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The holiday-eaters

December 06, 2012

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.

While the rest of the world celebrates holidays, Pakistanis devour holidays. People work five days a week and have a two-day weekend in the rest of the world but there is no custom of work here. Work is an ideal mentioned only in Quaid-e-Azam’s words, “Work, work and only work!” This saying of the founders’ is now mostly found written on the decayed walls of government offices and schools, and followed in neither. In this country, only the poor and the women work and their work is not valued at all. That is why the only categories of people who work are treated as second class citizens and remain at the bottom rung of the ladder.

Previously, we had a six-day week with a holiday on Sunday. Then, the believers came and moved the holiday to Friday. In 1994, a US-returned adviser in Benazir Bhutto’s government had an idea that our country should also work five days a week and have a two-day holiday. But the poor thing didn’t know that our public doesn’t work anyway. When these holidays were implemented, the comfort-loving nation became even more laid-back. It would be a miracle if they worked at least two days a week. State-run offices operate at the speed of a sloth on a hot summer’s day. A two-day holiday became a weekly Eid for them.

Even nowadays, the federal cabinet has announced a two-day weekend in order to save electricity. The provinces don’t take any notice of this. However, the federal government’s departments are saving the government’s electricity and in the process, are getting a two-day weekend too. The worst part is that even the banks remain closed on Saturday. Eventually, some private banks did start doing business on Saturdays. However, most banks remain closed on both days. People like you and I end up in muddle over the weekend if we forget to take money out from the bank on a Friday.

They have a myriad of other ways to add encumbrances to the long list of your daily trials. If there are two consecutive holidays coming up, the government attaches another day-off before or after so that its’ ‘hard-working’ employees can rest more and visit their ancestral homes too. Sindh’s awami government has been announcing holidays ever since it came to power. They just dish out a holiday whenever they please. By now, people are assured that along with the two-day holiday, there’s definitely a bonus leave. If not, they can always take a few days off anyway. Nobody’s going to be held accountable anyway. Then there’s our beloved Rehman Malik. If he likes, he can make the public sit at home for a whole week.

Be it Rehman Malik, Quaid-e-Tehreek or even our maulvi hazraat, do the math and you’ll see exactly how many times a spanner is thrown into the works. Someone is martyred and the entire country is made to stay home for a few days. Everyday, there is mourning, or protesting and strikes. A few cars are torched, bringing the wheel to a halt. Billions and trillions of rupees are lost due to all these ‘holidays’ every year. No one is keeping tabs. Karachi is supposed to be the backbone of Pakistan’s economy. But it has lost 60 per cent of its industry. Investors are now looking to other cities, even other countries, especially Bangladesh, which happens to be topping the list. Now India too has allowed us to invest in their industries.

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.

Our government is so keen on holidays that it has spoilt the public too. Employees in private offices now have excuses like traffic, CNG, riots, strikes. The state of education has slowly started to show its effects. The private schools cover the syllabi through extra classes. But the government schools will never make that mistake. They don’t teach during working hours, so how can they take responsibility for the rest of the days?

God bless the judges whose favours added CNG to the list of excuses for skiving work. Now people drive all over the city looking for open CNG pumps. You will be standing in long queues at the stations for at least half a day. Your office and business becomes less important. What do the current and potential leaders care about these miseries? One is worried about saving his power, while the other is worried about coming into power. The public will continue to suffer.

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.

This blessed month comes with 10 days off: five Saturdays, five Sundays. Then there is Quaid-e-Azam’s birth anniversary on Dec 25 (what if Jinnah Sahab hadn’t been born on Dec 25? Our Christian brothers would have been left without this holiday too. Why would our Islamic country give a holiday for Christmas?) And then there is Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary. That gives us 12 holidays. If a few more days were added to this holiday by our friends, it would make a 15-day holiday this month.

God forbid if the agencies give Rehman Malik reports of potential threats, or Quaid-e-Tehreek, Qoum parast and maulvi gentlemen give calls for protests or strikes. Then we will be awarded 20 days-off. Even people living in countries that celebrate Christmas are not this lucky!

A few days ago, some statistics were published in our newspapers about the countries with the most holidays. All countries were mentioned except ours. Our neighbour, India turned out to be the country that has the least amount of holidays and has the largest amount of people working on holidays. Allegedly we are in competition with them in every field. We are ahead of the entire world in working the least, not just our neighbour. Is there any country that can beat us in our apathy and lethargy? Let them languidly step forward to take up the challenge.


The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.