Everyone had a theory, an opinion, an inside story. Those of us who live in Islamabad were bombarded with questions. What's happening? What's the latest? Islamabad is so remote from the rest of the country that the general perception is that all of us rub shoulders with the powers-that-be. In reality, the thing we most rub these days are our car fenders as we try to negotiate the bollards on the many, many barricades that fortify our roads, and our nerves as we wait to get past them!
Another development, which was taken in stride and not given much coverage, was the first international freight train service from Islamabad to Istanbul via Tehran. It is hoped that in due time the route will carry passengers also and provide a link to Europe and Central Asia. Now isn't that exciting? Travel by train is always more relaxing and enjoyable - apart from being eco-friendly. Tired of flight delays, missed connections and pinned-to-your-seat long hauls? Keep your fingers crossed. Pakistanis may soon have the option of a train to holiday or do business abroad.
While the world has mostly had Pakistan on their minds for the lash back it is suffering from the Talibaan, some Pakistanis have made the international media for their talent, hard work and commitment. Ayesha Gilani is helping to promote 'the beautiful land of rich culture and traditions'. She participated in and won the Miss Earth 2009 competition. Zeb and Haniya, Pakistan's talented female-duo, earned praise in TIME magazine for their music which has been a hit since their first album was released. Our fashion designers earned huge accolades for their country at the Milan Fashion week. Later, Fashion Week Pakistan in Karachi attracted world-wide attention. A far cry from the war being fought in the northern areas? Not at all,because yeh bhi Pakistan hai, and most of us are liberal, forward looking souls.
On the sports front, the Pakistani hockey team finally came together. Salman Akbar was selected for the Men's World Hockey All Star Team 2009. Pakistan won the T20 title in cricket. These two sports have a large following; it was heartening to see them revived with fresh, talented and very young blood.
If anything, 2009 has brought Pakistanis closer and unified them. The bombings, by not discriminating in age, gender or class, have helped rally Pakistanis behind the armed and security forces. Patriotic songs and frequent reaffirmations of the Quaid's message on the media indicate an ironic trend the Talibaan have succeeding in creating a sympathy wave for the uniformed class, who until now were actually hated.
Climate change is a new issue that Pakistanis are quickly becoming aware of.
The summer monsoons were sparse and we've been repeatedly warned of droughts and floods associated with this change. Water rationing is finally on the cards; on the FM stations, a Jack and Jill ditty has been commissioned to help conserve gas, and the spiraling electricity bills have forced caution there as well. CNG stations have started closing down on a weekly basis. Admitted that some of the conservation is voluntary, some forced and some agonising, yet the bottom line is that most of us are better organised and more methodic than we have ever been. Slowly but surely, Pakistanis are learning to be responsible global citizens, conveying very clearly We Shall Overcome!
P.S. If you haven't thought of this yet, be cautioned 2009 has necessitated we rethink our vocabulary. You recall how we said we'd had 'a blast' meaning that we'd had a wonderful time? No more please. Today 'a blast' is neither happy nor merry. Today being part of a blast means that sadly someone was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Similarly, exploded. Previously we 'exploded' with wrath or anger. I don't have to tell you what and who causes explosions today!