The Ministry of Time

Included in my upcoming book, Geckos & Guns: The Pakistan Years, are some compelling true stories told by my expat friends. Unfortunately, a few of those stories didn’t make it into the book. The following is a memory recalled and written by my husband, Wayne Bazant.

After Christmas circa 1994, while reading our daily English language newspaper The News, we discovered that the government had set up a Ministry of Time specifically to expedite the first change-over to daylight saving time for Pakistan. The intent was to facilitate interaction with other countries that followed the daylight saving schedule

Regardless of good intentions, many expats and Pakistanis alike felt that there were some major problems with this arbitrary decision. Pakistan had a large rural population, some of whom lived in remote areas. They lived as their ancestors had before them, waking with the rising sun, and retiring when it set. The concept of ‘saving daylight’ would make no sense to them supposing that they even got the government message in the first place.

As well, Pakistan had a high rate of illiteracy, especially among the female population. This seriously hampered transmission of information via newspapers which were the primary source of communication at the time. Other issues were arising among the religious community in the mosques. How would this change in time affect the call to prayer?

In the months leading up to the impending change, many of us felt a niggling uncertainty. How would the scheduled April rollout affect our personal lives—school, work, international calls, and more. Nevertheless, government reports kept insisting that the Ministry of Time was on course for the change.

The evening of time change finally arrived. We hesitated to adjust our clocks. The next morning we checked with others. Some people had followed the plan, shown up at church, or gone to meet friends according to the ‘daylight saving’ schedule only to find no one there and nothing happening. There was no announcement about the change, one way or the other. Total official silence on the subject.

A few days later we read a report from the government in The News. Complications had arisen with their plan. They would be delaying the introduction of daylight saving time until October. What? When the rest of the world was scheduled to revert to standard time? How was that going to work?

As was often the case in Pakistan, life went on, all the buzz about time change forgotten. October arrived and departed—no changes and no announcements. The Ministry of Time disappeared, and the clocks kept on ticking.