Last week, after the long weekend break because of Pakistan Day falling on a Friday, the country seems to have erupted in protests. It is kind of ironic that just after the government had rewarded some of its own ministers and bureaucrats with the highest awards of service, the protestors are creating an unpleasant ruckus reminding everyone that the people and those in power are not on the same page. The ruckus is also about power or the shortage thereof to be exact. The deafening noises coming from the streets of Pakistan indicate that immediate issues are not Salalah, memogate, Nato or Obama. The most immediate issue is the right to survive with dignity with basic necessities taken care of by the state. There is a kohraam in all the provinces with people protesting about one thing or another. The ease with which entire cities and nizaam-e-zindagi (the same one questioned about recently in the exam paper of class 9!) are made to come to a grinding halt every now and then shows all the simmering unrest and unhappiness lurking just below the surface.
One of the most important factors in our not being able to cope with our problems is the out of control population issue. The recent statistics have revealed a shocking increase in the population numbers that have jumped up by a whole 47 percent since 1998. It is an area that requires a focused and collaborative effort with funding ensured because if it is ignored, the consequences are too horrific to imagine. Already, there are too many unemployed, uneducated young people who take the law into their own hands, with no guilt attached, at sighting the first opportunity.
We are almost, with our present 180 million and sixth most populous country in the world status, bursting at the seams. This is an issue over which everyone should be losing sleep. Because unless our numbers remain manageable, nothing else can be and that holds equally true for population as well as our financial management. And no amount of being a nuclear country is going to help us either. Until our precious funds are diverted henceforth to improving the lives of common citizens, instead of stocking up on military arsenal, because we have more important wars to fight inside the country.
The issue of increasing population, somehow, does not seem to be anybody’s priority. It is treated in much the same shabby way that the lady health workers were treated in Islamabad recently where they were, you guessed it, protesting. The lady health workers are tasked with, among other things, imparting the basics of family planning to married women in their areas. But in keeping with the respect that we keep for our most important areas, they were lathi-charged instead. They wanted to proceed to Parliament building to protest about not having been paid their salaries for a period of time. With the kind of attention we are paying to population control, there will come a time in the not too distant future when no amount of lathi-charging will be able to stop the advancement of the dispossessed. It is an issue which must be prioritised by our political leadership with their policies clearly indicating the concrete steps they will take to arrest the increase.
Among the many things that were busy spiralling out of control in the last week was included the dreaded pollen count in Islamabad. Even though the capital city is at its picturesque best in the month of March, the bulk of its citizens cannot enjoy being outdoors in the glorious weather because of pollen allergy caused by the awful mulberry trees. Somehow, this too is an issue that has not been able to be dealt with by the city administration. The pollen allergy, which has bequeathed the illness of Asthma to many, has only increased over the years, giving many an allergy specialist enough earnings in this one month to last a whole year. Those who suffer from it really do and some extreme cases have to leave the city altogether until the season subsides.
Postscript: It was wonderful to hear of Pakistani movie Bol winning three awards in the Asian Film Festival held in London, as well as an award for the best composition in music sung by Rahat Fateh Ali for one of our own films. Our music, drama and performing arts make a mark whenever given an opportunity. Films too, as Bol has proven, can come up to expectations and be recognised for excellence. It is interesting to note how we, on this side of the border have grown in indigenous music and remarkable play production for television like the recent Humsafar directed so brilliantly and the current Durre Shahwar treated equally brilliantly, while the Indians have developed their film industry so well. There is one thing, which remains completely shrouded in mystery however. That is the criteria against which Meera, our film star, was chosen for a pride of performance award at the presidency. Nothing that Meera has done in her history of having been in showbiz warrants this recognition. Just as some of the serving generals must have squirmed at being decorated by their Supreme Commander, we the ordinary public also mused wondrously on Meera’s selection. Some mysteries are just not meant to be solved.
The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.