering the National Assembly but was defeated and embarrassed every time by PMLN’s Rai Mansab Ali Khan and later his daughter Dr Shizra Mansab. He finally emerged victorious by a narrow margin of 2405 votes after Tehreek-e-Labbaik’s nominee, now nowhere to be found, broke a huge chunk of Dr Shizra’s votes. During Musharraf’s rule, Shah was said to be the main player behind the rigged 2002 election that the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PMLQ) swept and was said to be Musharraf’s right hand. His name had also appeared in an email of an American friend of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, listing him as an accused along with some others including the then Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Elahi, the then Sindh Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim, and former ISI chief Hamid Gul as suspects, if she was killed. But none of them were named in the First Information Report or even investigated of Benazir Bhutto’s murder.

Talking a little more about Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP’s) short history of existence, the man accused of orchestrating the Faizabad protest Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, which left PMLN’s government embarrassed on all fronts, was recently made the DG of the ISI. The “army-brokered” agreement that finally saw TLP’s crowd dispersing saw Hameed’s signature at the bottom of the agreement, which led the Islamabad High Court to question the jurisdiction of the army in making such an agreement. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui said that not a single clause of the agreement was according to the law. He later expressed fears that after these remarks, he might be killed or go missing.

Taking in consideration everything the country has been through in only the first year of Khan, it does not take a lot for one to conclude that Pakistan is going through the worst. Thank God our prime minister is handsome, though.

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About the writer: Shahzaib Awan currently heads the Bisouv Publications and House of Entremuse Media Group. He’s an ex-Aitchisonian and is currently studying Computer Science at Jacobs University, Germany.

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