Does Lahore really need its own Disneyland?

Published: November 15, 2015

Instead of doing something for the one per cent, why not do something for the 99 per cent?

Lahore will have its own ‘Disneyland – a recent news item that does not carry significance as far as headlines are concerned, but does carry a ton of significance otherwise.

As things stand currently, only a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Punjab government and the Chinese company. While a MoU has no legal value, it does point a finger towards Shahbaz Sharif’s priorities.

Coming from an industrialist background, his focus towards capitalism is unquestionable. From investing in infrastructure to handing out laptops, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government is a big proponent of liberal economic policies, despite being a conservative party otherwise.

But where does all this investment in infrastructure leave the working class of Punjab?

Southern Punjab has one of the worst poverty levels in the country. According to a survey by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) published last year, the city of Rajanpur, for example, has a staggering 44 per cent households living below the poverty line. The people living below the line in other southern districts respectively comprise 40 per cent in Muzaffargarh, 36 per cent in DG Khan, 33 per cent in Bahawalpur, 31 per cent in Layyah and Lodhran, 31 per cent in Pakpattan, and 28 per cent in Multan, Khanewal and Bhakkar districts.

These are figures that stand out in the ugliest of manners. What is even more alarming is the fact that these numbers conceal the reality that large numbers of people hover just above the poverty line and are in constant danger of destitution.

But this is not the end of it.

Dozens of factory workers lost their lives in Sundar Industrial Estate and Burki Hudiara this month. This on top of the other cases of injuries and deaths in industrial facilities that are shoved under the carpet, portray an extremely grim picture for the strongest provincial government in the country. It is a reminder of how Shahbaz and the PML-N’s provincial machinery is custom built to suit the ruling elite and big business as the working class suffers one breakdown after the other.

Wouldn’t it be good if Shahbaz directs the abundance of funds at his disposal towards social services that make a material change in the lives of people?

Instead of investing in Disneyland, why not invest in social housing?

Instead of investing in roads, why not invest in education that is not only financially accessible to the poor but is also of the highest quality?

Instead of investing in transit, why not invest in providing employment that does not depend on temporary terms?

Instead of investing in tons of other infrastructural gimmicks, why not invest in high-quality health services?

Instead of pleasing the ruling elite and his fellow capitalist cronies, why not do something for people who go through every day not knowing if they will have food and shelter the next day?

Instead of doing something for the one per cent, why not do something for the 99 per cent?

Because infrastructural gimmicks work from a vote-hunting perspective, and social services that elevate the poverty stricken class do not. The proposed investment in Lahore’s Disneyland or its equivalent further strengthens Shahbaz’s capitalist leaning. But this is not the first time he is doing this, and this is not the last time either. Not only is he ruining Lahore’s aesthetic value courtesy of these infrastructural flings, he is alienating the working class of the city, and more specifically the rest of Punjab, in the worst possible manner.

Perhaps Shahbaz needs to take a stroll down to the slums in Punjab and ask people if investing in Lahore’s Disneyland will make their lives better. The answer might surprise him.

salman Zafar

Salman Zafar

The writer works in the Education Sector and tweets as @salmanzafar1985 (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Shehryar Hassan

    If working class is being alienated then why these people are elected time & again……….the fact is people especially the working class, which makes a substantial majority, does not vote for social housing, education or high quality healthcare…………they vote for their family connections, personal egos & personal interests at the cost of collective interests……………….Shahbaz Sharif is 100% right in his governance style, people ask for itRecommend

  • Syed Irfan Ali

    What good can be expected from this myopic CM who in his last tenure when PPP was ruling the Center pleaded religious extremists to spare Punjab from their activities as it was being ruled by their ideological brethren. But then also nobody can question their patriotism of course how can we they are from Lahore…. real sons of soil.Recommend

  • Gullu

    Because Shahbaz does not give a doozy about the common man in Punjab.
    His wealth comes first. His family’s wealth and welfare comes next.
    His cabal’s welfare and wealth comes next. His extended sycophants come
    next. This is the same man who cut deals with the terrorists and extremists,
    in secret, to leave his businesses and family alone. In every road, highway,
    overpass, underpass, bus line, metro line built, you name it…he gets his bhatta.[commission.] The Punjab police is his family’s personal security service.
    It all narrows down to one SICK thing…The Sharif Cabal owns Punjab.
    His brother, the PM, does not steps out of Punjab. Dare not. Only quick,
    unannounced, [sometimes] forays into Karachi, lasting a few hours. Because he
    is not welcomed there OR anywhere else in Pakistan. He stays locked in
    Fortress Punjab.
    Basically the Punjabis have a peon mentality. They MUST have a feudal lord ruling
    them. Even if he is a 3 time loser named Sharif,…it’s communal, you see.Recommend

