Subway Line Could Threaten Sufi Shrine In Pakistan Pakistan's government is building a much-needed 16-mile metro across Lahore to ease traffic. But it passes a little too close for comfort to many of the city's historic buildings.
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Subway Line Could Threaten Sufi Shrine In Pakistan

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Subway Line Could Threaten Sufi Shrine In Pakistan

Subway Line Could Threaten Sufi Shrine In Pakistan

Subway Line Could Threaten Sufi Shrine In Pakistan

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/594537767/594537768" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Pakistan's government is building a much-needed 16-mile metro across Lahore to ease traffic. But it passes a little too close for comfort to many of the city's historic buildings.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

In Pakistan, devotees gather every Thursday night to honor Lahore's patron Sufi saint. They chant. They drum and dance in a tradition that dates back 450 years. But as NPR's Diaa Hadid reports, activists worry that this soon might come to an end.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR ENGINE RUNNING)

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Lahore is dense. Some 10 million people live here. It's also a city woven with history, soaring Mughal mosques, Hindu and Sikh temples and British colonial buildings.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

HADID: And many residents believe their city is protected.

KAMIL KHAN MUMTAZ: The story is that Mauj Darya protects Lahore. It's like a patron saint.

HADID: That's Kamil Khan Mumtaz. He's an architect and activist. He says Mauj Darya is beloved because folks believe he saved the city from a flooding river by stretching out his hand and miraculously halting the water.

MUMTAZ: (Laughter) That's the story.

HADID: But the shrine that's devoted to him is under threat.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONSTRUCTION PIECES BANGING)

HADID: That's because the government's building a 16-mile long metro across Lahore. It will run underground just feet away from the shrine, a small domed building smothered in flower mosaics and decked with tinsel. On a recent night, worshippers scramble through an enormous pit to reach the shrine.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATION)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting, playing drums).

HADID: Volunteers distributed chai. Worshippers shared joints of hashish and heroin. They say it gives them a spiritual guide.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMS PLAYING)

HADID: The banging of machinery merged with drums and the sound of feet slapping on marble as worshippers danced.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLANGING)

HADID: The construction work makes activists, like the architect Mumtaz, worry whether the shrine will survive.

MUMTAZ: I really - keeping my fingers crossed. It's so close to the shrine that it's going to break the foundations.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRUCKS PASSING)

HADID: The shrine is one of 11 historic sites on the train route. And activists say they're all threatened by the train line. There's the British colonial-era church, St. Andrew's. Metal rods support the walls of the 200-year-old church to prevent its collapse. Down the road, the train curves near the Shalimar Gardens. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site.

MUMTAZ: Lahore desperately needs urban transportation. And the train is going to provide some of that. The unfortunate aspect is that they have done nothing about estimating the impact of this train on these very delicate buildings.

HADID: Khawaja Ahmad Hassan (ph) denies that. He's the head of Lahore's Transport Authority. He says they've strengthened the foundations of historic buildings and insists that the train will attract tourists.

KHAWAJA AHMAD HASSAN: We are not trying to disturb, disrupt or destroy any of the heritage points. This would facilitate the people to reach those points easily.

HADID: Like to the Shalimar Gardens, he says.

HASSAN: The train - when it passes through at a distance, you could look into the Gardens of Shalimar from the train. And that really inspires you, motivates you to go and visit that.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR ENGINE RUNNING)

HADID: Residents approve. Most today get around on tuk-tuks. They're pretty noisy. Shaker Javed is a health worker.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR ENGINE RUNNING)

SHAKER JAVED: (Foreign language spoken).

HADID: He says he'll use the new train line. It will be faster and quieter.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMS PLAYING)

HADID: Even at the shrine, worshippers approve. Barbar Ali (ph) says he trusts his government to take care of the shrine.

BARBAR ALI: (Foreign language spoken).

HADID: Besides, he says, the saint that protects Lahore can surely protect his own shrine.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATION)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting, playing drums).

HADID: Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Lahore.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEATS ANTIQUE'S "BEAUTY BEATS")

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