HYDERABAD: The Mirpurkhas and Umerkot districts were in a state of mourning on Friday as 13 people who lost their lives in the fire incident in Tezgam Express in Rahimyar Khan, Punjab, were laid to rest. More than 80 people from the two districts were reportedly travelling in the three bogies of the Tezgam, which caught fire in one of the country's deadliest train fire incidents. The markets in the two districts remained shut and lawyers boycotted the court proceedings.
"The people of the Mirpurkhas division are in a state of shock and sadness because most of the martyrs of Liaquatpur incident belonged to us. We are mourning our dead," said district bar association's president, Mir Naeem Talpur. The mosques, imambargahs, educational institutions and offices held condolence references and prayed for the deceased persons.
The local people appeared ruffled by Railways Minister Shaikh Rasheed Ahmed's assertion, holding the passengers responsible for the tragedy. "Shaikh Rasheed should be immediately removed and an impartial judicial inquiry over the incident should be conducted," demanded Maulana Shareef Saeedi. Similar demands echoed elsewhere in the city.
Laid to rest
Seven persons were buried in Mirpurkhas and six in Kunri, a rural town in Umerkot district. A large number of people including political leaders from Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and religious parties attended the funeral.
In Pictures: Tezgam train inferno
The funeral prayers of Saleem, Muhammad Sharif Arain, Waqar Mari, Abdul Latif, Aftab Rajput, Nawaz Pathan and Farooq were held separately in Panhwar colony, Habib colony, Pir colony and Ghareebabad areas. The joint funeral prayers of Khuhsi Muhammad Bhatti, Afaque Ahmed Bhatti, Muhammad Yaqoob Bhatti and Bilal Aslam were held in the public park in Kunri.
Abdul Jabbar Arisar was laid to rest in village Kamaluddin Arisar in Pithoro taluka of Umerkot. Two more persons from the same village, Abdul Rehman Arisar and Abdul Waheed Arisar, have been confirmed dead. But their dead bodies have not been handed over to their families because of the DNA test.
A soldier of Pakistan Army, 30-year-old Naveed Qaimkhani, was laid to rest with military honour in Tandojam, Hyderabad. He had reportedly sustained fatal injuries when he jumped from the train after it caught fire. He later succumbed to injuries in the hospital.
According to the cell set up in the deputy commissioner's office in Mirpurkhas, so far nine bodies have arrived in the district while two more are on their way. The cell has so far confirmed 24 injured persons from the district while at least 40 people of Mirpurkhas who were in the train have been missing.
The cell will also provide transport to the families that want to travel to Rahimyar Khan for the DNA test on November 2. Mirpurkhas division commissioner Abdul Waheed Shaikh informed that the provincial government will also provide transport to bring back the bodies once the process of the DNA test is completed.
Tezgam train inferno death toll reaches 74
Dozens of families have reportedly already reached Rahimyar Khan and the DNA samples of more than 20 families have been collected in Shaikh Ziad hospital.
The passengers from Mirpurkhas and Umerkot districts had boarded the train from Hyderabad. An official of Hyderabad railway station, who requested anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the bogies that caught fire were booked in the name of Amir Hussain Arain. He said that the exact number of passengers who boarded the train from Hyderabad was not available. The passengers were traveling to Lahore to attend the religious congregation in Raiwand.
PTI draws flak
Meanwhile, the PTI's leaders Firdous Shamim Naqvi and Haleem Adil Sheikh, who attended the funeral, were embroiled in controversies. Naqvi allegedly made some objectionable comments about the people attending the Raiwand congregation, which provoked the people after which he was safely escorted out of the mosque. Talking to the media later Naqvi said he was sorry if his words hurt the sentiments of the people.
The workers of PTI and PPP clashed in Kunri and the vehicle of Sheikh was reportedly attacked. PTI workers staged a protest outside the police station and blamed the police for not taking action against the PPP workers.
The MQM-P's convener and federal minister, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, along with the party's MNAs and MPAs, visited the bereaved families for condolence.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2019.