What 32 dead school children are saying

Published: September 22, 2010
Email

A screen shot of people swimming towards the school van that fell in to a ravine

This is a story of a cruel, ruthless and heartless Pakistani system that has failed. And no elections can save it, without a major change. A mother in northern Pakistan jumped into a river where five of her children drowned after the management of a privately-run school sent them off in a crammed bus driven by the school’s gatekeeper, or chowkidar, who then drove it off a cliff.

Every once in a while comes a news story that makes your heart stop. And this is one of them.

Pakistan’s politicians can spend $11 million on a statue for a dead politician but have no money to spare for public universities paralyzed by lack of funds.

Forget democracy. Our politicians, who run our federal and provincial governments, can’t enforce discipline in schools, mostly run like supermarkets by the female relatives of politicians, retired military officers or businessmen.

In the sad story of the mother, from Garhi Dupatta in northern Pakistan, the school management saw it fit to cram 35 to 38 children in a mini-bus which went speeding across mountain slopes. The chowkidar was talking on his cell phone when he plunged into a ravine on Tuesday. He and four children survived while 32 precious little lives couldn’t make it.

Today there are some 40 families or more in one small area called Garhi Dupatta, probably many of them neighbors, mourning dead children because of a criminally negligent school. Would the owners of that school put their own children on that overcrowded mini-bus?

More importantly, would our civil administrators punish the owners of that school? In China, two owners of a company that made tainted milk powder that killed several Chinese babies were executed without mercy last year after a trial. Will we see the owners of that private Pakistani school even questioned for the life-threatening choices they made for the school kids? Not likely.

Eight months ago, eight school children were run over by a train because the driver of their van decided to take a short cut over a railway line. Did anyone ask the school owners whether they supervised the transporters? Did anyone ask the area’s education officials if they had enforced safety guidelines for school buses? Did anyone ask railway officials if they have safe crossings for school buses?

The federal railway minister seemed to think nothing wrong was wrong with introducing a little bit of humor into the tragedy. He publicly said at least the train didn’t come after the van driver on the street. This was his cute way of absolving his ministry of any responsibility.

Like everything else, school owners have become another money-driven cartel in the country. When the time comes for change, all of these cartels that hide behind the facade of democracy will have to be demolished.

Some politicians consider government to be their class right. Their own children study overseas while the children of ordinary Pakistanis die miserable deaths under different pretexts.

This is why a grand-scale, civil-society-led, and military-backed intervention to scrap a failed Pakistani political system will become necessary, eventually, when the time comes.

And when that time does arrive, we will want our military to take a strategic decision to snatch power from feudal democrats and usher in change with the help of talented and educated Pakistanis from the lower and middle-class.

ahmed.quraishi

Ahmed Quraishi

The author is a journalist and a public policy professional, with government & private sector experience across Pakistan and the Middle East. He tweets @Office_AQPk (twitter.com/Office_AQPk)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • faraz

    Army cant transform this country into a welfare state; it gets 30% of the budget resources, will it promote education and health? The money wasted in creating strategic depth and waging proxy wars could have transformed the country. Its because of the army, that Pakistan is labelled the global hub of terrorism and Pakistanis are stripped at airports. Civilians keep armies for protection but here we have an army which recruits civilians to wage wars. Its delusional to expect welfare and liberty from our army, infact any army.Recommend

  • Khadija Masood

    Heartbreaking. May they rest in peace.Recommend

  • Mahvesh

    This is why a grand-scale, civil-society-led, and military-backed intervention to scrap a failed Pakistani political system will become necessary, eventually, when the time comes. And when that time does arrive, we will want our military to take a strategic decision to snatch power from feudal democrats and usher in change with the help of talented and educated Pakistanis from the lower and middle-class.

    While the rest of the article makes sense, I would like to say, with due respect, your ‘committment’ to a particular brand of nationalism is skewed and warped to say the least. Recommend

  • Ali

    @Faraz, the Army has already transformed this country into flames…. Majority of Pakistani people are fan of being driven like donkeys….. Shame…Recommend

  • http://www.thetrueperspective.com Hamza Malik

    This is the first article by Ahmad Qureshi that has made sense to me.Recommend

  • Muhammad Zeeshan

    They are saying “O! hell with you! our deaths will be buried under other news which has more significance!”Recommend

  • Syed Tariq Javed

    Without prejudice to the article mentioned and the sad event. Please note that Garhi Dupatta (AJK) is not northern Pakistan. It is a separate independent state with her own Supreme Court Flag Anthem Prime Minister and President. The politicians of AJK are very humble and patriotic.

    Please stop lashing PakistanRecommend

  • akhter

    I agree whatever your feeling as well as nation feeling put you in this article but disagree that you want that dictatorship came again and destroy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • Hasan

    And when that time does arrive, we
    will want our military to take a
    strategic decision to snatch power
    from feudal democrats and usher in
    change with the help of talented and
    educated Pakistanis from the lower and
    middle-class.

