Deeply unfashionable it may be, especially for a columnist prone to tearing lumps off the establishment at the drop of an allegation of (yet more) corruption, but — and I whisper this softly — things might just be on the up. Shock-horror! Surely not! Getting better? Never! Well yes they are, these hard to define ‘things’ that we all talk about. It all started as a friend and I drove away from a visit to a new bakery in Islamabad that was packed with people paying big money for loaves of admittedly very nice bread.
As we threaded our way through the eternally dug up streets of the capital we ruminated on the ‘something’s happening’ theme. The fewer bombings. Quite a lot fewer. The fact the upcoming wedding of my niece included items such as the washing machine my wife and I are gifting her on her nuptials. She is marrying into the army and had a wedding list that would not have looked unusual in the UK. Then there was that very smart and clearly popular restaurant that had opened in my home city Bahawalpur in the last month. And the fact that a serving government officer had asked me to cast an eye over a tourist guide he had written for, yes… Bahawalpur.
Down at the truly micro end there is instant coffee. Made in Pakistan — well the coffee itself isn’t — but branded and packaged and sold in my local supermarket promoted by a young woman who urged it upon me and yes, just about the most palatable instant coffee I have ever tasted. Period.
Solar power is popping up all over the place, generally to good effect. The solar-powered potable water project in my home village in deepest poverty-stricken south Punjab has cut neo-nate deaths dramatically, says my LHV sister-in-law, who knows a thing or two about dead babies. The people still living in the village are not richer just differently poor, but even they admit to there being a marked improvement in the overall quality of their life compared to five years ago. They eat better for one thing and don’t get sick so often for another.
‘Yes but’ I hear you all cry in unison, listing any number of perfectly sustainable caveats relating to everything from bilateral relations with India to the Panama Papers whatever they are to the umpteen trillion balance of payments deficit. And a raft of other well-documented deficits that get a going over in this and every other newspaper every day of the week. If the government looks like it needs a damn good kicking in the public prints then the chances are that one of the people putting their size-nines into whatever hapless bureaucrat or politico is up for a hammering — is me. I have a cupboard-full of blood-encrusted boots.
All that said and it will get said over and over again — something’s happening. It may run against the tide of negativity internal and external and I may get gibbeted for saying it — but things, those indefinable things, are getting better. Not just for me in my reasonably comfortable middle-class bubble with surplus income to spend on cat food, books and imported condiments for my table — but for just about everybody.
The rich are getting richer and they always will and nothing is going to change that. Poverty is never ever going to be wiped out. Neither disease, though there is a fighting chance that polio will get eradicated in the near future. Beggars are not suddenly going to be transformed into erudite scholars and corruption is a permanent fixture. All that and more — but things are getting better whether we like it or not. And I am certain that there are those reading this who will disagree with me, possibly vehemently so.
This is not a failed state and truth to tell never came close to being one. There needs to be a rebalancing of priorities and yes education is nowhere near sorted and yes a competent foreign minister would be a good idea — but as we drove away from a high-end eatery that was packed to the gunwales and being pelted with disposable income we noted that yes… something’s happening. It is.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2017.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.