Ghotki train disaster

ONE sincerely hopes that the Ghotki rail tragedy will force the Pakistan Railways to reassess its capability and take concrete action. When individuals in organizations fail to perform, and preliminary reports in this case point to human failure — organizations take steps to ensure that the same errors are not repeated. You train and retrain personnel to make sure that their skills are always relevant and always within the requirements of the job. In jobs where even small errors can potentially result in a loss of lives, the capability of your people takes precedence over the basic technology you employ.

Airline pilots and train operators transport a very similar number of passengers each trip. The safety and responsibility is for a similar number of lives. Surely that suggests a similar level of competency (although not qualification) in both jobs.

One is sure that many will point to the museum-worthy trains and absence of electronic warning systems. While there is no doubt that these should be addressed, the best equipment and systems in the world invariably fail when the people behind them falter.

Limerick, Ireland


IT is a sad day for Pakistan and Pakistan Railways. We should give credit where it is due. The Pakistan Railways has made tremendous improvements in its computer systems but has failed to make much progress in physical equipment like signals, tracks and communication tools.

It is mind-boggling to even imagine a train stopped for repairs for a technical glitch being hit by another train and on top of it bogies being hit by a third oncoming train on a parallel track. Someone needs to explain what happened to something called communication. Why were these drivers not notified of the stopping of the first train even if the time lapse was of a few minutes? Common sense indicates that if you stop a train on a “live” track you notify all incoming/outgoing traffic of its presence.

In 2003, a train slammed into a bus packed with students and teachers at an unmanned railway crossing. The death toll was around 40. Someone needs to take responsibility and come forward with a precise plan on how we can avoid these accidents from happening again. No matter who is at fault, it is a tragedy of epic proportions and it should awaken the authorities concerned.

New York, USA


THE tragic train accident on July 13 has claimed several hundred lives. This makes one ponder why the Pakistan Railways is not using modern GPS (global positioning of satellites) based “intelligent railway traffic system” to avoid such accidents in the future as such a system would alert train engineers in case there is another train on the same line. Similar systems are already in use to avoid vehicle theft and even to assist drivers in finding the best auto route between given points. This system should complement the existing manned and telecom based systems to minimize the possibility of such accidents taking place.

The president, the prime minister and the railways minister should give this proposal serious thought.


London blasts

I WONDER whether the cruel bombers of the London trains were regular travellers on this wonderful network. I find it hard to believe that anyone who travels regularly and watches the faces of fellow passengers on a daily basis can be so heartless.

The London Underground is a melting pot of humanity. Travellers can be white, black, brown or yellow. They can be Christian, Muslim or Hindu. They can be rich or poor, young or old, high or low — all raised to the level of equality.

My own frequent and pleasant experience is to notice that most passengers are colour-blind. When the trains are crowded, I find that younger passengers, most of them white men/women, would always ask me: “Would you like to take my seat, Sir ?” Given the circumstances, they would even have innocently offered to give a helping hand to the bomber with his heavy luggage.

London, UK


REFERENCE the London bombing, once again (as expected) Al Qaeda is being blamed by the masterminds of 9/11 and Madrid terrorist attacks. The Zionists have involved America to permanently stay in Afghanistan and Iraq so they can get a free hand in Palestine-bashing while the world focuses in the affairs of these occupied/liberated countries.

Now the London/Madrid bombing terrorists will finally lead to Syria and Iran. Another victory/gain for the Zionists to make life miserable for the Muslims.



IT was heartening to learn that in this day and age the mayor of London took the tube from his residence to his office (without a VVIP motorcade escort one presumes) as per his usual routine on the day immediately after the bomb blasts.

By travelling to their respective offices on public transport, say for one week, perhaps our leaders can make a symbolic statement of solidarity with the public. It would be interesting to know the views of our honourable chief minister of Punjab or the mayor/nazim of Lahore regarding this humble proposal.


Leopard killing

THIS is with reference to the news item “Police shoot killer leopard dead” (Dawn, July 12).

Regardless of whether a leopard can or cannot change its spots, one finds it difficult to believe that terminating the poor beast with extreme prejudice (15 bullets were fired) was the only option left for the police commandos deputed to carry out the operation. And that too after it had been caught in a trap. Surely a tranquilizer gun and a zoo would have been the more humane option for an animal whose only crime was being the victim of the urbanization of the Abbotabad/Galliat areas.

