Inspiration #2, 2010

Last week, David Eaves gave a thought-provoking (and yes, inspiring) lecture on how the Canadian government should change in the age of social media; how the Internet has created new:

1) Ways of organizing
2) Expectations
3) Structures

He moved onto a discussion of the long tail of public policy: the gist being that the intrinsic knowledge, skills, and experience in the silo-structured government is less than the collective extrinsic knowledge, skills, and experience of the citizenry. One of the examples used was Mozilla, presented as a citizen-led response to a regulatory crisis. Internet Explorer was a buggy, painful experience monopolizing the market until it was Firefoxed away from that perch – driven largely by frustrated developers and open source.

Credit: David Eaves
Credit: David Eaves

A Pakistani example immediately came to my mind: the state of ambulances in Karachi, where the vast majority of service is provided not by the government, but by NGOs such as Edhi Foundation and Chhipa Welfare Association. The best part: these NGOs are established, funded, and managed solely by Karachiites. They are both a source of income for hundreds of wonderful local citizens but also a source of relief to a nation that is continually ignored by its elected leaders. Completely citizen-created, completely citizen-driven. The long tail whipping into action out of unfortunate necessity. The leaders are busier writing about reform than actually enacting any of it, you see.

The exception is the Khidmat-e-Khalq foundation run by the MQM; it used to be in operation even before the MQM took over the (official) administration of the city.

In a city where ten years ago, most Karachiites did not (or could not) even use ambulances, many are now provided with dozens of services without any obligation to pay (donors bear the costs). The everyday heroes here live in brick homes but risk their lives to save injured others – and that is why my second inspiration for 2010 is the community of welfare workers in underprivileged areas, led by men such as Abdul Sattar Edhi and Ramzan Chhipa in Karachi.

These brilliant philanthropists are, however, almost celebrities in Pakistan now; the class I would like to highlight is exemplified by Mehboob, an Edhi ambulance driver who leads a life that is enriched by his contributions to humanity and purified by its very simplicity.

Credit to Dawn News for producing this package; I say again, they’re doing a great job.



  1. I agree with you. I’ve seen how these drivers work, and that is commendable. Its a magnanimous task to manage emergency response system in this city of two dozen million people, but these people make it happen. cheers to them.

  2. Love the post. And Edhi is my number 1 inspiration of all times. Read his autobiography by Tehmina Durrani. It’s something I read over and over again. The things he’s done. How he started off and what he has achieved now – for humanity.
    And three cheers for Mehboob, who bears one of the toughest task among all his team members =)

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