I have never written on terrorism in Pakistan as I consider myself unqualified to speak on the subject as an expert. Conventional wisdom however has forced me to say something with regards to how our media and their experts cover terror attacks. The coverage begins with an over excited anchor person repeating the news in a cyclic manner that defies logic. Then in a bid to outdo competitors they begin shooting questions at the ‘on the spot reporter’ that are sometimes obvious and almost childish in nature. Then comes the stereotype statement that the incident was a lapse in security and intelligence, something which defies common sense as the attackers in such incidents have the time, choice of target and the mode in their favor.

Now that this is off my chest let’s move on to other matters. Wonder of wonders, our PM and his team have impressed me no end with their tandem visits to Saudi Arabia and Iran. I have been no less happy with how our foreign office is handling Pakistan’s entry into the 34 Islamic Countries Coalition against Terrorism, while at the same time raising comfort levels of our South Western neighbor that this will in no way threaten its sovereignty. From recent events, it appears that our diplomats have finally managed to learn the art of ‘tight rope diplomacy’.

I have recently returned from a short stay in the Punjab Capital, where not content to sit idle, I undertook a tour of the city to see what was being said about the Orange Train. I was motivated to do so as I have always been an advocate for a mass transit system in major cities like Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Peshawar. When the Metro Service was launched in Islamabad I was one of its ardent critics with the point of view that it would have been better if the bus had moved in a regular lane instead of a dedicated track with stations that cost billions of the tax payer’s money. Notwithstanding the criticism, I was forced to admit that the service had provided relief to commuters and significantly reduced the ‘wagon menace’ between the twin cities.

I found Lahore to be a nightmare of dug up roads, diversions, traffic bottlenecks and a general feeling of frustrating chaos. My interaction with the man on the street was rather subjective and in every case the mess was attributed to the Orange Train. However, objectively speaking I am convinced that once this system is delivered it will have a landmark effect on commuter convenience. My only fear is that the project will or may already have fallen prey to corruption.

It was while travelling on the Motorway that I found deteriorated conditions at the toll plazas. There was total chaos as traffic grid locked in a frenzied bid to cross the barriers first, causing delays - much to the chagrin of those motorists, who were using the e tag facility. Once again the situation appeared to have resulted from professional apathy by all those concerned with ensuring a smooth flow of vehicles through the gates. In my reckoning, the solution to the problem lay in construction of lane dividers to channelize vehicles well short of the crossing facility and installing easily readable direction markings.

While there was a general degeneration of sanitation in the main rest areas, I was pleasantly surprised to see the state of washrooms situated next to the petrol filling stations. I was even more impressed by the fact that at long last we appeared to have realized that quality of services can only be maintained if the users are made to pay for what they use – in this particular case, a certain sum for the use of the wash room.

Quite unlike my previous visits to Lahore, I returned in a conciliatory mood in the hope that the senior bureaucrat, who on commenting that my writings were antiestablishment, was told that I wrote the truth as I saw it and I would only be too pleased to sing praises if I noticed that something worth praising had been done by those running the country.