Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Routine loss of Pakistani lives

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Umar Khan heads a Lahore based think tank
Routine loss of Pakistani lives

A loaded truck was traveling on Raiwind road, a major suburban road of Lahore early in the morning while the children were getting ready for schools. Suddenly some mechanical part of the truck broke and it went out of control. It crushed two young students waiting for school bus and then trampled a school going car killing six children. Pakistan lost another six wonderful talented citizens. This was not an isolated incidence rather a routine and such tragedies have become small news as nearly the same thing happened in Karachi a few days later. Loss of young lives is a big tragedy but not responding to them as a nation and taking actions to avoid future calamities might be an even greater tragedy.

Accidents happen everywhere in the world and lessons are learnt. Causes are investigated and identified and remedies sort to make sure innocent lives are saved. But we don’t seem to be interested in learning from our mistakes or disasters thus repeating those causing even further pains. I did not hear of any investigation ordered about this tragedy.

This, like all tragedies happened because many failures happened simultaneously.

After the recent heavy monsoons lack of drainage resulted in prolonged flooding of roads. As bitumen roads get destroyed by longstanding problems many of our roads have become a blend of potholes making driving a scary experience. At the accident site there was a dangerous pothole where I personally saw many cars broken. The question arises that if we build roads without drainage why we have to build bitumen roads and not the concrete roads which can tolerate water better. It might be more expensive but cheaper than repeated repairs or rebuilds that we have to do. And certainly much cheaper than the cost of losing precious lives. If we cannot rebuild the roads swiftly we can at least fill the potholes.

Then we must ascertain if the truck was mechanically fir to be on the road? Did it have the fitness certificate? It is well known that acquisition of the fitness certificate has less to do with the fitness of the vehicle and more to do with other unrelated factors. If the truck had acquired the fitness certificate wrongly then the workshop must be held responsible.

Our traffic police seem to be more interested in checking motorcycles and papers of vehicles while traffic rules take the back seat. Driver’s license, its validity and acquisition might help us understand the cause.

In the civilized world the state considers it its responsibility to look after its young. Our children should not wait for their school transport on a busy highway without and protection. Had there been a proper bus stand lives might have been saved. We saw some pretty looking bus stands being built a few years back but now that seems to have been ignored again. We must start making life easier for commuters by providing them a decent way to wait for their transport by building proper bus stops.

We owe it to the victims that we find the cause of the accident and remedy it so that such tragedies are not repeated. Whether it was the driver, the transport company, the inspection people or the government agencies looking after the roads the culprits must be identified and forced to pay for their negligence. After all many lives were lost and it was criminal negligence or involuntary manslaughter to say the least. We must make sure such dangerous things do not go unchecked and everyone must realize that they will be held accountable for the effects of their actions or deeds. We keep on repeating that our people are our most valuable assets but fail to act accordingly. Life seems to be the most inexpensive commodity in Pakistan which can be wasted with impunity.

Six people have died for others fault and six families have been devastated. Six humans, Muslims and Pakistanis. Lives cannot return but by making the people responsible for the accident pay can certainly help. In this endeavor we must finish the immunity of the government sector and make them pay for their failures. Certainty of accountability can make people and the inefficient public sector departments more responsible making our people safer. We can only pray for the innocent souls that departed too early. May Allah give them jannat and sense to the people responsible for it.


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