Pakistan’s media must be hailed for the information it has given to the unsuspecting, foreign-dwelling Pakistanis regarding the true state of their home country. Expatriates have a very bleak picture of their country of origin due to the constant horrors of rampant crime, target killings, power cuts, inflation and acts of terrorism that are constantly being splashed all over the mainstream media. However, not everyone in Pakistan is a crook or corrupt. Sometimes there are people who allow a glimmer of hope to tentatively shine through the sludge of fraud, corruption, lawlessness and apathy sweeping the country. I am referring to a particular incident which occurred at my parent’s house in Islamabad last week. Although not important on the grand scale of things, it indicates a sign of improvement despite the media-depicted chaos.
Having retired from their jobs abroad, my parents returned to Pakistan to be reunited with their homeland after many years of separation. My father, a retired surgeon, purchased a very impressive car, a new Toyota Corolla, with all the trimmings including the GPS, alloy wheels and so on. His pride could be evinced from the language used to describe the car, calling it “my first zero metre car”. As he was a cautious spender throughout his life, the purchase of a brand new, straight-from-the-factory car, was a monetary indulgence he was not used to. Being well aware of the risks involved in such a purchase, he proceeded to install a tracking device into the car’s engine, the aim being to trace the vehicle in case it was stolen.
It wasn’t long before the shiny exterior of the car attracted the attention of vagabonds who scour the streets of many cities in Pakistan. Once the car was spotted, all it took was a plan and a chance to put it into action. That came early in the morning when my cousin was getting ready to be dropped off to college. The driver decided to unlock the gates but suddenly had an unstoppable call of nature which quickly beckoned him to the toilet. The thieves wasted no time in opening the gates, starting the car, reversing out the house and disappearing, all in the space of a few minutes. No one heard or saw anything. The driver alerted my mother to the car’s disappearance and she told my father who went into a state of panic and confusion. This may seem to be a trivial incident to readers but for someone who was going through it for the first time in his life, it was a big deal.
He immediately called the tracking device company who asked him to confirm his licence plate number. Since he was in such a fragile state, he handed the phone to the driver who managed to give the required details. The car was tracked in the G-8 sector and the engine was shut off (through a remote device used at the tracking centre). The rather astute thieves tried unsuccessfully to disable the tracking device but soon fled the scene when the police arrived. Having recovered the car, my father and cousin arrived at the place where the car had been recovered and were able to identify it. There were about 20 policemen looking in the area surrounding the vehicle for the thieves but they didn’t fine anyone.
Suffice to say, amidst all the confusion and drama, I felt an overjoyed sense of relief but also pride at the way in which the police had handled the situation. Since they receive such negative media attention for incompetence, corruption and bribed justice, I wanted to make an effort to commend them for the professional manner in which they dealt with the issue. Car theft is so common in Islamabad that I had an honest belief that the car would never be recovered. I didn’t think the police really cared; that was the extent of my belief in their callousness. Surely enough, the car was returned with minor damage done to it and the driver was sacked immediately for leaving the gates unlocked.
As Pakistanis, whether living domestically or internationally, when we see a system that works smoothly then it should at least be applauded, appreciated and improved. And we need to do something about our habit of denigrating everything about our country. Sure, the current political and economic climate can foster such sentiment, but we should aim to improve our country by first having a positive outlook. Those working as security guards in the private sector, or as police constables put their lives on the line and most of us do not realise this. What we tend to do is that we generalise, that if some police constables are corrupt, we argue that the whole force is good for nothing.
Kudos also to the soldiers, as well as the police and personnel of other law-enforcement agencies, who risk their lives every day to fight the enemy within Pakistan’s borders. Many of them die in terrorist attacks and become mere statistics in newspapers and most Pakistanis don’t even acknowledge their sacrifice.
I know I will be told that I am naïve and idealistic, but as someone who has lived all her life overseas, and a comfortable one at that, I would say to all my fellow expats that if they had to return to their country of origin, perhaps because they felt unwanted in their host nation or couldn’t find a job, then they will have to make do with Pakistan. And yes, it has its corruption and its people who harbour extremist views, but after all it is their land.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2011.