Criminal negligence: Needless death at Bahria Town race track

Published: December 6, 2010
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Screen capture of video footage from the Bahria Town crash.

On Sunday, five people died as a speeding car lost control and crashed into a group of spectators. What is extremely unfortunate is the fact that these deaths and injuries were completely avoidable.

As details emerge, attention will focus on young reckless drivers. Our roads proliferate with underage drivers who, due to a combination of parental wealth, a grotesque sense of entitlement and teenage hormones, not only break the law, but are often involved in needless accidents. They drive around locally “suped up” cars, with little or no quality control.

That however is one side of the coin. This tragedy took place on private property (who some would contend was purchased under dubious circumstances) in what is considered by many as one of the success stories of property development in Pakistan. Bahria Town, the ever-expanding  gated community declares that:

Bahria Town aspires to be Pakistan’s greatest builder of all times, with projects offered to an eclectic mix of segments , at choice locations with world class amenities, while ensuring the highest international standards, timely delivery, and lifelong customer satisfaction.

At the race that they organised, where were the world class, international standard barriers, safety procedures and technical expertise?

A news agency reports that:

The organisers of the race have told that the spectators were many times warned, during the race, to keep distance from the race track and not to get closer to the railing but they constantly ignored the warnings and stood so close to the safety fence which caused more damage to their lives (sic)

There are several video clips of the accident making the rounds on social networking sites. They were hardly any “safety fences”, and even assuming that barriers were installed, expecting people not to “get closer to the railing” during a race is naive at best and ludicrous at the worst.

The race took place on a highway, not a racetrack. Why? The videos clearly show sand accumulated on the edges of the road. Who can say that the road was appropriate for such an event?

Who insured that the drivers were appropriately skilled?

Were the cars inspected?

Were they technically sound to take place in such a race?

For such events having a fire truck and an ambulance present is not enough. Neither does an advertising banner constitute a “safety barrier”. The advertising barrier bearing the PTCL logo, who were the official sponsor of the event.

When such tragedies take place in public spaces, we are quick to point fingers at the police or the local government. This tragedy has taken place in a privately managed residential area. Whose head will roll for the negligence shown? Will the organisers blame the drivers or the spectators and get away with it? On the other hand, will an organisation known for extending its influence through patronising the powers to be, get away with what can surely be identified as a case of criminal negligence?

As a nation, we fail our children and young people. May it be in terms of access to education or healthcare, or indeed road safety. To expect the spectators to “know better” is not an excuse!

The organisers of such an event should have taken all the necessary precautions and then some. If Bahria Town can spend billions on developing a “world class” golf course, plush boulevards and commercial areas, it could have also setup adequate barriers at the very least. Or is that too much to ask?

nadir.eledroos

Syed Nadir El Edroos

Nadir teaches Economics at Bellerbys College, London and is interested in Pakistani politics and current affairs. He tweets @needroos (twitter.com/needroos)

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