LAHORE: Man-made disasters, such as the recent collapse of the factory in Lahore, the Baldia Town factory tragedy in Karachi in 2012, the murders of thousands of people by criminal mafias and terrorists, and numerous avoidable fatal air crashes and road accidents can be prevented if the state performs its role in accordance with laws and regulations. The rescue operation after the Lahore factory collapse was a comparatively better effort when we take into account some botched rescue operations of the past, but this was a disaster that could have been prevented had various departments performed their designated roles instead of becoming partners in criminal negligence and feeding into the greed of factory owners. Mere investigations, the formation of committees and the suspension of officials will not deter the corrupt bureaucracy from criminal negligence unless exemplary punishments are given. It is for the provincial and federal governments to prove whether they are there to serve and protect the public or to serve traders, contractors and the real estate mafia.
What purpose does the Punjab Industrial Estate Office in Sundar, located within yards of this illegal factory, serve other than being reduced to another job-providing organisation for cronies and retired officers? Why should elected ministers, MNAs and MPAs intervene in the work of regulatory agencies? How can the Sindh police justify its inaction in not arresting those responsible for the Baldia Town factory fire? Why should law enforcement agencies seek permission from the elected executive to arrest individuals who have committed crimes? Can the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority justify its existence with an overstaffed administration of over 600 employees costing the exchequer Rs1.5 billion annually, having funds to buy 443 expensive SUVs and cars for their executives, without money to procure equipment to handle rescue operations? While it may not be the job of the state to do business, it is its responsibility to regulate all commercial activity to ensure that companies and traders do not resort to unfair practices, and compromise safety of life and property of citizens. The right of traders to make profits cannot be at the expense of endangering the lives of citizens. Emergency response and rescue operation is a specialised field and those in government who appoint blue-eyed individuals lacking requisite qualifications and expertise cannot absolve themselves of their responsibilities and failures.
Malik Tariq Ali
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2015.