scene after the latest train disaster in Pakistan
Column: 'We are All Dead Inside'
July 25: The recent train disaster that has already killed 135
innocent people and maimed and injured hundreds others is another
sorry chapter in our sorry history. Those who died can be faulted
for having chosen to travel by the archaic and disorderly Pakistan
rail network that is as reliable as quicksand.
this has once again proven is that those in authority are compulsive
liars and have absolutely no moral scruples when it comes to
saving their own hides. Integrity, a commodity in perpetual
and increasingly short supply, enjoys the status of a full-blown
famine in their perk-infested lives.
Minister for Railways -- always ill qualified for the job (which
was why he got it in the first place) and the Chairman, should
have resigned immediately. That would have happened on another
planet. Here, where morality is rammed down our throats and pushed
up our behinds daily, they both chose to ride out the storm.
Minister, in what one can only term a grave loss of judgment,
immediately cottoned on to the terrorism ploy, terming the accident
the work of saboteurs. In proof he likened the Sarhad Station
crash to an earlier one at Sanghi that claimed 307 lives. What
the terrorist link in this bizarre connection is, he chose not
to divulge. This far fetched, red herring theory was quickly abandoned
as the blame was next put on the failure of the conductor of the
Karachi Express who failed to read the signal. Blame was then
shifted to the driver of the ill-fated train, which was very convenient
since dead men tell no tales.
to further confound the issue and sidetrack the truth, the personnel
responsible for changing the tracks were declared the culprits.
This followed soon after the announcement that the signals at
Sarhad Station were malfunctioning.
Minister Shamim Haider has not held the Mossad responsible, of
course remains a mystery. If aliens indeed triggered the multiple
crashes, he is keeping mum on that score. What these twists and
turns and pathetic attempts at hiding the truth reveal is a complete
absence of any knowledge worth the name about the ministry of
which he is the head. It also reflects dereliction of duty and
an inability to do the honorable thing.
then, he is not the only one. No public official, sans a precious
few, has ever accepted responsibility when things go wrong. Those
guilty of the highest crimes and acts of gross negligence have,
contrary to foolish expectations, gone on to greater glories.
Recently, the Indian Railways Minister resigned after a horrific
train crash, but that is India, where one can still find many
five PR men that have been suspended are now rumored to be the
convenient scapegoats, and those actually responsible for this
criminal negligence are sitting it out waiting for the buzz to
die down -- which it will soon enough.
is now a hallowed tradition in the Pakistan Railways. Suspend
a few men, make a few announcements, express deep shock and grief,
ferry over the President, the Prime Minister and any other factotum
not on another foreign junket, announce cash compensations --
a great favorite that one -- make noble resolves, threaten fast
action, pray for those who are dead and then simply carry on.
Probes never materialize; reports never see the light of day --
and why should they? They are only decoys to keep the axe of responsibility
from severing a few fat heads.
of taking action against the General Manager of Operations, Chief
Operating Officer and Divisional Superintendent of Sukkur, some
lowly ones are sent off into the night with a firm understanding
that they will soon be back. The glorious traditions of the Railways
cannot be allowed to wither and die. The relieving Station Master
of Sarhad Station, who was having a well-deserved slumber while
the three express trains ploughed into one another, has now been
packed off. But make no mistake, he will be back soon; if not
at Sarhad then at one of the many other stations; no blame attached,
no enquiry report to sully his ACR and no punishment whatsoever.
Accountability is for those idiots who have no connections.
from here to Timbuktu is asking for an enquiry, but if there is
to be one, why have five men been already suspended? Note, suspended,
not dismissed. What's the hurry folks? The dead are dead; most
buried in nameless mass graves. In all this turmoil, the railway
authorities have quietly removed the driver and conductor of the
Tezgam, two men who might have been able to give an authentic
account of what happened. Removing them to a secret location while
they are grilled and made to kowtow to the official safe line.
Certainly, they haven't been heard from, and no one can access
other things remain. First is the callous and instant announcement
of cash compensation that the government wastes no time in announcing.
Coming as it does on the heels of such an awful tragedy –
lives rent asunder horribly –, it reflects the mind set
of the rulers who believe that when all else fails, rely on cash.
There is even a slab system of monetary awards versus limbs lost.
Such is the mathematics of a nation that has lost all feeling
London, and elsewhere in Europe, where flags flew at half-mast,
where a two-minute silence swept cities and countries into one
serene and sad reflective moment, there was nothing here. Flags
fluttered as before, VIPs went here and there, sirens screaming
and the President and later the freshly imported from Europe PM,
Shaukat Aziz, arrived at the scene of the crime – security
apparatus and all.
President's arrival led to throwing out the relief workers, deranged
relatives, paramedics and volunteers digging for bodies and clearing
the debris. Well before he arrived, the area was clinically cleaned
and made as antiseptic as an operating theatre in Cleveland, Ohio.
Did it help the relief operations? No. But it was a good photo-op
with somber-faced minions hanging on to each other to be as near
the big man as physically possible.
truth is that not only are we dead inside; so is Pakistan Railways.
And it's not the only institution we have managed to murder quite
effortlessly. It is well-known that the rail system is more or
less what the British infidels left us over half a century back.
Of the 70,000 odd bridges almost 90 percent are now well past
their design life, and therefore unsafe. The track is unsafe and
in shambles, the switching systems in disrepair, the equipment
falling apart, the men worthless and elevated to positions and
perks they do not deserve, the leadership in undeserving and unaccountable
hands, the infrastructure in smithereens, the systems long abandoned
and the whole edifice corrupt, tainted and putrid from top to
this terrible world, people travel out of necessity. Nothing the
Railways do will return the dead to life but although it is late
and it will not happen, Mr. Haider, the Railways Minister should
still resign before he barters his soul further. It won't mean
a thing, but it might shame some others to do their jobs inefficiently
-- that may be too much to expect.
all, all the VIPs must make a public apology to us, the people,
who have to suffer, day in and day out, both them and the burden
of their sins that we carry painfully on our breaking backs.
writer is a Lahore-based columnist. This article appeared in The
News. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org