While the rest of the world slides in to the Christmas and New Year season at this time of the year when planning for merriment and family time begins in earnest, we in Pakistan get to hear the strangest of news. This, despite the fact that we are quite immune to surprises and take all sorts of khabrain in our stoic strides pretty calmly!

The state of our hospitals is not really a secret but a freshly delivered baby being bitten by rats, minutes after being born, is a first timer! It is absolutely horrifying that this state of hygiene and cleanliness prevails in operation theatres and labour rooms of our public hospitals. Just because the baby was bitten and the presence of rats proved beyond dispute, the head of the hospital and some other staff have been changed/dismissed, whatever. But the fact remains that if things had not come to this pass, the situation would have continued till kingdom come and the mice would have happily cohabited with patients in this particular hospital for ever. Like they do in other public hospitals and even some incongruous places like the PIA planes.

If only cleanliness inspections were carried out as a matter of routine in places like hospitals, schools and restaurants they would arrest and prevent this terrible decline in standards. There is no requirement for any massive development fund for something like this either. The mice can be sent scurrying out from where they have no business to be by various inexpensive methods. Somehow, we have to shake off this complacency about sharing our public spaces with cockroaches and rats. Some things have to be just unacceptable to everyone, whatever their station in life. We cannot keep waiting for either a knight in shining armour who will come on a white horse and kill all the mice or for the entire population to be educated enough to understand the importance of cleanliness. Because on both counts it will be an impossibly long wait!

Just by raising the standards of cleanliness so many could get a fresh lease on their lives and get to live longer. Awareness about benefits of hygiene is the key I suppose. The government is far too busy preparing for elections to be concerned about the health of the unwashed millions. The strange case of 20 odd people dying from drinking a brand of cough syrup is another case in point. Adulterated/expired medicines being sold over the counter is the norm and only brought in to focus by an incident like this, which is talked about for a few days and then forgotten with no improvement anywhere.

But despite the looming general elections, the people with authority are apparently not too busy to mind the morals store.  The PTA has just added to its list of bans, a ban on night-time phone packages. The reason given is that these free packages given by cellular phone companies were harming the morals of the younger generation. (What do you expect from the morals of those who are welcomed in to this world by rat bites, but that’s an aside.)

There are regulatory bodies in place and one such impossible to remember ministry is run by the formidable looking Ms. Firdaus Ashiq Awan – yes, the same one who went to put a gold crown on the head of Shoaib Akhtar at his wedding in India with Sania Mirza. If it is these regulatory bodies who decide what is moral and what is immoral then lord help us. I cannot imagine Ms. Awan being pro all night free calls. She probably has no recollection of romance. This ban is definitely an intrusion in to private lives. Is there any data to prove that it is only the under 25 who are using these packages? And if it so then isn’t it so much better to have them safely indoors on the phone instead of outdoors on the roads? It is probably very difficult being young in this country as it is without adding to more policing. Besides, there are a whole of other things that need fixing before placing bans on night-time free calls.

Post Script: There were two upsets in the media world last week. A loss of a wonderful columnist and the other in the form of a message meant to instill fear. The passing away of Ardeshir Cowasjee – Karachi’s brilliant and eccentric voice was depressing. They just do not make them like that anymore.  With Ardeshir, it seems like a precious piece of our lives has disappeared for ever. His biggest quality was being absolutely fearless and standing up for whatever he believed in and for constantly reminding us what the Quaid e Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted for Pakistan.

The other shocker was a bomb found under the car of a well known journalist and media anchor in the heart of what is considered one of the safest areas in the capital. This is truly now a war about snuffing out voices who dare to dissent and to warn everyone to be careful with their opinions in public or be prepared for the consequences. We may or may not agree with the opinions of the journalist who was targeted but we certainly condemn this planned way of silencing him.

The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad. Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com