  • Ozair

    A really superb article highlighting the wrong priorities of the govt. But the unfortunate part is until Pakistan is literate, people will continue to think that metros, underpasses, bridges, roads etc are symbols of prosperity. Hence, they will keep voting the same party into power. The cycle will continue, more gimmicks, more failures and more votesRecommend

  • Saj

    “Wouldn’t it be good if Shahbaz directs the abundance of funds at his disposal towards social services that make a material change in the lives of people?”

    Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Developing an amusement park (which I doubt will have little do with the Walt Disney Corporation) will create many long term low-to-medium income jobs, provide a recreational environment for the people who have long been deprived of wholesome entertainment while benefiting local tourism industry.Recommend

  • Alam

    Pakistan needs such places. Hospitals are important but they are cost to make and expensive to run. Hospitals have their own budgets and roads/culture/education etc. have their own budget.
    These projects are investments and bring returns. They increase value of the city. No one asks GDP of Paris or Rome but value their culture/theme parksRecommend

  • Hammad Cheema

    Could not agree more. I made the mistake of visiting Rohtas fort close to Jehlum today and the 8km off-stretch from GT Road is a living nightmare. If this fort was somewhere abroad…would have been a tourist heaven.Recommend

  • Daddy

    Baby boy Showbaz wants it ..please please please can I have it please please..Recommend

  • waztaz

    I just want to know the answer to one question. Who’s paying for it? If it’s a Chinese company who expect to take in all the profits then I’m fine with it. If the government is spending even one rupee towards then I’m not in favour it. Surely we expect our government to consider the plight of poor people of Pakistan and not that Chinese company.Recommend

  • Dr. Ahmed Ali Khan

    I did not vote for PML-N (voted for PTI) but please be fair:

    1) Laptop scheme/ Model schools / Disney Land/ Roads/ Power plants and even the orange metro line are good things! Populist or not how does this compare to progress in KPK, Baluchistan or worse yet Sindh

    2) Orange line has problems in affecting heritage sites. Sure it does. Do you understand the freedom we have to discuss this? You want to see what they did in Sindh to destroy Mohenjodaro with the Sindh festival or the Chawkandi tombs with land grabbers?

    3) Southern Punjab is poor. Yes. Is it richer than northern Sind, any part of Baluchistan or most parts of KPK? Yes. Your selection bias is unbelievable

    4) Education same thing. Much better in Punjab than the other provinces.

    Let me tell you what you should criticize them for. They (PML-N) are the govt of Pakistan and hence need to improve the infrastructure and education and poverty of the whole country! Not just Punjab! This is their failing. Not their comparative success in Punjab!

    You must live in Punjab and not visit rural Sindh or Balouchistan or KPK to have this bias!Recommend

  • Humna

    Apparently the writer can’t understand the simple nature of a capitalist society. To get funds for all the “good ideas” you need economy to thrive. Disney land will not just attract visitors, increase the happiness index, provide healthier versions of getting rid of stress, but will also give jobs, improve image of the city and more investment. Companies invest in moneymaking ventures, they are not here for social work. However, the government can earn social work money through taxes on these recreational activities.

    The writer seems to have a shallow grip on economics and appears pessimistic. Recommend

  • cautious

    Nothing wrong with amusement parks – but it’s not the governments job to entertain the people – that’s something reserved for private industry. BTW – if the govt doesn’t have enough money to buy fuel to run their power plants and has to borrow from the IMF for survival – it surely doesn’t have money to spend on luxury items like amusement parks.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Shahbaz knows the answer he would get……the thing is he does not give a damn because he and others like him in the other provinces ( Sindh being a good example ) know that they have engineered the system so that they and only they will keep coming back.Recommend

  • Sami

    Pretty illogical article to say the least. If some company will approach me to invest in a particular project then would i tell them No?. You cannot dictate the Private Investors where to Invest. It is a Chinese company’s initiative and Government of Punjab just say yes to this project.
    So Punjab government is answerable for their own projects but asking them about the Private investments is uncalled for. Punjab government is not investing anything in this project. So how come Government priorities can be judged by this project?Recommend

