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Obedient Citizen or Crazed Revolutionary?

June 5, 2013

“It’s strange that our great leaders can give us nuclear bombs, but not make my microwave work,”  (Umer Iqbal – a chef in Islamabad)


There is a problem with electricity in Pakistan.  There is only half as much electricity as most of the country needs.  The government deals with this by load-shedding (basically turning the electricity off) for as much as 20 hours a day in the rural areas and for large parts of the day and night in the cities.

It’s hot here.  It’s still in the 30s during the night.  The rich have generators and, therefore, a generally uninterrupted power supply.  There’s always a slight delay between the mains electricity going off and the generator kicking in, but it’s not enough to worry about your freezer defrosting and it’s so ubiquitous that no one even mentions it, as the conversation continues merrily in the temporary pitch black.

Driving without street lights is also something of a skill, especially as many of the men out and about after dark (there are very, very rarely any women) seem to delight in wearing black – maybe they just enjoy the thrill.  I haven’t hit anyone yet but there have been a couple of near misses.

The poor, however, have to cope with spending the majority of their nighttime hours without air conditioning or fans.

There was a quote in the paper last week which said (and I’m paraphrasing) that the difference between a civilised, obedient citizen and a crazed, violent revolutionary was a good night’s sleep.  It’s not a huge surprise that the new government has made ‘a good power supply’ its main  priority. I think I’d be similarly keen…

Photograph courtesy of The Nation newspaper (Pk)

From → Pakistan

  1. Gosh, you have just made me realise how much I take for granted…


    • I know. I realise it on a daily basis, particularly when the guys arrive to take the rubbish and they open the bags and go through it then and there to see if there’s anything they can use. It’s a different world.


  2. Will send torch batteries…

    Your title, though, made me think of something else: I worry sometimes (when I’m not worrying about something else) that I’m too much of an obedient citizen. I suspect that if I lived under a totalitarian regime, while I’d love to think I’d be beavering away underground (mixed metaphors, but hey) to bring down said regime, I’d actually either ignore it in the spirit of just getting on (which is essentially to be complicit, isn’t it?) or, more likely, be oblivious: “No, the government can’t be that bad, after all, we’ve got light three hours a day”…

    Hopefully, whatever your thoughts on the coalition, I’m unlikely to be tested but still, it’s a worry…

    ps how’re your summer holiday plans coming on?


    • Don’t send the batteries. I’m such a cosseted westerner that we have our own electricity substation, let alone a generator.
      I met an older Pakistani gentleman last week who’d moved here from the UK about 20 years ago. He was running a training establishment and was very erudite about the problems faced by the people here. When I asked him why he wasn’t running for government he said that for there to be an effective government, the leaders need a vehicle to drive. There isn’t a vehicle in Pakistan. There’s just a burnt out chassis. He’s trying to help build the vehicle through education and training, so that the government can then take it forward.
      He was/is an amazing man.

      Will be in touch about summer plans – we’d LOVE to see y’all.


      • Oh, and the point of that longwinded reply was to say that I think that you, Ms Plan B, will be like my Pakistani gentleman. You probably wouldn’t be a revolutionary, but you’d be able to spot the areas of said totalitarian regime which weren’t quite right and be working quietly and effectively to sort them out.
        And you’d do it.
        I have faith!


  3. Thank you! Come the totalitarian revolution I will be relying on you to push me in the right direction…


  4. Crazy, isn’t it that we can send a man to space, I can sit in Yorkshire and communicate instantly with you etc etc but we still can’t give everyone electricity or water… This is not an argument ageist space exploration, but surely it is not beyond us to do both. Thanks for making me think – it puts running out of hot water into perspective x


    • I don’t know – running out of hot water is pretty serious, especially with the weather you chaps have been having over there recently.
      Am delighted to add you to my blogroll. I wish I knew how to make it show your updates, like yours does, but I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s a blogspot v wordpress thing. I’m also very keen to show flags too like Ms Plan B – apparently there’s someone reading me in Sweden. I’m very excited about that as I don’t know anyone in Sweden – but again, it’s beyond me. Ho hum.


  5. P.S. on less serious matters, thanks for adding me to your blog roll – very exciting!


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