Mulk ganda nahin hum gandey hein, is a the title of a rather decently produced video posted on a facebook page called, Ministry of Civic Sense which the creators of that page have translated to ‘Wazarat-e-Muashra tizimedari’. I shared that video on whatsapp to a few groups when it was uploaded about six months ago. This took some load off my sense of social responsibility. There has been no similar post on the page since then. As we hopelessly try to come to an understanding of the recent chaos in Islamabad which has left a stark sense of uncertainty and will continue to cast a shadow on the lives of the people of the twin cities for some time, talking about social inconveniences should merit little attention. While the much bandied about phrase of Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) is nothing but a well garmented way of marketing by the MNCs, we hear little of individual social responsibility; clearly the latter and its wider understanding could be socially impactful. But hold on, are we talking about common good here? Of which, sadly, we find no care or concern in our society. Our houses are well embellished on the inside while garbage dumps adorn street corners in our cities. Karachi, a visiting foreigner said a few years ago, ‘was a dump’, but Islamabad, the way it has been left to slide is nothing less than degenerate. One doesn’t even have to go far to view such examples, the areas of F-6, which are homes to the houses of the most of the PAS kind bureaucrats and, a few, others of such prominence, who have impressive CVs in terms of the postings they have held or organisations they have led. And mind you, they wouldn’t leave these houses even after retirement even if they have to hold on to them with their claws and teeth. But that is another matter. We don’t see the citizens ever coming out together in support of a public issues which affects the community. A peaceful protest call on a Facebook page against the Faizabad dharna could only bring a shamefully small number of people outside the Islamabad Press club. The use of social media proved far more effective for the dharma protestors. Thousands of people suffered on a daily basis for days but not even 5 percent of them cared to stand up and be part of a call for moving the dharna to the parade ground. A protest in this country has to cause the maximum amount of public inconvenience to register the cause. Evidently, causes of Public interest and community issues don’t evoke a sense of citizenship and collective action among our people. The average Pakistani, while suffering individually on a many counts, is not motivated by the participatory action that can lead to a shared beneficial outcome for the community. While public nuisances find little social response, broader issues, for example, low education spending, asymmetric taxation among different segments of the society evoke little public outcry and practically no social display of it putting no pressure whatsoever on public policy; the less said about public interest litigation the better. Its hard not to find that significant and draw comparisons with other countries. Our Civic sense, if we have any, is myopic and bracketed by our personal considerations. Itchy tags pervasively find pivots in our society that one must negotiate as one moves about; from the immigration counter at the airport to the snaky honking cars on the roads and everything in between we can see our approach to social interaction and use of shared resources. Parks and facilities are littered routinely and with complete abandon leaving them a filthy mess at the end of the day. A friend once said, ‘Yahan bara admi gand dalta hey aur chota admi saaf karta hey’; but these days clearly everyone is happy doing it. Trail 3, receiving ever increasing numbers of frolickers and birdwatchers apart from the regular lot, in Islamabad is an example where plastic bottles and chips packets are flunked about and there they rest till a good Samaritan, and luckily there are a few, picks them up. The garbage bins are overflowing all the time; it seems that there are just too many people doing it and not many people cleaning it. All dark and places and all natural holes and depressions make for convenient places to urinate or dump garbage. There was a time when the streams in Islamabad used to run with clean water and were nice to look at. These days they smell horrible, partly from the sewage that is coming into them from French Colony and other such squatter settlements upstream and partly from being the garbage dumps they have been left to become. The CDA, the efficient organisation that it is, obviously has to maintain focus on vital issues around staying solvent with the exception of carpeting the roads, affixing giant size cat eyes, embellishing parks in the Red Zone and F Sectors. Less said about the G and especially the I sectors that are another planet. And while we moan about all this, CDA union elections are to take place, the city plastered with panaflex with the same familiar face that we have been seeing since decades, God bless him with health and good luck; he will win the elections again for the umpteenth time. Let us not bother about asking the sources of campaign funds. It was exciting to see a video about a teenage Indian student who has invented a non invasive method to detect heart attacks at an early stage, the device has received international confirmation and will come out next year. We have tens of millions youths in our population who are unserved by the current education system and they are looking for a future with hope. This together with about 20 million children out of school gives us the makings of a social crisis. It is easy to be swayed by demagogues when one is young, shortsighted and unhinged. As Criss Jami wrote, “What men classify as living is often but the discontentment of making oneself itch just to enjoy the scratch.” There are also social tags that cause a nitch every time we have a brush with them, we frown, fret and complain, but we go home every time scratch it somehow and do nothing further about it only to experience it again the next time. The Japanese society is a great example of people whose social actions are based on the thought of others in mind. The service delivery for public follows a design thinking approach that is it is done with the user in mind. Moving socially in Japan, therefore, is a breeze; imagine, for example, everyone on standing on the left side of an escalator to leave space for people who may be in a hurry. Polite, respectful, kind and clean are some of the words routinely used by people to describe them. Socially responsible behavior is the glue of a progressive society; it is both the foundation of collective growth and the manifestation of it. An individual must engage meaningfully within his community both for supporting smooth living and voluntarily support social good. While the government must improve the level and quality of municipal and local services, we as people need to encourage engagement of the individual at community level, responsible individuals and strong communities make a strong and progressive nation. The latest story from Islamabad cannot be told without a sense of loss. And while the good people on all sides were working on various aspects of the Dharna, Indian ranking on World bank’s ease of doing business report improved by 30 places, while at home 342,000 taxpayers who filed returns last year haven’t done so this time. There is another noteworthy ranking by Pew Research Center on the importance of the religion in people’s lives, if you are interested to know; Pakistan ranks fifth while China ranks last. Spare a minute for that also if you will. The writer is an ex-civil servant and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, December 6th 2017.