Rolling out the Red Carpet

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Cutting out the future of Lahore

After a process of evolution our local government system has devolved power at the doorsteps of local communities and as part of this arrangement, Lahore today has an elected Nazim (mayor) and elected council. Lahore is a wonderful city of a great historical interest. Not just the intellectual grandeur of the city is charismatic but also the well-endowed cultural heritage. In the same breath, owing to its fast track urbanization, Lahore lends out and out challenges and opportunities to the Lahore District Nazim, Amer Mahmood. He needs to look and see how to invent Lahore’s future. Implicitly and explicitly, it is high time for making local democracy work for the residents of this old city.

For making Lahore a futuristic city, it needs leadership in action—leadership that anticipates change and harnesses it to positive advantage. The city requires strength in diversity, partnership, and citizen participation, which Amer Mahmood must offer. He needs to innovate, create and lead. The city must have a destiny to sustain. The challenge is to make change our friend, not the enemy.

Amer Mahmood must be deeply involved in making and reviewing policy for transforming Lahore into a city of future. It will work best if he also respects the roles, expertise, and goals that elected and appointed officials bring to city governance. They should sit down together and develop relationships that work in this term. It is also time for the city to take greater responsibility for its economic future.

He should work with the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry to explore how City Government can more effectively participate and partner in shaping Lahore’s economic future. The two institutions can focus on substantial issues and work together on a strategy for change and reform.

For making Lahore a modern city it should welcome the information age while providing ways for people to come together. Besides technology initiatives Amer Mahmood should push off policy initiatives and thus help people connect. This should create opportunities and places for people to gather. The city of Lahore to prosper in the 21st Century needs to improve its capacity to deal successfully with the new international context. The most successful will be closely connected to the rest of the world—through trade, transportation, technology, education, arts and culture. Indeed, the future promises dramatic and significant life style choices for exercise and connection.

Civics of the 21st Century will be more about relationships between people than about structures of government. The key is to get people talking and working together across the boundary lines that traditionally divide and diminish a community.

We expect from Amer Mahmood to offer the leadership that reaches from neighborhood to region to global. There are important and timely opportunities for thinking and acting outside of the box.

We need a new approach to transit in Lahore. Increasing traffic congestion is a fact of life. We cannot build our way out of the problem. Any solution must include improved rapid transit.
Amir Mahmood should plan a process to design a transit system for people to ride. He should develop a passion in making busses work for everyone.

He should also create places worthy of our affection. Indeed, he can create such places. He must take decisive steps for making Lahore as the business, governmental, cultural, and educational center of the 21st Century. For that matter he must take deliberate steps today to shape the future of tomorrow. The best way to do it is to invent future. He must go for it, search out and use the concepts of smart growth and new urbanism.

His task should heave in “leadership in the key of e,” that is, enterprise, environment, education, E-commerce and E-government, and eccentricity. These are the tools by which he can bring benefit to that which is most important—the people—not an extension of global uniformity, but a unique people, in a unique place and made unique by their collective endeavor.

We need a new – a different – local government to continue the task of modernizing Lahore—a new role for a new century. A role that challenges the sense of inevitable decline that has hung over local government in the previous years and provides local people and their representatives with new opportunities.

With strong leadership, the best days of cities lie ahead. So be it for Lahore. Lahore in coming days is an exciting, diverse, urban, and a futuristic city—a good place to live as well as to work and do business. It also is an exciting time for all those involved in the art and politics of city building. The right principles and the right leadership, together we can make a difference in Lahore.

Amer Mahmood should be more than a ribbon-cutter. Although he does plenty of those over and above his prolific role, he must also heighten further his attention on community safety, cleaning up the city, and making the environment business friendly. He should be involved in determining the vision for the city, not in terms of day-to-day administration, but as the key figure in deciding policy and direction for growth.

To be a good Nazim of pride, Amer Mahmood must articulate the vision of a better place and future; must lay down the challenge to constantly do better – to never rest on laurels – then cheer the community along as they work at delivering that vision; the economy, jobs, life-long education, transport, public safety, health, well-being and always, the environment.

He must reach for this vision using the tools of the 21st Century; even anticipating tools not yet even made. We don’t want the smokestacks of yesterday, we want the technology of tomorrow. Lahore is ready for a progressive city that focuses on the future. He should reach beyond what he knows to grasp and that might be a bit ahead of its time. Asif J. Mir, Organizational Transformation

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