IN Islamabad there is a small roundabout at the junction of Constitution Avenue and Khayaban-i-Suhrawardy. Several years ago, the CDA as part of its periodic beautification drive or, perhaps, to impart basic knowledge of geography of how the world was divided into different continents, installed in the centre of that roundabout a cutout metallic model of planet Earth.

The model was placed at an incline as it should be because in the planetary system the placement of earth is at an angle relative to its orbit around the sun. The imaginary axis around which the earth revolves itself is thus at an incline and not vertical to the line of its orbit around the sun. It is this feature of our planet that endows it with its different seasons.

It is such a fundamental lesson of geography that even the basic educational models of Earth available in stationery shops show the globe placed at an angle to its stand on which it is perched.

These days if one happens to pass by the roundabout mentioned above, one would find that the metallic model of the Earth is placed in a vertical position on its pedestal. Now the question arises: how come this transformation in the spatial position of the Earth model from an incline to vertical took place when as far as I know the Earth still continues to move around its axis and orbit in its old way.

As the story goes, a former prime minister, soon after the Earth model was installed by the CDA, was passing by the roundabout.

The prime minister glanced at the model and was quick to notice the ‘aberration’ in the angle of the model. He was miffed and remarked that how come in a country where everything was ‘straight’ the model of the Earth, of which Pakistan was also a part, could be shown slightly tilted. Surely, that was a mistake on the part of those who had placed the model. He desired that the error should immediately be rectified. Necessary orders were accordingly issued to the quarters concerned and were implemented.

No one dared to point out to the premier that the Earth was positioned at an incline in its orbit in the solar system and the model’s placement at an incline above its pedestal was correct and reflected the Earth’s position in its orbit.

For me, it is difficult to doubt that those around the prime minister at that time did not know this basic fact. The real reason for their compliant behaviour was that they believed that orders of the prime minister could not be countered with petty facts of geography or astronomy and the only way to deal with them was to implement them even if it brought ridicule to both the issuer and the implementer. I request the CDA to correct the spatial placement of the Earth model at the roundabout.

KHALID IDREES            Islamabad

Updated Sep 23, 2012 04:19am

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