This unnecessary and tragic episode also reveals much about our common mentality. As early as biblical times, it was recognized that if an ox gored a man or a woman it had to die (Exodus XXI, 28). This simple principle of vengeance inherent in the norms of society of that time gradually evolved until Plutarch (in his Solon) tells us that a dog that had bitten a man was to be delivered up bound to a log four cubits long. In the centuries between these two observations about accepted practice, the concept of an eye for an eye was — although not being replaced — being redirected. During the time of the Roman emperor Justinian, the law — and by law it is meant a mechanism which enforces a society’s common ideals and practices — provided that if an animal had done damage it was to be surrendered and the damage paid for. Of course, the Roman law did not provide for damage caused by wild animals, but the point here is that, as time progressed and society developed, common ideals and practices did not condone violence against animals.

Today, the common law of the United Kingdom — which traces its origins to the principles stated above and whose features can still be discerned amongst the landscape of our own jurisprudence — does not mandate the execution of wild beasts (there are statutory exceptions, however, regarding the putting down of dangerous animals), and the damage caused by an animal owned by someone is made good by the payment of damages under the law of torts.

Though the sources quoted are mostly West-centric, one can begin to understand the history of some of our beliefs and actions. Hatred for a thing which has caused us harm is a sentiment shared by all peoples; it can even lead a civilized and educated man to kick a door when he has hurt his finger. But it is the intellectual development of the principles which guide our beliefs and actions that makes some of us realize the futility of such violence. Such intellectual development, one is afraid, was not present amongst those who murdered that unfortunate leopard.

Nothing better can be said of the reaction of the authorities in rewarding the commandos who opened fire on the confined beast.


Grading of mangoes

THIS refers to the speech delivered by the minister of state for commerce at the inaugural ceremony of the 14th National Mango and Dates Expo-2005 in Islamabad (Dawn, July 13).

The minister rightly said that Pakistan had enormous potential to export mangoes keeping in view the quality and variety of the fruit produced. He said Pakistan could become the largest mango exporting country, given that international quarantine regulations were truly followed and quality and standards maintained by growers and exporters.

Not only in mangoes and dates, Pakistan has the potential to excel in all agricultural commodities exported if already laid down “grade standards” are strictly implemented and the internationally accepted packing is assured.

An agricultural livestock products marketing and grading department has existed in this country since 1937. It was functioning better than any other government department. But sadly the activities of this department have been in decline for the last few years. This encourages unscrupulous elements to export whatever they wish.

These “quick rich” exporters exported everything they could and tarnished the country’s image as an exporting nation. This is why Pakistan has become a consumer market instead of an exporting country in a very short span of time.

India is also operating under the same Agricultural Produce Marketing and Grading Act 1937. Keeping in view the effectiveness of this act, India has strengthened and expanded its department a hundred fold. This is why in the export of agricultural commodities the Indians have totally eclipsed us.

The commerce minister and the minister for food and agriculture are requested to restore the activities of this department immediately.

Via email

Fuel price hike

WITH regard to my complaint of July 4, the clarification by the secretary-general, Oil Companies Advisory Committee, is only an excuse to justify the shooting of petrol and diesel prices through the roof (July 9).

One reserves the right to question why those taxes, levies, duties and flood relief excises charged through the early 70s have not been withdrawn. We are still paying Re1 per litre toll for the 1970 East Pakistan cyclone.

But at present I want to quote a saying: Uzrey gunah, bud tar az gunah (an excuse for a sin is worse than the sin itself).


Hasba Bill

IT is common knowledge that the NWFP provincial assembly’s Hasba Bill seeks to implement the interpretation by one school of thought of “Amr bil maroof ve nahi anil munkar” with the barely hidden political intent of gaining access to Saudi funds for Dawa and using them for distribution among the misguided youth being prepared in the madressahs to become a religious police with control over the productive members of society.

Religious freedom is enshrined in Constitution of Pakistan and not only may no minority impose its interpretation of Islam on the rest of the population but also no majority may impose its religious interpretation on a minority, however small that minority may be. Violating this provision of the Constitution is nothing less than rejecting the teachings of the Holy Quran (3:257) on which this provision is based: “There is no compulsion in religion. Surely the right way has been made to appear different from the wrong way. So, whosoever refuses to be led by transgression and believes in Allah he has surely grasped a strong support which never breaks. And Allah is All-hearing, All-knowing”.

To counter these deceivers in a rational argument we have to look at the precise meanings of the words “Maroof” and “Munkar” in the Ayah of the Holy Quran, invoked by the MMA. “Maroof” is what is recognized or accepted and “Munkar” is what is un-recognized and unacceptable by the majority in a Muslim society according to its interpretation of the Holy Quran. The majority does not have to accept a different interpretation of these two terms as proposed by a minority, however sure this minority may be of its own wisdom and learning.

