The slain officers of the Lahore blast deserve a better brand of respect than the medal of martyrdom we pin on them
Inspector o inspector, why is your uniform red?
Are these wounds of servitude?
Have they finally bled?
Your gun lies unarmed by you…
But the enemy has fled,
Inspector o inspector, we know you toiled hard,
In pouring rain and scorching sun,
Over us you stood guard…..
Alas today you shall rest in your grave,
But today you shall hear some lad some praise,
Some words like honour…others like grace,
For after someone has passed, only then are we dazed…
Rest now o weary inspector, you have done your deed,
But those who let you down are we,
And those who we chose to lead….
Neither was the hour late nor the police. Rather, they were the target. At 3:55pm on July 24th, at the Ferozepur road in Lahore, a car bomb exploded, immediately killing 26 people including nine policemen. The area under attack was a busy locality near the chief minister of Punjab’s office.
The police officers who were killed in the attack were providing security for some demolition work going on nearby. While the intelligence agencies had claimed to have known about the possibility of a terror attack targeting government departments, especially police localities in Lahore, the number of casualties here only indicates criminal negligence of the establishment.
It is no surprise that Lahore was targeted with the scale of city development and improvement that has been undertaken in this heart of the country. However, while probing questions shall be asked and criticism meted out, I wish to take this opportunity to talk about these unsung heroes, the police officials who bear the brunt and grunt of public disapproval.
These protectors of our cities receive anything but praise and warmth from us. Meagre remunerations, long hours and short lives are the crux of their service, but the reputation they earn is overwhelmingly incriminating in nature. The terrorist attack in Lahore yesterday claimed lives of nine such officials who were merely performing their duties in the heat of the day. The irony of the situation is definitely not lost as the protectors themselves came under fire.
Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has announced official compensation for the martyred policemen which will include a lump sum payment of Rs10 million to the bereaved families. Furthermore, the government of Punjab shall also bear the expense of their children’s education.
This no doubt is a necessary gesture of official measure by the Punjab government, but will it be enough? Can it hope to fulfil the bereavement of those mourning their brave loved ones? Definitely not. It is high time that we choose pre-emption over compensation. These officers deserve a better brand of respect and reward than the medal of martyrdom that we pin on them. Getting killed during anti-encroachment operations is not the end that our officers deserve. It simply isn’t martyrdom, it is only negligence.
There were instant condemnations from important political and public figures too. As the heart of the country was hit once again, what was even more appalling was our lukewarm reaction. News channels carried the tragic news but most of us did not even talk about it. It is only a momentary glance at the screen, the number of casualties, the site of the attack, the details of the attacker and whether or not if some terrorist group has claimed responsibility.
After a few moments we all go back to our routines and the channels slip back into their routine transmissions. It is Panama, the joint investigation team (JIT), Imran Khan versus Nawaz Sharif on our TV sets all over again. Human lives were lost and it has become so easy for us to just move on. But is it even our fault? If I am being brutally honest here, then I also only donated a few minutes of my time to this tragic incident before I returned to my own routine.
It is true that hardships bring you perseverance and what does not kill you makes you stronger. But it also hardens you. It makes you immune to the suffering of others. You know why movie theatres around the world have age restrictions for children watching gore content? It is because their impressionable minds could get accustomed to the images of violence.
This is exactly what has happened to us. Repeated acts of terror have desensitised us to such happenings. The number of lives lost is what reflects the gravity of the situation for us.
Whether it is the staggering figure of the 200-plus people that died in Bahawalpur or the 26 unfortunate souls in Lahore this time, it is human life that is lost without reason. Rescue teams can clear the area off of body parts and blood, the city municipality can clean the site of the explosion, and the ‘agile’ administration of CM Punjab will most probably reconstruct the road quite efficiently.
But can someone restore our empathy? Can any amount of damage repair increase our sense of consideration? Only we, ourselves can do this.
God forbid before that next calamity strikes, let us not repeat what we have always done. What needs to be done here is to unite all factions of political power and the civil society for the good of the nation. The political rivalries and the games of gain and loss must be put on hold at least until this bereaved time has passed. The next step must be paying heed to the threat alerts issued by the agencies in all provinces, especially for the police and other security personnel.
Drills must be conducted in these departments to better enable these individuals to cope with such emergencies. The role of the city police department must also be expanded to educate the general public on basic safety measures so that every man, woman and child is better equipped and secure, instead of being clueless in such situations. All such preventions and steps may actually help reduce the number of these incidents which is in fact the only way for us to start valuing human life once again.
It goes without saying that it was a grave miscalculation on the part of our agencies that even though they had prior knowledge of the prevalent threat to the public and the security agencies, they were still not able to save these precious lives.
In the aftermath of such tragedies, when it becomes important to unite against the enemy, it sadly becomes a way of political point-scoring by those in power. The opposition uses the opportunity to tarnish the image of those in the government and this time, the scapegoat is the Panama case.
All the while those who suffer and get sacrificed at this altar of forced martyrdom are the true servants of the people and the masses themselves. It is yet again the stagnation of thought, lethargy and innate nonchalance that results in such horrible attacks; a few empty words of condolence are offered and then we move on, until the next attack.
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