The provincial metropolis is witnessing a colourless Jashn-e-Baharan (Spring Festival) this year. The citizens want to know why.
Already, Lahore had been deprived of kite flying (or Basant, if you will), but this season (so far) has also gone by without any melas (food festivals) that would be oh-so-popularly organised at the likes of Racecourse Park. Further, you see no decorations or lighted floats in the canal, and next-to-no illumination on the main city roads/roundabouts. Come to think of it, there isn’t any flower exhibition happening this year. Just what is the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) up to?
For the past many years, Jashn-e-Baharan events have attracted the public in spring season — the DG, PHA, Dr Faisal Zahoor terms it as an “activity-based festival” — but this year the vibe is too cold to be called festive. Whatever little you find in the name of spring festivity is confined to a Sufi night, a dog show, a painting exhibition, and minor activities at local parks organised by the PHA.
It is believed that the mela activities came to a halt after the deadly suicide bombing in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in 2016 that killed at least 75 people and left almost 350 injured. Since then, the Jashn-e-Baharan festivities never really took off in Lahore, whereas earlier the city would wear a bridal look in spring. This year, all that you see are the billboards. A number of pedestrian (overhead) bridges are covered with these giant adverts through which the PHA is earning millions of rupees.
“You can’t even tell if it’s spring season in the city,” says Nida, a resident of Johar Town. A housewife, Nida adds that she always participated in Jashn-e-Baharan activities: “This year too, I took my two kids to the Jillani (Racecourse) Park, but there was no mela, no nothing to be found!”
Khurram, a resident of Gulberg, sounds a similar concern. He laments the fact that the Punjab government announced holding Basant, even if for a day, and later backed out. “We had great plans [for Basant], and had even invited our relatives living abroad.”
One major reason for the public ignorance regarding any Jashn-e-Baharan activities happening or not happening in the city is the shutting down of the official website of PHA. Until this year, the website would announce the authority’s plans, for public knowledge. When asked as to why is the website not working, Dr Zahoor attributes it to the absence of the IT officer in PHA. “There’s a ban on new recruitments due to which the site is still closed,” he says.
It may be mentioned here that several private parties, corporate companies, and business groups are advertising their events in their housing societies, but the PHA seems to have completely overlooked it. According to the DG PHA, the festival was “changed into individual events due to security reasons.”
He also spoke of a poetry competition and drama festival that will be held at the Greater Iqbal Park in the coming days.
As for the flower festivals, he says these have been delayed due to the increased span of rains in the city.
Dr Zahoor claims that the canal decorations were cancelled after the PHA gave public tender notices and got no response.