LAHORE - Calm, quiet, and relatively greener housing arrangement on canal bank road adjacent to historical Aitcheson College with three entrances lanes 1 and 2 on Canal Bank Road and lane 3 towards Thandisarak of Lahore known as Zaman Park was the house of thousands of protestors guarding their leader for approximately seven months in Lahore.
“Scenes here were unreal during that period when Khan’s followers were in our area, a resident on condition of anonymity told The Nation. It seemed like a hostile takeover by political workers of PTI. The Zaman Park lush green cricket ground where Khan grew up playing cricket became a tent city representing camps of different regions including KPK, GB, AJKC, Balochistan, Sindh, and Punjab,” he continued. Zaman Park has come back to normalcy. When The Nation visited it recently all the streets are opened up, cleaned up, and even most of the posters have also been removed from the walls. Residents are back on the streets for strolls, drivers washing their cars with main gates open and just the residents and their house help can be seen in the vicinity.
Imran Khan resided in the first corner house-entering from lane 1 which spreads over almost 8 kanals. Service road parallel to the residence is still closed for traffic and walls of heavy sandbags are towering up to the boundary walls. Posts are still visible at the corners and middle of the residence with armed guards securing the residence. There’s also a walled and gated empty plot with an area of around 4 to 5 kanals which was also given to the supporters who have made camps there throughout the time Imran Khan resided soon after moving from KPK to Lahore last year following dissolution of the KPK Assembly.
Camps were also set up on the service road and Canal Bank Road by the party members who were seeking party tickets for the elections. There were also long queues of DSNG vans of different media outlets 24/7 standing on the Canal Bank Road. “Our lives were miserable around that time, stick-bearing PTI volunteers were here round the clock and they even used to beat anyone if they thought that person belonged to law enforcement agencies, said the resident. Entering and exiting the vicinity was also tough and kids were disturbed around that time. Even getting groceries from outside was a mission. When private guards used to surround the entrances, our house help used to go to the main gate, and another person from outside used to give them groceries,” said a resident.
“Sometimes it seemed like a family festival where families used to visit the Zaman Park area to show solidarity with their leader and sometimes it felt like a warzone with police shelling and petrol bombs coming from inside Khan’s residence,” the resident further added. “We were surrounded by unwanted guests in Zaman Park; most of the families here support Imran Khan and the cause he’s fighting for but it felt a little too much sometimes. Maybe we have never seen this kind of atmosphere inside Zaman Park but we adapted to the conditions for the cause. There were people here from all over Pakistan and sometimes it felt like some of the people don’t even belong to PTI and have been put here by someone else who wants disruption and chaos here. There was always food here for everyone, even chai for peaceful supporters. We were all guarding Khan and if the situation arrives we’ll do it again and stand with our leader,” said a PTI supporter on condition of secrecy.
It has been widely reported in the media too that during the siege of Zaman Park by the protestors commuting between Mall Road and Dharampura on Canal Bank Road was tough. There was always traffic on the road and commuters were even scared sometimes that protestors won’t harm them or their vehicles. Makeshift arrangements and toilets were later removed by the caretaker administration to restore green belts and parks inside Zaman Park. Zaman Park area has almost 35 houses and almost 30 of them are owned by the Niazi and Burki families rest of the houses are resided by outsiders who don’t belong to the family. It has come back to normalcy with calm and quiet streets after the May 9th crackdown by law enforcement agencies. Even the lush green grass is back on the Zaman Park cricket ground which was gone with all the camps on it. Youngsters were playing cricket on that ground when The Nation visited the area. Maybe some of them will become bureaucrats, Army officers, cricketers, and even politicians to carry on the legacy of Zaman Park.