I Give Up
Asr uss to zara nahi hoota
Raanj rahat fizza nahi hoota
They remain utterly indifferent
So to what end my suffering?
Thus spake the great Urdu poet Ghalib, and thus writes this humble chronicler of complaints.
I wrote my first article, “The Sea, and the Sea of Garbage”, in 2012. It was prompted by a pile of garbage right next to myapartment building in Karachi. In the following seven years, I wrote a number of other articles on the serious issue of garbage disposal in Karachi; some satirical, and some offering serious analysis and suggestions for improvement. All were published in leading English language publications. Of course, I was not the lone crusader for this cause. Many others were equally appalled by the state of cleanliness of the City of Quaid and were writing regularly about it. Reports of promises of the Sind Government appeared equally regularly. Even the Supreme Court got involved in this fiasco. The result? Zero, nothing, nada! Recently, the Supreme Court gave its verdict that the whole city had turned into a giant garbage heap.
Garbage was not my only favorite topic. There were problems wherever I looked. When I got upset, I hammered out some satire or an angry rant, while in a moment of hope I did thorough research, combined it with my personal experience as an engineer of long standing, and wrote a detailed story. For example, I had direct knowledge of the issues involved in the planned copper and gold project in Baluchistan, known as Rekodiq. I wrote an article about it in 2015. I had suggested that Pakistan should respect the terms of the contract with the international company, Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) who had carried out the feasibility study, and grant them the mining license. As it is well known, TCCs contract was cancelled. They have sued and won a multi-billion dollar claim against the government of Pakistan. Again a number of other sensible analysts were writing the same thing but to no effect.
Another case of the government showing total indifference to the sensible opinions appearing in the press is the fraudulent goal gasification project in Sind, led by the equally fraudulent Dr Samar Mubarakmand. Despite warnings by engineers like me and some others, work continued for years on this totally unfeasible technology. It was only in December 2018, after sinking Rs. 4.9 billion into the project, that the government fired the good Doctor and NAB filed a case against him.
Suggestions on social issues like population explosion (the government does not even talk about it now), Karachi Transport (KCR still dead in its track after more than a decade), declining educational standards, water management (this one got a response in the form of the quixotic crowd-funding for the Bhasha Dam, prompting more articles!), went completely unheeded.
I also wrote a whole slew of articles that I now cynically call “feeling aggrieved” type. Such articles would follow bomb blasts, murders, rapes, honor killings etc. etc.
There was no dearth of material for articles on such subjects but these were always painful to write. And what was the result? More gang rapes and more ineffectual Joint Investigation Teams, more killings in the name of religion and more judicial commissions, and so the story went.
Currently, the hot topics are the antics of NAB, the battered economy, a clueless government, the merry go round of ministers being fired and hired, PTI’s failure to deliver anything – leave alone a full baby – after nine months in power, and other such cheerful topics. Soon, Pakistan’s performance in the cricket world cup will be added to this list of debacles. A huge amount of analysis will be done and myriad articles will be written, but all the words, ink, and paper will be wasted.
No doubt, the one who said that a pen is mightier than a sword had no clue how things work in Pakistan.
This is my first article in nearly two months. I am convinced that the answers to the woes we face lie not in writing about them, but in taking that wise man Shakespeare’s advice in the literal sense, “….. take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.”
The writer is an engineer by training and a social scientist by inclination.