You see them standing on the edge of islands in Islamabad swinging odd looking machetes with an angled end. At regular intervals they swing these implements from left to right totally missing their target – the grass that lines the island verge, while their eyes explore interesting objects elsewhere, including occupants of passing cars. I have often seen these green jacketed ‘zombies’ swinging away at the same spot for a monotonously long time and then taking a ‘well deserved’ break for fifteen minutes. Some time ago, the department of CDA that looks after the Capital City’s environment, issued its staff with motor driven verge cutters. I am told that these ‘toys in the hands of primates’ soon became unfit for use, dictating a reversal to machete wielding human labor.

Proceeding to attend a social engagement, I passed a long line of men digging a long trench like ditch along Simly Dam Road. I could imagine the sweat and sometimes blood that went into the effort, considering the stony nature of terrain and wondered as to why had the department commissioning the work, not saved time and effort by employing an excavator. I made this comment to the person sitting next to me, who smiled at my naiveté and remarked that this would perhaps deprive the contractor of the benefits of a long drawn project, which employed manual labor.

Returning to my work place after my lunch break, I was appalled to see a number of motorcycles emerge from the service road in F11 and race across the dual carriageway connectingF11 Markaz with the Margalla Road, with total disregard to oncoming traffic. Each of these vehicles was being driven by boys sans crash helmets, who were barely into their teens and every machine was carrying two additional pillion riders. I am more than sure that these children were of an age which made them ineligible for a license and that their parents were in the knowledge of what they were up to. I found myself imagining a tragic accident scenario involving them and the anguish it would cause to their near and loved ones. The bulk of my concern and anger was directed at the school teaching and administrative staff, which was blind to the fact that underage students were driving motor cycles to and from their premises on a daily basis.

Road safety and security brings to fore the notion that security checkpoints are becoming potential hazards rather than an aid. Police personnel appear oblivious to the danger that multiple streams of vehicles vying to be the first to get past the single check lane, cause a milling effect that is liable to be catastrophic in case of a terror episode. A solution could be to have two check lanes marked by dividers and ensuring that vehicles get into them some distance away from the crossing. Dwelling a few seconds more on traffic management, I remember a time when traffic islands used to mark the midpoint of zebra crossings in the Punjab Capital. This worked very well, both for traffic as well as for pedestrians intending to crossover. Perhaps a look at some old photographs of the Mall Lahore may give an idea of what I am talking about.

And now a word about the way our economy is being managed by what appears to be a brainless master brain. Rumor has it that serious lapses of data effected negotiations between our Finance Ministry and IMF much to Pakistan’s detriment. There is also a news report that petrol prices in our Eastern Neighbor have reduced by around two rupees, while we have been subjected to a shocking fuel and power price spiral within the last three months.It is in this anomalous backdrop that the man in the street is questioning the ability of this Government to get to grips with the various maladies that infect the ‘Land of the Pure’.

The writer is a freelance columnist.