Sweet and sour

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After a very long time I managed to spend ten days continuously in Pakistan, visiting Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. It felt really good for the most. There is such a mixture of thoughts and feelings prevalent. Most of them negative, unfortunately. Its confusing to say the least. But what has me smiling is that I saw the side of Pakistan that I grew up with thriving, albeit a little dangerously.

My penchant for and commitments to dogs, especially German Shepherds, had me flying to Lahore to judge before flying off to Dubai for a day and then to Islamabad to preside over the national championships there. Ill tell you one thing: the shows were fantastic barometers of Pakistans liberal society. And dont say they are only a handful, because that is how the extremists delude themselves.

Lahores show on the beautifully manicured grounds of the Royal Palm drew the gentry in large numbers and was a huge difference from the random, characterless grounds that have been made available for the past decade. It was wonderful to see families and dog fanciers milling with dog owners and breeders. The national championship in Islamabad with the top dogs in the country being judged by an expert from Germany at the Marghuzar cricket ground again had a packed audience and awesome atmosphere, belying the fact that only a few days earlier Islamabad was rocked by an unforgivable assassination or that it is under the continuous threat of bombings.

Add to this the constantly growing repertoire of new restaurants and purveyors of gourmet food in this country that add not only a fabulous taste to the palette but also provide a fabulous atmosphere. Today we can boast of producing food comparable to the best of the east and the west barring the Michelin top stars. It was a great experience to see foreigners and Pakistanis mingling in Islamabad, dining and having a ball at a great place in the enclave. Art galleries are mushrooming across the country. This place rocks, all we need to do is put everything into proper perspective and have the moral courage to do what is needed.

I sense a nascent energy, just waiting to be released. The trouble is weve stopped talking about the good things that are happening, unlikely, as they may seem. How many of us have taken cognizance that the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee is the leader of the opposition in parliament?

The revenue flow in the rural economy has increased considerably owing to higher commodity prices. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has prevented the economy from taking off. Devastating floods, affecting an area equal to the entire United Kingdom, last year left the country devastated.

Exports are up, never been higher in terms of value and the foreign exchange reserves have reached a high and are rising. Sadly, oil prices are once again going through the roof given the turmoil in the Middle East. But beyond this, I sincerely believe Pakistan is held back mainly by the threat controlling the freedom of expression and action.

The fears of rampant terror against your own people and country by treacherous extremists have hit the country very hard. Can you imagine, we are sitting right bang in the middle of the geographical theatre hosting the cricket world cup and this cricket mad country is being denied the right to experience the thrills of the competition in our own country and billions of rupees in revenue are lost at a time when the country needs it most.

Recent articles have commented on the judiciarys inability to successfully prosecute extremists. The poor quality of prosecutors has been blamed. This has undoubtedly emboldened the perpetrators of terror. To the extent that Shahbaz Bhatti was mercilessly gunned down following the heinous murder of Salmaan Taseer. These murders are openly claimed by organisations. Its tragic we hardly hear about the investigations of these murders whereas the Davis case is a media buzz.

The apex court has instituted suo moto proceedings in so many instances, but why nothing against these extremist organisations? What could be more specific to public interest litigation? TTP and Jamaat-ud-Dawa have disturbed the peace of the common man, the country and disrupted the economy. One can only urge serious action against them.

The sourest aspect is we, as a people, have been forced to submit to the thought that Pakistan will continue to reel and rove. Previously just the young, generously empowered without the sacrifice talked of this. Now even those involved in the creation, a dying breed, have surrendered. They urge the young ones to move out. And this, unfortunately, is just as it has become well nigh impossible for Pakistanis to get a job overseas.

While we relish the sweet, its time the people-protective institutions take stock of the sour. Pakistan wants to live.

The writer can be contacted at [email protected]