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A good cause!

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    A good cause!

    I really liked this article, the cause is simple and good. No massive publicity no loud noises, just some people trying to push themselves and make a difference.

    Daily Jang deliver latest news, breaking news, urdu news, current news, top headlines in Urdu from Pakistan, World, Sports, Business, Cricket , Politics and Weather.

    Masood Hasan

    The writer is a Lahore-based columnist and a well-known journalist

    [email protected]

    Pakistan may well be the capital of lost causes. Rarely will you find support here for ideas and projects other than the mundane, safe and predictably profitable ones where investments of any kind are guaranteed to give strong ROIs -- return on investments as business people like to call these. Of course business people have every right to expect such returns -- that's what the game is all about but if every venture is determined by this yardstick, what would happen to all the other human endeavours that mark our sojourn on this rather bleak and depressing planet?

    One of the country's major lost cause promoters has to be Salman Rashid who has trekked, climbed, waded and trudged, weary mile after weary mile into domains no one knows exist let alone what they look like. He has been to the most unlikely places, met those who live on the outer fringes of this country and written passionately about these journeys. Barring a few, most of us are happily oblivious of these journeys of self discovery. The apathy and indifference to read and learn about our country and what natural and historical treasures it has to offer are understandable. It is said that a people who have no past cannot have a future and were one to translate this into reverse, a people who have no future cannot conceivably have a past. For most of us, tourism is visiting relatives in Rawalpindi and the more adventurous and reckless types, brave the elements and make it to Bhurban in the Murree Hills or crash into one of the hundreds of hovels that pass for hotels. Few venture further into the hills or take a walk into the few forests that brave commercial onslaught, content to sit on terraces and sip coffee before plunging into more food.

    This June, if all goes well, Salman Rashid and Prof Naseer Khan from Peshawar will set out from Skardu on an extraordinary journey that will take them across Mustagh Pass at 18,600 feet into Yarkand in China. The trek is to trace the path taken over 143 years ago by Godwin-Austen and will represent the first such journey by any Pakistani. It is not an expedition to Mount Everest and it may not be the discovery of the lost PIA Fokker that might arouse some mild interest in Pakistan, but it still represents a journey that is fraught with adventure, excitement and discovery. These are undoubtedly some of the emotions that have spurred many men and women to undertake hazardous and challenging assignments all over the world from the time we learnt to walk. It's the same spirit that will continue to inspire the human race to reach beyond ordinary boundaries no matter what the odds are and no matter what the consequences may be.

    The expedition to Yarkand costs less than Rs600,000 and this includes all the expenses for 40 porters, tents, equipment, etc for the trip. Permission from the Chinese government is under process. Neither Salman nor his friend, the good Prof Naseer have the financial resources to undertake this expedition and have approached various friends and supporters of lunatic causes to seek help. My efforts have been spectacularly unsuccessful since no one is really interested to partially or fully sponsor such an enterprise. Who wants to back a journey by two rather silly men who wish to walk through an area about which little is known and even less needs to be known when Basant or the World Cup float bewitchingly before your purse strings? In Pakistan, it is now part of corporate culture not to respond to written communications, so was one to initiate proposals, these are unlikely to be acknowledged even with a negative response. There are always other considerations. Understandably most commercial enterprises don't even budget for such harebrained ventures preferring to walk along paths well-trodden by thousands of other feet, where the slush may be a trifle tiresome but the route is safe and predictable. In very few establishments you might run into someone in a position of influence who might be personally inclined to lend support. In some companies since the Chief Executive is golf crazy, the game will find financial support. Others may secure support for polo, squash, tennis or snooker, but since culturally we inhabit a barren and arid land, there is little support for real music, dance, theatre and other performing arts that reflect the cultural wealth we had and which we erode day by day. For cheap causes, there is no shortage of funding or executive clout, numbers on the bottom line being the all-determining truth. To expect the government or its many institutions ostensibly established for such activities to step forward and lend a helping hand is to expect Osama Bin Laden to arrive at the American Ambassador's Islamabad residence armed with sacks of dry fruit, apples from Kandahar and a written confession.

    A few years back, the Smithsonian Institute, which has a little more standing than the Pakistan Council of the Arts, selected the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. The project was designed to look deeply into the intricacies of the Gardens and capture on film and slides its multifaceted engineering excellence and of course its grandeur and beauty. The Institute from amongst many other contenders specially chose the Gardens and the resulting work was to be showcased around the world. An earlier project on the Japanese Garden had won worldwide acclaim. Shalimar was predicted to do even better. It would have been fantastic PR for a country which was fighting (and still is) the stigma of a rogue state and home to the world's terrorists. The costs for the project, which were subsidised by the Institute, were nominal but two years of hectic lobbying with the creme de la creme of Pakistani business produced a big, fat zero. In the process many of us begged, pleaded, argued with the likes of Shahbaz Sharif, Hussain Sharif (daddy-o was inaccessible), the savvy Mushahid Hussain -- many, many promises and confirmed financial support but in the end, all lies, top executives of many blue chip companies even those with American labels, various government officials and so on and so on. The Institute which had spent thousands of dollars financing travel and other related expenses in Pakistan, finally quit and went away heartbroken. We had missed another bus. The beautiful Church in Nathiagali--all it needs is rudimentary repairs, a coat of paint and some lighting -- has fallen into neglect. The Lahore Museum desperately needs professional lighting, displays and air-conditioning, but there are no takers. And these are just two examples. There is money for Food Streets but no money for our heritage. Monstrous monuments and ugly edifices sprout like warts all over the country -- the 'kulfi' missiles of the armed forces, the Chagai disaster and similar follies, all receive official patronage in plenty but talk to any of these leading lights about the Museum and you will receive blank looks and clicking tongues.

    If 50,000 Pakistanis put together Rs10 each, the expedition to Yarkand will happen, but were we capable of such collective thinking and proactive action, we would have solved many of our problems long ago. Instead, it may not happen at all. The pity is, we will, once more, be the losers.
    How can a man die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the Temple of his Gods?