  • Jonty

    I hope those people who are blaming BCCI for so-called “breaking its promise” of not playing Pakistan in UAE and breaking the contract, first understand what an MoU really is. Your second line of article says the same thing that MoU has no legal value and is not binding legally since it is not a contract. Majority of Pakistanis who are bashing India and BCCI right and left on these forums don’t understand this simple fact. They feel that BCCI is legally bound to play Pakistan due to that MoU that they signed. I know my comment is totally unrelated to the article but I just wanted to drive home that point. When the atmosphere is conducive, cricket will happen.Recommend

  • Jonty

    I can’t comment on the poverty and issues in Pakistan so I wouldn’t even go there. However I want to say that there is nothing wrong in building a disneyland like amusement park but why do you need Chinese to build it? Is there no builder or organization in Pakistan who can do this? In India, we have Adlabs Imagica which is based on Universal Studios and is totally home built by an Indian company and all the money invested in it are also Indian. Check out Adlabs Imagica.Recommend

  • Aysha

    We need Better Universities, right now , As India dont have Disney Land but they have uni in top 100 . That is what we need in LAhore


  • Fahimuddin

    Pakistan is not only for poor but for middle class and upper middle class too. We want some entertainment too. Pakistan have budget of almost 30 billion dollars, we can’t pay for BB income fund and pensioners for life time.Recommend

  • TwoCents

    I would like to offer a clarification. This is an “investment” by the Chinese, not the government. Furthermore, when a person “invests” in something, they do so expecting high gains and profits. It would be absolutely futile for the Chinese at invest in a hospital or school, because if it is not over-priced, what would they gain from it? So in a way, its good…let the Chinese entertain those who can afford it…while the government can maintain a focus on more basic necessities.Recommend

  • Abdul Aleem

    @Humna. I cannot agree more to what you said. You need infrastructure and project like these to create employment opportunities for middle class and poor people. When the writer said “why no invest in providing employment”, he seems to have no idea that employment comes from the projects like theseRecommend

  • maz3tt

    i read all the comments. both sides are correct. we need entertainment as well. We tends to forget about entertainment being engaged in providing roti , kapra, makaan for our family. but not at the cost of clean water, public education and health etc. Nobody will be happy to go to Disneyland if we are not equipped with the satisfaction of reasonable life i.e roti , kapra , makaan , education , health etc at the the reasonable cost for our familyRecommend


    Thick heads believe that economic prosperity will yield social & moral boom & We laugh on poor Agha Waqar. Riches did not change the character of our ruling elite so how could it change the mind of being ruled. Education, Health & Justice should be on top.Recommend

  • Yash Vora

    surely but after solving d water & electricity problems – atleast in that cityRecommend

  • mani

    sir this is a projectin which a foreign investor is going to make investment.

    why he selected Punjab instead of other provinces? thats the real question provincial governments should step up to present the better picture of their respective provinces so that investors do get attracted to them as well….after all we want a developed country and for that everyone will have to play his/her roleRecommend

  • Cbing

    People building amusement park or not, but its not “The Disneyland”. It’s a cheap knock off everything else Chinese. If I remember well there are only 5 Disneylands in the whole world. So, it won’t be too expensive. Let them build one.Recommend

  • Sami

    But this project is initiated by a Private group. Why everyone is blaming Punjab government for the project?. So welcoming the private investor is wrong?. Also could you dictate a private investor not to invest when they are willing to invest billions.?Recommend

  • hasan

    Though I am a PTI supporter but I agree with you here. Sometimes people criticize just for the sake of it without having any knowledge of the topic. Truth is that not only is this project a private one but this will also attract tourism and would be profitable too.Recommend

  • yello

    Finally!!!! Someone said it!Recommend

  • Gullu

    Just one example about how corrupt the Punjab Govt. is.
    All projects, private OR otherwise, must get approval from
    Sharif. He gets his bhatta [“cmmission”] OR one of his minions
    and sub contractors will collect. The construction materials,
    labor, land will be supplied by the bhatta khor Punjab govt.
    The Chinese know this. And will add the bribes into the final costs.
    The poor public will end up paying. One way or another. MoU or not.
    This is the same Sharif who wades in knee deep water on roads,
    with chin in hand, during the rainy season. Happens every year.
    Same roads THAT were built by his cohorts and cabal. On which
    he has already collected his bhatta. Academy Award performance
    of looking ‘worried and perturbed about the poor peons of Punjab’
    Now, then, are we getting there yet?Recommend

