LAHORE - When Mian Nawaz Sharif was elected prime minister and Ghulam Haider Wyne (now late) as the Punjab chief minister, the Sharifs closed the road in front of their H-Block Model Town residences by setting up motor-operated barriers at both ends. Nobody was allowed to cross it except about half a dozen families of the Sharifs’ cousins who had residences there.
Between this road and the Linear Park is another small park, spread over several kanals of land, which did not belong to the Sharifs but was used by them. Offices of the security staff had been set up there and nobody could dare ask the Sharifs under what authority were they using the public place for their personal staff.
In this park Mian Nawaz Sharif, as prime minister, used to hold weekly ‘open courts’ to personally hear complaints from people from various parts of the country. Even petty matters like illegal occupation of a house were redressed by him. In other words, what should have been decided by junior officials was taken up by the head of the government, as a result of which all lower tiers of administration were effectively bypassed and rendered redundant.
Similarly, a large empty plot between 180-H Model Town (the then residence of the Sharifs) and the Ferozeopur Road did not belong to the Sharifs but was used by them. It used to serve as an open kitchen where food was prepared for the guests.
When Ghulam Haider Wyne was voted out and Mian Manzoor Wattoo voted in as the chief minister with the full blessings of then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the situation for the Sharifs changed drastically. The bureaucracy supported the bureaucrat-turned-president, a situation that isolated the prime minister even when he was holding the office.
One day Manzoor Wattoo ordered the Lahore Development Authority to clear all encroachments made by the Sharifs around their residences. Within no time, the road was cleared; the park between the Sharifs’ residences and the Linear Park restored was restored as a public property. The above-mentioned empty plot also went out of the Sharifs’ occupation.
On Tuesday, the writer visited the H-Block and noticed that the road, the small park and the plot mentioned above were again in the use of the Sharifs. And since it was after a long time that I went there, I don’t know how long ago they regained the control. The plot and the park have been fenced, which give the outsiders an impression as if they were part of the Sharifs’ property.
One can’t say if the park and plot have been purchased by the Sharifs. Nobody is ready to talk about it and share the information.
Security posts have been set up there, although the Sharifs no longer live there. The prime minister lives in his Raiwind palaces while the ‘revolutionary’ chief minister at 86-H Model Town, a place at a distance from the place where the family used to live in the past.
Thousands of security personnel have been deployed at Raiwind. Security people have to work under watchful eyes, a fact substantiated by a recent media report that police cops who dared entertain themselves with the guavas of the farm were sacked.
Neighbours of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif feel very uncomfortable. According to one resident of the locality, intercom phones have been set up at dozens of neighbouring houses and the police seek verification from the residents before allowing their visitors enter the area. Strict security check of all visitors embarrasses the hosts but they are helpless.
Vehicle owners of the locality have been issued special tokens.
It is said that about half a dozen roads of the locality are closed for security reasons. At the time of the arrival and departure of the chief minister and his family members the situation for the neighbours gets further difficult. They can’t move unless the rulers enter or leave the area.
Many say that barriers like of which had been removed from the residence of Dr Tahirul Qadri on Tuesday can be seen at countless places in the city. Justice demands that the rulers should remove such barriers first from their own residences and then from all localities. In case they don’t, people would have to wait for some Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Wattoo to do the same.