Returning to my office after the day’s lunch break, I found the Service Road near the site of the ill-fated Margalla Towers in Islamabad blocked by a mass of vehicles and irate drivers. I could only get angry with myself for having taken this route as the ‘log jam’ occurred at the same spot at the same time on a daily basis, thanks to the presence of three schools here. It was then that I decided to do a piece on what had become a cause of concern for residents living in large cities all over the country.

Notwithstanding their role in development of literacy, the presence of private educational institutions in residential accommodation is looked upon as a nuisance and invasion of privacy by neighbors. One lady I spoke to went to the extent of terming the situation as ‘commercial harassment’. From the legal point of view the owners of these schools in cities like Islamabad are guilty of violating rules, which ban the use of private houses for the purpose. There are many, who may argue that these institutions are doing great service and that any minor nuisance should be overlooked for greater good, but residents of one sector in the Federal capital are vehement in their point of view that not only is the law being broken, but the fundamental rights of citizens to protect their privacy is threatened. 

In all fairness, while we can condemn school owners for violating laws, the blame must be equally apportioned to concerned authorities for turning a blind eye to what is happening. Regretfully, the culture of ‘looking the other way’ is not restricted to private schools alone, but the disease appears to have spread in the form of an outbreak. Take for example construction of buildings on major roads. The rule says that no structure can be built within 20 feet on both sides of such roads, but there are only a rare few, who follow this law and fewer, who enforce it. The working of these ‘enforcers’ boggles the mind. It is only when the structure is almost done or commissioned that the Chief Minister or some other bigwig notes the infringement and all hell breaks loose. It is hard to understand as to why did the minions running the concerned department not lay down the law on defaulters as soon as construction work began on such sites? What ensues thereafter is a comedy that features ‘stay orders’, greased palms or if all else fails an agitation complete with hired stone throwing miscreants and burning tires.

The greatest blind eye circus in the country is visible to all and sundry on the daily commute to work. The principal performers in this show are the police. Even the much applauded Islamabad Traffic Police have decided to climb the band wagon and ‘Do in Rome as the Romans Do’. The other day I saw a grey clad traffic cop demonstrate the ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ act by conveniently covering his face with both hands as a land cruiser dashed past him disregarding the red light. While the men in grey occasionally do deeds that kindle hope, their kin in blue are one of a kind. Driving to work I was horrified to see a young man flying off his motorcycle after hitting a passenger wagon and landing on the divider ten feet away. I stopped the car and began running towards the spot to offer what help I could, when two men in blue carrying AK 47s, flashed past me on another motor bike, momentarily turned their heads to take in the scene of the accident and disappeared in the distance. It struck me an hour later, while describing the incident to a colleague that I had just witnessed a perfect demonstration of how to ‘turn a blind eye’.

The writer is a freelance columnist.