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Sex and the city, and elections too!


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-Illustration by Tahir Mehdi
-Illustration by Tahir Mehdi

A family friend from old times recently visited me in Lahore. They come from a remote Punjab village where they own 25 acres of land, that is a murabba in local measure, and are considered well to do. My family is their only direct contact in Lahore. But let me make it clear that we are not the 'reason' for which they need to connect with this city. We only serve as a conduit for their relationship as we offer a transit-type facility to their actual destination – that is Daata Sahab, the shrine of the famous 11th century saint of Lahore.

There were times when this family would visit the darbar annually or even more. But of late, they prefer giving me a ring asking to offer a daig of food to the poor there on their behalf. I would oblige. You do that when you are either in distress or feel blessed. So through their visits and phone requests, I had always known what thick and thin that family went through.

They visited Lahore and offered a number of daigs when their eldest daughter was married. On the birth of their grandson, however, they preferred to use my dial-a-daig service. One of their child's serious illness deserved a visit and a floral wreath and when five of their buffaloes died of a mysterious disease, they offered one daig each for their remaining beloved animals. My children could not understand why would anyone do that and in fact found it too funny.

A few months back they visited Lahore to buy some spare parts for their ailing tractor and as per routine did go to the darbar for a salaam. But last week, when they told me that they are coming again, I was not expecting that their next visit would come so soon. I was a bit surprised as the reason for their visit was not a compelling one too. Whatever, I shrugged, they are a good company and why should I mind another can of desi ghee!

They did not want me to drive them to the Daata darbar this time. They instead opted to take the brand new Metro Bus service and when we met over dinner, I would know the secret of their visit. They have always made me see this city from an angle that I myself was unable to discover. This time they were finding the city too hot to handle. They were overjoyed by the bus service and described their experience with such an effervescent zeal that it left me astonished. I had not yet bothered to take a trip on this latest wonder act of the Punjab Chief Minister, probably thinking that reading through a few skeptic media reviews is all I needed to do. But my friend just needed a lame excuse to travel all the way from his village to enjoy the ride.

When I hesitantly put forward some of the economic and policy pitfalls of the project, he ignored me as if he wasn't listening at all and continued his alif laila with the same sparkling eyes and exuberance. I was forced to shun my views and listen to him.

He compared his Lahore bus experience with his lone travelling experience abroad when he had briefly accompanied his mate to Dubai for exploring an opportunity to export vegetables. That was his only brush with 'modernity' and the two experiences matched each other well – the flyovers, the underpasses, the moving staircases, I mean the escalators, etc. But he did not solely rely on his only encounter with the modern world.

He had put together an imaginary collage of a modern city, drawing heavily from his visual exposures to European cities via the daily dose of TV and thanks to films. The bus service struck a chord with these images as well. So when he would tell me "when in Dubai, I had seen" or "did you watch in that TV serial", he anticipated that Dubai or the TV serial city have come to Lahore and this 'escalator' gave him butterflies in stomach.

I learned that he wasn't jealous of Lahore as would some opponents of the project want us to believe. He often complained about his 'wretched' village life and blamed his nonchalant attitude and agrarian lethargy for his remaining life 'holed up' in there. He did make a few attempts to come out of the slumber but it didn't work. Maybe he found the economic security offered by that murabba too dear to risk for some uncertain dividends of a business. But his continuous grumbling about his status showed that he always longed for something better.

His eldest son did not do well in school and now partners him in farming but he is sure that the younger one will soon make it to a college, preferably in Lahore. Does he see Lahore as the destiny of his next generation? But who knows what the chhota Chaudhry will eventually turn into. I think his relationship with this city is not selfish. Whether or not he wishes to take a residence here himself or for his next generation, he owns the city – as a source of fascination.

The bus service has made the city sexier and its fascination more fatal. The ability to help people dream of a better tomorrow is the most potent of the political potions. It has magical powers. It can transform common political workers into jiyalas and bestow a leader with what they call charisma.

The Punjab Chief Minister has been desperate for a place in 'the hearts and minds' of Punjabis from day one in office. He thought that his sasti-roti scheme will be a hit with the poor but it didn't click. His daanish schools could not do the trick either. But by casting the modern city dream in concrete, has he finally hit the jackpot?

We have yet to witness how much of this 'awe' is finally converted into the real political currency – the ballot. But an awe-struck electorate is bad news for his opponents. Howsoever great their playboy credentials may be, in the cat walk in Punjab's polling stations, Shahbaz is likely to end up as the sexiest.

