I have just finished reading a page from the Eighth Grade text book of a Government School in the Punjab. Staring me in the face is a picture of two Metro Buses and text that tell school children about the need of such a project and its delivery by the Punjab Government in record time to alleviate mass transportation issues in big cities. What the lesson surprisingly lacks is a direct ode to the Punjab Chief Minister and his elder sibling roosting in Islamabad. This can even now be added to the syllabus to create perfect comedy.

Mass transit systems are a common, everyday service that began decades ago in big cities around the world, but it is only in Pakistan that it is being touted as a novel achievement to the extent that it has been included as part of the school curriculum. I would sincerely advise my readers to prepare themselves for a revised edition of the text book that contains an additional couple of pages on the intra city train service called the Orange Line.

The Rawalpindi – Islamabad Metro Bus Project continues to create havoc with the Federal Capital; a city that was green and beautiful. I am told that inbound and outbound buses will run on both sides of the existing island, which will be demolished along with its beautiful trees to make way for the stations. Since these bus lanes and stations will consume two out of the three existing lanes on Jinnah Avenue, more lanes will be created on both sides. If the current markings indicating the extent of this expansion are correct, then the beautiful Pines lining the avenue will be destroyed either through uprooting or root ball damage. I am not against development and progress, particularly one which provides our cities with mass transit systems, but I am certainly against development, which callously destroys the environment and is at the expense of other more vital areas of good governance.

The President of Pakistan delivered his traditional address to the Parliament amidst severe criticism. I too heard the speech, which was nothing short of eulogizing the PML-N and its leadership. It would have been in keeping with Presidential dignity if our President had spoken like a Head of State and not a party activist.

The budget cat is out of the bag with its usual supporters and detractors. I consider budget-making a difficult and thankless undertaking that never pleases all sections of society. Nonetheless, credit must be given where it is due and in my opinion, what was presented to the Parliament was (on merit) not as bad as expected. What remains to be seen is whether measures to increase revenues, reduce the trade deficit and keep inflation in check, are implemented and enforced in letter and spirit.

My cauldron doesn’t have much with respect to Mr. Altaf Hussain’s arrest by the London Metropolitan Police, except that the British police and judicial system is one of the best and most reliable in the world. Only time will tell as to what hard evidence prompted the arrest of somebody as high profile as the Head of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

Last, but not the least, the crash of the Pakistan Air Force Mirage in Baldia Town Karachi had an impact on me, as I knew Wing Commander Khurram Samad at a personal level. What has caused me to include this tragedy as part of this week’s column, is the fact that a major national daily published a story that covered the civilian casualties in detail along with an injured person’s photo, while making only a passing reference to the two courageous ‘pilots’. I am emphasizing the word ‘courageous’ as (according to a PAF source), both pilots delayed their ejection beyond the ‘point of no return’, in an attempt to steer the crippled machine away from residential structures in true air force tradition.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.