While Karachi in the early years of Pakistan’s Independence developed a more modern and metropolitan vibe, Lahore became a hub of art and intellect. At the center of this was the famous ‘Pak Tea House’, pictured above. The cafe was originally owned by a Sikh family who later transferred ownership after independence. It’s location near Mall Road made it a melting pot of government officials, politicians actors, artists and writers by the 1950s. Famous attendees include Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Agha Shorish Kashmiri, Ibn-e-Insha, Ahmed Faraz, Saadat Hasan Manto, Ahmad Rahi, Muneer Niazi, Mira Ji, Kamal Ahmed Rizvi, Nasir Kazmi, Professor Syedd Sajjad Razavi, Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, Dr. Muhammad Baqir, Intezar Hussain and Syed Qasim Mahmood. The cafe became a hub of intellectual discussion and many a political movement was born in the benches of the storied cafe.

The military coups and political crackdown on dissent meant that the cafe lost most of it’s business. Soon, areas around it turned into automobile workshops and show rooms, and the aura of intellectual activity was lost. eventually it was shut down by the owner due to lack of profits. In 2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the old Pak Tea House, and the refurbished cafe is back in business, but it has failed to recapture the charm of it’s heady younger days.

“Hindustan had become free. Pakistan had become independent soon after its inception but man was still slave in both

these countries — slave of prejudice … slave of religious fanaticism … slave of barbarity and inhumanity.”

–Saadat Hasan Manto.