In any civilised country, the infrastructure related services are easily available. If you apply for an electric connection, for example, you are bound to get it if you complete all the laid down formalities. There may be some charges involved, but no hanky panky. The service is available to you if you obey the rules. Everything is transparent; there are no hidden charges, no arrangements under the table. But not so in our land of the pure, becoming purer by the day. I have had two experiences for whatever they are worth. The first is about the two telephone connections we have had in our house in Islamabad since 1996. Both the connections were provided by T&T (Telegraph and Telephones), an online department of the Ministry of Communications in the federal government. The service provided was not great but clout helped. If you had a problem with the phone you pulled a string and it was fixed: needless to add that the standard procedure of complaint hardly worked. But since semi-privatisation of the T&T into PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd) a few years ago, the problems have been endless. From poor sound quality, disturbed to a deadline, you pay for a service that is no more a facility. Luckily, mobile phones are reasonably efficient and affordable. They lessen the pain somewhat. One of the two telephones we have has now been out of order for several weeks. About one week ago I registered an automatic complaint on 1218. They told me my complaint number was 107. Two days later, the telephone still being dead, I repeated the procedure: my complaint number now was 116; we seemed to be moving backwards. Tuesday, I made another complaint; the number was 117 Yesterday, the second telephone is also dead The other issue is IESCO (Islamabad Electric Supply Company), a semi-privatised subsidiary of the notorious WAPDA. We applied to them for a connection in November last year, filling all the forms and "paying" fees of a few thousand rupees to move our application. We then began to wait for a demand notice from them. Nothing happened till January when I decided to meet the marketing manager of IESCO. He turned out to be a helpful Pathan from Waziristan who managed to move the case and have the Demand Notice issued in about ten days. This was a big relief as I was told that the company was under obligation to provide the connection 14 days after the amount in the demand notice had been deposited in the company account by the client. We deposited Rs 273,000 and Rs 16,500, respectively, in two designated IESCO accounts as required. Two more weeks passed before we were told that their inspector had not been able to locate the address. So we made an appointment, carried him to the sight and he made his report. In March they agreed to bring the material to the sight and install the poles. On the appointed day, however, they said their transport had gone to the workshop. However we understood and made the arrangements to move the material to the site. They then demanded three pits to be dug at the identified points on the site and arrangement for concrete etc to install the poles. This was clearly their job covered by the money we had deposited in response to the demand notice. But they said that the company procedures involved tendering that was complex and time consuming, likely to cause delay. We suffered another expense of over Rs 20,000. The poles were finally installed and after a few days of curing the base, the cables were pulled from the overhead line and so on. I began to believe that there could now not be another hitch. All that remained was the installation of a meter and we would have electricity on the premises. But this did not happen. Why? Because, the IESCO lines superintendent said that there were no meters available in the store. Since then we have been calling them from time to time and are told that the meters have not yet come into the store; as and when they do, ours would be the first to be installed. This saga of an electric connection, something completely routine today in any decent country, has gone on now for over five months, no end in sight. This is a mere domestic connection; imagine the hurdles if you want an industrial connection. Security issues apart, who would want to do business in this completely corrupted system? Everybody is bemoaning Swat. But if you ask me as a taxpayer, people there went back to Shariah, a transparent system they had known under the Wali. For them it worked. The system we gave them after the merger was inefficient and corrupt, run by morally depraved functionaries. The people of Swat just got fed up; I don't blame them. The writer is a former ambassador at large