Why do we have an obsession with records? First, it was a fixation with Asia. Orangi Town was claimed to be the biggest slum in Asia. Karachi Airport had the best night-landing facilities in Asia. Mirpurkhas Station had the longest platform in Asia. Pattoki has the biggest flower market in Asia, while Chiniot was Asia’s largest handmade-furniture market. The list, quite random at best, continues to evolve. We don’t let facts come in the way. Peshawar does not want to be left behind. It is claimed that the Dean’s Shopping Center is the biggest shopping mall in Asia.
Then we have also laid claim to South Asia. Lahore has the longest flyover in South Asia at Muslim Town, claims Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Apparently, Karachi has the longest bridge in South Asia that connects Sharae Faisal to Korangi, as claimed by former Karachi nazim Mustafa Kamal. Peshawar is also the oldest claimed living city of South Asia. So we continue.
Faisal Mosque lays claim to being the largest mosque in the world. Tarbela is the world’s largest dam. In hockey, an 11-member Pakistani team claimed recently a world mark of 43 passes in one minute. That’s not all. The farthest dribbling of a hockey ball was completed by the same team. They all carried the ball to a distance of 979.2 metres by dribbling, whereas the previous record was set at 600 metres.
We do still have some records in sports. But the new ones seem to defy logic. Then there are the almost laughable claims. Shikarpur was once referred to as the ‘Paris of Asia’. The fact that Lahore, Shanghai and Manila also make that claim does not deter us. The road from Mirpurkhas to Umerkot is the straightest road ever. Murree is claimed to be the Queen of the Hills. The same is claimed by Shimla and Mussoorie, both hill stations in India. In my opinion, Murree should claim to be the most poorly planned and maintained hill station in the region.
Now we have the obsession to set new records. We have laid claim to the largest man-made flag this week. In 2009, we laid claim to a world record for tree planting when 300 volunteers planted 541,176 young mangrove trees in the Keti Bunder area. Most of those trees are now dead. In between, we have had the largest kurta, T-shirt and cricket bat.
The bizarre continues. Mohammad Rashid of Karachi claimed a world record by opening 40 bottle caps with his head in one minute. Mohammad Salim Amin clinched the largest sequins mosaic record by creating a picture of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, measuring 6.2 square metres and using 325,000 sequins.
In the most number of continuous badminton passes in one minute, Mohammad Wajid and Atique completed 123 continuous passes. As a country, badminton does not even feature in our national sports.
Mohammad Rashid claimed a world record by kicking 50 coconuts down from the heads of people standing in a row. A surgeon at the Capital Hospital, Islamabad claimed a world record for removing a 25.5cm-long gall bladder through a one-cm incision. It seems now we are world beaters. We are, but in another sense.
Two random records that tend to worry. The country with the largest refugee population in the world is Pakistan, which hosts an estimated 1.7 million refugees. Many of these refugees are from Afghanistan, the country that produces the greatest number of refugees, an estimated 2.7 million people. It is a high cost we have paid and continue to do so.
Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Peshawar the world’s largest reservoir of endemic polio and called for urgent action to boost vaccination.
Almost every polio case in 2013 in Pakistan — one of only three countries where the crippling disease remains endemic — could be linked genetically to strains of the virus circulating in Peshawar, said the WHO.
Possibly, we need to work at improving the lives of the common people and leave this obsession with records. Our social indicators continue to deteriorate. There was once a claim that we were the most corrupt country in the world. While that claim was unsubstantiated, one wonders whether we are putting our efforts in the wrong areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2014.
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