Archive for the ‘People and Places’ Category

The Lahore that I grew up in was a great place

I grew up in Lahore. All my life I lived here except for the seven years in the army and ten in Karachi. I returned again in December 1988 and have lived here since. I knew a Lahore that was a very beautiful city. It was a city of people who ere cultured, courteous and with a sense of humour that was sharp without being vulgar. This was a city of the most magnificent Mughal buildings and gardens. It was also a city where you could actually get into the countryside without going anywhere. The urban sprawl of what is now Johar town was a place of mango orchards and fields where one could hear the song of more than a hundred different species of birds.

Lahore was a city where the gates of your house were always open, except when you turned in for the night. It was a city where armed robbery or rape was unknown. Lahore was where a traffic accident did not mean you were lynched. It meant people got out of their cars and quietly resolved who was to pay for the damages. Here a young man and woman could walk hand in hand without being accused of ‘obscenity and vulgarity’.

Odysseus Lahori

Fellow of Royal Geographical Society, Salman Rashid is author of several books including jhelum: City of the Vitasta and The Apricot Road to Yarkand, Riders on the Wind, Between two Burrs on the Map, Prisoner on a Bus and Sea Monsters and the Sun God. He is the only Pakistani to have seen the North Face of K-2 and trekked in the shadow of this great mountain. His work – explorations, history, travel writings – appears in almost all leading publications. Salman Rashid blogs here.

Odysseus was a very simply choice, says Salman Rashid, “He travelled, either driven by storms or by his will to discover strange and wonderful lands where he met all sorts of people. Though I never met a Cyclops, I too have travelled to wonderful places across the length and breadth of Pakistan. The Odyssey lasted twenty years, mine is still ongoing – though it is not in one stretch and there is no danger of returning home and not being recognized by anyone. It was Odysseus’ spirit of adventure that made me adopt him name.”

Follow Salman Rashid on Twitter, also find on facebook.

When Lahore misses Lahoris…

Lahore is a huge metropolis of around 8 to 10 million people today and it keeps on growing by every minute. A vast pie of this population comprises of migrants from other parts of Punjab and Pakistan. There are hundreds of thousands of people who come to ‘Dil walon ka Shehar’ in search of jobs, education, better opportunities and an urban flavor unmatched in the north of the country. All of this gives Lahore a flavor of diversity – all blended into the Lahori way of life as you just have to spend a few years in Lahore to become a Lahori at heart.

The demographic profile of the city’s immigrant population means that a lot of people have families and relatives residing in other parts of the province. Each holiday season, millions of Lahoris flee the city to spend vacations with their families in villages and other cities. Two Eids being the biggest Islamic holidays are the times when you see a mass-exodus of people heading out of the city just to come back a night before the vacation’s over.

If you happen to be a part of that crowd or just visit the railway station, lorry addas or bus terminals, you’ll see happy faces longing to see their loved ones while climbing onto any available and affordable means of transport. There’s a dad who’s carrying presents for his kids in village; there’s a student carrying his meager belongings in a backpack hanging on to the overcrowded entrance of a Bedford bus.  Then, there’s a group of white collar office employees, dressed in white shirts and black trousers with a laptop bag, albeit empty, waiting in queue at the New Khan or Faisal Movers ticket counter. Gourmet lafafas are usually a constant at all places of boarding buses, lorries, trains, rickshaws, APVs or Qingqis.. Babus prefer Daewoo or even better, an aeroplane ride to their hometowns. To take advantage of an improved bargaining position, transporters usually increase the fares handsomely and the passengers have no choice but to comply. Not to mention huge gridlocks of traffic outbound on G.T. Road, Motorway and up/down national railway grid.

In short, it’s an interesting phenomenon to witness so many Lahoris leaving the town they love for places that they originally belong. I still call them Lahoris for the city derives it’s character from everyone that brings his/her own flavor to share with the spirit of this great city. If you happen to drive by a calm Mall Road or lazy Canal Bank on a Saturday night during Eid holidays without having to press brakes, you get a feeling that…

Lahore’s missing its Lahoris… :)

