Editor’s note: The views expressed in this blog post are of the author’s only. The editor and/or the organisation do not necessarily agree with it.
June 25, 2017 seemed an ordinary day in a Pakistani city of Bahawalpur. People woke up and got on with their routine tasks of going through the day according to their learnt behaviours in Pakistani society. The government of Punjab province got on with their own routine business, and its legislative subsidiary departments got on with their routine business.
Little did anyone know it was going to be anything but an ordinary day as it exposed the learnt behaviours of ordinary people, government and its subsidiaries, all at once.
An ordinary oil tanker had an accident and slipped over from the road as routine. An ordinary truck driver did an ordinary thing and escaped from the scene without waiting for the police. The local police did an ordinary thing by not reaching the accident site. A number of ordinary people passing by decided to do an ordinary thing to avail the opportunity to steal from an unattended truck of black gold. The highways and motorways management of Punjab government faced an ordinary situation of not having any knowledge of anything. The crisis management section of Punjab government did an ordinary thing by not being present at the scene due to their systems showing everything was being normal.
Everything was ordinary including another ordinary person who decided to light up a cigarette and threw it into the spilling fuel with dozens of people standing in the pool of fuel. And probably walked away.
And then an extraordinary thing happened; 158 people with their cars, motorcycles and other belongings burnt alive in a matter of seconds. With average family size of 6 persons in Pakistan, the lives of 948 people changed in a matter of seconds forever.
I fail to understand the causes of this human tragedy, because;
- I have no doubt that the truck driver was a qualified trucker; must have had obtained his license through rigorous licensing system in the country making sure that transportation of such highly combustible materials is being carried out with utmost care especially near the cities.
- I have no doubt that government had put in place special licensing system through proper legislative actions to specify the qualifications of truckers and highway paths suitable for such transportation.
- I have no doubt that the highways and crisis management departments were totally aware of the route the trucker took on that day, had a complete surveillance system in place to track the movement of the truck with highly combustible materials at huge quantity especially when it was passing by cities. And they were on it when it slipped over or its movement stopped.
- I have no doubt that everyone standing near that truck have had civil behaviour learnt through social interactions with fellow citizens – the civil learnt behaviours that hold great common sense in terms of hazards and ethical conduct. The Pakistani society as a whole has wonderfully conducive environment that teaches its inhabitants how to safeguard other people’s property even when it is unattended and how to safeguard themselves against real hazards and more importantly how to value one’s own life.
It is such a difficult puzzle to solve; when the licensing system is robust that only qualified people can drive a truck with dangerous materials, there are specific routes designated for movement of such dangerous materials, people are so educated about their civil responsibilities and duties, governments have been putting in place legislative actions and highways and crisis management departments are fully aware of their roles of implementing legislative actions.
Pakistan should just be patient and show grace in accepting this great human tragedy which was beyond the control of any worldly knowledge, information, experience, expertise or any tested systems available in the entire universe. Sometimes, things that are beyond control of human abilities, one just has one choice and that is to stay quiet and let the time heal the wounds; I am very proud of everyone responsible in Pakistan who conducted themselves in the same manner. Best wishes everyone for your graceful conduct.
It is just very unfortunate that people of Pakistan, Pakistani society and Pakistan as a country had to face such a tragedy; I am not sure what else a country can do to protect its citizens than what Pakistani state has already done. This is just not fair.
It takes us to another situation Pakistani state has had to deal with: what happened in Parachinar -- a series of blasts took life of dozens of people belonging to a certain community of Pakistani nationals.
About 100 people lost their lives and with it about 600 peoples’ lives got affected. The elements who took responsibility of this mass murder are Pakistani nationals recognised by Pakistani state; nationality by birth and authenticated through government departments. The people are openly waging war against fellow nationals by birth. They have factories of weapons on Pakistani soil, bank accounts in Pakistani banks, charitable organisations registered in Pakistani departments.
This enemy from within is proving highly sophisticated as government is on the hunt to cancel any bank accounts associated with such factories of mass murder, anyone associated with such factories are being strip of their fundamental rights of free movement, renting an accommodation, taking out a utility connection, having any travel documents or any other fundamental rights guaranteed through constitutional nationality.
The new generations, in preschools and in schools, are being educated about democracy and democratic citizenship. The democracy as a fundamental right of every citizen is being taught to new generations rather than being debated as one form of governance. Still If Pakistani state and its people are facing such horrible circumstances then all we can do is to accept silently and gracefully what is beyond anyone’s control. I am very proud of Pakistani state and Pakistani nation to show such maturity and move on gracefully and silently after this mass murder.