In spite of its claims of making Pakistan a tourism-friendly country, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) government is oblivious to the revival of the Gawalmandi Food Street in the heart of Lahore—which presents a deserted look, with vendors awaiting the attention of the authorities concerned.
Many blame the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for the apathy towards the once-bustling food street. They say the PML-N ruined the place for the sake of Fort Road Food Street, inaugurated by Hamza Shehbaz, son of then-chief minister Shehbaz Sharif.
The new food street, undoubtedly, adds colour to the vibrant food culture of Lahore. Taxali and Heera Mandi –the red light district—have been turned into a family-friendly space, with rooftop restaurants thronged by people till late at night.
However, the taste it offers fails to match up to the Lahori taste of Gawalmandi. Though it lacks glamour, Gawalmandi was the real food street, which offered great taste with its humble installations like Sardar Machhali Farosh and Amritsari Hareesa.
It is deserted today unlike the start of this century when it became a food street and was popular among locals and foreigners alike. It was also a source of pride to the shopkeepers and locals. The credit goes to then deputy commissioner Kamran Lashari for this short-lived bustle.
In 2011, the place was shut down by the Punjab government, citing congestion with no regard that it was a source of livelihood for the locals.
According to locals, after they tried to relocate their businesses to the other food street in 2011, the PML-N snubbed them as it wanted to please its favourites.
Gawalmandi was the first properly developed area outside the walled city after Partition. Migrants set up shops outside their houses, the businesses expanded and morphed eventually into a food street. Then the PML-N came and axed their decades-old businesses.
Now that the PTI has come into power, people hope it would make true on its word of reviving tourism, and bring the food street back to life.
But that is not the case; in fact, the food street is doing worse under the new regime and has become a thoroughfare after the removal of its small gate. It has become a victim of rapid urbanisation, with vehicles plying on the once-forbidden street even at night.
The food street in Gawalmandi is inclusive unlike its counterpart in Taxali, which caters to the elite. On the one hand, poor people were deprived of livelihood in Gawalmandi, while the rich managed to make more money at the Fort Road establishment.
It is high time the PTI government takes immediate steps to revive the food street in Gawalmandi and bring back happiness and prosperity to the area.