LAHORE: Last week, the rescuers of the Punjab Emergency Service (PES) secured international certification and became the first team in South Asia to name the position.
Pakistan Rescue Team, an Urban Search and Rescue Team of Rescue 1122, successfully secured the certification from International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
The announcement was made by UNOCHA INSARAG Secretariat Geneva Switzerland Winston Chang at a ceremony held at the Governor House. The ceremony was attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, INSARAG representatives and other dignitaries. It is indeed a great honour for Pakistan as the team is first in South Asia to name the position. Now, the team is qualified to respond to disasters globally.
Rescue 1122 started as a pilot project in 2004 as an emergency ambulance service. In a short period of 15 years, it proved itself to be a centre of excellence in terms of service delivery.
It not only developed itself into an emergency service covering road crashes, fire-fighting, but the building also collapses under its scope and went up to every Tehsil and District of Punjab.
The service has also been appraised and replicated in other provinces of the country with the help of Punjab Emergency Services Academy. On October 31, it reached another milestone by receiving accreditation from the UN.
However, there is an abysmal sight of the department also that too needs to be addressed. The moment, Punjab Emergency Service Rescue 1122 was receiving the international award its topmost position was vacant. The contract of its director general had expired almost two weeks back and the Punjab Government had yet to reappoint a new DG, extend Dr Rizwan Naseer’s contract or give charge to another officer of Rescue 1122. Naseer attended the ceremony as the commander of Pakistan Rescue Team, the position that was alien to INSARAG team formation.
Other neglected aspects of the service are the absence of service structure. Rescue 1122 in 15 years have reached up to tehsil level, helped in replication in other provinces, won UN certification but had yet to get a proper service structure. This neglect had been badly affecting the morale of the rescuers. Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had announced during his last visit in this regard but it had yet to materialise.
Preparedness and response to Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam Fazalul Rehman’s Azadi March remained the focal point of attention and energies of Punjab Police. The largest passage of March’s route fell into Punjab hence fell the responsibility on Punjab Police.
Rawalpindi, the most important district after capital Islamabad fell in the jurisdiction of Punjab Police. Other important points like entry point from District Sindh and Attock District were also to be managed by Punjab Police. The commanders conducted multiple meetings to devise a strategy to deal with the matter.
Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Captain (retd) Arif Nawaz Khan reportedly held at least five exclusive meetings with the commanders of these districts besides multiple meetings with all senior officers and field officers.
Another challenge for Punjab Police was to make arrangements in absence of a clear cut policy line in dealing with the protestors from federal and provincial governments.
Raiwind religious congregation
Lahore Police also remained busy in securing the venue of the first phase of Raiwind religious congregation (tableeghi ijtama). The congregation concluded peacefully on Sunday.
A suicide bomber had targeted a picket of Punjab Police at Raiwind last year.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2019.
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