Driving back from a friend’s house in Bani Gala I was chagrined to see a series of boards installed by a local society to stop trash being thrown in the forest reserve on both sides of Korang Road. While the initiative was laudable, what triggered my concern was the plea on the boards, which when translated read “For God’s sake do not throw trash in the forest”. Anger replaced concern as I mused on the message, simply for the reason that we have begun to implore the ‘good’ people of Pakistan to keep their environment clean, instead of using the rod (which is perhaps the language that this nation understands better). Before I am criticized by those of my readers, who are reluctant to see and acknowledge the ugly side of our collective character, let me ask them to consider as to why do our country men meekly observe the law, when they go abroad. The answer is simple – they do so because of excellent and ruthless law enforcement.

Let us see how just one type of vehicle in our traffic stream reflects our national character. This particular form of locomotion is called the motorcycle – a petrol driven machine that has become the symbol of life threatening disregard of law in this part of the world. There is no denying the fact that this two wheeled vehicle is serving the needs of a very large population segment and is here to stay. It would therefore be interesting to take stock of our motor cycle culture and what can be done to make it safe.

Islamabad is perhaps the only city, where the rule about wearing crash helmets is partially enforced. Violators of this law cite hot weather and restricted vision as the reasons for not wearing helmets, while others take refuge behind affordability and cost. Whatever be the case bareheaded bikers drive on Pakistani roads right under the noses of traffic cops, little realizing that not wearing protective headgear may well be the cause of their demise.

Out of a sampling of one hundred motorcycles on Islamabad roads, I found that only fifteen had working indicators and rear view mirrors.

The absence of these driving aids coupled with the riders’ propensity to weave in and out of traffic is a recipe for tragic consequences. Once again, these ‘daredevils’ drive-by traffic police and on one occasion I saw one of them being given a friendly wave by a traffic warden in Lahore. On this occasion I could not restrain myself and pulling up next to the grey clad cop asked him as to why he had not stopped the culprit and issued a ticket. I got an amused smile in response, followed by an innocent “I did not see any one breaking the law”. All I could do was to roll up my window and remark to my companion that we had just heard the obituary of ‘good law and order’.

I often say a prayer, when I see an entire family consisting of the man, his wife and four young children on a single motor bike. While this speaks volumes for the sturdiness of the machine, I shudder to imagine what would happen if any of the little ones was to lose their grip and fall on the road. It is here that I am faced with a conflict between understanding the need of the entire family to go from point A to point B versus safety.

Some peripheral Islamabad roads have become the favorite of youngsters showing their talent as ‘one wheelers’. While the act itself is detrimental to other traffic, it is responsible for the death of many such acrobats. I am at a loss to understand as to how parents can live with the knowledge that their son is indulging in activity that has all the probability of bringing his lifeless body home.

As a parent and grandparent and more importantly a citizen, who cherishes the life and limb of our young generation, I am inclined to eat humble pie and (like the signs on Korang Road) beseech traffic police in all parts of the country to enforce rules. If this is done and the momentum behind it maintained, we are likely to see a sea change in national discipline (wearing of seat belts in the Federal Capital and M5 is a case in point). And what better than to do it with the mavericks of our traffic – motor cycles.