Over 400 dead in Karachi and yet we have no plan of action

Published: June 23, 2015

The Sindh government called in Rangers officials to help set-up heatstroke relief camps across Karachi. But why was that needed? Why was a provincial government in need of help in the first place, and that too from a law-enforcement agency? PHOTO: AFP

More than 400 people have died in Karachi since yesterday, due to the deadly heat wave that has laid siege over the city. That’s more than 400 homes struck by tragedy for no apparent reason. That’s more than 400 lives simply wasted away because the local government had no system in place for such a calamity.

But then again, when was the last time that we had a system in place for anything?

Even in this recent tragedy, chaos ensued. Even hospitals around the city were not equipped to handle the commotion. Jinnah Hospital ran out of ORS and clean drinking water because of the influx of patients. Emergency wards were filled with people and medical staffers fell short of the desired number of attendants.

Lack of a proper system has been our go-to answer for eons. Be it the APS attack (141 dead), the Thar famine (66 dead – just in January, 2015), the Kashmiri floods (205 dead), the Ismaili bus attack (43 dead) or the rains in Peshawar (35 dead); be it a man-made or natural catastrophe, we have never had a solid system in place to help us navigate.

The Sindh government called in Rangers officials to help set-up heatstroke relief camps across Karachi. But why was that needed? Why was a provincial government in need of help in the first place, and that too from a law-enforcement agency? We pay our taxes to the government, not the Rangers officials. So where has all the money gone?

This lack of a system has cost us close to 900 lives in just the past eight months.

Yet we do not change our ways.

We keep polluting – we pollute our environment, our offices, our ranks, our duties. We pollute with trash, with hate, with corruption and sloth. And by the end of the day, we just count the numbers – after which we thank God we weren’t part of that death toll.

And then we carry on.

Perhaps the worst part is that this news, about the Karachi heat wave, will die down as soon as it starts to rain in the city. In fact, as I write this, people have already started rejoicing at the news of rain in some distant parts of Karachi.

So what if more than 400 people died? At least it’s raining.

My question is, will we see the same resolve of making sure such an incident does not happen again as we did after the APS attack, in the form of a National Action Plan?

While people may argue that the NAP has its flaws and it has not been properly implemented, there is at least a plan in place; people have some idea about what to do. Do we have a NAP for disaster relief as well? Do we have a policy which sets out the modus operandi for a future calamity of this nature?

No, we don’t.

And is anyone talking about it?

No, not yet.

And herein lies the problem.

The swiftness with which the NAP was drafted was uncanny of the Pakistan government. Perhaps because the people whose children were attacked belonged to the status quo in this country? Anyway, to expect the same speedy decision-making in this regard is clearly delusional.

The fact that the Sindh government was willing to ‘gift’ away 9,000 acres of forest land in the Shikarpur district to the heirs of martyred soldiers from the Pakistan Army goes to show that environmental concerns are not their priority. Keeping aside the environmental concerns, the basic question is who has given the provincial government the right to give away such a huge amount of precious land? The government doesn’t own it, the people do.

Pakistan already has just 2.1% of forest lands in its borders, which is grossly below the required amount of at least 25%. The people sitting in the provincial assembly are so incapable of common sense that they will simply give away 9,000 acres of forest land without once thinking about the adverse-affect it will have on Pakistan’s environment. From affecting climate change, to maintaining the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to helping avert floods, forests are crucial to any country’s sustenance.

Can you still not see the effects of deforestation in the form of this heat wave? What more has to happen before you understand that deforestation will lead to more havoc than imaginable?

Surely, it shouldn’t take a novice like me to point all that out to our government?

The government should pay heed to the people. Many are speaking out on social media and many have given short-term as well as long-term solutions.

Photo: Screenshot

Alongside this, people need to be more pragmatic and understand that natural disasters have little to do with ones sins and more to do with bad management and general scientific rules. This is global warming, in the flesh.

We, as citizens of Karachi, need to hold this government accountable and not resort to simply praying for rain or praying for the dead. While prayers are important, tangible change can only occur once we pursue matters and take steps that ensure our safety in the future.

Over 400 people have died. Let them not die in vain.

Faiq Lodhi

Faiq Lodhi

A journalism grad and news-buff, his interests include current affairs, arts, literature and social work. He tweets as @FaiqLodhi (twitter.com/FaiqLodhi)

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

  • Torkham Khan

    Excellent blog. Hits the nail on the head. But guess what? Nothing, repeat, nothing
    will be done. Or will happen. Because the sheep, also known as the citizens of
    Land of the Pure will do nothing. If it was any other civilized country, the Govt. would
    fall. BOTH, Provincial and Federal. But not in Pure Country. it is the opposite. The
    politicians, corrupt bureaucrats, officials, police, anyone with a tad of authority will
    kick the sheep back in place. Plunder and loot them. Revile and curse them. And
    tell them to shut up and get back in the herd. And that’s the way it will keep on going.

    oRecommend

  • Ba-boom-tish

    You said it, Pops ! If ever there was a need for a such-and-such Spring, it would surely have to be in Pakistan. The country needs a Kamal Attaturk type of catharsis across the board rather than the romper-room circuses managed courtesy of IK or Qadri.Recommend

  • Emad Qazi

    You want to control the security situation in Karachi because the civil police failed, no problem just call in the army. You want to open military courts because the civil judiciary failed, no problem just call in the army. You want to set rangers health checkpoints during the heatwave because the civil medical infrastructure failed, no problem call in the army. You want FC to control the security in Baluchistan because your local police is incapable, no problem just call in the army. If the army has to control health, law and security without even being in power then might as well make them in charge because i would much rather prefer a military dictatorship which actually does some work for Pakistan then a failed democracy which only breathes on corruptionRecommend

  • Ashif Tejani

    Let’s have hope that someone of sound mind and influence in the Sindh Government will read this blog and something will be done. After all, Isn’t knowledge the first step in change? If we only write these blogs thinking that nothing will be done than that is quite self-serving and pessimistic. Again, great piece…I hope it makes a change.Recommend

  • Sane

    CEO of K-Electric says there is no problem and power supply is available to 99.9% consumers. Our sleeping and absent minded CM, Sindh says: No Problem. Kh. Asif (Federal Minister) says Sindh Government default in payments against power. Artificial Rain: Clouds are awaited for sprinkling ‘sodium chloride’. But summary of approval is not yet made for purchase of sodium chloride. Clouds are also not available and shall require to import. Out of two Two Planes to sprinkle sodium chloride, one’s wings are not balanced. Other belongs to some tycoon and his permission is needed. Mr. Tycoon is in Switzerland, with his new wife and his cellphone if off. Till all this are arranged & managed winter shall be here.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Great piece of writing…….and who will hold the government responsible ?…..the only organisation that can do this is ‘ sitting on the fence ‘.Recommend