LAHORE: As the crime rate in the provincial capital has started to diminish, elders and children alike can once again be spotted chattering away in the streets long after the sun has gone down.
The city of Lahore is famous the world over because of its history and traditions. In the past, the city was confined within the 12 gates. With the passage of time, the city has expanded to places such as Sheikhupura and Gujranwala.
The area within the gates, which includes Bhatti, Lohari, Rang Mahal, Moti Bazaar and Shah Alam, has been labelled as the ‘old city’. With time, areas such as Islampura, Shad Bagh, Misri Shah and Badami Bagh also became a part of what is now known as the ‘interior’.
One of the special characteristics of the old city was the nightly gatherings. As soon as the sun would set, citizens would flood the streets making them come alive with the buzz and chatter of residents discussing everything from their daily lives to politics.
As a result, a great many tea shops and restaurants also began operating during these times to provide refreshments for these daily gatherings. Elders would typically indulge in a game of cards while the younger children would occupy themselves by playing ludo.
Moreover, elderly residents would also keep an eye on every person entering and leaving the neighbourhood. Sometimes they would stop and question suspicious looking people in the vicinity.
However, with time and with an increase in unemployment, the trend of sitting out late began to fade away. With the law and order situation always seemingly precarious, citizens no longer considered it advisable to stay outside the house after dark.
But things have shifted since the Dolphin Squad and the Police Response Unit (PRU) has begun patrolling the streets round the clock in different shifts.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, SSP Operations Ismail Kharak stated that the old city has a special status in terms of security as places such as Data Darbar, Lahore Railway Station, Badshahi Mosque and Lahore Fort all within its jurisdiction.
Further, most religious gatherings, including the main procession for Muharram, happen in these areas. Therefore ensuring security at these places is of utmost importance and priority, he said.
“At least 70% of the sensitive areas identified in Lahore lie within the old city or are connected to it. Keeping this in mind, it was deemed necessary to ensure security round-the-clock in various shifts,” he said.
And the results of round the clock patrolling can be felt by the residents. Citizens living in Islampura and Shah Alam revealed that they had stopped their daily gatherings due to the fear of being mugged. But now, slowly and surely, the gatherings are beginning to reappear.
Dolphin Force SP Sheikh Bilal Zafar added that he has directed patrolling teams to liaison with locals and to provide them with their mobile numbers so that they are able to contact officials directly in the case of an emergency.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2019.