I wonder if the civic authority responsible for Lahore’s infrastructure — the Lahore Development Authority? — has carried out an assessment of four much-used bridges in that mega-city: the Ravi Bridge; the Mian Mir Bridge; the Sherpao Bridge and the Cavalry Ground Bridge.
Let me explain: whilst I do not know the year that the Mian Mir Bridge connecting the Upper Mall with the Cantonment was built, it is far older than the Sherpao Bridge, which was constructed in 1975-76. At that time, at most 10 or 15 vehicles would be crossing them (in both directions) at any given time.
As we well know, the number of private motor transport, including motor cycles carrying up to four people at times, has gone up many thousand-fold increasing the weight carried by the bridges many thousand-fold too. Additionally, there weren’t the check posts on the Cantonment side after you cross the bridges, necessitated by the war on terror.
This necessary checking of motor vehicles results in long queues forming on the side carrying traffic towards the Cantonment, many times in the case of the Sherpao and Cavalry Ground bridges extending all the way to the Gulberg side. The Mian Mir Bridge, too, has traffic jams sometimes with cars and other vehicles waiting many minutes on the bridge itself.
The very same goes for the Ravi Bridge, which was built in 1961: I remember the year, for my family lived on Baradari Road, Shahdara, whenever in Lahore from Wah. Incidentally, and in passing, I might point out to my Twitter friends that this is the same Shahdara property, which a powerful qabza group has been gobbling up, and about which I have tweeted often!
The traffic on the Ravi Bridge has to be seen to be believed. At any given time, there are hundreds of buses, trucks, cars, rehras, donkey carts and motor cycles crossing the bridge/stuck on it for long periods of time. We must remember, too, that Metro Buses use the same bridge.
I write the above to ask if the bridges named here (there must be many more across the country), have been tested for their weight-carrying capacity given the vast increase in the number of vehicles using them. Surely, engineers must design bridges bearing in mind the increase in traffic over the coming years and during the life of the bridges, but could they have foreseen the explosion in the numbers of cars especially, given Pervez Musharraf’s and Shaukat Aziz’s liberal policies of easy leasing? Add to that the population explosion in our country and you have the problem well in hand: more people, more transport.
If the testing has not been done, I urge that it be done now: hundreds of bridges have collapsed all over the world, even in countries where the contractors are nowhere near as corrupt as many of ours. Hundreds of people have been killed in these preventable accidents.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Musharraf is holding almost daily press briefings/political meetings with his friends and admirers. The latest to join the list is Maulana Ehteramul Haq Thanvi at, wait for it, the Creek Club! A political meeting attended by ‘senior lawyers (I can guess who they are!); politicians and journalists’ including, I suppose, some who call themselves ‘Musharraf Lovers’, at the DHA’s Creek CLUB? Hello!
Since when have political meetings been allowed in clubs for heaven’s sake? Specially one that belongs to the DEFENCE Housing Authority? I mean I do know that many of us are not ‘clubbable people’, but have we stooped this low? By the by, since the meeting was hosted by the venerable Maulana, is he a member of the Creek Club? Or did Musharraf arrange the meeting there?
Let us now go to what he said. Variously, that there should be more provinces in the country; there is a great need for a third political force; Imran Khan’s dharnas ‘weakened’ the government; Karachi’s targeted killings, and that the country is more important than the Constitution (this last as a means of justifying his own act of violating the Constitution, and forgetting quite conveniently that it is ONLY that document that enshrines within it the rules by which a country will be run).
For someone who has read his puerile ‘book’ (stand up, Humayun Gauhar), I am not surprised at his self-indulgent ranting. To take what he said one by one: why did he not create more provinces when he was Lord over all he surveyed for nine, repeat nine years, with able people like Mushahid ‘Mandela’ Hussain aiding him? As to the third political force, could he please exclude himself, unless he is completely delusional? He pretends to be a democrat: so did the dharnas weaken the present government, or democracy itself? And last but not least, when he talks of targeted killings does he not also speak about one of the political parties accused of such killings, and between which and his APML there is a revolving door? Witness his staunch supporter and spokesman Barrister Saif’s joining the MQM and being elected a senator.
Really! Musharraf has become quite tiresome. Is this the same man who cheated in the nine-mile run while a ‘Gentleman’ Cadet at the PMA (read his ‘book’)? Is this the same man who wrote in his ‘book’ how terrorism suspects were sold at $5,000 apiece? Is this the same man who gifted us the MMA by clamping down on other political parties, and therefore giving the brutal Taliban a fillip? He has become very tiresome and it is high time that the country saw the last of him.
I have been saying for almost two years now, let the man go abroad after giving him a date on which to return to appear before the courts. Give wide coverage to this through our missions abroad. I’ll bet a hundred rupees Musharraf will do a runner. And good riddance, I say.
Let me end by congratulating the PML-N for not putting up a candidate for the post of Senate chairman: all it would need to have done is to distribute a few cabinet posts and have its own man win. Raza Rabbani is a sterling man and will serve democracy well.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2015.