He stood there zombie-like on the unkempt turf-covered island swinging a machete that cleft air more often than not. I watched the gardener for a full two minutes before the traffic light turned green and did not see him justify his job description or the money that he would collect from his paymaster at the Capital Development Authority. I have watched a replay of this scene on a daily basis with the difference that on many occasions, this individual is reinforced by a group of colleagues who appear programmed to perform only three functions – swing a machete in thin air, have long conversations on their cell phones or take a nap, oblivious of the traffic rushing past them.

The tendency to not accomplish the assigned task satisfactorily and with speed is visible in almost every government or semi government department. Exceptions to this phenomenon are rare and refreshingly so, generating hope that maybe - just maybe, this aspect of our collective character will one day improve. It will be unfair however, to levy the entire blame on public service providers for we (the citizens) must bear a major portion of the blame.

Take for example the case of the Fatima Jinnah Park popularly known as the F9 Park. This is a wonderful facility that was designed to provide healthy and dignified recreational activities to the residents of the Federal Capital. These premises were secured by a well-designed iron grill fixed in a stone base. Our tendency to vandalise combined with the apathy in those mandated to protect against such activities, manifested itself in sections of this grill disappearing, creating large gaps in the perimeter exposing people, who came here for recreation and exercise to prevailing threats.

A sign at the F10 entrance of this Park states that this is a non-smoking facility, then why in God’s name are the very custodians of this law seen sitting on the benches (not meant for them) blowing smoke out of their lungs. Why do these uncouth individuals drive their motorcycles on walking tracks and when reminded of the signs that say “No driving inside the park” arrogantly respond that they are privileged to ignore these orders?

A few weeks ago I was standing in front of a store in the busy F10 Markaz of the Federal Capital, when I saw (and I am not exaggerating) black colored sewage rushing towards the spot where I had parked my vehicle. It was then that I realised that the greyish sediment coating the parking area (which was used by the public on a daily basis without any qualms) was actually filthy, disease-ridden dried sewage.

Curious enquiries revealed that the ‘flooding’ was a regular feature and complaints by affected businesses had gone unheeded. Enquiries at CDA revealed the flip side of the story. I was informed that sewage lines in Islamabad got regularly choked because of callous and irresponsible trash disposal by the public. Not willing to give up, I pressed home the point that ensuring civic responsibility through enforcement of laws was the administration’s responsibility. My argument was met with silence underlined by ‘hostile’ looks.

We often name public parks after donors, who thoughtfully fund such projects. The same side of our character mentioned in the F9 Park case is visible here in the form of unkempt grass, overgrown weeds, broken fixtures and piles of trash including the ever present polythene bag. We fail to realise that by creating this mess, we are actually ‘insulting’ the good and friendly gesture by the donor, but frankly speaking - who cares!

I have often written about the sickness that has over time pervaded us as a nation. In doing so I have often been adversely criticised by those who are either beneficiaries of the apathy or lack the courage to face the truthso essential to rectify ourselves. Hope however, rests with the the educated and aware members of civil society, who must band together and make both the administration and the general public take cognizance of their responsibility. It remains to be seen as to who will bell not one, but two cats.