In the early 1990s, my uncle Haroon Pirzada Waheed founded Trans-Pakistan Adventure Services. The company took its clients through Pakistan’s ecologically diverse terrain, touring the mountainous northern country, southern deserts, and endangered mangroves near Karachi. Most of Waheed’s clients were foreign tourists. Following 9/11 and the beginning of the war on terror, international security measures and internal threats from the Taliban decimated Pakistan’s tourism industry alongside the rest of the nation’s economy. Military checkpoints littered once idyllic landscapes. In 2005, Trans-Pakistan Adventure Services was forced to close its doors.
Over the same period, Pakistan’s private sector began to claim lands with histories of contested ownership, some disputes dating back to before the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan. With their actions protected by the military, corporations bought and resold plots at exorbitant prices, obtaining vast profits while giving little back to the communities from which they appropriated land.
One of these entities is Bahria Town, which claims to be Asia’s largest real estate developer. Bahria Town owns, develops, and manages properties across Pakistan. Their properties cater to middle- and upper-class populations and are heavily guarded by private security firms. Replicas of Western modernist architecture, like the Eiffel Tower and Trafalgar Square, have been erected in their Lahore development, affording residents exclusive access to the grandeur of worldly wealth and travel without having to stray far from their homes. Bahria Town’s land grabs persist despite countless legal cases against the company, thanks to the Pakistani government’s appreciation for the company’s role in “revitalizing” the economy—even if such revitalization comes at the expense of housing and access to food and goods for its less wealthy citizens.
The following pages imagine a revitalized Trans-Pakistan Adventure Services. They offer a speculative tour of Bahria Town’s developments by way of digital collages and QR codes, making gated properties and elaborate replicas of Western monuments accessible to the poor, displaced, and noncitizen alike.