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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Give me a stick and I will change Pakistan

Imran Jan |

On a beautiful mid-afternoon when the sky was blue and the air was crisp, I had just finished my stroll around the Shalimar Park in Islamabad. As I approached the parking area and got into my car to leave, I noticed that there was a luxury vehicle parked in the wrong spot and blocking all the exiting traffic. Many of us had to leave using the path for incoming traffic. The entire place became one rowdy mess. I asked the police and Rangers on duty how come they never asked the driver of the luxury car not to park in the wrong spot. They were all very polite and apologetic.

One of them said, “kya karein sahib ? Ab woh ayengay aur main kuchh boloonga tau kahengay main ne Amreeka se degree lee hai tum mujhe sikhao gay parking?” (What can I do Sir? Now when the driver of this car will return and if I dare say anything, he/she will give me their resume as to how they have an American degree and so they shouldn’t have to get a lecture on parking from a lowly police on duty.) The guard didn’t probably realize but he told me a very thought provoking thing. He was absolutely right.

Imran Khan’s talk about people’s rights is great. However, he needs to constantly remind people of their responsibilities as well.

We are all law abiding citizens in America, England, and any other country with white people and a good economy. However, here in Pakistan we resort to the most ridiculous and vulgar manners. The good news is that where there is a problem, there is an incentive to find a solution to the problem. The newly elected charismatic leader Imran Khan has always talked about people’s rights and extracting the looted wealth from the rich public office holders.

He auctioned off government luxury vehicles and even the livestock. He himself has decided to live in the military secretary’s three bedroom residence. Last week, he ordered the walls of the official residence of the Governor of Punjab to be demolished. All these are great and unprecedented moves, which testify to his realization that he rules over a poor country that needs to stop squandering the meager treasury by drastically cutting down on useless expenditure.

Read more: Can Imran Khan bring Pakistan in from the diplomatic cold?

Imran Khan’s talk about people’s rights is great. However, he needs to constantly remind people of their responsibilities as well. A great nation is made up of people who are equally cognizant of their responsibilities as their rights. The Shalimar parking incident shows how irresponsible we people are. I do not know of a day when I go driving outside and not see at least 15-20 traffic violations. And I am talking about Islamabad, the so-called educated people’s city. Imagine how things would be in other cities.

If there is a system installed that can observe traffic violations and then mails the penalty ticket to the home address of the car owner and enforcing strict punishment for those who ignore to pay their due, I have no doubt we will start driving on safer roads. I hate to say but we Pakistanis pay more attention where there is a stick more than when there is a carrot. The benefits of this stick approach would be enormous. One, there would be a continuous revenue for the government, much more than selling livestock and cars. That money can be used in training and educating the traffic police before the masses could be expected to become good drivers.

On a beautiful mid-afternoon when the sky was blue and the air was crisp, I had just finished my stroll around the Shalimar Park in Islamabad.

In my personal observation, traffic police don’t pull over a driver who passes you from the left side or when bikers just move like a fish swimming in open seas. I haven’t seen anyone being pulled over for not putting an indicator on before turning. The police on duty probably don’t even know that those are crimes too. Two, people will start behaving like they do when they are abroad. Three, this system helps internalize this concept of doing the right thing. Four, it ensures road safety and can save many precious lives.

Five, many of us wouldn’t come back home with a blood pressure going through the ceiling. Six, the kids wouldn’t learn all the curse words so fast. Seven, and perhaps the most important point, that some of those rare drivers who follow the rules and obey the traffic laws wouldn’t have to go through the agony of being left behind only because of being law abiding citizens. When a huge majority is breaking the law with impunity, the laws abiding ones question their own legal actions and resort to ‘While-in-jungle-do-as-the-animals-do’ strategy.

Read more: Rogue state and the ICC – Imran Jan

A safer road is what citizens would appreciate more than the demolished walls of a governor house. Just days ago, it was announced that custom duty would be imposed on cell phones brought to Pakistan. I am one of those absolutely affected by this new policy because I always come to Pakistan with cell phones and iPads for family members. However, I strongly support this move. People who are bringing smartphones and tablets from abroad aren’t poor and they should gladly pay these charges knowing that it would help Pakistan rather than end up in buying London flats for the Sharifs or fill Swiss accounts for the Zardaris.

Similarly, those driving cars can easily afford to pay the fine for traffic violations. Strict enforcement of this would result in not just safer roads but also a more civilized society. When driving and parking are the least of our worries, there is a lot more positive work we can dedicate our energies to. China is planning to launch in 2020 a social scoring system where individuals are given scores not based on just one factor but a variety of factors including their behavior. People’s “social credit” score can move up and down just like private credit score, based on their behavior.

A similar story was depicted in the Netflix series Black Mirror. While that show has a satirical and grim tone, I believe such a system is one much needed in Pakistan. The Greek philosopher and scientist said, “Give me a place to stand and with a lever, I will move the whole world.” I would plagiarize his idea and confidently say, “Give me danda (stick )and I will change Pakistan.

Imran Jan is a political analyst, he can be reached at imran.jan@gmail.com. The Views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.