A Question of Priorities

For as long as one can remember, Zafar Ali Road in Lahore has been a stench-laden stretch of tarmac with an open sewer meandering through the heart of one of the poshest areas of Lahore. Successive administrations over the years have managed to ignore this glaring filth-ridden river, and none have tried to improve the situation. The ‘high and mighty’ continue to enjoy the privileges in Lahore Gymkhana having become accustomed to the wafts from the famous open drain (Zafar Ali Road Nullah). The fact is that this was actually meant to be a rain drain for Lahore, that has been turned into a cesspool of stink and sickness. It is reflective of the rest of the country, where we continue to apparently enjoy life on the periphery built around a core of a decaying edifice.

In a similar vein, recently bright, shiny street lights were installed all along a prominent Road in Lahore Cantonment, inhabited by the high and mighty. The traffic lights, on both ends of this short stretch of now brightly lit road never work and there is mayhem as people try to force their way across these major crossings, cheating death by inches. Almost 500 yards away from this brightly lit street there a stretch of open drain, which has become the destination of choice for raw sewage, as opposed to rain water. A veritable breeding ground for disease and sickness in the heart of Lahore Cantonment.

The abject lack of disinterest in instituting reforms and performing their mandatory tasks, within organisations such as LDA, WASA, LCB and others, is symptomatic of a wider malaise inflicting our society. There is no desire for improvement if there is no self-interest and a source for self-gratification. The people within these organisations work not for the tax payers who are paying hefty amounts in residential taxes and surcharges every year, but rather their objective is appeasing those in power and tormenting those with genuine grievances.

Garbage strewn around streets is another common sight, and there is hardly any effort to manage this situation. It is sadly comical when on the regular Dengue-related visit by the LCB minions, one is told to empty the small bird baths in the lawn for it poses great danger to humanity as a potential breeding ground for deadly mosquitoes, while hardly a stone’s throw away the cesspool of disease and infection meanders through the locality, to which they are absolutely oblivious.

In the Gulberg area there has been a mushroom growth of high rise apartment blocks. These are being hooked up to the existing sewerage system, which is incapable of handling the volume that is going to be pumped in, by the hundreds of new residents in their shiny expensive mansions. There is already a water shortage that is likely to get worse in the very near future. Yet there is hardly any effort to build the infrastructure to support this building onslaught.

The priorities are skewed, if at all there are any priorities for improvement. This is what ails our country. Misguided projects, ill-conceived plans, lack of vision, and feigning ignorance. In every facet there is decadence and decay borne of neglect, spurred by personal greed and an inherent desire for personal gain at the cost of the society. Successive governments have failed to bring about meaningful improvement within the social sectors and we are now faced with a population crisis and a crumbling infrastructure that is incapable of supporting the horde of people being added every year.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan has taken note of the issues facing the people. He is making personal efforts to bring about some improvement in the social sectors. These are credible steps that are creating some ripples within the society. What is required is for the people to take note and come out with their grievances, rather than pretending all is well in the land of the pure and the pious. Unless the people realize the power that they hold, things will never improve and we will continue to be surrounded by cesspools of filth, lit up by bright lights.