The toxic smog that has covered parts of Pakistan for weeks has exposed official torpor over rampant pollution that has killed thousands more people than have died in years of militancy.
The polluted air that has lingered in Islamabad in recent days was finally dispelled by rain this week, bringing the surrounding Margalla Hills into view once again.
In Lahore, where the situation was most critical, the level of PM2.5 — microscopic particles that lodge deep in the lungs — had dropped to 159 on Wednesday from more than 1,000 during the pollution spike, according to PakistanAirQuality, a citizen-driven monitoring initiative.
But what looks good for Pakistan is still very bad: 159 is six times higher than the World Health Organization's (WHO) safe limit.
"Question is, can a change from #Hazardous to Very #Unhealthy be called an improvement?" tweeted PakistanAirQuality.
Pakistan is already ranked third in the world — behind China and India — for the number of deaths caused by pollution, with 125,000 people killed annually, according to one measure by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research institute founded by the Gates Foundation.
The figure is well beyond the estimated 60,000 people who have died in the militancy-wracked country's years-long battle against extremism.
Provincial officials had delayed school start times and shut down some of the worst polluting companies.