For those that interact with foreigners a frequent source of conversation is the cleanliness of Pakistan — or the lack of it. Some parts of the country are notably spick-and-span with Hunza standing above all else. Other places are open sores in almost every sense of the word. Karachi is high on the list of the world’s filthiest cities and is a national disgrace considering it is the economic hub of the country. Until recently Multan was a foetid rubbish heap. In South Punjab, Bahawalpur has long had a reputation for keeping its face clean and Islamabad with some notable exceptions is presentable. From time to time there are announcements of clean-up operations that quickly seem to fade, and the national habit of throwing solid and liquid waste anywhere and everywhere continues unabated.
Latest to join the fray is the Home Department which on the orders of the Supreme Court-appointed judicial commission on water and sanitation has imposed a ban on the dumping of household, industrial, commercial or hospital waste in open or residential areas. Whilst we have no difficulty with the ban it does pre-suppose that there are solid and liquid waste management systems in place and working that may be used for their designated purpose. Mostly, that is not the case.
Cleaning up the physical image of Pakistan with its obvious benefits is not impossible. If some towns and cities can do it then why not others? The answer probably lies in political will or the lack of it. A change in the national mindset is also necessary, our throwaway habits need to change and that can start in the schools at the earliest of ages. Cleanliness and social responsibility go hand in hand. It is not religiously or culturally sensitive and will resonate down the generations. A cleaner Pakistan is good for all of us — go to it!
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2018.
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