The Mall Road Lahore which has now been renamed as Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam is the most historic thoroughfare of the country. On one end is the Punjab University (Old Campus) surrounded by a hub of colleges and about 8.6 KM away is the Mian Mir Bridge which is the other end. On the right of the bridge is Qurban Lines the Police Headquarters, while the cantonment is on the other side. As a child growing up on the academic end, it has been an interesting journey. Despite our struggle we have witnessed the rise and fall of Pakistan in our lifetime.
Most historic buildings on this boulevard have been preserved. Lahore Conservation Society has been quite effective for the preservation of history. In 1975, the Federal Antiquities Act became law, while in 1985 the Punjab Special Premises Preservation Ordinance (SPPO) was also enacted. The Lahore High Court (LHC) building built in 1889 is included in the list of protected buildings. In the nineties this building came under attack from the Lordships who dispense justice from there. So blatant were the renovations that the earthly civilian population of Lahore came on the streets to save their heritage, under pressure the Lordships backed off.
According to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) the first real politician of the country, the people of the Indian Subcontinent are politically very astute. There is a long history of political struggle against the ‘Colonial Yoke’. Activists, orators, writers, poets and leaders have all been very active in the freedom movement. Sir Syed’s Aligarh University played a pivotal role in the creation of Pakistan. After partition in 1947, the lower end of Shahrah-e-Quaid became the hub of nation building, several titans were assembled there to build the future change managers.
The first department on the Old Campus was headed by the Anna Molka Ahmed where the future artists of the nation were trained. Institute of Chemical Engineering and Technology was under the leadership of Dr. Niaz Ahmed, Chemistry under Dr. M.I.D. Chughtai. Principal of National College of Arts (NCA) was the prominent artist Shakir Ali. Dr. Nazir Ahmed in Government College, Dr. Dilawar Hussain in MAO College and Professor Hamid Ahmed Khan in Islamia College (Civil Lines) were all ‘Titans’ of their times.
Every morning when I walked to school which was situated opposite the High Court, I crossed a strange looking individual. With his hat and overcoat he looked like ‘James Bond’ or ‘Passing Show’ which was a popular brand of cigarette then. Later on, I discovered that he was the leading physicists of his time, Dr. Rafi Chaudhry who was involved in building the first High Tension Physics Lab in Government College. Dr. Chaudhry is the father of physics of Pakistan. The only Nobel laureate of Pakistan Dr. Abdus Salam was his student and so was Dr. Rizauddin who designed our Nuclear Device.
Due to the vision and honest hard work of the founding fathers Pakistan was on track to become the first Asian Tiger. While the academic end of Shahrah-e-Quaid was well covered, the other end was focused on physical training and parade. People on the other side of the ‘Mian Mir Bridge’ were like ‘Aliens’, dressed in Khaki shorts and vests spending most of their time in the open. Yearly Pakistan Day parade or House and Cattle Show were the only worthwhile activity there. As the property was leased there was hardly any interest in real estate. The Rehmatullah Family (LRBT founders) of Pasrur owned the Globe Cinema and huge area in Saint John’s Park across the road from the Fortress stadium.
In October 1958 the ‘Khakis’ crossed the bridge from the PT (Physical Training ) end to govern the country for which they had no background or experience. Naturally the population at the academic end did not support this encroachment into civilian life. The titans who were assembled there had done a good job in preparing the change managers. In desperation the ‘Khakis’ picked up the scum of the society to create a class of ‘Mir Jaffers of Politics’ and together they have brought the country down.
ZAB’s analysis proved correct in the only free and fair elections of 1970. Despite all the propaganda the people overwhelmingly voted for change. ‘Mir Jaffers’ were politically annihilated, the ‘Aliens’ had to retreat to their own space. It was then decided never to risk a credible ballot. Zia used the term ‘Positive Results’ which suited the ‘Aliens’ and their ‘Mir Jaffers’.
I challenge both the ‘Aliens’ and the ‘Mir Jaffers’ to a credible electoral contest. In the only free and fair election of 1970 they had to bite the dust, their deposits were confiscated as they were rejected by the voters., as a party of interests PML-N may survive one or two elections but their political obituary is imminent like the PML (Convention), PML(Quaid), MQM, MMA in the past. Politicians will have to earn respect by serving the people. Under Musharraf’s misrule the ‘Khakis’ lost their standing which they have now been able to regain through sacrifice. Judges are gaining respect for their focus on human rights. What have the politicians done which justifies respect. First they cheat the voters by manipulating the ballot, and then they work for self-interests only. The academic end of Shahrah-e-Quaid is destined to lead the nation towards its cherished path. It is ‘Beam me up Scotty’ time for the rest.
n The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation.