Shehbaz Sharif can buy himself a helicopter, but it’s too costly to provide adequate medical facilities in Punjab?

Published: July 25, 2017
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Pakistani burn victims are treated at a hospital in Bahawalpur on June 25, 2017, after oil tanker after caught fire following an accident on a highway near the town of Ahmedpur East, some 670 kilometres (416 miles) from Islamabad. PHOTO: AFP

The aftermath of the Bahawalpur tragedy is a harrowing tale of gross incompetence and disregard for human life. Before this, little emphasis has been placed on how the massive loss of life could have been avoided.

For instance, Army helicopters had to be called in for transporting the burn victims to the hospital since the rescue services didn’t own one. But here’s a little fact – just three months ago, a Rs2.25 billion Russian helicopter was bought by Shehbaz Sharif for personal use. The question that should be asked here is, whether it was bought with public funds that could have been utilised elsewhere.

Numerous lives could have been saved and the death toll reduced if a decent medical facility with a burn unit existed nearby. Despite the urgent need for better medical facilities, the Sharifs have diverted a large chunk of funds, originally allocated for South Punjab, to infrastructure projects in urban areas.

Thanks to this erroneous policy, the nearest Victoria hospital only had 30 beds in its ICU section and seven of their machines were out of order. The injured had to be airlifted to Multan as there was no burn unit present either.

At present, only 209 beds are available for burn patients at four major state-run hospitals in Punjab. After all this, Shehbaz had the audacity to say that the last 70 years of corruption was one of the chief causes of the Bahawalpur tragedy. He conveniently forgot that out of the last 70 years, at least 30 years can be attributed to his family’s rule over Punjab.

To add further insult to the injury, Rana Sanaullah, a senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader from Punjab, brazenly stated that it’s not possible to make a burn centre in every hospital in Punjab. He was apparently hinting towards lack of funds as the cause of deficient burn centres.

The question is, then, how does the government have Rs300 billion for the unrequired Metro bus project, Rs70 million of public funds to build a bomb proof wall along the Jaati Umra agriculture state, and enough money to buy extremely expensive Russian helicopters for personal use, but no money for burn units?

Moreover, the cheques handed out as compensation had allegedly bounced as well. This was denied by the officials, but we can never know with this government.

What’s worse is that a meagre amount of Rs10 million was imposed on Shell by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA). Shell even refused to accept responsibility for the incident, shifting the blame on the victims’ lack of awareness and the Motorway Police’s delayed response.

A pattern of indifference can be detected where everyone seems to be shrugging off their responsibility and blaming the other party instead. Most people went as far to place the entire blame on the deceased victims, terming them as greedy. What a shame. It must be convenient to blame individuals who can’t speak for themselves anymore.

A long history of the Sharif brothers’ oppression in South Punjab has led to disastrous incidents. In Lodhran, Shehbaz had committed fraud by being dishonest about the kissan (farmer) package which was rejected by the farmers union since it was a mere ploy to win the local elections.

When these farmers protested, they were viciously beaten by police thugs upon the Sharifs’ directives. Furthermore, a few months ago in Layyah, a South Punjab district, 30 people died due to the absence of a stomach cleaning machine.

Some would wonder whether placing the entire onus on the existing government is justified. I would say it is because currently, they are in charge and it is their duty to uphold and establish facilities for the betterment of their citizens, something which they haven’t been able to do so far.

But why would the Sharif brothers, who themselves rush to London for medical check-ups, be concerned about the welfare of their citizens?

If our leaders remain apathetic, we can expect more deaths if an incident like Bahawalpur occurs again. It’s all about priorities. And let’s not forget that the issue is not just about the incident itself; it is about what happened afterwards in the absence of basic facilities, a delayed response and a lack of security officials at the site.

The least this government can do is learn a lesson from this ill-fated incident and rectify the aforementioned issues to pay homage to the victims of the Bahalwapur inferno.

Ahsan Zafeer

Ahsan Zafeer

The author is interested in politics, social issues and sports. He has a passion for writing and believes that issues can be resolved through discussion. He tweets as @AhsanZafeer (twitter.com/AhsanZafeer)

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

  • tak

    very well written article. but these politicians are least bothered by what public thinks. the way we are going we deserve such leaders. we let them treat us this way rather i feel public have lost their morals as wellRecommend

  • ali

    you can not blame govt for everything. please try to understand that all people are to blame themselves.first set your intention right then ALLAH WILL HELP YOU.
    we have lost KHUDI…SELF RESPECT. we have lost trust in allah. we have to solve our problems. GOVT will only help us.Recommend

  • Humza

    So everything is supposed to be fixed in a few years? Musharraf was around for a decade ( he also ran abroad for check ups as does Imran Khan) and did nothing but it is fashionable to chide the only politician in Pakistan’s history who has been working for his people? Shame on you. Shahbaz Sharif works 24 / 7 on projects all over the province and this is known to all. The amount of work he does all over the most populated province justifies his use of a helicopter to travel. Yes every town and hospital should have a helicopter too but do you expect Shahbaz Sharif to fix everything so soon. Take a look all over the province and see that you have genuine improvement. Sad that the only guy who does work gets this type of thanks.Look at Punjab which is the best developed and stable province due to his efforts.Recommend

  • Amir

    Why just blame Sharif? Same is happening in Sindh and Balochistan. Only place where one can see some effort on health care is KPRecommend

  • Khan

    Perhaps they could off used the KP helicopter, oh i forgot Imran Khan uses it 24/7.Recommend

  • Asghar Moosa Lulat

    interested only only on commission and kick backs and not for benefits to public who vote themRecommend

  • Patwari

    You are an apologist for the Sharif Cabal. This almost ridiculous
    Nawaz bin Salman bin AbdelAziz bin Panama bin Sharif has been
    running Punjab since the dictator Zia ul Haq’s time… the 70’s
    His brother little Shahbaz also known as Khadim e Ala has been running
    Punjab since the 90’s. [in one capacity or another]
    Why divert attention from Sharifs by dragging in Musharraf or Imran?
    They were never in charge of Punjab. It has always been Sharif-land.
    When you are PM of a country you take an oath to serve the whole country
    not just your home province where your voter base is.The rest of the country
    is going to Hades in a basket. Nawaz is never welcomed in other provinces.
    He rarely leaves Fortress Punjab. Just sends his condolences and condemnations over the phone,…er…Skype?
    Out of a population of 190 million, 121 million are Punjabis living in Punjab,
    who keep voting for the Sharif Darbar. Ethnic provincialism and buying votes
    for a few rupees keeps Nawaz on the throne. Easy to buy votes for Sharif who has, so far looted and plundered nearly $4 billion USD.
    Sorry to tell you, he will be leaving soon. For London. The Saudis and the Emirates said don’t bother coming here.
    No country for old failed prime minister.
    That pudgy bloated face staring back from the mirror is Nawaz’s surrogate.Recommend

  • Karachiite

    Previous helicopter which was in use of CM punjab and crashed in Afghanistan while being taken to Russia for overhauling had been used many times in flood relief operations and other emergencies.Recommend

  • ishrat salim

    Not Punjab but talk of Lahore, the only city where 58% of total Punjab budget is spent, is this justified ? Yes, SS works hard but he & his team should prioritize health, education, human development, water & sewerage, energy & employment as their main priorities. 2 wrong can not be justified to ignore provision for the welfare of the people of the province of Punjab on equal basis. PML N govt was in charge of the Punjab province for 30 years & Gen Musharraf 9 years – remember.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Live and Death are in the hand of God, so what is the use of medical facilities. How many hospitals were made by Islamic Invaders in subcontinent or Arabs in Arabia? None. You need hospitals because you have lost trust in God. Medical facilities has to do with paganism, science etc. not with Islam. No Medical facilities mentioned in Quran.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    For the past three days, there has been an oil and tanker strike going on in Karachi that has led to massive problems for commuters in the city. The govt authorities placed new regulations on oil tanker suppliers after the “Bahawalpur tragedy” and they’ve been on strike for three days.

    Every day’s the same grind with huge lines at the very few pumps still operating, here. I am completely fed up and pissed at this nonsense.

    Those “victims” were greedy and looting the turned-over tanker. Period. Now everyone has to suffer because of their stupidity. What’s even more unbelievable…they want compensation for their stupidity and greed? They should be paid homage? Yeah let’s encourage more people to act that way by sending a message that it was not their fault. Everyone else was responsible but them.

    You want to impose penalties on Shell? Does anyone think that Shell will pay this out of their own pocket? Any such penalties will be transferred to their customers. Utter nonsense.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The reason is simple …… if the CM or any senior politician or bureaucrat get even a twinge in the knee, they are off to Dubai, Europe, UK or America AT THE PEOPLES EXPENSE to get attention from their doctors…… thus the people can suffer.
    When the Turkish leader was told that he needed a heart operation and should go abroad for it, his response was ….if I did that what will my people think. But then you have leaders….. and then you have our leaders.Recommend

  • Patwari

    You are right. Actually it’s more than 30 years of Sharif Rule.
    We must all remember, that Shahbaz rides his bicycle at night
    making sure all the traffic lights are working in Lahore. All green.
    That the sleeping widows and children are all safe and well.
    Sometimes you will see him hosing down The Mall. Road from
    a water tanker truck. He loves public service. Khadim e Ala.
    It’s not his fault that Joseph Colony was burnt to the ground
    on his watch. That 200 Christians were killed. Some hacked to
    death. Or that a Christian couple was beaten, tortured, hunged
    then burnt to death in a brick kiln. Or that 234 Christians were
    killed in a park on Easter Sunday last year. Or the Wagah blast
    that killed 198. No sir, Shahbaz cannot be accountable for all this.
    He had nothing to do with Model Town Massacre. where 14 people
    including a pregnant woman were shot to death by Punjab Police.
    [personal security force of Shahbaz]
    Now Ahmadis are a different story. They are not allowed to shop
    in bazaars. Somebody else must buy their groceries. Their mosques
    and graveyards are desecrated. And they can be killed on a whim
    anywhere in Punjab. Shahbaz can’t be held responsible for this
    It’s not true that Shahbaz allows every banned outfit [national or
    international] to have a base, foothold, presence in Punjab. Never
    mind that Jundullah, Le T, Le J, Jaish e M, Ahrar ul Hind and
    numerous numerous other banned outfits are all present and accounted for in Punjab. If they collect ‘chanda’ or go on a donations drives then Shahbaz can look the other way. Just don’t blame him.
    If Police beats protesting nurses, don’t blame Shahbaz. [one lost
    her baby from the beating she received]
    Hopefully the next stop is London for the Sharif Cabal.Recommend

  • maya

    Your sarcasm here is so out of place. There is a time and place for everything.
    Don’t piggyback on a tragic event to pass unnecessary snide comments. Hate is very unattractive.Recommend

  • Patwari

    That’s a BJP paid cyber warrior. He gets paid by how many of his
    hate comments are printed in papers like ET.
    He is in every blog.
    He is shameless.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Prove it. If you are wrong will you pay me.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Agree with you. But I have seen on Pakistani channel a caller women talking like that. Arent polio administrator attacked in Pakistan? I havent shown any hate. Mentioning facts has nothing to do with hate.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Nation states cannot stop from someone to commit a crime but they can punish the perpetuator. Also many countries are suffering from terrorism.

    Then you asked why Ahmedis voted, funded creation of Pakistan. Ahmedis were the one who called riots just after independence of Pakistan. Ahmdis can move to India.

    Banned organizations controller by deep state and establishment.Recommend

  • vinsin

    PM job is to take care of his/her constituency and voters. And as you stated the fact their voters are from Punjab.Recommend

  • Patwari

    See, no hate mentioned about any religion or hindus,
    or Hinduland, per se.
    Feel sorry for you and your twisted sick logic.
    However, your need to buy idlis and dosas and pay your
    room rent by writing hate comments in Pak newspapers is understandable. You must to eat and lay your head somewhere.
    May your lords Ganesha, Hanuman, and goddesses Parvati
    and Lakshmi help you with your pain.Recommend

  • Patwari

    So what’s your point? The Butcher of Gujrat won in
    Gujrat. He is considered a terrorist and Human Rights
    violator He was not allowed in any country. Visas cancelled.
    Now they build little roadside temples/shrines for Modi Sarkar.
    He is considered a deity.Recommend