Incidents of theft appear to be rising of late which, lets face it, is hardly surprising given the astronomical rate of inflation, combined with blatant profiteering, at the expense of those who can least afford it. As the number of people existing, hand to mouth, on or below the poverty line, swells and the population at large worries about their increasingly untenable future, both government and local authorities continue to ignore their plight while periodically expressing concern at the crime rate which is spiralling ever upwards without, it must be said, acknowledging that poverty and crime are indelibly interlinked and one therefore presumes that, to a certain segment of society, it is not necessary to be poor in order to be driven to steal One of the items most vulnerable to theft, aside from public funds of course, is telephone cable in both urban and rural areas and this, especially in bulk, is not all that easy to make off with but does, it seems, have a ready market just waiting to purchase it as fast as it is offered. My own, two kilometre long telephone cable is intricately strung through numerous trees, yet manages to get cut and stolen at least once a year, usually just before an Eid when 'ordinary people are in desperate need of some extra cash. A cooperative local lineman long since began depositing extra cable, after replacing the stolen length, at my home so that he can reconnect me as fast as possible after such an event and no, this lineman is honest and is not bribed to make my life easier. This weeks telephone cable thieves have gone one better though: At exactly 11:27pm three nights ago my telephone died. I know the time exactly because I had just looked at the computer clock and decided to sign off for the night when the DSL connection, this and old-fashioned dial-up is all that is available where I live, as an entire mountain blocks any hope of wireless reception, disappeared and communication with it. Hoping to be at the top of the 'repair list on the following morning, I promptly registered an automated complaint via my cell phone, being rewarded with the valued Number 1, which usually means that the phone will be back in operation by noon the next day at the very latest. This time, however, it wasnt. so I phoned the exchange to find out what the problem was. I was told that there is a fault in the underground cable somewhere between here and Murree. It will be fixed sometime in the afternoon. No such luck Fed up of waiting and desperate to get online to research the ongoing work, I phoned the District Engineer around 4:30pm to find out the current status. There are roadworks going on near Kashmiri Bazaar and the underground cable was damaged yesterday, he explained, while I wondered, who on earth was digging up the road at 11:27pm in the pitch dark They tell me that the repair will be complete sometime tomorrow morning, he assured me. I really am sorry for the inconvenience, as I know you have work to do. On my way into Murree early the next morning, I did, indeed, see the offending road works and even a couple of PTCL guys lounging around so, presuming that work was under way, happily went about my business, fully expecting to be able to log-in as soon as I arrived home. Again it was a great big 'no and again I phoned the District Engineer. The cable was cut, he revealed in an aggrieved tone of voice. That was the night before last and the work crew told me that it would be fixed yesterday but, as you know, that didnt happen and they promised to do it today. When they went to the site this morning, however, 200 meters of the main cable had been stolen during the night and we dont have any replacement cable in stock. All the phones in your area are off now and it will be another few days until the new cable arrives. We are trying to requisition it from all over the place, but it will probably have to be brought up from our stores in Islamabad and this, unfortunately, takes time. Here it is sensible to suggest that the easiest way to acquire main line telephone cable at short notice is directly, and at no cost, from the criminals thriving from buying the stuff but, the problem here is that the police department, countrywide, is just not up to scratch and are not particularly concerned about recovering stolen goods.or stolen anything else for that matter.as their own monthly remuneration is abysmal and they too are finding it difficult to make ends meet unless, that is, they play the dual role of both cop and robber as they witness others around and above them already doing. Rapidly escalating crime rates, right across-the-board from petty theft to major 'events, serve as a clear indication of degenerating social mores, which will further decrease as political, economic and other assorted malaises continue to destabilise life in our increasingly fragile country where, frightening as it is to witness, the point of no return is approaching at a gallop. The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Womans War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban. Email: zahrahnasir@hotmail.com