In the deeply religious Muslim society of Pakistan, threatening an adult with dire consequences for not praying to God is rightly considered as forcing that adult to commit the grave sin of “shirk” by requiring that person to bend to the will of another human being, in a purely religious matter. According to the Holy Quran, “shirk” is the gravest of all sins — graver even than the sin of not praying. To quote a translation of the Holy Quran (4:49): “Surely Allah does not forgive that a partner be associated with Him and He will forgive whatever is short of that to whomsoever He pleases. And whosoever associates partners with Allah has committed a very grave sin.” So, according to the Holy Quran one human being should not force another human being to pray to God in a Muslim society. It is quite clear that forcing Muslims to pray is “Munkar” in the deeply religious Muslim society of Pakistan. We know that in the Wahabi society of Saudi Arabia the religious police sometimes force people to pray and this action is considered “Maroof” in that society but in reality the grave sin of “shirk” has been forced upon the people.

Furthermore, why should we allow a small bunch of ruthless politicians to impose a particular interpretation of Islam on Muslims in Pakistan when we know from history that the early Wahabi scholars were even against the use of mirrors for trimming beards since it was labelled as “bidaa” (i.e., invention) and according to them, all inventions were to be avoided?

Balikesir, Turkey

‘Anti-Iran propaganda’

MR Maqbool Ahmad Qureshi in his letter (July 11) says that the new president of Iran has been elected by an overwhelming majority of 62 per cent of the votes tallied. He ignores the fact that out of 1,000 people who wanted to run for the presidency, including 93 women, only eight were approved by the unelected and unaccountable Council of Guardians. This was not a free, fair and transparent election. In addition, some candidates alleged after the first round of voting that fraud and rigging took place. These challenges were never properly investigated.

The real power in Iran rests with Ayatollah Khameni and the Council of Guardians appointed by him. These people exercise control over the judiciary, intelligence, police, army and theRevolutionary Guards. None of them are elected. The president of Iran has a mainly symbolic role.

Mr Qureshi is wrong in indulging in America-bashing. The United States has rightly castigated the Iranian election and the process by which the Iranian president was elected.

New York, USA

Cabinet size

AS reported, Chaudhry Shujaat and President Pervez Musharraf have rejected the prime minister’s proposed reduction in the number of federal cabinet ministers through dropping the non- performing ones (if this exercise was diligently done, the cabinet would look like a leafy tree in autumn).

If the remedy for poor democracy is more democracy, what is the remedy for poor performance of cabinet ministers — more cabinet ministers?

The prime minister is fortunate his proposal to shed non- performing ministers out of his team of 59 worthies was merely rejected and he was not told to take on more.



MR Saifuddin Contractor’s letter (July 8) has rightly dealt with this subject and I would fully support him that the practice of female genital mutilation should not only be banned but made a criminal offence punishable both with a fine and jail term.

As far as my knowledge and information goes, there is nothing Islamic about this practice. For men circumcision is medically and religiously recommended and, therefore, should be carried out. In the olden days barbers were doing the circumcision but now qualified medical doctors perform this with the utmost care and in a highly scientific manner. I hope due notice as well as proper preventive steps shall be taken by the government to stop the practice of female genital mutilation.


‘Dancing with Taliban’

IT is a pity that a writer like Mr Irfan Hussain has made the mistake of referring to a village panchayat’s illogical, inhuman and un-Islamic decision as a fatwa from Darul Uloom, Deoband. In his article ‘Dancing with the Taliban’ (Dawn, July 9), while mentioning a rape case in India, he writes: “The poor woman was not only raped by her father-in-law but has been told by the mufti of the Darul Uloom at Deoband that she cannot now live with her husband and must marry her rapist.”

The fact is that the fatwa of the Darul Uloom is to the contrary. It was the village council which had asked the victim to marry the rapist, i.e., her father-in-law. The fatwa of Darul Uloom was mentioned in a news item in Dawn of July 1: “As uproar mounted, South Asia’s most influential Islamic theological school waded in with a fatwa saying Imrana, a mother of five, was prohibited from living with her husband under the Shariat. But it did not endorse the village council’s stand that she had to become her father-in-law’s wife.”


Economic self-reliance

THIS refers to Mr Amin M. Lakhani’s article ‘Primacy of economic self-reliance’ (July 8). I would like to differ with him on his suggestion for recovery of bad loans.

Recovery of bad loans is a demand of all right-minded Pakistanis but what benefit is there in crying over spilt milk? Gone are the days, gone are the people, and gone is the money. Now let us stop running after the silhouette of bad guys, bad money and bad days. Let us stop dwelling in the past. Let us look to the future. Let us consolidate the present. Let us build a system where mischief and misdeed cannot be perpetrated.

Let us accept, as a bitter pill, once and for all, that which is lost is lost for ever. The energy spent in finding bad money and bad people should now be used to create good money and good people through good systems and good a mindset.



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