Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

The State Fails

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A state fails when its institutions stop functioning. If we go by the non-functioning of most state organs, it seems that Pakistan has indeed failed. Consider the following.

About three years ago, a traffic warden gave a ticket for a traffic violation to a Qingqi rickshaw driver near the Babu Sabu interchange. But before we go on to what transpired, be it known to all that these accursed machines that operate without silencers are manned by drivers who have never taken a driving class, who have absolutely no clue about traffic regulations and, as illiterate yahoos (some as young as eight or nine) have no courtesy either. Worse, none of them, not a single one, has a driver’s license!

After the ticket was awarded, the offending lout climbed up a few metres on a power pylon and threatened to jump off to his death. It is another matter, that the man would not have jumped and even if he did, he would at most have suffered a fracture or two. And that would only have served to teach him a lesson.

Within seconds, ignorant, illiterate and anti-state TV wallahs vying for the ‘breaking news’ slot homed in on this carrying on with several thousand louts having nothing to do with their lives watching the show live. After much carrying on, some senior officers (read idiots) arrived on the scene. The dutiful warden who had awarded the offender the traffic ticket was immediately suspended and the man was begged to come down from the tower and continue to break all traffic laws as he had always done.

Thereafter, it became routine matter for everyone to climb electric poles threatening this teetering state with suicide. Recall the incident of the Model Town Society employee who took more days off per week than he cared to work. The Society terminated him and with great alacrity he climbed a nearby pole. The Society recanted, begged him to get down and reinstated him in his office. The miscreant had learned his lesson from the offending rickshaw driver of Babu Sabu and the hapless Model Town Society from the failing state of Pakistan.

About two weeks ago, I was finally convinced that the state has indeed failed. An out-of-town bus (from Okara, if memory serves) loaded with girls students and their teachers hit Lahore for a day of fun. The driver of the bus was involved in a major traffic violation at the junction of Upper Mall and Zafar Ali Khan Road and was duly awarded a ticket by the warden on duty.

The girls and their teachers got off the bus, blocked the road and made a regular nuisance of themselves. The idiot who is currently the Chief Traffic Officer arrived on the scene and at once suspended another dutiful traffic warden. The message that this moron of a police officer gave to all and sundry was clear: people of this failed state, do whatever you feel like doing, no agent of the state, no institution, will take action against you if, after committing the offence, you successfully make a nuisance of yourself.

I have spoken to over a dozen traffic wardens always beginning by berating them for starting from a fine institution to degenerate into nothing more than cardboard fixtures on the roadsides. The answer has always been the same: ‘Every time we stop a traffic offender, they call some officer or the other or some politician on their cell phone and hand us the phone. We are instructed to let the violator off.’

You do this twice to the most conscientious man who works the livelong day in burning sun and acrid fumes and the third time he will say, phooey to the duty. Just come to work, loaf around, collect the monthly pay check and bugger the state. The entire force of once efficient traffic wardens is doing that. Indeed, sometimes when traffic signals do not work they can be seen standing on the side of the road chatting either amongst themselves or with passersby.

If this needs be checked out, the Thokar Niaz Baig complex of crossings is the place to head for. The endless and almighty snarl of traffic there takes on nightmare proportions during morning and evening rush hours with nary a warden in sight.

It seems that we are too far gone. Pakistan cannot be mended. To mend such a mess leaders of vision and character are required. And we have only men of straw who play it safe and strive not to serve the country, but only to win the next elections again so that they can speed this country on its way down the dark tube.

Related: Without pride, nations fail


posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 12 December 2013 at 07:56, Anonymous Tahir said...

Very aptly put, Sir!

At 12 December 2013 at 08:46, Anonymous Kamran Awan said...

I agree with you Sir. The present CTO seems to be the invalid of the highest order. Don't ask, how does it feel when police stops someone like me who has been driving for over 20 years to check his license while the boys who would have come out of the maternity wards hardly a few years ago riding the bikes and cars passing through unchecked, honking the horns and even hurling abuses on the Police. What a crazy lot are we....

