The World Happiness Report 2018 has reported Pakistan at 75th position in terms of happiness and life satisfaction of citizens. Pakistanis are found happier in comparison with the citizens of all other South Asian nations and China. In 2017 Pakistan was reported at 80th rank, so Pakistani people are not only relatively happier but their happiness is on the rise! Such indicators need very careful reception because they influence both public perception and policy makers attitude. Happiness or subjective well-being is a tricky thing to measure and quantify; there is always a risk that subjective judgements may divest public policy of objectivity. Theoretically it is not a bad idea to have some periodic evaluation of human happiness. But the potential threat of misinterpreting the social reality may inadvertently make policy makers complacent at a time when citizens should be asking them to do more. Hardly a few weeks ago, UNICEF in the report ‘Every child alive’ declared Pakistan the riskiest place to be born because of the world’s highest infant mortality rate. That report finds this dystopian scenario a direct outcome of social and economic injustice. A country which gets poor scores on more objective indices like Human Development Index (HDI), Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), Corruption Perception Index (CPI) and Gender Parity Index (GPI) would make a weak case of being considered an abode of happiness. Such is the curious case of Pakistan. Happiness remains an elusive concept. For hedonists, fulfilment of all desires, regardless of nature of desire, means happiness. For Aristotle, happiness is a state of mind — eudemonia — which a person attains when her ‘true’ needs are fulfilled Latest Human Development Report of the UNDP located Pakistan in 147th position in terms of HDI, falling behind all South Asian nations and most of the world. MPI, which is ingeniously designed by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), gives due weightage to several social indicators and aggregates them. In OPHI report on multidimensional poverty in Pakistan, the headcount ratio of people, found poor, is 38.8 percent of population — one of the highest in the world. The Global Gender Report 2017 reported Pakistan second worst country in the world to be a woman. Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranked Pakistan 117th in terms of perceived corruption in 2017 report. Pessimism is an unaffordable luxury, but a reality check is important to put in more effort to change the social reality. We have miles to go before we sleep! The World Happiness Report has used a mix of six objective and subjective variables which include GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity and absence of corruption. In the absence of any promising performance on these indicators, the report mentions a gap between the aggregate score of variables used and what people report about overall life satisfaction. The report says it is this unexplained residual which has elevated Pakistan to a relatively higher rung of happiness ladder. If not following ascetic traditions, material improvement of life conditions and social justice are necessary conditions of achieving a happy life. Fatalism and acceptance of social injustice as a fact of life often make people in eastern societies easily conform to status quo. About the ancient Orient, Will Durant says, ‘happiness is conceived as cessation of desire and the bliss of surrendered personality’ accompanied by a ‘sombre fatalism’. This is what probably where we falter. If fate is deemed the sole reason of misery, then who will consider social injustice and failings of citizen-state social contract as matters of public policy. We fail to recognise the difference between subject and citizen. Happiness remains an elusive concept. For hedonists, fulfilment of all desires, regardless of nature of desire, means happiness. For Aristotle, happiness is a state of mind — eudemonia — which a person attains when her ‘true’ needs are fulfilled. It will always remain a matter of philosophical debate what happiness is and what true human needs are. This is what makes subjective measures of national happiness practically useless from policy perspective which may rather distract. Policy makers and politically conscious citizens of Pakistan should focus more on objective issues for dispassionate demand making. Now political parties are bracing themselves up for electoral campaign; they should address real issues, which cause concern for citizens, in the manifestoes. In a society which is plagued by social and economic inequalities, gender injustice, extremism, violent crimes and child abuse, feeling life satisfaction without changing socio-economic realities is nothing but a costly ignorance. The writer is a development policy analyst Published in Daily Times, March 21st 2018.