The writer works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group that has a primary interest in understanding governance and democracy.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (57) Closed

baakhlaq Mar 19, 2013 08:18am
A cock and bull story, the writer couldn't convey any idea or thought . If the bus service can make the city sexier, we can just lament the commonsense of the writer.
Muhammad Shahbaz Asif Mar 19, 2013 08:19am
Why only Lahore?I am from D.G.Khan (Taunsa Sharif) and my area and people over there are suffering and being deprived from basic health, education, security services and CM spending every penny on Lahore without paying any attention to remote areas of province.
ateeq Mar 19, 2013 08:24am
What is this article all about ? Its confusing Honey !
baakhlaq Mar 19, 2013 08:54am
It is a cock and bull story, one can only lament the writer's sanity who can find sex in bus.
shuaib Mar 19, 2013 09:15am
Use of the word "honey" explains why you and your likes are confused, Bro
Saud Mar 19, 2013 10:38am
Shahbaz Sharif has worked hard for Punjab. People from the other 3 provinces dream of a CM like him, He deserves to be reelected. PMLN has the ability to transform Pakistan
ghaleezguftar Mar 19, 2013 11:01am
you mean the the DG Khan which is economic capital of Asia?
Pro Truth Mar 19, 2013 11:21am
An intelligent person gave an example recently, imagine one family have two children one has health issues and other need education and they can not afford health or education but you go on buy a flashy brand new car! thats metro bus for Punjab!
fika77 Mar 19, 2013 11:32am
Partially agreed. Change 'Punjab' with 'Lahore' in the column and column will make all sense. I am not a lahore hater but projects like these certainly put me on the edge.
fika77 Mar 19, 2013 11:36am
Also like his prior endeavors, I don't see metro bus project is going to shine. Intentions determines one fate and this project is another example of bad intention (getting votes only)
G.A. Mar 19, 2013 11:48am
To borrow a line from Seinfeld: "Not that there is anything wrong with it."
asfi Mar 19, 2013 12:44pm
Would be a real bad news for Pakistan if PML N wins. In deed it would be continuation of PPP.
Asad Mar 19, 2013 12:44pm
No bread,no problem.Eat cake. Peace.
neelam Mar 19, 2013 12:52pm
Sorry to break it to you, but we don't want a CM like him at all.
Sana Asif Mar 19, 2013 12:53pm
No doubt Shahbaz Sharif has made Lahore so beautiful. He is an achiever and gets things done. When I compare him with others, they stand nowhere near him. I will be voting for the first time this year and after PTI's tsunami recruited all old corrupt faces, I am bound to vote for PML-N this time.
jd shami Mar 19, 2013 01:00pm
Mian Shabaz has delivered, I am visiting Lahore after a year and am amazed to see progress in the transportation system, its just great.
jd shami Mar 19, 2013 01:02pm
DG Khan will be next, Stop making too many babies
jd shami Mar 19, 2013 01:04pm
You r jealous of Lahore
jd shami Mar 19, 2013 01:06pm
You will have nothing to eat in 15 years, control ur population, stop making too many babies
Javed Anwar Mar 19, 2013 01:17pm
Like CM's depriving poor in D G Khan his son in law Ali Imran is depriving poor workers working in his Plazas in Lahore of their salaries for months.
Taimoor Mar 19, 2013 01:35pm
So since PTI some recruited old corrupt faces you will be voting for a party that has nothing but Old corrupt faces. Bravo with idiots like you Pakistan is surely on the right track.
Khanm Mar 19, 2013 01:43pm
Money is such an amazing teacher: What you choose to do with your money shows whether you are truly powerful or powerless.Sharif family have a lot of money to experiment....... in pakistan a fool with money in his pocket gets elected.... what is new
Hassan Mar 19, 2013 01:53pm
I am from Lahore and i am always surprised how people from Lahore are so excited about limited growth....and what growth..development of Lahore? Even when PML-N was in power what did they do for is always Lahore. We can only grow if the elected government looks at the whole country and not just Lahore...there are four provinces and Lahore is only a city. People of Lahore should wake up and realize that these leeches have been tested time and again and building Lahore and making its people happy wont do much because Lahore will not survive if rest of Pakistan keeps hurting. Its time to move out of these ppp and pml politics. Please give our country a new direction. Vote responsibly.
Asad Mar 19, 2013 01:56pm
I wonder what will be your reaction when you read news of all LOTAS joining the ranks of PMLn. Seems like you are yet to check local newspapers
