Monday, March 28, 2011


By Rabia Ahmed | Published: March 29, 2011

The twenty one gun salute on the 23rd of March woke me to panicked fears of a bombing, the first thing one thinks of in these parts. This was immediately followed by a (fleeting) concern for the local muezzin’s throat. He does not normally sound as drastic, but who knows. It was not until the explosions went on to four and beyond that I remembered it was Pakistan Day. So belated (and relieved) greetings, motherland! I’m glad you made it thus far, even though pretty much on all fours.

It isn’t often that the nation gets to celebrate anything, so Pakistan’s winning streak in the World Cup loosened a few dammed emotions. So much so that if I were Afridi or a member of his World Cup squad, I would be rather on edge which would not all be the fault of the upcoming matches. It is daunting to be the repository of the hopes and yearnings of a sullied nation, to be the donkey on which is to be pinned a glittering tail, with about as much chance of being on target.

Although they are not, sports ought to be far removed from religion and politics, the two cankers in our soul. Even so, it is a refreshing change to witness the people of this country enthralled by something as harmless as a bat and ball.

No, sport has not managed to stay clear of religion or politics. Imran Khan, our erstwhile cricket hero, is of course mired in both, and had my support which wavered somewhat when he decided to lead rallies against the release of Raymond Davis. Were there no other issues worth his time? Of course, he’s also protesting the Drone attacks, and there of course is a real issue, and a tough one.

Mr Khan also managed a bit of the right stuff by pinching a bobby’s helmet, which redeems him. One approves of such behaviour, but hopes that he restricts himself to pinching helmets and stays clear of other largesse that normally comes the way of politicians. That’s definitely not cricket, and Mr Khan sporting as they come, and the PTI promise to figure a bit more in the results of future elections, and amen to that.
And then of course, there’s been Earth Day. It’s really quite hilarious that Earth Day, marked by switching lights off around the world to show support for environmental causes, includes Pakistan; given the load shedding in this country, we could be said to be showing unending support to the cause. In fact, shh! don’t tell anyone, but we probably had to find some power first, so we could then switch it off to show our support for using it carefully.

Pakistan is as environmentally unconscious as they come in fact comatose would be a better description. Regarding water pollution in our environment, a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature, Pakistan (WWF – Pakistan) says that about half our municipal sewage goes into our water bodies. According to National Conservation Strategy (NCS) around 40% of deaths in Pakistan are related to water borne diseases.

And we were blaming those terrorists.

The WWF report goes on to say that this pollution is made worse by untreated industrial waste.
The polluted river Ravi
It says that in Pakistan, lines for drinking water and sewage drains are laid side by side in the streets. Poor connections and pipe erosion lead to leakage, causing the two fluids to mix and permeate the deeper levels of the soil. It is from these deeper levels that we collect ground water which has already been contaminated by every kind of poison, including lead, cyanide, and other industrial and hospital waste. The Ravi today, is nothing but a large open sewer, the report says.

Load shedding, terrorism and drone attacks notwithstanding, Mr Zardari delivered a positive speech to the Parliament on the 22nd that managed to Ra-Ra the PPP while bestowing a few strands from the donkey’s tail onto others. He reminded us (again) at the outset, lest we forget and expect something from his government, that it inherited a country in poor shape. The usual vows, the usual promises, and he carried on to make all the right noises, heaping tributes on Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, and ending with the obligatory reference to Benazir Bhutto, another quick reminder in case we wondered how we came to have him for Head of State at all.

Jinnah said, ‘Think a hundred times before you take a decision. But once that decision is taken, stand by it as one man’.

So let’s hope we can stand by what is now Pakistan, come who may, for better or for worse, regardless of World Cup results.


This news was published in print paper. To access the complete paper of this day. click here

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