Party with Squirrels

It’s easy to love a place where residents make efforts to feed the squirrels. In the Shalimar Garden, a few senior citizens party with the squirrels every morning.
When my friend Hussain Qazi who is naturalist and a photographer told me about people feeding birds and squirrels, I planned to skip my ‘ritual morning walks’ and decided to visit Shalimar Garden instead; hopping to find more about the party with the squirrels.
The care and feeding of squirrels in Shalimar Garden is a recent phenomenon. Long overshadowed by heritage talk (it is on UNESO’s world heritage list), Shalimar Garden is overcrowded during day. Whether or not Shalimar Garden ultimately can maintain its past glory – and with it, an influx of foreign and local tourists – it’s a surprisingly satisfying open space during early hour of the day.
Every morning, two charismatic old men, loaded with biscuits, rice and pluses came to the waiting population of birds and squirrels in the Shalimar Garden. They sit on the same benches and start throwing grins to the birds. When this is happening, one can see squirrels coming down from nearby trees for their breakfast and then those gentlemen dig deep down their satchels and take out biscuits and start feeding the squirrels. The tiny winy animals are so use to those caring hands that they jump to take the first bite.
One of the old men Fazal Karim – a retired primary teacher who lives in nearby Daroge Wala – explained me this phenomenon and said, “I am coming here for my morning walk every day for a long time now. I feed the bird population and squirrels and find them very friendly. I miss them and look forward to meeting them every day. I think they miss me too.” X-posted at Light Within

Model Town shakes up to a deadly awakening

It was only quarter past eight Monday morning when residents of Model Town were shaken by a glass-shattering sound and impact. People as far away as 10 KMs in Wapda Town and DHA, both in different directions from Model Town, heard a loud bang and saw smoke rising in the distance. Few minutes of utter panic followed until media reported a suicide attack in the otherwise calm part of the city.
Rubble of the SIA building in Model Town after suicide attack - Source: AFP via
Rescuers clearing rubble after suicide attack on the SIA building in Model Town, Lahore
Image Source: AFP via
Yesterday, the target was office of the FIA and Special Investigative Agency (SIA), a branch of secret police that investigates highly sensitive terrorism suspects and criminals. The office building totally collapsed as a result while 13 people fell victim to the horrendous episode with another 80 or so injured. Victims include passerby children who were heading towards school. Dr. Israr Ahmed’s Masjid is very close to the scene and bore the full brunt of impact where all glass has shattered. Similar was the effect on the entire block where home windows, doors and facades of houses were badly damaged.
This incident happened after a period of relative calm. Last time Lahorites saw terror up so close was when Moon Market was hit by attackers a few months back.
According to recent media reports, the Taliban have accepted the claim of the blast and called it a revenge over US drone strikes and Pakistan Army’s operation in the tribal areas.
Although many questions remain unanswered, however, the most important one still remains why are these sensitive agencies based in residential areas of the city? Similarly, how secure is the common man? and what from here on?
We strongly condemn terrorism of all sorts and pray for the deceased… May Allah bless them and their souls rest in Peace, Ameen! (Inna lillahe wa inna ilaihe rajioon)

Google Maps & Lahore: Mapping ‘Party’

Are you map literate?  Do you reside in Lahore? 

Then you might want to check out  the Google Mapping ‘party’ taking place at FAST-NU this Saturday, 2nd  January, 2010. 

Sneak peak at what its all about— Badshahi Mosque and neighborhood.

Some information from the organizers:


FAST-NU and the Google Map Maker Community in Pakistan officially invite you to a half-day of discussion, interaction and mapping fun! Google Map Maker is an open editing tool for Google Maps, and has allowed crowd-sourced mapping of Pakistan on an unprecedented scale, as highlighted by Google.
In order to take stock of what has been accomplished so far, and more importantly, what opportunities lie ahead, FAST-NU’s ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Chapter welcomes Google to campus to host a workshop and discussion on crowd-sourced mapping of our cities. Take a look at the links below to see Lahore’s map on Google Maps today, to see how Badshahi Mosque’s neighborhood has been mapped, for example.
Now, help shape the opportunities which lie ahead for Pakistan’s urban development using maps, the internet and the power of collective public thinking.
Join us on the 2nd of January, 2010 from 12:30pm to 5:00pm, at FAST-NU (see it on the map)
….(click here to read the rest on the event page on Facebook)

For further information and to register–click here.

Important: You must pre-register at  to join in all the fun on Saturday!

