We hear a great deal about drone attacks; even now the issue remains a top priority for political parties. But there is a small matter — in fact rather a big one — that is too often ignored. Few of us realise that more people have been killed in CNG cylinder blasts than in attacks by the unmanned US aircraft. While that issue has led to protests of every kind, and today threatens our relations with the US, no one seems concerned by the deaths caused by CNG cylinder blasts.
Yet, according to a report released by the Civil Society Front (CSF) of Pakistan, 2,000 people were killed in cylinder blasts in 2011. This, according to the CSF, is four times more than the number killed in drone attacks. Indeed, we do not even know what the actual figure for deaths caused by drone attacks is — with the ever-present possibility that they may have been exaggerated for propaganda reasons. Lack of access to remote tribal areas makes it impossible to estimate what the actual figure is. The CSF has also expressed the apprehension that the figure for cylinder deaths may rise this year, given that nothing at all is being done to direct any kind of official attention to the problem. While deaths in cylinder blasts are regularly reported by the media, the matter has not been taken up as a serious issue or any attempt made to stop them. The CSF deserves credit for its pioneering role in taking up the matter.
To resolve the issue and prevent a death toll which the CSF fears may double over the next year as the number of deaths continues to rise, the organisation has suggested laws to regulate the use of low quality cylinders. This is obviously essential. At the very least we need regulations to prevent the use of sub-standard cylinders in public transport vehicles. Too many people have died as a result of explosions in the vehicles they were travelling in. The issue needs to be taken up before more people are so needlessly killed, simply as a result of administrative indifference and inefficiency.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2012.
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