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Many Earth Hours for Pakistan

World event has no meaning in a country plagued by frequent chronic power cuts

Many Earth Hours for Pakistan
Silent Thinker, Lahore

April 2, 2012

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Some international events are just not meant for third world countries like Pakistan, Earth Hour is one of them. This does not mean I am against fighting for climate change, nor does it imply that I disrespect what is probably the world’s largest environmental event. I loved Captain Planet and the Planeteers and my heart cries out when I see  protesters polluting to try and win their demands, so I am definitely not an eco-villain. It is the chronic power cuts across the country. Stumbling around in the dark for more than four years is not easy for a nation. The day Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's only female prime minister, was assassinated was certainly one of the darkest in the country’s history. Electricity was cut soon after the tragedy and remained off for the whole evening. However, nobody knew that they would now have to live without this necessity in life on a regular basis. Violent demonstrations against 12 to 16 hours of regular power cuts took place across Punjab last week with protesters attacking the offices of the electric supply company and blocking roads with burning tires in several cities. Banners demanding the government “stop the economic massacre of traders” are still hanging around Lahore. Load shedding of about 20 hours is being reported in many rural areas. A Catholic priest believes some discrimination is involved with power cuts. “Electric companies maintain an uninterrupted electricity supply during Eid holidays. The prime minister of Pakistan recently requested there be no power load-shedding so that fans could enjoy the Pakistan-India Asia Cup cricket match. However there are no such privileges for Christians on their holy feasts,” he told me. “The turn out for midnight services remains low for Easter and Christmas, as faithful cannot prepare or celebrate in the dark.” That’s the reason I scoffed after reading newspapers that reported the lights of the Punjab assembly building would be switched off at 8:30pm on Saturday for an hour and that candles would be lit during the World Wildlife Fund-sponsored event, which would be attended by Earth Hour ambassadors, sports stars and actors. Why turn off lights when electricity comes and goes every hour? In fact we are actually celebrating Earth Hour time and again, seven days a week. While ordinary citizens adjust their work routines according to the available hours of electricity, the event which gathered such a majestic assembly was only a sham gesture by politicians, the majority of them landlords and industrialists, who are responsible for plaguing the country with darkness. Sending out such messages to the world does not help improve the planet. Such events are for other parts of the world where power cuts are unheard off or are at least not that frequent. Yesterday’s newspapers carried good news for Earth Hour lovers in Pakistan. All “extra” lights at the presidential palace in Islamabad and Bilawal House (the personal residence of the Bhutto family) in Karachi were reportedly switched off for an hour. Extra lights! Thank you Mr President. Silent Thinker is the pseudonym of a Catholic commentator based in Lahore  
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