If you attend–do come back to share your experience here on Lahore Metblog. :)

The MQM in Lahore

MQM has long tried to make inroads in Lahore. The controversial party is quite ‘known’ for their popularity in Karachi, much like Zardari is known for his popularity all over Pakistan.
I remember linking MQM’s first try to get into Lahore by opening a center here, with a sudden increase in reports of mobile snatching. Nevertheless, the following is a great reminder our political parties will go to, to show their strength (much like MQM ‘show of strength’ on that fateful day in Karachi when people were shown being shot at on national television).

MQM Rally photoshopped

MQM Rally photoshopped

Thanks to this keen-eyed blogger, we have now a ‘large presence of MQM in Baltistan, Skardu’. The image is photoshopped to show a larger crowd. More details here

Everyone is a Style Star at DeSOM

DeSOM – Services Club Lahore – has come be famous for its traditions like celebrations of festive occasions like Chand Raat – night when Eid ul Fits moon is cited on first of Shawal – national days and other get to gathers. Like always and like everyone, I was there with my whole family. In addition, there we meet some old colleagues and their families, kids met their class fellows and friends and had a traditional food with little bit of every thing from Murg Channe to BRBQ (dahi bhalle, halwa puri, biryani, list goes on and on) .

There were many stall form bangles and hina to crystal gazers and special Eid gifts for kids to indulge in. Yes, there were a lot of boooools for my Maan.

The bottom line; at DeSOM every one was a style star. {From}

Tragedy of our fellow Swatis

Now, with a shocking 2 million internally displaced people (IDPs) plying on routes south of their heaven-on-earth homeland of SWAT, Pakistan is officially experiencing an unprecedented crisis. While sitting in our drawing rooms, it is far too easy for many of us to say collateral damage cannot be avoided, but, try asking anyone who has lost his whole family to the bloodbath. Each human life costs the same; whether an innocent Pakistani, an Afghan or an American one. And no justification can soothe or curtail further radicalization of the youth of the innocent affectees of full-scale bombardment of wide settled areas. 

It’s too late to ask this question as to how our Government signed an agreement from a weak position and then rolled all talks within a meagre ten days on external pressures. The only question now valid is to how quickly and effectively can we help millions of IDPs who have lost everything and are in dire need of food, shelter, and clothing.

Let us join hands in donating as much as we can to the Prime Minister’s Fund for Victims of Terrorism, to other local and international NGOs, foundations, individuals and groups who are active in the affected areas. If it still needs to be realized, we must not forget, Pakistan is expereincing the worst kind of refugee problem since Independence. So, please, help; and help as much as you can.

Citizens pay respects to the Liberty martyrs

At the Liberty Roundabout, which was the scene of a bloody ambush of the Sri Lankan Cricket Team on March03, it has become a daily feature for passers by to stop and pay respects to the memory of the martyred policemen.

Six of the men guarding Sri Lankan Team’s convoy lost their lives while battling about twelve very heavily armed militants right in the heart of Lahore in broad daylight.

People paying their respects at the Memorial

People paying their respects at the Memorial

Lahorites are proudly commemorating the bravery of these men who sacrificed their lives to save what is left of this country’s international image. It was due to the cover provided by deterrence of these men lasting 25 minutes against the terrorists that the bus carrying the Sri Lankans was able to escape to safety of the Qadaffi Stadium. Would they have not fought bravely enough, the whole Sri Lankan team might have been taken hostage or in a worse scenario; killed!

A tribute!

A tribute!

As you do a roundabout at Liberty, you can see stacks of flowers and bouquets coupled with hand written charts, banners, posters and candles adorning the small memorial erected in the grounds. The most prominent feature of the memorial is the official banners with pictures of the martyrs on them.

Martyred Policemen of 3/3 Attacks

Martyred Policemen of the Punjab Elite Force

Liberty Memorial for Heroes of 3/3

Liberty Memorial for Heroes of 3/3

We owe a lot to the ‘Shuhada of 3/3’ namely:

– Zafar Iqbal, Constable Elite Force
– Faisal Rasheed Butt, Head Constable Elite Force
– Mudassar Nadeem, Constable Elite Force
– Muhammad Sultan, Constable/Driver Elite Force
– Tipu Farid, Constable Mujahid Squad
– Tanveer Iqbal, Traffic Warden

We pray that may God grant peace to their loved ones and bless their souls by honoring them with the highest ranks in heaven. Amen!

More Pictures: Liberty Memorial at Flickr

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