Monday, January 21, 2008

Simon Jenkins' Lament for Lahore

I love the city of Lahore. This sentiment is not an uncritical emotional attachment to my hometown but reflects a love for the incredible richness of Lahore's cultural history, the hospitality and generosity of its people and the inimitability of its cuisine. It is Pakistan's uniquely wonderful city. There are things to recommend places like Karachi (a Western-style cosmopolitanism) or Islamabad (an anodyne livability) but Lahore possesses a combination of charms that cannot be replicated elsewhere in Pakistan.

That Lahore has suffered as a city since partition is undeniable. The unfortunate cleansing of the Hindu and Sikh population at the time of independence robbed Lahore of much of its cultural diversity. The continuing neglect of its historic architectural heritage, the steady degradation of its environment and the erosion of many of its literary institutions have all contributed to a general sense of decline. Simon Jenkins writing in The Guardian is right to lament this downward slide even as he acknowledges the many wonders of the city. I am inclined to blame Musharraf for many of Pakistan's current ills but it is hard to pin the current state of Lahore on his malign neglect, as Jenkins asserts. To me the plight of modern day Lahore is simply a reflection of the general state of deterioration of the Pakistani polity.

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