Who is at fault when 62 people die on our roads?

Published January 14, 2015
Relatoves of the National Highway tragedy victims grieve at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. —Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star
Relatoves of the National Highway tragedy victims grieve at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. —Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star

Too many people in our country have blood on their hands.

Too many avoidable deaths occur. Too many lives are lost with no one held accountable.

No, this is not about security lapses or healthcare negligence.

This is also not about street crime or honour killings.

This time it is about what’s going on on our roads, and how no one, once again, seems to care.

Also read: Highway tragedy: Bodies burnt beyond recognition

A petrol station employee from Shikarpur had come to Karachi to interview for a job with the Sindh Police. On his way back home in a passenger coach, his biggest concern may have been whether he gets the job or not – he may have been going over his performance in his mind when the crash occurred.

He did not consider a fate far worse than rejection awaiting him.

According to his friend, Saleemullah was one of the ill-fated passengers on the bus that collided with an oil tanker on Saturday on the National Highway. Sixty-two people were killed – burnt beyond recognition.

A nine-member family wiped out.

A woman with the remains of six children stuck to her – gone.

Accepting the death of a loved one is hard enough – trying to identify their charred remains must be far, far harder.

But, perhaps, what may be the hardest thing to deal with is accepting the fact that no one will be held accountable for this preventable road accident – until eventually, it becomes a matter of ‘God’s will’.

  People look at the wreckage of the bus that collided with a tanker on the outskirts of Karachi. — DawnNews screengrab
People look at the wreckage of the bus that collided with a tanker on the outskirts of Karachi. — DawnNews screengrab

While fighting terrorists and curbing deaths caused by them may be too complicated for our government to manage, enforcing transport laws should really not be that hard.

Aren’t the lives lost to terrorism enough for this country to deal with? Can’t other deaths be avoided? Especially those caused on the roads?

Also read: Bad road, no warning signs caused fatal Khairpur bus crash: police

The state of the majority of roads in Pakistan today remains deplorable and hardly any traffic laws are enforced.

Buses whizzing by are usually packed beyond capacity with half a dozen passengers hanging out of the vehicles.

Drivers always seem to be in a race against time and are often found competing with another bus or driving down the wrong direction just to save time or score more passengers.

Nobody other than a constable stops them every now and then while on the hunt for a little ‘chai pani’.

Just like the healthcare and educational sector of the country, the transport sector too needs a complete overhaul.

It needs to focus on building safer roads, creating emergency rescue systems for highways and most of all, enforcing basic traffic rules and fining drivers when these rules are broken.

Special training and instructions need to be given to heavy vehicles carrying oil and a system needs to be developed in order to keep the speed of passenger buses in check.

But this might be too much work for a department that probably is used to brushing incidents such as these under the rug.

Sixty-two people burnt in a matter of minutes is not a small tragedy. It is an enormous one – and it happens too often. A bullet may not have killed these people, but they too died because someone was not doing their job right.

Also read: Pakistan's traffic accidents - by the numbers

Natural occurrences such as landslides and rain can cause ‘accidents’ on the roads – anything else is usually someone’s fault.

Who is at fault when 62 people die on our roads?

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