Kaavan is free. Kaavan is “the world's loneliest elephant.” Kaavan will soon be in his forever home in Cambodia. Kaavan after the death of his partner Saheli in 2012 has been alone. It was said that he was heartbroken after her passing. Years of campaigning of activists from Pakistan and other countries, Hollywood legend Cher, co-founder of Free the Wild, and UK’s global animal welfare organisation Four Paws, after thirty-five years of captivity in Marghazar Zoo of Islamabad, Kaavan will travel to a life without chains and bars of a cage and companionship of other elephants and love and warmth of humans who think of him as a beautiful creature with feelings and responses.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s Office tweeted: “US celebrity singer @cher called on Prime Minister @ImranKhanPTI at Islamabad today. Appreciating her efforts in retiring #Kaavan to an elephant sanctuary, the Prime Minister thanked Cher for her campaign and role in this regard.”
Cher, the global icon with a single name, tweeted: “Just Came From Meeting To Thank Prime Minister Imran Khan For Making It Possible For Me To Take Kaavan To Cambodia. Kaavan Will Be Able To Leave For Cambodia On The 29. Think Documentary Will Be Heartwarming.”
This is one of the images of Pakistan that makes me happy to call it my home. Where the pain of an animal in captivity is recognised and action is taken. It may have taken years, but I am overjoyed it has happened. The photo of Prime Minister Imran Khan with Cher in Islamabad on November 27 is not just another routine image from the prime minister’s daily itinerary. To me it is a reflection of a Pakistan that pauses, thinks, plans, and takes action when someone, human or animal, is in pain. The efforts were laborious, the wait was long, but it happened. Many people cared. Cher cared. Four Paws cared. Khan cared. Today, Kaavan is free in Pakistan. That is the Pakistan I am proud of. My big, warm, adorable, flawed, wobbly, unwieldy, always learning homeland. The Pakistan I hold in a tight embrace in my heart.
The second wave of coronavirus is unleashing its deadliness infecting thousands of people across Pakistan every day, the daily number of fatalities is high and horrific. The united opposition PDM is determined to hold their prescheduled rallies without giving too much thought to the horror of mass infections. Inflation is still high. Unemployment is a huge issue. Much needs to be done in many sectors of public and individual wellbeing.
I read the news, I hear the spokespersons of the government talk on TV about various initiatives and strengthening of old ones. I go thorough tweets of Khan’s provincial and federal ministers and special advisers. The optimist in me sifts through the blah to focus on the real, the substantial. Despite halts and uncertainties, despite setbacks and constant criticism of media folks and opposition leaders, despite U-turns and changed courses, one thing is as clear as Kaavan without chains: the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan stands firm in its mission of doing its best for each and every citizen of Pakistan.
Prime Minister Khan’s strategy of smart lockdowns during the early months of the outbreak of coronavirus in Pakistan received harsh criticism from the opposition political parties and most of the mainstream media in Pakistan. It also received much praise from various international bodies. On November 25, Prime Minister’s Office tweeted: “World Economic Forum to hold Country Strategy Dialogue on Pakistan today. PM @ImranKhanPTI will virtually participate in @wef Country Strategy Dialogue on Pakistan.”
On November 25, President of the World Economic Forum Børge Brende tweeted: “Pakistan PM @ImranKhanPTI spoke with Global CEOs on Strategic Priorities in Post-Pandemic Era. Pakistan’s economy has shown resilience to the pandemic, placing it in a strong position to rebound quickly from the shock.”
On November 26, Brende tweeted: “A very warm and constructive dialogue with @ImranKhanPTI on the future of #Pakistan.”
Not everything is fixed but much is exhibiting great signs of favourable, constructive change. Actions replace words. Tangible actions push glossy rhetoric to the side. Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms and Special Initiatives Asad Umar tweeted on November 19: “382 million $ current account surplus in Oct. This is the 4th month of current account surplus. Cumulative surplus Jul to Oct is $1.2 billion. We inherited the biggest current account deficit in history with monthly current account deficit of $2 billion when govt was formed!”
Pakistan at the end of 2020 is not just Cher’s visit and Kaavan’s freedom, it is many other things. My point of view is irrelevant here, it is of no real consequence how high my validation of Khan’s government is on any given day. The paranoid part of me dreads the unseen, the sceptic in me questions every loud proclamation of a new initiative, the cynical part of my brain wonders if the old promises will be kept. But then I read and hear and see what is happening. And I smile. I utter a silent thank you. Pakistan is moving forward, one positive step, one wonderful thing, one bright indicator at a time. That will do. For now.