    Are you inciting army to commit treason? There is an article 6 for that in the constitution. I hope you have heard of it.Recommend

  • y n

    @Mahvesh: I completely agree. Is this a news story or commentary? The author should be ashamed for employing O’Riley tactics by inserting personal prejudices into a factual narrative. I can’t believe the Tribune tolerates this kind of stuff.Recommend

  • Waqas

    We expect too much from the pakistani brand of democracy, which is nothing but a facade. If the leaders can not practice democracy within their own parties, how can they develop a democratic Pakistan?
    We need to reform the system and this change can not be initiated and managed by politicians due to their incompetence and ulterior motives. The scale of challenges faced by our country is so huge that its beyond any single entity/institution. A collective effort from all stakeholders is required, spearheaded by the educated and enlightened middle class and led by a person with high integrity, morals and values. Recommend

  • Mahvesh

    @ YN: At least they included your assessment of ET – they cut out mine.

    Personally, Mr. Quraishi, the military doesn’t give a damn about being a coup being ‘civilian backed’ or not. If they were truly representative of you, they would cut back on their expenditures and give up for development work. What need would there be for an intervention then? Aren’t all the problems here tied to the very fact that the government isn’t representative of the people? And how do you think they’ll manage that when huge chunks are gobbled up by the military? Keep ‘me’ out of this collective ‘we’ you use. Recommend

  • http://Faisalabad Aasia Sohail Mian

    Well it is a sad incident which took place due to the negligence of the school authorities and the concerned driver who was riding the bus. God may bless their families and give patience to bear this loss. But do not blame the politicians, We are the ones who bring them to the position of rulers. We are so sentimental that we praise the personalities not the ideology. We do not want to listen a single word against Bhutto or Benazir Bhutto. We do not want to listen a word against Nawaz Sharif and many more. Stop idolizing the persons.There will be no need of army rule or any thing.Vote for the right one and feel the difference.Recommend

  • hafsa haseeb

    Great Article and i support what you are saying. but this is for every other person that has replied on this piece. you dont want zardari or any other party member as president because you have seen the result of democracy, yet you dont want the army. what the hell do you poeple want…. pick the lesser of two evils. dont hate because that is what you know and you want to follow a public mindset. look at the facts around you. look at what is happening to your country. will you allow this gov to keep ruling? cause it seems like your not giving solutions your just being bitter. actions have to be taken changes have to be made. we are not standing up anymore. we are the people of pakistan and we are not helping. while we wait and debate on who all we dont want to run the country (and we have issues with all politicians) more innocent children will lose their lives. The people most affected are not sitting in cities like we are and they dont have a say. sadly they can be easily manipulated. look at who is sitting in the Presidents house because of democrcy….. really!! i am all for democracy, but not every system works as much as we want it to. you might hate the alternative but it sure cannot be worse than this.Recommend

  • Haris

    Where are the “lawyers” now? All the lawyers who came out against Musharraf do NOTHING else. I have no sympathy for the country. Pakistan is a wealthy nation and even has BILLIONAIRES and beyond that the country gets funded by the US, UN and the world. Yet does nothing. The people do nothing. The rich get richer there because the other 170 million people DO NOTHING. Amazing. Recommend

  • http://Faisalabad Citizen Rights Foundation

    President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani ‘s deep grief and sorrow over the tragic deaths of young schoolchildren in a road accident in Azad Kashmir is neither sufficient nor enough. The school should be seized to exit and exemplary punishment shall be awarded to the management to avoid such accidents in future. Recommend

  • Zahid

    Corruption! is the biggest enemy. The Vehicle was unfit for road. The concerned department should not give fitness certificate to vehicles which are being used for public commuting. I give you an example of Karachi. Many unfit vehicles can be seen on the roads. Traffic police take bribe and allow the drivers to pollute, make noisy, and take public life. Here is again failure of judiciary, who is not taking SuoMoto notice. They are resolving only 2% people’s problem. Serving common people is not anyone’s agenda.Recommend

  • Shehriyar

    This is why a grand-scale, civil-society-led, and military-backed intervention to scrap a failed Pakistani political system will become necessary, eventually, when the time comes.
    And when that time does arrive, we will want our military to take a strategic decision to snatch power from feudal democrats and usher in change with the help of talented and educated Pakistanis from the lower and middle-class.

    this is the best part of the article, thank you Mr. Qureshi, may other journalists create this kind of awareness too.Recommend

  • KHALIL AHMED

    Dear AQ, Nothing will happen the Army will take over do little bit of Good for the Country and then because they r afraid of the rich Countries will start talking with the same Corrupt Politicians and asking them how we can have Democracy in Pakistan and we will have an other N.R.O. so we will keep on going around and around!!!!Recommend