This week is a columnist’s dream, thanks to a long march (which has morphed the nifty slogan “Zalimo Qazi aa rahaa hai” into “Zalimo Qadri aa raha hai”), the political somersault of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement and the petrol crisis. Notwithstanding the urge to write about all three of the above, I have decided to restrict myself to the long march in this week’s kaleidoscopic piece.

I have had the ‘privilege’ of seeing a series of such marches in the last five years and have always questioned the sagacity of its perpetrators for the simple reason that they disrupt the everyday life of average citizens, who want nothing else, but to peacefully go on with their daily routines. If those at the helm of the January 14 march think that “not a leaf will be damaged” by their marchers, they are being naïve, for it would be well nigh impossible to keep a check on the rowdy, radical and troublesome element within such a large crowd.

As a citizen, who is immeasurably suffering from spiralling prices, gas and fuel shortages, loadshedding and insecurity, I too dread the outcome of the national vote, wherein the same group of inept and corrupt politicians may rule the roost for another term. Nonetheless with general elections just round the corner and rival political forces, the higher judiciary and media alert to the possibility that rigging may be attempted, exposed and dealt with, this ballot may turn out to be our salvation. If this be so, then why resort to an act, which reeks with the possibility of violence coupled with damage to life and property, when ends can be accomplished through democratic and non-violent means? Why equate D-Chowk in Islamabad with Tahrir Square or is it that people and certain television channels have forgotten the mayhem that ensued on the streets of Cairo?

Travelling on roads in ‘the land of the pure’ has become a visual nightmare for the likes of me. There is an old army maxim that speaks of ‘saluting anything that moves and whitewashing anything that doesn’t’, but walls, trees, bridges and public service sign boards have assumed ugly proportions not because of whitewashing, but because of posters, chalking and graffiti.

This morning, while being driven to work, I passed a critical traffic sign that had been sprayed over with the initials of the ruling party’s student wing. I wonder how many leaders from this party passed by the sign and applauded this vandalism.

I would advise intercity travellers along our highways, not to indulge in the otherwise innocent pastime of reading wall chalking and posters as they would convey the embarrassing message that a bulk of our citizenry is conjugally dysfunctional.

Coming back to critical traffic signs and those giving directions to travellers - it may be worth your while to lie in ambush just to witness the phenomenon of a brand new sign staying in mint condition only for a short while, before a succession of poster plastering morons would appear and cover it with various messages and ‘mug shots’.

Underpasses in big cities are apt to get special attention of ‘the poster sticking, wall chalking and spray can-toting’ vandals, who deserve to be put away for a length of time so that our cities may remain clean and beautiful.

The mention of keeping our cities clean conjures pictures of overflowing filth depots and kachrakundies. It is in this area that the administration exercises fair play for no locality no matter how ‘poor’ or ‘rich’ is free from filth heaps and the foul odours they emit, except perhaps for the roads used regularly by the highest officials of the land. I wait for the day when someone with more guts and resources than me will load these despicable foul smelling symbols of an inept and corrupt administration and dump them in the front lawns of those responsible for sanitation and environment.

It was, perhaps, the year 1997 and I fulfilled a long cherished desire to set eyes on the greatest of monuments to the Muslim Empire in Spain - the Alhambra. If one is to see this wondrous relic, one has to get up rather early and get into the long queue of curious tourists. One also has to be patient, while standing in line as this waiting may extend to over an hour. So it was that I found myself behind a young couple of European origin as the line snaked painstakingly forward. After about 45 minutes, I noticed that the couple were getting fidgety and agitated, while the woman was looking at her mate in an anxious manner. Before I could enquire if they needed some assistance, the man expelled the contents of his last night’s meal right there on the stone-flagged road to the ticketing booth. In no time, a medical team was on the spot along with a cleaning crew, who rinsed the floor with antiseptics leaving no sign or contamination on the spot.

Just last summer, as I stood in line to get a ride on the Patriata chairlift, the girl ahead of me threw up. I gingerly stepped over the vomit and moved on, only to find on returning one hour later that the spot had not been cleaned in a stark display of our sanitation culture.

Some of my readers may find this week’s column disgusting and offensive, but that is the specific response that this column was designed to elicit, for it may be that one of these readers is someone mandated to keep our cities clean and fragrant - and maybe, just maybe he or she does something about it.

The writer is a freelance columnist.