Love Thy Neighbor
By Ghazala Akbar


I have good news to report. We are learning to become Good Neighbors.

Suddenly there is a flurry of activity in the local neighborhoods. People are nodding and waving to each other; stopping their cars and offering lifts to the needy ones; inquiring about their families, patting their unruly offspring on the head; exchanging gifts of food.

 All the sort of stuff that you should be doing to the folks living next door to

you but you don't. And didn't in A- bought- a- bad. But it’s not fair to place the blame squarely on the A-bot-a Baddies

Let's face it, as a nation we are generally not good-neighborly types, especially those living in bigger houses in better areas. We go to extreme lengths to keep our neighbors' prying eyes away from us. High walls, barbed wire, metal gates, security guards, attack dogs. Even CIA at Langley isn't so secure.

Beyond the obligatory Eid visit or forced condolence we are usually in a state of cold war or outright hostility with one of our neighbors, sometimes with both of them simultaneously. We make Machiavellian alliances with our neighbors' enemies.

We have boundary-wall disputes, water-sharing disagreements going back decades. We moan about their car horns waking us up; their noisy ill-mannered children. And uncouth servants throwing garbage on our manicured green patches or spoiling our view with their technicolor laundry.

Happily all that is coming to pass. There is an epidemic of good neighborliness in all the urban centers of Pakistan. People are dropping by to borrow the proverbial cup of sugar; share in their joy and sorrow. There's a heightened sense of awareness about the folks next door.  You just never know. The innocuous grey-bearded granddaddy flipping channels on the old TV set...who knows what world-wide command centre he is controlling? And the gardener with the eye patch, lurking in the shadows, didn't we see him on a motorbike in Qandahar? 

Can't expect the overworked intelligence agencies to do everything, people have to do their part. Be nosy and eavesdrop on the neighbors. Which brings me to my niece Addy. If only she had listened to her mother. She could have spared this nation a lot of trouble and humiliation and been $25 million richer to boot. She moved to Abbottabad with her husband for a year in 2007. She was a bit lonely, new place and all that and didn’t know a soul there. She missed her old friends and family.

'Beta,' my sister had told her in all seriousness, 'you must make some friends... make an effort. get to know your neighbors!'

Darn it. These children never listen!


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.