It is summer time and conducive to travelling to far off places. I came to Stockholm last week as my daughter lives here and that is as good an excuse as possible to venture to Sweden. The flight connection was through Doha, the up and coming place among Arab cities, after Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Looking at all the traffic at Doha Airport and the unending groups of international tourists catching their connections to various cities of the world, one wondered why their version of Islam did not feel threatened by progress and why it was mostly our lot to be the face/practitioner of a medieval version of Islam, albeit in certain areas, which was bent upon blocking progress for the Pakistani nation. It is worse for the fact that we never thought much of the Bedouin Arabs initially and had a superior attitude towards them. As time has proven, we were so wrong in our opinions. Thoughts like these keep popping up in the mind, even when one wants not to remember anything about the chaos one has escaped from for a few weeks. Stockholm is like a city out of one of the fairytale classics, built around and within enchanted forests and lakes. It is very, very green, reminding of Islamabad at places. There is a determined effort to preserve the environment and old buildings both and neither of it takes away from Swedens modernity or technological advancement. Roads for coming and going everywhere have only two lanes each and the buildings are not very high. The traffic is orderly with as many people cycling as in cars. The strangest thing for a visiting Pakistani is, perhaps, the absence of a visible police force Imagine being in a country where it is second nature for its citizens to obey rules, all on their own, without being watched over. Ambulances roaming around various parts of the city in case of any citizen needing medical attention can be seen far more frequently in comparison to police cars. The whole system is also geared to make mothers with babies feel special. Starting from the concept of 18 months paid maternity and paternity leave between the mother and the father, every baby is allotted a specific nurse who keeps all the health records of the baby and who is the single point of contact for the child for the first eight years for any medical advice or check-up. Anybody with a pram or a stroller also travels free of charge on all public busses. Maybe, if we started to offer concessions to couples the other way around - like those who only had two children each got free education for them up to college and other perks - we might find a solution to our population problem. The difference in valuing human life could not be starker between Pakistan and Sweden. So much effort and energy in Pakistan is spent by men in either keeping their women under control or their subordinates sufficiently submissive, that they do not really have much time left over to develop national perspectives on pressing problems. Particularly, if their women are under their command, all is well in their spheres. Not for nothing has our Interior Minister made his famous disclosure that 70 percent of all target killings were carried out by angry wives and girlfriends, who did not appreciate their commandants as much as they should have and had shown, God forgive them, rebellious streaks And the nicest and perhaps the most distinctly different feel about the Swedes is their lack of interest in the corporate rat race or the VIP culture. (Compare it to sucking up to bosses and spending unending, unscheduled hours at work with that elusive promotion in mind which never lets you see your children awake.) It is summer time and their love for the sun - of which they get so little in the winter - ensures that they do not spend more than absolutely necessary hours at work. Taking time off to take a vacation with spouses and children is what the month of July is all about. It is also about music festivals, cultural activities and sales at shops. When you arrive at Arlanda Airport at Stockholm, you are greeted by a row of life-sized pictures of famous Swedes from the world of sports and performing arts with the words welcome to my city on them. It makes an instant connection with the visitor and is a most pleasing first encounter with Sweden. Postscript: One thing that takes some getting used to during a visit to other countries is the lack of power loadshedding. It feels strange that the power stays round the clock because, subliminally, you are waiting for the lights to go off all the time. It feels even more unusual not to see politicians of other countries squabbling with one another on a daily basis on TV shows. Among the things, which we have to learn, is the art of disagreeing without raising our voices and blood pressures both. The potential of Pakistan and its people, I am very sure, will be harnessed at some point to bring the country at par with other quickly developing nations of the world in the future. If we will it to happen and get a level playing field, we can succeed. Until then, it is indeed nice to be among the civilised world for a brief sojourn. n The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad. Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com