THIS is with reference to reports ‘PM briefed on Walton flying club’ (Feb 26) and ‘Walton airport likely to be shifted’ (Jan 26). Removal of historical landmarks by governments is nothing new. The latest milestone to face the wrath is the 90-year-old Walton aerodrome in eastern Lahore. It was founded in 1930 as the Punjab Flying Club. After 1947 it became a fine training institute for commercial pilots in Pakistan. But the aerodrome is now being readied for a crash-landing of its own.

Spread over 260 acres, it was also used as a wartime landing strip during World War II. Its historical value was further enhanced when Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah landed on thuis very strip in Lahore for the first time after the creation of Pakistan. The aerodrome remained in use for commercial passengers till 1960 when Lahore airport with a longer runway was completed.

Many developers had in their sights this valuable piece of land. The previous government in Punjab had first floated the idea to convert it into a ‘business park’ with foreign investment. The scheme, however, was never pursued vigorously for a variety of reasons.

Now the current government has taken up the initiative. In the first stage and in a late night operation on Feb 14, it removed all the nurseries that had been in existence since 1992, whether legally or otherwise, on the land that is owned by the Civil Aviation Authority.

An Abu Dhabi-based company has shown interest in constructing a multi-storey business hub, while the remaining land is expected to be utilised for the Naya Pakistan housing scheme.

There are already numerous high-rise buildings on the main boulevard in Gulberg. Adding more such buildings will increase the number of concrete jungles rather than restoring Lahore to its former glory as a city of gardens.

Among other things, this is in sharp contradiction with the government’s stated policy of clean and green Pakistan.

Fawad Hashmey

Lahore

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2021

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