Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) termed Lahore as the Leningrad (St. Petersburgh) of Pakistan. It was here that the first real political party (PPP) of the country was formed in November 1967. ZAB willed to be buried here, a wish that was denied by a dictator. When he challenged his countrymen with ‘Mazboot Kursi’ (Power of the Government) he was toppled after massive street protests in the city of change.

Lahore is the heart and soul of the county. The Pakistan Resolution was also passed here in 1940. As a child growing up on the historic Mall Road I have personally experienced several movements and the launch of political parties. In April 1995 Imran Khan launched his Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the city of change and so did Farooq Leghari in August 1998. Recently in December 2016, Justice (retd.) Wajiuddin Ahmed announced his Aam Loeg Ittehad (ALI) right here.

As a city Lahore is both historic and diverse. From wrestlers to poets it accommodates diversity and free-thinking and desire to change is engrained in its environment. In the seventies it responded to the call of ZAB for ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makan’. In October 2011 at the historic Minar-e-Pakistan jalsa, Lahore over whelmingly said yes to ‘Naya Pakistan’ which is in fact the original Pakistan of Iqbal and Jinnah. The verdict is clearly in favour of change, which is now inevitable and un-stoppable.

While movements for change have been launched in Lahore, the forces of status-quo have been re-grouped and energised in Rawalpindi. One such enigma is the PML-N the party in power. It was conceived and launched at GHQ but rules through ‘Takht-e-Lahore’. While the progressives of the city are in disarray the Sharif’s have succeeded in organising an army of rogues, which in local terms are called ‘Kan Totay’ (wrestlers with broken ear lobes).

‘Takht-e-Lahore’ controls the city and the country through roguery. It is time for the progressives to organise and drive change as they have always done. Status-quo is unacceptable and un-desirable, it has to be challenged in the city of change. In the sixties while still in school we challenged the hegemony of Ayub Khan the first dictator. There were pitched battles on the Mall Road Lahore. The students of the first generation of Pakistan overpowered the first usurper of our democratic rights. Elections were held in 1970 in which the forces of establishment were badly beaten.

Since then ten elections have been manipulated for desired outcome. Zia the third usurper termed it positive results. PML-N, MQM and PML-Q are a product of this approach. The menace of GHQ launched political outfits continues while the Khakis have decided to concentrate on their core responsibilities. Without a major process correction that includes electoral reforms the roguery of Rawalpindi conceived parties will continue while the progressive of Lahore will be rendered helpless through the machination’s of ‘Takht-e-Lahore’.

ZAB’s once progressive party is now in bed with PML-N to corner the khakis. There are two forces of status-quo while the khakis represent the old order, corrupt political parties like PML-N, PPP, JUI-F and MQM etc., follow the new approach which operates under the guise of manipulated democracy. With the progressives in disarray the choices of the people are limited, either it is dictatorship and status-quo, or manipulated democracy and status-quo, with status-quo being common in both dispensations. For change to happen, we the people of Lahore have to lead the crusade.

‘Takht-e-Lahore’ with their ‘Kan Totay’ do not represent the people of the city of change. Today Pakistan is at a crossroads. The choice is between ballot or blood; status-quo is no longer an option. A credible electoral exercise can stall a bloody revolution, otherwise the battle lines are clearly drawn.

After Musharraf’s fall the Khakis decided to follow the ‘Kiyani Doctrine’, according to which a military take-over is out of question. Information gathering will continue to put pressure only. As long as their interests are protected, there will be no direct interaction. Two possible scenarios are emerging. The economy is heading towards a possible collapse, in that case massive budget deficits may push the Khakis to react. In the event of large scale street protests again a law and order situation may require Khaki intervention. Elections are not too far away. Free and fair ballot will be another course correction for which Khakis have a major role, which they are reluctant to play.

The unanimous 1973 constitution is a gift of the progressive movement of the sixties, which started from the city of change. Zia dismantled, the movement and instead created ‘Takht-e-Lahore’ to stall progress. Lahore has been under siege since then. This article is an appeal to break the barricades of status-quo. Progressives have to regroup and reorganise for ‘Naya Pakistan’ to emerge from the ashes of ‘Takht-e-Lahore’ and the status-quo they represent. Their slogan was ‘Jaag Punjab Jaag’. What is needed today to bring the comrades together is ‘Jaag Lahore Jaag’.


The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation.