LAHORE - After the Gawalmandi Food Street debacle of 2009, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s dream to replace former military dictator General (r) Pervez Musharraf’s Food Street with his own has finally realised.
‘Fort Road Food Street’, located behind Badshahi Mosque near Roshnai Gate, is ready to be showcased after Muharram 10th amid brewing misgivings about delay in its launch and workability.
Preparation is at full swing with almost 99 percent work already complete. Buildings’ facelift work, keeping outer exteriors in their original shape, has climaxed after gates were erected at entry and exit points of the street. The parking lot has been earmarked at the edge of the mosque and special horse-driven carriages would take visitors to the Food Street. The street will be powered by solar panels, reducing the total usage from 50,000 watts to 10,000 watts.
Creation of Fort Road Food Street is a part of the Punjab government’s plan to construct around 9 food streets in Gulberg, Shalimar Town, Nishtar Town, Samnabad, Allama Iqbal Town, Wahga, Aziz Bhatti Town, Ravi Town and Data Gunj Baksh Town.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM THE DECEASED GAWALMANDI STREET: In a bid to prevent the new food street from any untoward incident and political interference that caused the downfall of Gawalmandi Food Street, once known as best tourist attraction in Pakistan, Fort Road Food Street is a private initiative worth Rs 40 million and is independent and autonomous of the Punjab government and the City District Government Lahore. The government has also not paid a single penny for its development.
HOW IT CAME ABOUT: To develop the Fort Road Food Street, a society consisting of all the residents of the area chosen for the street was formed under Punjab Co-operative Societies Act 1961. It was named the Society for Development and Management of Fort Road Food Street which constituted a management committee which was formally tasked to develop the Fort Road Food Street.
The committee arranged for a loan from the Punjab Bank that was facilitated by the government. The CDGL has a ceremonial role in the management, with DCO Ahad Cheema the first chairman of the committee, while a businessman, Habib Khan, who owned property on Fort Road, was made the president. According to sources in the CDGL, the food street was to be launched on November 19, however, it will now be inaugurated on Muharram 10.
As many as 25 buildings in a V-shaped street are being restored with the help of famous architects and experts in fine arts.
“This is the first time that special by-laws and Standard Operative procedures (SOPs) have been laid down to ensure the survival of the food street,” said Finance EDO Moazam Supra who registered the society. The Law Department vetted the workability paraphernalia, he added.
NONPOLITICAL: Society for Development and Management of Fort Road Food Street President Habib Khan characterised the new food street as non-political, saying it would not be associated with any political party and would be run on purely commercial basis. “Being located behind the Badshahi Mosque, Roshnai Gate, Sikh shrine and in the proximity of Mughal era historical buildings in walled city, the street presents a marvelous outlook combining history landscape and traditional food at one place for the visitors,” he added. “All sorts of services including water supply lines, drains, gas pipes and electrical wires had been under-grounded and upgraded and architectural features and exterior façade enriched with balconies is being rehabilitated to ensure original view of the buildings,” Habib Khan said.
“We have also developed a mechanism to keep the food street self-sustaining. Numerous advertisement companies have contacted us to pay whopping amount to exhibit their products,” he added.
In the backdrop of quality monuments Zeeshan Gul, resident at Walled city said that a V-shaped off-shoot of the Fort Road was chosen last year to build a replica of ill-fated Gawalmandi Food Street. “The plan had kindled a hope among the residents of adjoining areas that they would soon have business and employment opportunities. However, to their disappointment, a ban was imposed on converting buildings on Fort Road into eateries on the pretext of traffic issues,” he added.
According to some residents, most of the selected buildings are either owned by multinationals or people close to the ruling party bigwigs in Punjab.