There is at last feel-good news coming out of Karachi that gives us a ray of hope. The Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC), an entity plagued with ineptitude and controversy, has, reportedly, affected a turnaround, thanks to the vision of its new head. Acknowledgment of this momentous achievement has come from none other than the Harvard Business School, which invited the aforementioned gentleman to address classes at the Prestigious University and present the turnaround model that ensures “environmental, social and governance gains as means to sustainable economic and financial value creation.”

The story began when Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School did a joint case study on KESC’s turnaround strategy to implement a unique public-private partnership model designed to effectively cure the long-time sick power sector service provider. This case study is now taught at the Harvard Business School and at several other business schools around the world, as a singular example of how private sector investors could make a meaningful impact on sustainable development. More than 150 students from all over the world sat totally engrossed, as the KESC chief laid out how his company had managed to synchronise sustainability, operational and financial goals within his organisation, into a well-managed smooth operation.

In tactical terms, one important element of the KESC’s strategy boils down to a carrot and stick policy - carrots for consumers, who live by the law and pay their electricity bills. On the flipside, the stick is applied to power thieves and defaulters. I am told that communities that collectively fall in the ‘reward’ category are beginning to enjoy a reduction and in some cases, total absence of loadshedding. Those communities and areas that are engaged in stealing electricity and non-payment of bills continue to suffer (and, perhaps, increasingly so) from power cuts till such time that they fulfil their civic obligation. This painfully brings home the fact that big eggs within a community are the cause that generates suffering for those who want to enjoy the benefits of good citizenship.

A friend from Lahore indicates that the ‘Neighbourhood Watch System’ initiated in some sectors of the Defence Housing Authority is producing results. During a recent upsurge of burglaries and car-lifting incidents in this elitist area, the streets protected by the Neighbourhood Watch have more or less remained safe. While this discredits those government functionaries, whose primary duty is to ensure the safety of people and their assets, the practice is a good example of what communities with a sense of responsibility and commitment can collectively achieve.

Islamabad is my preferred city to live in, because of its climate, greenery and proximity to cooler spots. There are a number of freshwater watercourses or ‘nullahs’ that run down from the Margalla Hills and across the capital. These streams once teemed with fish and one could plan a picnic on their turf covered banks, just a short walk from the houses in the old sectors of the city. As new sectors came up and houses mushroomed, they lost their pristine look. Pollution killed off the fish and the banks became trash dumps. There were some residents living in close vicinity of these ‘nullahs’, who cleaned up their backyards and converted spots into lawns and gardens that sloped down to these watercourses. Some residents even went to the extent of creating lawns and beautiful flowerbeds in the green belts that lay across their homes. Regretfully, a vast majority of these homeowners then fenced off these areas and denied their use to the public, compromising a wonderful act of civic service and environmental kindness.

If you happen to be in and around Johar Town, Lahore, and seek directions to ‘Teach A Child School’, you will be led unerringly to a red brick building surrounded by a spacious compound. At first sight, this school will appear to be like any one of the elitist and money-hungry private institutions that dot the country, but meeting the people, who run the place and the children who benefit from it, will turn that image around. A dignified-looking man in his late 60s or early 70s will greet you and take you around with profound courtesy brimming with humility. Another surprise will be sprung upon you when you realise that the person is a senior retired officer from the Pakistan Army, who put his entire pension assets into creating a top of the line free teaching institution for high IQ children coming from the lowest income groups in Lahore. It would take an entire column to describe this great project and the vision that has gone into creating it, but suffice to say that the VIPs here are the children and their parents, and the curriculum is designed not only on the best of academic models, but also with the missionary zeal to build character and produce good citizens.

As one comes to grips with this institution, one realises the impact it is having on the lives of families, who can barely eat two square meals a day and whose abode is a thatched roof and walls made of loosely stacked bricks. These children are now acting as torchbearers and reformers in such families. A parent I met commented that use of bad language and poor hygiene practices are now taboo in the one room they call home, thanks to their young daughter and her newly-acquired notions.

As a befitting and happy end to this week’s column, it has been conveyed to me that some students from the first batch that enrolled in the ‘Teach A Child School’ and who had performed admirably in their O and A Level/Intermediate examinations have been admitted to institutions such as Lahore University of Management Sciences, FAST, LSE and Kinnaird College.

    The writer is a freelance columnist.