Teri ik nigah per nisar hai…….”
That is a very special song, sung so beautifully by Naheed Niazi many years ago, which many of us can recall with great nostalgia. My friend Sufia Shahid had an informal musical evening at her house the other day - the sort that enables all amateur singers to indulge their passion and the under confident to sing along in chorus - and she sang this especially prepared number. The words are about how a woman yearns for her beloved to treat her with the same adored longing that he did at the beginning of their romance. While the fact remains that men are hunters by nature and generally tend to move on after their conquests, it is women, again by nature, who can never have enough of tender, loving care. Alas! That is the catch 22 or manufacturing defect in the male and female species and those who can replace fiery romance with a stable, warm and fulfilling relationship should know that they have a good thing going.
Anyhow, this is not why I chose this caption for my column this week. It seemed as appropriate as a cry from people who all the politicians are wooing no end, with words at least, as they will be returning to them to ask for votes soon enough! (The politicians, though, have no qualms in repeatedly saying how beautiful the people are and how they long to do good by them, without meaning it and mostly insincerely.)
It is also a heart wrenching cry from the people of Kahoon Valley in District Chakwal, where NOC’s have been granted to build cement factories that can produce up to 30,000 tons of cement on a daily basis to export to Afghanistan and wherever. The NOC’s were granted in the tenure of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi. (I also recall the monstrous plan of building a modern city in the Murree Hills that, mercifully, did not come to pass.) Apart from drying up all the water sources, these cement factories cause unhealthy pollution and will create an environment emergency in the future by upsetting the natural soil balance required by the nearby Salt Mines. It is a cry from the trees that are chopped down mercilessly at every road widening, and a cry from the green fields that choke with monstrous plastic bags. The beautiful country that we inherited is virtually a litter dump, with no one really caring.
As one issue after another is hotly debated in Parliament and the media, nobody ever bothers about what is happening to our heritage and our environment. There is no concept of restoration work to our historic sites like forts and temples remaining as close to original work as possible. The one exception to this being the Aga Khan whose people restore forts or buildings by even creating instruments that are not made any more to remain as true to the original work as possible. Monstrous, ugly marble tiles have been placed in the ancient temple complex of Katassaraj and all other places which have needed restoration.
There are so many lost civilisations that have their rich imprints here, but nobody seems to understand or fathom the meaning of preservation because restoration is all about new, cheap and current materials. One pines for places like the Mall of Murree, as it used to be with its exclusive feel and good restaurants playing great live music. Many good things that we inherited from the British at partition like the hills of Murree and a sound railway system have been dealt severe blows at our very own hands. It is as if we enjoy creating litter dumps in the most beautiful of places.
The longing with which we asked for a country does not match the passion with which we are destroying it. The only positive outcome that our few and far between hues and cries beget is that an occasional suo moto notice is taken by the highest courts and sometimes, as we hope in the citizens’ case of Kahoon Valley, destruction is ordered to halt and the silent cry of nature is heeded to.
Postscript: The Prime Minister has told the bulk of us, in no uncertain terms, that if we don’t like it here in Pakistan, we can just lump it and leave. It was the strangest of replies given to an interviewing woman journalist during his recent trip to England. She was quoting statistics on the percentage of Pakistani population, who would like to live elsewhere if they could. It was a strange interview by all accounts. The journalist had the gall to ask our Prime Minister to look her straight in the eye and then answer her question. It was rude and insulting, to say the least! The Prime Minister smiled and replied that there was nobody stopping the unhappy population from leaving. And then, justifying his replies on returning home, he said that the journalist had called Pakistan a failed state - which she had not! Saying things in an impromptu, humorous manner is not a strong point with our Prime Minister, it is abundantly clear. If he were to continue for another term, heaven forbid, I would definitely recommend learning the art of one-liners from Azizi or Omar Sharif. Prime Minister Gilani was not really unnerved by the spate of protests that he encountered during his trip. He would have gotten a little fazed out though, I am sure, if PTI Chairman Imran had decided to lead a protest rally to the airport to receive the PM on his return. It is common knowledge in the inner circles of Islamabad that the PPP is quite apprehensive about Imran and his party’s continuing foothold on people’s imagination. The twin cities prepare to participate in another show of strength by the PTI on May 27 at Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi. The weather is turning from warm to sizzling hot on all ends.
The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.