A Glance at Lahore: Socio-Politics

By Misha Khan and Ameena Naweed
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In this article, we will describe the political landscape of Pakistan, as well as some major social conditions in the form of religion, gender and social standing.

In Lahore, politics has played a pivotal part from the very start. Political parties here include Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan’s People Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-N, among others. In recent years many Pakistanis have witnessed the aggressive animosity between PTI led by Imran Khan, and PPP led by Nawaz Sharif; the rivalry is known all over Pakistan. In this year’s elections, PTI put up a strong fight, but PPP emerged victorious. In retaliation Imran Khan carried out dharnas (rallies) in each major city of Pakistan. The PTI dharna in Lahore was held at Minar-e-Pakistan, an iconic symbol, where over 100,000 people turned up. Politics in Lahore is not as violent and aggressive as in Karachi, but the city has seen its fair share of political unrest. 

There is a variety of religions being practiced in Lahore, with Islam and Christianity being the largest. According to the 1998 census, 94% of Lahore’s population is Muslim, and 5.8% is Christian. Owing to its historical significance as the capital city of the Sikh empire in early 1800s, Lahore is an important city to Sikhs. Lahore is littered with mosques, shrines, and some temples (Sikh and Hindu) as well as churches, with Data Darbar shrine being a yearly destination for many Indians[1]. In Lahore, like the rest of Pakistan, the Islamic occasion of Eid, and the Christian occasions of Christmas and Easter, are all commemorated with public holidays. Despite the apparent tolerance, it cannot be denied that minority groups in Pakistan lead lives peppered with uncertainty, fear and insecurity. Occasions of violence against minority groups in Pakistan are not uncommon, but not many of those occur in Lahore.

Islam being the major religion in the city, its nuances are visible in most aspects of the culture, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant. An example of this is the condition of women in Lahore. Pakistan is a male-dominated city, with women enjoying fewer freedoms than men, physically and socially. Despite this, it is not uncommon to find women leading finance and marketing divisions in banks and multinational companies, but not without serious gender biases. Now, here, it is important to state that people are quick to link these biases to Islam, when this link is neither direct nor straightforward. The history of Islam has had many instances of the inclusion of women in different functions within society, with Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) first wife being a businesswoman he used to work for. However, it cannot be denied that different interpretations of Islamic values have led to unreasonable discriminatory views against women in some Muslim countries, including Pakistan. The cause for gender equality has gained traction in recent years, both in the city and in surrounding villages. It is also important to note that the living standards of women depend heavily on their economic status.

Lahore is a City District, which is divided into 9 towns. Lahore also happens to be Pakistan’s most accessible cities, with transport ranging from buses, rickshaws, taxis and about 75% of the population having their own transport[2]. A paper by Kalim Hyder and Muhammad Usman Sikander found that just within the city’s towns, poverty incidence was between 20% and 44%[3]. The wealth inequality in Lahore is stark, and it is visible in every part of the city. Most traffic junctions and popular shopping areas are crowded with beggars on the streets. The wealthier areas of Lahore are overflowing with restaurants and eateries and big shopping malls, while there are parts of Lahore that obviously lack development.

 

In the past 5 articles, we have attempted to paint you a picture of a city that has a character quite impossible to capture in words or pictures. We walked you through the rich history and architecture of Lahore, its amazing food culture, the art and culture that gives it such a strong personality as well as its education. We hope that whether you belong to Lahore, have visited it or might never visit it at all, you have found something to take away from our heartfelt description of a city that we love.

 

[1] Wikipedia

[2] Poverty, Income Distribution and Social Development in Lahore

[3] Poverty, Income Distribution and Social Development in Lahore

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