Political parties Lahore vs. Rawalpindi

While Lahore is the cerebral center of the country, Rawalpindi has been recognized as a garrison town. Although I was born and raised in Lahore, I also spent a lot of time in Rawalpindi. There were big differences between the two places. Before the first usurper moves the capital near GHQ (General Headquarters). The town had some good bakeries, decorated tongas and malangs from OmHazrat Bari Imam who was wandering around Raja Bazaar carrying huge green flags. Rawalpindi was my second home as my father’s family decided to live there after migration from Ludhiana in East Punjab after the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. Both families were from Kashmir. One emigrated to Lahore and the other to Ludhiana at the end of the 19th century. The Khalifa family of Lahore gained prominence through the scholarly activities of my mother’s uncle, the famous Islamic scholar Dr. Khalifa Abdul Hakim who was a close and contemporary friend of Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. The double migration of my paternal family took a heavy toll on them, first East Punjab and then the newly created state of Pakistan, so they decided to return to their roots in the valley. As Rawalpindi was closer to Kohala, they decided to settle there, hoping to resettle in Kashmir.

Even the Sufi traditions of the two cities remain very different. Lahore is called ‘Data ki Nagri’. Thursday is Qawali night at the shrine, which continues to inspire the townspeople. Kashf-ul-Mahjoub, the book written by Ali Hajveri, stands out as a masterpiece of Sufi thought.

In Rawalpindi there I saw these malangs‘ wandering and the Saints (special people with spirituality), some of which were scary and even sometimes violent. Sain Mirchu was one of them who beat people, last year I found out about his shrine in Islamabad near Kashmir highway.

In a credible, free and fair election, Lahore has always been in the lead, but with our history of forced mandates, the Rawalpindi parties have succeeded, which has now become a threat to our democratic rule. As poetics demands mind and vision, the city of the intellect is best qualified for this challenge, Rawalpindi the garrison town is best placed to fortify our borders.

I am happy that my late mother, originally from Lahore, was able to convince my father to settle here, the city of intellect and depth. With its Sufi leanings, we regularly visited the Data Sahib shrine, but on our visits to Rawalpindi, we went to see Sain Mirchu and later Sain Mira. The two were totally different experiences. My dose of spirituality was more serene in Lahore, whereas in Rawalpindi I was always on the alert to flee the blows of the Saints. It was more love here and fear there. Perhaps the same is reflected in the conduct of political parties launched in both places. Interestingly, the red light district in Lahore is called Heera Mandi (Diamond Market) while in Rawalpindi it is called Kasai Gali (Butcher Lane).

While still in school, we, the first free generation students born in Pakistan, decided to confront the country’s first dictator. One afternoon in November 1967, I saw a huge gathering at YMCA Hall on the mall where we went for daily games. My badminton racket in hand, I ventured into the room. The dashing ex-foreign minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) addressed a packed crowd. He had come to launch his movement against the usurper under the banner of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). It was the beginning of a new political adventure.

“Islamic socialism”, his message was loud and clear. The term had been introduced by a son of the city, Dr. Khailfa Abdul Hakim, in his classic book Islam and communism. ZAB has further simplified its message by Roti, Kapra aur Makan which was widely understood by the masses. Previously, Mian Ifhtikar-ud-Din, another proud son of the city, led the centre’s left-wing progressive political group in the All India Muslim League. He also launched Progressive Paper’s Limited (PPL) which published The Pakistan Times in English and Imroze in Urdu. Change-minded progressives and young people joined the new polity in droves. After the partition of the Indian subcontinent, Lahore had the unique distinction of being the birthplace of the first real political party in the country which later took on the Rawalpindi Sarkari League called Pakistan Muslim League (Convention). Interestingly the PML(Con) was also started in Lahore through the newly established Muslim League House on Davis Road but it was conceived in the garrison town where even the Sufi traditions were not so friendly than the city of the intellect. It did not stop there, the list of Rawalpindi parties is long (PML-N, PML-Q, MQM, MMA etc) to name only the most important ones which have all played a negative role in our democratic struggle. The PML*Q) even proposed to elect the dictator in uniform as president of the republic, perhaps the first anti-democratic act of its kind in the history of mankind.

Then in April 1996, Imran Khan (IK), a son of the city revered for winning the Cricket World Cup in 1992, decided to open his political sleeves with the launch of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) . Known for its resilience, the Kaptaan struggled for political survival until the two main parties (PPP and PML-N) lost popularity due to massive corruption and poor governance. In October 2011, IK emerged as a third political option in the barren political arena. His entrance brought freshness to the stale air around him. Lahore had done it again. Another real political entity had emerged to attack the Rawalpindi party called PML(N). In 1970 it was PPP vs PML-(Con) while in 2013 it was PTI vs PML(N) or in other words Lahore vs Rawalpindi

In a credible, free and fair election, Lahore has always been in the lead, but with our history of forced mandates, the Rawalpindi parties have succeeded, which has now become a threat to our democratic rule. As poetics demands mind and vision, the city of the intellect is best qualified for this challenge, Rawalpindi the garrison town is best placed to fortify our borders.

About Wanda Reilly

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