When it comes to alleviating the living standards and the environment poor people inhabit and the revenue that historical architecture can generate from local and foreign tourists, we already know who takes precedence over the other in the benevolent eyes of the Punjab government. In the recent protest voiced by Justice Abid Aziz of the Lahore High Court, the Punjab government was stopped from constructing buildings inside the Walled City as it was a violation of the Walled City Act, 2013. It came under the notice of the judge after a petition was issued against illegal constructions and commercial activities within the area.

The dilemma, if one were to zero it down to a singular point, appears to be of the sincerity (or lack thereof) on behalf of Punjab government’s mighty construction plans. And this isn’t anything new for those living within the Walled City: Time and again, it has become distressingly obvious that the financial investment claimed by the provincial authorities is in making the Walled City fancy for the tourist gaze and buck, nothing more. Abandonment of buildings and illegal occupation is the norm while new constructions hinge on standing residential areas. This time it is an expansive plaza that threatens the beauty and local significance of the two century old Imam-bargah near Kashmiri Gate.

It was in 2013 when land mafia, under the very nose of the provincial government, carried out the destruction of the historic gate of Katri Baoo Mumtaz to build yet another plaza. Due to this toxic mix of governmental apathy and greed along with local land mafias ticking and crossing the pieces of areas they want, the historical heritage of the Walled City has become endangered but most importantly, the lives of hundreds of families living for decades in those narrow streets and highrise buildings have become precarious and uncertain. And it doesn’t seem to bother those in power.

Commercialization threatens the hallmark tranquility of interior Lahore, and it is happening with the nod of approval coming from the Punjab government that places the lives and peace of citizens notches below the golden opportunity to make cash out of local and foreign tourism. Not only is historical splendor compromised but the lives of poor civilians are essentially ignored.