20 September, 2014 / Ziqa'ad 24, 1435
Men stand around a burnt-out school bus, after a gas cylinder on it exploded killing seventeen children, on the outskirts of Gujrat, May 25, 2013.—Photo by Reuters
Men stand around a burnt-out school bus, after a gas cylinder on it exploded killing seventeen children, on the outskirts of Gujrat, May 25, 2013.—Photo by Reuters

REACTING to the tragic van fire near Gujrat town on Saturday, a local official said lives could have been saved if the driver of the vehicle had shown some courage. That statement provides the starting point of a probe to identify all those responsible for the heartbreaking, horrible tragedy. The killing of at least 15 young school-bound children and a teacher in the fire was no accident. This was nothing short of murder or at least manslaughter.

The guilty include money-minded transporters who justify the low safety standards they maintain by boastfully stressing on the affordability factor. Never is their greed more obscenely manifested than in the hot summer months. The routine sight of children crammed in rundown vehicles in the suffocating heat is the worst advertisement for our education system. It is a horrifying throwback to those dark times that we would like to pretend we have left far behind. Sadly, the same era of ignorance and negligence continues, frequently throwing up tragedies of this sort. Those responsible also include school administrations and the officials who run the affairs of government. Finally, cruel though it may sound considering the grief of those whose children have perished, parents too must bear part of the blame for not demanding a better deal for their offspring, for being the meek of the earth who accept their fate unquestioningly.

In a saner country, the Gujrat fire would be the only news worth pondering over for days and weeks if not months. In Pakistan, it is likely to be quickly overtaken by other, ‘more pressing’ events, as has happened in the aftermath of similar incidents in the past. Such incidents have included the killing of children in gas cylinder blasts, deaths of school-bound students at a railway crossing at one place and a bus overturning during a school excursion at another. After a period of initial mourning, these tragedies are forgotten in the interest of the continuation of the system. A similar pattern appears to be emerging now and the design could succeed once again unless a genuine effort is made to devise and enforce safety measures in transport used by our schoolchildren — and urgently. The blaming of one individual — the driver of the van — and the convenient, standard identification of short-circuiting as the cause of the fire are dire signs of the guilty seeking to take the old escape route. They are no less than murderers. If they are allowed to flee now, they will return to kill again.


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Comments (6) (Closed)


Yasmin Elahi
May 26, 2013 09:47pm

A very sad incident which points out towards the callous attitude towards precious human life in our country! Horrific crimes like these will continue in the future if not dealt with an iron hand! All vehicles used as school transport should be checked all over Pakistan and given clearance certificates only if they are roadworthy! Parents should also ensure their children's safety by insisting to see these certificates!

Bakhtawer BIlal
May 26, 2013 06:26pm
Very well written. But as mentioned, most probably, no one is going to listen. As long as issue does not involve religion, we are cool.
Muz
May 27, 2013 04:10am
I don't expect the govt elect of N to improve the system. They are good at building mega projects but not at creating modern systems and they have been in govt in Punjab for the last 5 years.I hope and expect PTI do that in KPK as they are good in building systems.
muhammad nawaz
May 27, 2013 06:16am
To begin with we must stop using CNG in our cars and vehecles. All those who allow this practice must realise that they have also children and families but unfortunate inthis country we have no value of humen .
Ahmar Qureshi
May 27, 2013 06:26am
"Naive were the Flowers Now Lives In Heaven -A Blazed Inferno, A Shattered Bouquet on No Man's Land, Oh' This is the Sorrow! That is I Grieve!" -Ahmar Qureshi...
Zulekha Soorma
May 27, 2013 04:05pm
Like said, everyone is responsible esp. the parents and the school authorities. It makes the heart sink when schoolchildren are packed like sardines in all sorts of vans but the sight of a whole family being transported on a motorbike makes one shudder at the thought of the consequences in case of an accident. Our nation as a whole are not aware of the risks involved in piling families on a bike /rickshaw/bus. This is the result of lack of education !!