Tallat Azim We mourn the loss of lives in the horrible bomb blasts in the heart of Peshawar and the terrible destruction it has wrought in the city as well as on the mindsets of people. Why are our rescue and fire-fighting services so below par? Why are we always so under-prepared? Why do the ordinary citizens die? Despite the heightened security in our cities, it remains a constant source of anxiety that so many vehicles carrying explosives get by undetected. While the security personnel check the car boots and engines, they have no equipment to scan or smell out the explosives. One is reminded of a skit done by the 50/50 series on television many years ago. It showed the police opening the bonnet and then peeping into the boot of a car, but quite oblivious to the huge pointed gun on top of the car roof The security of the common man remains perilously non-existent and he, helplessly and haplessly, continues to bear the brunt of these cowardly attacks. The commonly seen symbol of the sandbag everywhere does not seem to scare any terrorist off. Someone was relating just today how a female suicide bomber entered the gynae ward of PIMS hospital in Islamabad yesterday. She had her jacket on which made her look pregnant and was, fortunately, caught before she could do any damage. Enough is enough. Just as General Kayani visits his troops in the battle areas, so must our elected representatives step out of their secure fortresses and identify with the problems of the citizens and be seen to be doing something about them. Just messages of condemnation or some meagre monetary compensation are no longer acceptable. The affected people, whose lives are destroyed forever by these dastardly attacks and who lose their loved ones, their sources of income, their possessions, their limbs cannot be viewed as collateral damage by our own leaders. If they do so, then it is only at their own peril. Because when elections come around again and are free and fair, this will translate into a resounding defeat. The visit of the Turkish prime minister to express solidarity with Pakistan was so appreciated. If friends of Pakistan can visit the country, despite these hazardous times, I am sure those at the helm of our affairs can also take time out to see how the citizens are feeling. The charm offensive visit by the American secretary of state, so suitably dressed in a Pakistan-green jacket on her first day, was severely dampened by the bomb blasts in Peshawar. Her face-to-face encounter with key anchor persons of the electronic media was able to highlight and bring to the fore the differences in the thinking of the Pakistani people and the present US administration. (One well-known anchor is also reported to have declined the invitation). It is interaction like this that eventually leads to a better understanding of the opposing points of view. The Americans themselves are not on the same page as far as sending more troops to Afghanistan is concerned. There are reports of a division on the subject between the concerned American leaders. One hopes, for the sake of Pakistan, that the naysayers win this debate. However our army fights the extremists, but peace cannot return fully to this region as long as the American troops remain in Afghanistan. It is, surely, not our fate to remain locked in adversity forever. The country is a trust that this generation has to pass on to the next one. The peace that we dream about and wish for also has to be sought by planning and preparing by the government for after the physical fighting is over. The Army is doing a great job and that is what it is trained to do. The army should not and cannot play a role beyond that. That will have to be done by our leaders. First and foremost is educating our children with the same curriculum across the board, providing basic healthcare and equal opportunities that are free from gender, class and religious biases. As I write these words, I am struck by the irony that the first thing that Islam teaches is to be free of bias against fellow human beings and here we are, struggling to establish that very idea so many years on. Somehow, I don't see our present government or even the government in waiting, working on these revolutionary lines that can bring about any meaningful change. Postscript: Ashfaq Ahmed, the philosopher playwright, used to comment and I quote: "The same situation that appears to be bad luck at one point, transforms itself into good luck in another situation that follows the previous one." This is so applicable to the car owners who crawl, inch by inch, to work, particularly in the morning and evening rush hours in our current security situation. Drivers have to stop at several security check points, and the whole exercise has taken on a dimension of testing the already frayed nerves as well as improving everyone's driving skills. It is no longer an ordinary to and fro to the place of work or study, instead it is a lesson on self-control, on not to honk or abuse under any circumstances, on meditating wherever it is taking over 15 minutes, taking deep breath, etc, etc. I am sure a lot of us are going to end up as basket cases Drivers try to ride each other off, particularly those in public transport vans at the narrowed entrance points. To come back to Ashfaq Ahmed's quote, you think of yourself as being among the unfortunate, as you sit wasting precious time behind the wheel of your expensive car when you see guys on motorbikes wearing helmets whizzing past you to reach their destinations so much ahead of you The writer is a freelance columnist.