It is disheartening to see, how helpless our CTP is as far as controlling the traffic, especially on Main Boulevard Gulberg is concerned. It seems, traffic rules and regulations are meant only for us, the POOR car owners, otherwise every 10-12 years old biker/cyclist is free to do whatever he likes at his own free will making fun of every rule and traffic official on the way. The road from Siddiq Trade Centre to Cheeni Khana (Liberty Chowk) is a nightmare to drive on even around 7-8 in the evening, especially on weekends.

While driving in Lahore, it becomes the biggest challenge in your life to keep you car (which u manage to obtain somehow out of your meager salary) safe from these insane biker/cyclists/Qingqi wallahs and at the same time to safeguard your IZZAT, especially when u r with your family.

Anyhow Sir, here are some suggestion to improve the situation.

1. Underage driving/over speeding should be declared a major crime with at least 6 months of prison sentence (not juvenile prison). If an underage teen can risk his and everybody else's life, he should be brave enough to face 6 months in an adult prison too. Otherwise, his father should be put in jail and immediate confiscation of the vehicle. Physical punishment at the spot is even better.

2. If a teen is found illegally driving a government vehicle, his daddy should be demoted too.

3. As these bikers, car drivers and Qingqi wallahs think they are daredevils of the highest order, they should be sent to far-flung areas of the country to prove their claim. They should be tasked to do body-search of the suspected suicide bombers at public places while police should keep an eye on them from distance with a gun pointed towards them so that they don’t run away. That's the best possible way in which their bravery and daredevil skills can be utilized in a positive manner.

At 12 December 2013 at 08:50, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

But those who matter continue to remain blind.

At 12 December 2013 at 09:03, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Sound advice, Kamran. But who the hell cares. My car has clocked just 40,000 km It has been bashed 8 times from behind! Thankfully always, except once, by motorcyclists and only the bumper was scratched. 10 Oct I got the bumper repainted. 5 Nov bashed twice: morning by motorcyclist who scratched the bumper and broke my indicator light and evening by a rickshaw. Both times I was stationary!

At 12 December 2013 at 09:10, Anonymous Umar said...

While I agree with observations above I wud like to share whts happening in isb. Where one Moron atop another is giving directions. People are being fined for driving in the right lane which happens to b the fastest lane and not on the Expressway or the highway but on small internal 2 lane roads. And when I inquired the SSP who Moronically stated that Minister Interior had directed so.

Gone r the days when Civil servants were public servants who wud uphold law now they merely r personal servants who appease their masters.

Pity, state has certainly degraded.

At 12 December 2013 at 09:46, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

The idiot police officers have no guts to tell the greater idiot politicians to mind their own business and leave the police to its.

At 12 December 2013 at 10:12, Blogger omarali50 said...

The state is withering away, as Marx predicted ;)

At 12 December 2013 at 10:46, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

With leader who only wish to play it safe rather than take brave/strong steps, there is no hope for change.

At 12 December 2013 at 16:46, Anonymous Saima Ashraf said...

hehehe this is the easiest way to go popular.....climb up a pole and threat the state of suicide

At 12 December 2013 at 21:00, Anonymous Lala said...

But has anyone ever jumped from a pole? I don't think so. And I am sure no one will.

At 13 December 2013 at 09:16, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

No one has ever jumped off. You are right, no one ever will. This is just another one of our typically Pakistani gimmicks. Yes, with all these idiotic breaking news morons, it also makes you popular because you get into people's homes by TV.

At 14 December 2013 at 12:20, Anonymous tariq rind said...

Salman sb, you ve well interpreted the failing state's institutions

At 14 December 2013 at 14:11, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Tariq Rind, the signs are there for all to see. But no one cares No one will act.

At 16 December 2013 at 17:18, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another 'drama' is 'Kud sozi ki koshish,' in which no one burns to death.


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