THE death of Owais Baig is a unique kind of tragedy. The young man, attempting to escape a fire in a high-rise building in Karachi, jumped to his death with the grim event shown live on television. A large crowd of spectators as well as rescue personnel were present as the youth fell from the building. Yet many important questions regarding the unfortunate incident remain. For instance, did rescuers try and convince the man to stay put until they reached him? Or were some efforts made to bring in rescue equipment that could have broken his fall? Unfortunately, human life is of little value in this society. So whether it is one man jumping to his death from a burning building, or over 250 people perishing inside a blazing factory, as was the case with September’s Baldia inferno, we soon move on without learning lessons from such incidents. The case of Owais Baig is in the limelight perhaps because it unfolded live on TV; yet similar tragedies happen almost daily in Pakistan.
The problem is one of mindset. There is no public awareness of how to react during emergencies. On our roads we don’t give way to ambulances or fire tenders, while mobs congregate at sites of traffic accidents or other disasters, turning tragedy into a spectacle and obstructing rescue work. One hopes that society learns from these incidents and changes for the better. But for that to happen major efforts are required, and it will be a lengthy process. The state should start with devising effective emergency response mechanisms as well as by launching public awareness campaigns about these. These should educate citizens in how to act during emergencies, to make way for ambulances in disaster sites and to call rescue services. Continued complacency will only cause tragic events to repeat themselves.