Illegal parking, encroachments, and lack of potable water are some of the many issues faced by the residents of most areas that fall within the NA-120 constituency where an important by-election is due to be held only a week from now, on September 17.
And to think that this is about the prestigious National Assembly seat which was vacated by former prime minister and PML-N leader Mian Nawaz Sharif after he was disqualified for life by the JIT earlier this year. Lahore being Sharif family’s ‘home turf’ and also the party’s official headquarter, it shall be interesting to see if the PML-N can reclaim its win in the constituency, especially against its arch rival Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). In the 2013 general poll, Nawaz Sharif had got 91,666 votes in NA-120, against PTI leader Dr Yasmin Rashid’s 52,321. This time, the contest is between Rashid and Begum Kalsoom Nawaz.
As with the entire country, the common people whose vote shall make all the difference look on with excitement and anticipation of a close fight. God knows, many of them can’t look beyond their immediate problems that remain unresolved.
NA-120 includes both residential and big commercial areas such as Karim Park, Islampura, Bilal Ganj, New and Old Anarkali, Urdu Bazaar, Hall Road, Cooper Rd, Sanda, Mozang, Lower Mall, Shahrah-i-Fatima Jinnah, Mauj Darya Rd, Lytton Rd, Chauburji, and Riwaz Garden, to name only a few. Provision of clean drinking water has been a major demand of the people in these areas. They are also without the basic civic facilities such as a proper sewerage system.
Qasim Raza, a resident of area inside Shahalam Gate, says with sarcasm that narrow and congested streets, punctuated by stinky, open manholes, are some of the ‘hallmarks’ of the place. He also speaks of “no playgrounds, no potable water, no good healthcare and educational facilities in our area.”
A coverless sewerage drain running through the Hall Road and no proper system to flush out rainwater that collects profusely at the Lakshmi Chowk and nearby localities are some of the complaints the residents have long had.
On the other end, a mess of loose electricity cables dangling variously from the poles is bothersome for the people settled in important commercial localities such as Mozang, Hall Road, Beaden Rd, Circular Rd, and Urdu Bazar. What’s more, random parking and illegal encroachments result in traffic jams on most roads.
During her election campaign, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf candidate Dr Yasmin Rashid is said to have played on the issues faced by the people in the constituency. Talking to TNS, she says that “a majority of the people here do not have access to clean drinking water, which is their most basic right. What kind of governance is this?”
There are those who must feel grateful to Shehbaz Sharif for Metro bus, and for revamping the roads infrastructure in the city. Khawaja Ahsan Javed, a resident of Kapurthala House, in Old Anarkali, claims that the residents of the area are “very much happy with the PML-N government which is constructing the Orange Line for us.”
He also speaks positively of the way the “government paid compensations to those whose properties were bought in order to make way for the train track.
“The [Orange Line] project has increased land value in the area,” he continues. “I’m sure that once it is completed, it shall provide world-class transportation facility to the citizens of Lahore.”