Maulana Diesel Mar 19, 2013 02:16pm
Agreed. How about other parts of Punjab. Lahore is not the province its a city. I wish Shahbaz Sharif could concentrate on poor Punjabis of Rajanpur. He is more of District Nazim of Lahore rather than a head honcho of Punjab.
Waqas Mar 19, 2013 02:25pm
We in KPK don't want a corrupt and immoral person like Shahbaz. Like how many times he needs to get married ?
Md Imran Mar 19, 2013 03:59pm
It is the step in the right direction. Lahore can be counted among one of the few cities in the world to have such a world-class service. Inshaallah, soon we'll have metro trains too. Watchout NYC subways/London Undergrounds, here we come !
Shoiab Mar 19, 2013 04:24pm
I think he is the chief minister of Punjab not the mayor of Lahore
Tariq Mar 19, 2013 04:46pm
I am a Lahorie and just looking after Lahore alone is not good for the wider Pakistan! PML's and PPP's need a wider peripheral vision of the country as a whole. Our "patriotic" politicians only crawl out of their comfortable "holes" when it's election time and other times they're either shopping in the West or hiding their ill gotten wealth and leaving the general public to it's own devices - misery, deprivation et all!
Asad Mar 19, 2013 05:02pm
At least encourage the young lady for being a first time voter.Hopefully the process of election over time will weed out the 'lotas'.Peace.
Salim Mar 19, 2013 05:05pm
I cant believe just to grab a headline the writer would use the American TV series name as the heading of the article even though the content of the article has nothing to do with the heading. God i wish these people would be more creative rather than simply stealing things from the West.
Asad Mar 19, 2013 05:08pm
Apparently Mr.Shami going thru your other comments you are obsessed with making babies.Obviously population explosion is a major issue especially in south asia.Only way to deal with it to educate women.Secondly my comment had nothing to do with food supply!
Riaz Mar 19, 2013 05:17pm
You cannot accuse a single politician or politics in general. An utterly corrupt society devoid of ethics and morals, no respect of law or the rule of law; no concept of merit or virtue, gets worse with time. A time comes when this society begins to prey upon it self, it becomes a dog eat dog society till it finally implodes in to utter chaos. This is the reality of Pakistan which the educated and the uneducated alike fail to acknowledge. Political corruption is not the disease itself, it is just one symptom of a deep rooted social disease in Pakistani society.
Asad Mar 19, 2013 05:21pm
Grow up Mr.Shami!
karenmcfly Mar 19, 2013 06:07pm
I recently visited Pakistan as a tourist and don't know the politics behind the project. However, I am amazed to see this bus system put into place as the most difficult thing in Pakistan was getting to places. Infrastructure is definitely the biggest problem in Pakistan. Seriously, education and health institutions are important, but really what is the point of them when people can't get to them. How can that be so difficult to understand?!?!
Shahryar Shirazi Mar 19, 2013 06:17pm
Sana, you need to get out of the shell you are in. Thats all I can say.
Salman Tariq Mar 19, 2013 06:32pm
Is Shahbaz Sharif the city nazim of Lahore? It's like giving an A+ grade to a student who only answers 1 question out of 20 correctly. PML(N) might have done better than other looter parties, but is that really the benchmark? 4 roads, 3 underpasses, 1 fancy bus service, laptops and solar lamps distributed from taxpayer's money?! Is this the standard of 'performance'? Is that how intellectually corrupt we have become? Have Sialkot, Gujranwala, Multan become worldclass cities and started attracting foreign investment? Does Punjab have even 1 worldclass university during this time? Has the economic growth of punjab crossed even 5%? Are we insane???
Mian Nazir Mar 19, 2013 07:36pm
Disagreements now that is what makes a society stronger. I will be visiting Pakistan and Lahore in October after eight years. I was impressed by the overpasses/underpasses the last time. I can see that you all have good points and I wish the CM can work in rest of the Punjab too. It is also the responsibilty of your local elected officials to get stuff done in thier respected areas. I am from Lahore and a proud Pakistani living in Houston.
Hasan Mar 19, 2013 08:38pm
I wish lahorites supporting PML-N over come their selfishness and start thinking if not nationally at least at provincial level . neither PML N did anything for the province nor did the sindhi waderas (PPP) provided any services to their very own province.
