I am not going to add my voice to the electronic bandwidth already devoted to the financial high crimes and misdemeanors of the Sharifs, and the delicious intrigues that seem to be afoot around them. Instead, I am going to talk about Jain Mandir, Lahore and why that, now physically erased, part of my personal past is perhaps symptomatic of who the Sharifs are, what they represent, and why the JIT and Panama gate story line is in fact, a moral canard. Growing up, I often visited relatives living in the now demolished neighborhood of Jain Mandir in Purani Anarkali, Lahore. It was a densely populated neighborhood built somewhere in the late 19th century. My mothers’ family had come to that neighborhood in 1947, escaping the communal riots in Jammu. And in Jain Mander the Hindu owner of the house they came to call their own, provided them shelter. My uncle in return for the favour provided him protection in his escape up to Mozang, after which my uncle says he could not bear responsibility. The blood lust of the Lahoris at that unfortunate juncture in the city’s history, made a coward of uncle. He after all did have three minor siblings, including my mother, and his mother to look after, and also to search for many female cousins who had been abducted and lost in the riots in Jammu. For me, visits to Jain Mander and then living there as I went to school in Lahore symbolised the spirit of the city. Kite flying championships in the winter, competitive games of cricket, marbles, latoo and so on. Cotton candy, garam anday, street performers, toffees from phaa jee’s shop, 10 paisa rent a tricycle, kata kat, dahi kulcha breakfast, neighborhood kids named Puppa, Mahayaan, Gudu and Faisy along with all the exuberance of life that makes Lahore, Lahore happened in the shadow of Jain Mandir. Jain Mandir may have been caste and religiously segregated one in pre-partition days but not class. My uncle who was a man of considerable financial and social standing lived in the same compound as a Tanga driver across from his door step, who lived next to a government clerk who lived across from the neighborhood janitor. People visited each other regardless of class and participated in times of happiness and sorrow. It was also a time when my conservative uncle in response to pleadings that he should buy a car, would respond, “In Jain Mandir, if I were to park a flashy car in the Mohallah, what will people say? Of course contemporaneously, such thinking about not embarrassing your neighbours with show of wealth that they cannot access is — well, absurd. The whole point of wealth and piety, is to have people know that you have it, even if you don’t. And that’s where the Sharifs come into the picture. On 7th December 1992 when a mob used a Lahore Development Authority (LDA) bulldozer to raze Jain Mandir, Shahbaz Sharif was Chief Minister and Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister. The act of vandalism had the imprints of the Punjab government’s complicity all over it On 7th December 1992 when a mob used a Lahore Development Authority (LDA) bulldozer to raze Jain Mandir, Shahbaz Sharif was Chief Minister and Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister. The act of vandalism had the imprints of the Punjab government’s complicity all over it. And then when against the stay order of the high court, the Punjab government removed even the remains of the collapsed structure from its site, along with the entire surrounding neighborhood in 2016, it did so in the name of progress in the form of a mass transit project. An entire community and life that had existed for a good part of two centuries came to an end. There were muted protests by the environmental lobby — their attention was on monumental sites like the General Post Office, Shalimar Bagh or Chauburji. The living breathing neighborhoods housing the rikshah wallas, butchers, and street vendors didn’t resonate with their sensibilities. Financial corruption to my mind is a much lesser crime than intellectual corruption. But with the neo-liberalisation and monetisation of the society’s sensibilities, things like heritage, culture, and more importantly the poor’s right to the city become fatuous. Sharif’s represent that turn in the society’s sensibility and no wonder they are so popular in their hometown — the biggest victim of their destructive development. Commentators worry about their possibly, ill gotten wealth that makes the tacky ugliness of Jati Umra possible. But what they deserve to be impeached for is the intellectual corruption of poor taste, blindness to history, and corruption of political and public life, towards the exclusion of the weak, the non-Muslim and the non-Punjabi. But no one, least of all Imran Khan or the deep state would ever talk about that. Mostly because they are even worse. The writer is a reader in Politics and Environment at the Department of Geography, King’s College, London. His research includes water resources, hazards and development geography. He also publishes and teaches on critical geographies of violence and terror Published in Daily Times, July 28th , 2017.