Lahore wears a new look - Iftekhar A Khan - Saturday, March 26, 2011

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It’s after a long time that Lahore, the city of gardens, has regained some semblance of its lost sanity because of the ongoing anti-encroachment drive by the Punjab government. The drive begun at Lahore needs to be stretched to surrounding areas and finally to the whole province. Let Punjab be the role model for other provinces. In better environs when people meet, they talk of sunshine, clouds and rain, but at home, they grumble about encroachments, traffic bedlam on the roads, and government apathy towards them.

Various markets in the city have begun to look much wider, cleaner, and easily passable. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif deserves kudos for it. But it’s still premature for him to be complacent about the situation, for he has another huge undertaking at hand – streamlining the most chaotic and wayward traffic. Presently, the traffic is akin to a circus where one is bombarded from all directions and one has to be a stunt driver to come out unscathed.

Although removal of encroachments, including some multi-storey buildings raised on encroached road space that have been pulled down, is underway, and has eased the traffic flow, yet a lot more needs to be done. For starters, a campaign through TV and print media to educate the public could go on for some weeks to emphasise the need to obey traffic rules, and to remind the people that violators would be heavily fined.

Television could play an effective role in informing drivers how to share the road with other drivers, how to be courteous on the road, and who has the right of way on road intersections. Both educated and semi-literate drivers must learn to indicate generously when taking turns. The road crossings, speckled with broken pieces of windshields, prove that the drivers involved either didn’t indicate, didn’t know their right of way or had jumped traffic lights, hence the crash.

And what would truly compel the people to obey rules is the imposition of fines – Rs500 for motorcyclists and Rs1000 for motorists to begin with. People learn when it pinches their pockets. On the rear registration plate of the car, I have had the following words inscribed: ‘Be a good citizen, drive carefully’. Waved down once for speeding on the motorway, when I tried to argue my way out of trouble, the patrolling officer like all good Pakistanis do, politely but firmly said: “Sir, I like the comment on your car’s number plate but here’s the ticket for violating it. Thank you.” That was the last time I was fined. Lesson: stringent fines.

Reportedly, such dutiful patrolling officers are distressed over unfair promotions of inductees from regular police force. Those who joined the department fresh have been ignored and outsiders promoted. A few rotten fish spoil the whole pond. Motorway Police have done their duty conscientiously – for the most part. They didn’t even spare the VIPs for violating traffic rules. It’s sad that because of cronyism many deserving patrolling officers have said goodbye to the department.

Now an overhead bridge is coming up on the Kalma Chowk (Ferozepur Road), on one corner of which is a horseshoe shaped unfinished plaza without any parking space. The overhead bridge will definitely ease the traffic flow and save motorists and commuters some time. It is also important to add a lane on both sides of the canal roads passing through the city. The suggestion might not appeal to the sensibilities of environmentalists because a number of trees will have to be chopped off in the process. But if the lanes are not added, the effort put in and expense incurred to construct underpasses on both sides of the canal and construction of a huge overhead bridge at Niazbeg Thokar will be of little help in facilitating traffic flow.

For now, the traffic on three wide roads suddenly adjusts to two lanes, causing congestion and chaos. Vehicles snarl up when adjusting to two lanes by nudging into one another. As for the trees, only one row on each side of the canal will have to be removed, which could be replanted along the new lanes added on both sides of the canal.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Lahore. Email:

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