Cities can act as engines of economic growth in a country- provided their urban planning is smart enough to intelligently respond to various economic, social, spatial, political, cultural and environmental challenges in a holistic manner. Some analysts have recently argued that the vertical expansion of Lahore is in the offing in terms of increasing high rise buildings and the introduction of ‘flat culture’. Most of such observations have been made by different real estate dealers who are predominantly interested in expanding their businesses rather than seriously looking into the practical urban problems of Lahore. Some analysts have noted that the Lahore Master Plan 2040 also intends to encourage vertical development of the city. There is no denying the fact that compact living is quite successful in many parts of the world and is contributing positively towards economic growth. However, the success of the compact living culture depends on the local and contextual issues and challenges faced by various cities of the world. This suggests that if ‘flat culture’ is successful in a coastal city like Karachi, it does not mean that it will surely witness similar success trends in a landlocked city like Lahore owing to multiple urban externalities. For example, Karachi has a moderate temperature throughout the year while Lahore experiences sizzling summers with desiccating impacts.As of today, the expansion of Lahore is truly hyperbolic in its geometry bulging further out towards the South. Before expecting success from the vertical expansion of Lahore, such as introduction of flat culture and construction of new high rise buildings, it is necessary to deeply understand the power and conflict factors that have transformed Lahore’s traditional circular expansion into an elongated oval one. In line with Judith Innes and Judith Gruber’s 2005 paper “Planning styles in conflict”, published in Journal of the American Planning Association, these power and conflict dynamics are determined by two broad factors: ‘diversity of interests’ and ‘interdependence of interests’. Based on these two factors, four styles of urban planning have been suggested: the technical/bureaucratic style, the political influence style, the social movement style, and the collaborative style. The technical/bureaucratic style witnesses low levels of ‘diversity of interests’ and ‘interdependence of interests’. This style of planning is generally ‘convincing’. The political influence style experiences high diversity of interests cobbled with low interdependence of interests. This style can be better termed as ‘co-opting’. The social movement style sees low level of ‘diversity of interests’ along with high level of ‘interdependence of interests’. This kind of style can be captioned as ‘converting’. The collaborative style witnesses high levels of ‘diversity of interests’ and ‘interdependence of interests’. It may therefore be termed as ‘co-evolving’. There is no denying the fact that compact living is quite successful in many parts of the world and is contributing positively towards economic growth. However, the success of the compact living culture depends on the local and contextual issues and challenges faced by various cities of the worldIn this theoretical backdrop, in my opinion, the transformation of Lahore’s circular growth into a hyperbolic one is largely a result of the technical/bureaucratic style of planning characterized by low levels of both diversity and interdependence of interests thus enervating the powerless. In this regard, it may be noted that the Defense Housing Authority (DHA) and Bahria Town are the two giant stakeholders in the South with high levels of investment interests. Many other housing societies are also developing their projects in the South. This sort of amalgamation makes a kind of coalition among the housing societies, led by the DHA and Bahria Town, with limited diversity and interdependence of interests. In this scenario, the technical reasoning behind the expansion of Lahore towards the Southern side is too deterministic in its approach justifying the plans of the giant housing societies and their misanthropic expansions. The recent judicial activism of the Supreme Court against some of the projects of Bahria Town reflects the nature of conflict based on lower levels of diversity and interdependence of interests. However, no such tangible activism has so far been witnessed against the DHA.A big majority of the elites in Punjab have landholdings in Southern Lahore. Several prominent politicians, judges, senior military officials, bureaucrats, technocrats and journalists live on the Southern side of Lahore. It makes the Southern Lahore a power hub that acts as a magnet attracting major chunk of Punjab’s resources towards itself thus deriding the powerless. The expansion and bulging out of Lahore’s major roads, such as Lahore Ring Road, towards the South reflects how powerful segments of the society are grabbing the national resources to protect their interests. This coalition does not like dissonance of interests among stakeholders living on the Southern side. It also does not like the high level of interdependence of their short term and long term interests. In this perspective, the North-South expansion of Lahore is inevitable. Furthermore, Lahore does not have much choice. On the Eastern side, it is bounded by India. On the Western side, it is either too rural or have frontiers with other small cities. On the Northern side, the River Ravi marks a kind of informal boundary thus making the Southern side as the most feasible one for expansion. The coalition of housing societies in the South, with lower levels of diversity and interdependence of interests, has gradually inculcated a sense of insecurity among the people of Lahore in terms of landholdings. The mushroom growth of housing societies in the South has a psychological impact on the people of Lahore who treat landholding as a crucial factor for the security of their future. This suggests that people of Lahore have experienced the technical/bureaucratic style of planning in which all the plans and strategies are ‘convincing’ as they enjoy the support of the powerful segments of the stakeholders. Because of lower levels of diversity and interdependence of interests, the conflict between the powerful and the powerless segments of the city can’t, apparently, be seen. However, the people of Lahore have a deep sense of insecurity regarding the ownership of a piece of land for their better future. This is a deep divide among the masses of Lahore created by power and conflict through which the city continues to expand towards the South. In this scenario, it may be malleable to build high rise buildings offering flats to the urban dwellers. However, it would be very hard to bring a sense of security among the people who treat landholding as the only panacea for their survival. Furthermore, the development of housing societies in the South has created a culture of private living, as a symbol of ostentation, with no sharing of facilities with neighbors. On the contrary, buying a flat in a building would mean a complete reversal of their dreams because now they have to share several facilities with the neighboring flat dwellers. Unless people are mentally prepared to accept the living style offered by the flat culture, compact living in Lahore may not witness a sweeping success. It is because, the entire planning and expansion of the city has predominantly been done by the powerful strata of society who never liked sharing household facilities with others. The same mindset has penetrated deep into the minds of the people of Lahore who treat landholding as the best outcome of their investments. In this perspective, the introduction of compact living in Lahore may not witness success unless the ongoing technical/bureaucratic planning style, prevaricating the urban challenges, is replaced with the collaborative one.The writer is Additional Commissioner, FBR, holding PhD in Economic Planning from Massey University, New Zealand Published in Daily Times, January 29th 2019.