Déjà vu: The workers died due to suffocation

Published: June 14, 2014

They were in contact with the families and with the authorities. They complained, protested and appealed, but no one listened to them. PHOTO: REUTERS

‘The workers died due to suffocation’ – this is not the first time we have heard news like this.

The first time we heard it was back in 2012.

Two years ago, on September 11, 2012, when the garment factory caught fire claiming 259 lives and injuring 140. They called for help, screamed and shouted in agony but all in vain. The rescue forces didn’t get there in time. There were no fire escapes, fire retardants or safety measures. The doors were locked and the only unlocked door was on fire. One might think that they could have used the windows to escape instead but how could they? The windows were too small and barred with iron rods. They only had two choices – die of suffocation or burn to death.

They weren’t just 259 people who died that day. Mothers died the moment they heard about their sons’ demise, wives turned widows and children turned fatherless. For God’s sake, they were the breadwinners of the families. They weren’t just 259 people, they were 259 families.

But did the government care?

Did the government pass any law for the safety of its citizens?

Did the government do justice to the workers?

My guess would be no. Because if the government cared, if they did anything for the betterment of the country, if they did anything except negotiating and carrying out ‘peace talks’, those innocent people, the seven men who died in a cold storage room, would have been alive today.

They too, called for help. They were in contact with the families and with the authorities. They complained, protested and appealed, but no one listened to them. They waited for their death in the cold storage room while families were praying for their safe return and authorities were busy doing what they always do – nothing. And as result of this negligence, they are dead.

The families of the deceased didn’t even get to see the dead bodies for the last time thanks to the authorities who did nothing; their bodies were unidentifiable. The corpses were so severely burnt that the identification was only possible through DNA tests. Luckily enough, the families identified the dead bodies with familiar marks and NIC’s otherwise lab tests would have taken up to three weeks to provide results.

Whether it was lack of safety protocols or negligence, the government is to be blamed. If they could not manage to do anything after the death of 259 people, I hardly believe they will be able to do anything now. Donating money, after the sole breadwinner of the family died, doesn’t count towards the betterment of either the families of the deceased or the nation.

The citizens of this nation are equally to be blamed for this act of terror and every other taking place. We live in a democratic country and if we can’t change anything or fight for our rights, then we are as responsible for our fate as much as the authorities are.

Shajia Abidi

Shajia Abidi

A journalist in the making. An ardent reader, who loves to explore different places and diverse cultures. Enthusiastic for a better Pakistan. She tweets at @abidishajia (twitter.com/abidishajia)

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

  • نائلہ

    “The citizens of this nation are equally to be blamed for this act of terror and every other taking place. We live in a democratic country and if we can’t change anything or fight for our rights, then we are as responsible for our fate as much as the authorities are.”

    Very true and very well said. Sadly, many will continue to blame America, India, Modi and what not. First step to curing the disease is diagnosing it.Recommend

  • MrRollsRoyce

    My mind still boggles thinking about how exactly could these poor souls have died when there were in contact with the outside world. Utter incompetence and criminal negligence of the authorities involved. Heads should roll, those responsible for NOT conducting a sweep of the premises once the terrorists had been subdued should be sentenced to long jail terms for this negligence.Recommend

  • Art

    Our rulers and business elite are heartless money making machines, they dont care how many die so like many other tragedies this one will be forgotten or buried under the ones which are yet to unfold in this land of brave and pure. Recommend

  • Mujeeb

    Well dear, do you know how many people were being killed on average when there was no dialog? Why is it so difficult for you to understand that war/battles unite TTP and its lackies?
    How is your objection at dialog attempts relevant anyways? We were not going to surrender the country, unless you think we were. The 7 people you talked about, died because no one bothered to rescue them. How come is it different than the Baldia fire? How come you ignore the fact that they mistakenly took refuge in a storage filled with chemicals and all that combustible stuff?
    Stop making our soldiers kill and be killed all the times. Did you see what recently happened on Mosul of Iraq? Thousands of soldiers left their posts when they knew that merely a 1000 ISIL fighters were coming. If you understand wars better than the army, please go do it yourself – and take the like-minded with you. If you can gather just 10 men, I will accompany your force.Recommend

  • Usman French

    Your blog truly
    projects the government’s negligence over the suffocation of people inside cold
    storage room. Sadly, our government let the people die when a young lady is stoned to
    death in the presence of policemen, kids are died of malnutrition in Thar, or
    priceless lives are lost in airport tragedy. Government completely failed in
    protecting its people from insurgency. Your article was worth-reading deserving
    an appreciation. Perhaps, one thing I might find dubious how the relatives
    could recognize their beloved ones through NIC’s when they cannot be with corpses.
    However, it was a very good start and it would be pleasure to read more articles of
    yours in future.Recommend

  • Naila

    The soldiers are doing their job. If they don’t, Taliban will get more power and kill residents of the country. Who will out soldiers defend then?Recommend

  • hani abidi

    Mujeeeb. Wars and battles don’t necessarily unite TTP. It could again be negligence of the government. If a drone attack or army operation plans on killing 100 militants alomg with a few inocent civilians living in the community, that isn’t justified. I can see how in such cases people can raise against the army and support TTP in pursuit of revenge. But other than that, I dont see how fighting for our right to live independently without any fear should be discouraged.

    I can see how it was difficult dealing with TTP as they would come out of their holes; kill what they clai! kafirs a.k.a innocent people living in our country and rush back. But, how does that justify even talking to them or rather negotiating. You can come kill my brother and I should in return try to negotiate with you? Bro the game was not the oblivious. So the government thinking of negotiations was a disrespect to all the thousands killed by TTP and leading people to believe that TTP’s operation for a decade long was successful as they had government on their knees.

    As far as 7 people in cold storage was concerned; I am certain that at the moment they collectively might have found it to be the best place to secure their lives. Honestly the heads of the airport rescue operation should be questioned for their negligence. Why did that happen? Who cares about airplanes; they would have been insured either ways. Can we get the lives back?