There are some sensitive topics in life that we choose to ignore, but they remain part of our social fabric and eventually become a daunting reality from which we cannot run away.

One such topic pertains to the rights of the minorities in Pakistan. In her debut novel The Parking Lot, Lahore-based writer, journalist and blogger Rabia Ahmed delves into the cruel realities of the darkness enveloping the lives of those represented by the white in our country's flag.

The plot revolves around the Christian community living in Yusufabad, a run-down section of Lahore choked with small, decrepit houses, narrow lanes and lines upon lines of jumbled wiring entangled with plastic bags. A construction firm, the Salatin Group, plans to build a glittering shopping mall in the vicinity. The government has allowed the property developers to take over land granted to the church and the neighbourhood of Yusufabad itself will be razed to make a capacious parking lot for the mall's visitors.

The people are understandably thrown into a panic at the thought of losing their homes. To ease their takeover, the developers assure the residents that they will be duly resettled elsewhere, but how can one take them at their word? Operating out of the Middle East, the Salatin Group doesn't have the cleanest of records and, when earlier building a luxury hotel in Islamabad, it was sued for encroaching upon land belonging to a local school.

A well-written debut novel casts an eye at the ugly realities of the lives of minorities in Pakistan and the exploitation of religion, but also at class divisions within its society

Against this backdrop, we are introduced to the protagonist, 28-year-old newspaper journalist Hina. With her father deceased, her mother suffering from Alzheimer's, one sister married off and the other about to be, Hina must make some crucial decisions about selling the family home where she has lived all her life. As such, she is sympathetic to the plight of her housemaid Uzma, who lives in Yusufabad. Hina thus decides to investigate the construction scheme and write about the forcible evacuation of the minority community.

Alongside, readers are given a look into Hina's troubled past, courtesy her father. The deceased Jamshed Khan is nothing more than an unpleasant memory, but his controlling presence lingers in the family dynamics. A strict man with very decided views on maintaining appearances, he had decreed that his wife could work only as a volunteer at...

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