Bbbb Mar 20, 2013 12:03am
Sure, there are four provinces, five to be exact, now that Gilgit-Baltistan is also there, but Shahbaz Sharif is in power only in Punjab? Did you check the facts on the ground?
Yahya Mar 20, 2013 03:34am
If there is some one serious about this country then it is Shahbaz sharif. Lahore is just a glimpse of his bigger picture which he foresees in the complete Punjab. It is just a matter of time and resources.
Ghazala Khan Mar 20, 2013 03:47am
I was visiting Sydney last week, and I was taken by utter surprise, when a Australian engineer praised the Metro Bus project in Lahore and he equated it to the Sydney Metro Bus Service. Not matter, who apolitical I am, tears welled up in my eyes after hearing something really good about my country. Rest was all bleak and meek news.
Aiza Mar 20, 2013 05:04am
Save Pakistan, vote PTI!
Aiza Mar 20, 2013 05:06am
U need a reality check!
Safia Mar 20, 2013 05:35am
I like the way you write Tahir Mehdi.
Tahir Mar 20, 2013 05:44am
What about old corrupt faces recruited by PML (N)??
Faysal Mar 20, 2013 06:00am
No doubt Metro Bus is a good project but I would rather see this money going to a university, or schools, or maybe a power project. Our economic managers need to put their priorities in right place. It is my money that is spend on useless projects like sasti roti and giving taxies to graduates. By the way the overdraft of Punjab government is through the roof. I have not much hope from PTI as well but the only reason I will vote for them is to give a message to other two parties, get your act right and stop wasting my money on your political campaigns by distributing laptops through the hands of sharif family. Its not like you giving these from your own pocket, its the money of the people. Hope the message goes clear to these two parties....... in the end just hope.
Faisal Mar 20, 2013 10:33am
Iit was better to use money in making good hospitals and medicines..
Muhammad Mar 20, 2013 11:00am
I wish u can really see the back face of PMLn who looted billion dollars of pakistani people which means he stole ur money my money and every other soul which breaths in this country. I wish may Allah wides your imagination so u can differ between a real hero or the one who is making fancy buses, laptops and giving lamps for just to campaign.
Asad Mar 20, 2013 11:07am
Sienfeld is my fav sitcoms,but you know he is making a political statement here.Obviously there is something wrong with it.Peace
Muhammad Mar 20, 2013 11:08am
780 billion rupees WAS the budget of punjab this year, and punjab govt spent 80bn just on metro bus. A country where people are dying of hunger, energy crisis and injustice. Rather these issues to be solved or to boost the economy they spent money on Laptops, Lamps, Metro Bus( which serves only once city). Its all there campign after all who are u kidding with?? Does bhawalput, multan, sialkot, sargodha are not located in Punjab??? If u r really smart u would understand 16 seats of national assembly are fro Lahore only thats the real game. May Allah widens your power of thinking so u can get a glimpse of their true face.
fika77 Mar 20, 2013 11:08am
Would you park a ferrari outside your house when there is nothing to eat inside?
Muhammad Mar 20, 2013 11:27am
780 billion rupees WAS the budget of punjab this year, and punjab govt spent 80bn just on metro bus. A country where people are dying of hunger, energy crisis and injustice. Rather these issues to be solved or to boost the economy they spent money on Laptops, Lamps, Metro Bus( which serves only once city). Its all there campaign after all who are u kidding with?? Does bhawalpur, multan, sialkot, sargodha are not located in Punjab??? If u r really smart u would understand 16 seats of national assembly are fro Lahore only thats the real game. May Allah widens your power of thinking so u can get a glimpse of their true face
kash Mar 20, 2013 11:44am
Shabaz Sharif has done a lot for Punjab area but he could do a lot more. He will be re-elected. I live in UK but when i go to Pakistan, the one issue that riles me is the lack of toilets in shopping areas/malls. So Shabaz sharif needs to make more toilets in shopping centres.
Majid Mar 20, 2013 12:14pm
PMLN will keep on working for the poor of Pakistan and poeple sitting in glass houses will keep on pointing fingers towards PMLN. May Allah be with PMLN.
Maulana Diesel Mar 20, 2013 12:26pm
How about Baba Hoti. Why have KPK accepted him.
Hassan Mar 20, 2013 06:06pm
and to further open your eyes...what did PML N do for rest of the Punjab??? Have "YOU" checked the ground facts and realities and the conditions...