  • Pak

    Its a cheap knock off, Disney will never give rights to open in Pakistan. Instead of making things to show people, he could have done a lot by making hospitals and schools. If you cannot make new, atleast raise the standard of current.Recommend

  • jerseybbt

    I believe this project will create hundreds of temp and permanent jobsRecommend

  • Grace

    What does water and electricity problem have to do with a private investment by a Chinese firm? Let them invest; they obviously know that investing in Punjab will give them profit but will also create amusement for people. Punjab government is already working to improve electricity, schools, roads, health care and energy more than any other province.Recommend

  • Grace

    Go to Punjab and compare it with any other province and you will understand why people in Punjab have voted for the current government. Hint: progress, stability, roads, power generation started, better schools and development!Recommend


    salman saab investing in education and health won’t make a country rich. It’s a myth. Take a look at the economic history of the world, all the rich countries of today got rich following only one path, continuity of system stable currency and lower taxes, there is no other way. After a certain level of economic development, education and health improves as a byproduct of newly created wealth. The best ecomonic growth period of US was late 19th and early 20th century and its literacy late during this period was below 40%. It will be stupid of our government to make the education and health higher priority then investing in large infrastructure projects, which will push the wheel of growth forward.Recommend

  • Gullu

    That is because all the money is diverted to Punjab.
    By his brother the Partridge of Punjab, also known as
    Raja of Raiwind and as Nawaz Sharif. They have been
    plundering the national treasury again and again. This
    is the third go at it. So, nothing goes to Balochistan, and
    scraps are thrown at Sindh and K-P. Rest of the money,
    a steady stream to Punjab.Recommend

  • Gullu

    Should we go into Nandipur power station? That went over the
    budget by more than 200%? Because of rampant corruption,
    inefficient management. And no trained workers to run it. [the GE
    power turbines were not allowed, because GE refused to pay bribes.
    Training of technicians was included by GE,..General Electric. USA]
    Even a FAKE opening cutting was attended by
    Sharif Brothers and assorted sycophants. Included the Minister
    of Water and Power etc. etc….last year! Plant is still not operational.Recommend

  • Gullu

    Er,..well,..see..did that. While on vacation. Saw giant banners,
    huge wall writings, praising banned outfits. Le J, Le T, Le I,
    Jamat Dawa, Jaish e M, Jundullah, Ahrar ul Hind etc. etc. in
    Lahore and environs. And chained green, ‘chanda boxes’ [donation boxes] for these outfits, spread all over. Even on the Mall.
    Rumor has it Shias are shot on sight in Lahore. Oh, well.
    Did eat at Gawal Mandi. Then skipped town ….fast. Vamos!
    Might have left shoes behind.Recommend

  • Hubdarkhan

    Why the foreign investors make investments only in big cities rather than small and poverty areas?.Because government want to work on only those projects from which the CM could obtain excuse for his useless pubilicity….Recommend

  • Oats

    Hmmm – so when you see investment and things improving, you find reason to complain? Why should it bug you that a Chinese company is investing its own to make money? Do you think a priovate company wants to invest where there is no prospect for success? Prefer 10 years of nothing under Musharraf or 5 years of stagnation under Zardari? So I suppose you think Western observers and financial institutions who say Pakistani economy is improving are all wrong? Sorry guy, as a poor peon I prefer to listen to economic institutions and keep enjoying the situation I see in Pakistan under Sharifs.Recommend

  • Oats

    It is precisely the poor and working class who use Metro Bus and the rich who are against Metrobus because they have cars and don’t care about mass public transit for the poor and working class. Turn it around and see why people vote for those who bring them change.Recommend

  • Gullu

    Really? Musharraf did nothing for Pak? Hmm…
    Do remember Musharraf threw out and deported a
    despot known as the Raja of Raiwind. Same man
    ensconced in the PM Palace now.
    Yours is the land locked communal peon perspective
    of Punjab. Also known as PP. Prrrettyyyy soon you will
    have your own country. Punjabistan.Recommend

  • Sane

    Sharifs of Raiwind are fed up going Murree all the way all the time. They want a new place.Recommend

  • Sane

    Would you name the Indian Uni in top 100?Recommend

  • nishantsirohi123