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Engulfed in flames

Published Jun 08, 2012 12:14pm


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Nursery ward of Services Hospital– PPI

It is not surprising that one hardly paid attention to the fire that erupted at the Ferozsons bookstore in Lahore on May 30 with books worth Rs150 million being burnt and lost forever. After all, the nation is very busy struggling to make ends meet and the only issues that are given importance are the memogate, the drone strikes, the CJ’s son and Panetta’s remarks.

So where it might be easy to understand why the lost legacy of Ferozsons only saddened a handful of people, it is not at all easy to grasp how the fire that erupted yesterday at the Services Hospital could not leave a bigger impact? Seven newborns were killed in that fire and somehow everyone still seems to be talking about Dr.Arsalan Iftikhar’s fate.

Fires at hospitals, crime on the streets and fake drugs in the market impact the common man much more than government-opposition battles, high-profile court cases and the foreign policy, yet we are constantly made to forget this and instead focus on things that will barely make any difference to our existence. Our leaders, media and society ensure that things that matter remain in the shadows so that the common man can remain distracted.

About 26 underweight and premature babies were under treatment in the unit when it was engulfed in flames. Sources claim the fire was caused by a short circuit in the room and when hospital staff failed to put it out, they ran for safety, leaving the babies to burn. Nine other infants were injured and shifted to the emergency ward.

A source said the hospital administration had ignored the complaints of a staff nurse about frequent sparking caused by short-circuit in the air-conditioner in the unit. Should we be surprised then that there were no fire extinguishers in the ward either?

All news reports claim that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif came to the hospital, inspected the damage and ordered a committee to conduct an investigation of the incident. What else can he do anyway? While he is so deeply caught up in the battle for power, how will he have time to pay attention to a deteriorating healthcare system?

Be it the deaths caused by dengue fever, the fake drug scandal or the disastrous state of hospitals – the chief minister has failed and no amount of investigations and committees can bring back the seven infants who were left in their incubators to die or the dozens others whose deaths could have been prevented.

For that matter, not just the chief minister but the chief justice and the chief executive have failed us. Where every politician and aspiring leader is eager to take power and lead the nation, it is sad that there is no one to look at the smaller units that make up the country – healthcare in particular. Because of no accountability, hospital administrations do not feel the need to maintain their standards and because of no interest, officials do not feel the need to focus on these issues.

Where our voices will not be heard when it comes to the Pak-US relations and military tactics, our voice can definitely be heard in sectors such as education and healthcare. If we continue to consume the hopelessness served to us, there will be no change – school walls will keep collapsing, fires will keep engulfing hospitals and street crime will continue to flourish. Instead of debating and analyzing the current political dramas and daily suo moto notices, the Pakistani public should instead channel their energies here. Demand for a better system, donate towards a better system and reject the distractions thrown your way by a shrewd and self-serving government.

The writer is the Deputy Editor at


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Shyema Sajjad is a former Dawn staffer.

She tweets @ShyemaSajjad

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (24) Closed

Ahmed Samnan Raza Jun 08, 2012 02:44pm
How can a CM be held responsible for a electric spark? Did he cut down any payments to the hospital that lead to direct cause of fault? If not then the people responsible for running the day to day activities of Hospital are responsible. As for the staff its not there responsibility to put themselves in risk of getting burned to save others, it can be Heroic thing for the Nurses or doctors to do but you cannot blame them for not doing it. When was the last time we stopped on road actually to help any one in case of Accident, we just slowdown the car get a view and move forward and don't feel guilty for that, So why expect something else from the doctors. That responsibility lies with the Fire department or Hospital emergency staff if there was any. The point of stating all above it need for people to think without emotions when commenting on such accidents, only that way any significant Good can be achieved.
F Seer Jun 08, 2012 02:42pm
No single leader or loads of regulations will fix these problems until we, or at least most of us, change our attitude to safety and work ethics. Accidents happen all over the world but their frequency and severity in our country is alarming. Flights departing from Karachi not making it to Islamabad airport, buses falling in to ditches, children ward of hospital burning down - the list goes on and on.
parniyan Jun 08, 2012 03:26pm
It is unfortunate to hear such tragic stories all around the globe, i think akherat (end) is near.
Truth Hurts Jun 08, 2012 03:40pm
Pakistan is truly a failed state.
Tareekh-e-Pak Jun 08, 2012 08:35pm
Pakistan gets tons of funds and aid from the US. We unfortunately decide to use it to create N-machinery against India. As Indian politicians have been rightly saying, it will not take an India to break Pakistan. It is actively working on breaking itself on its own
Ali Jun 08, 2012 07:33pm
Sad to hear this tragedy
khalid haque Jun 08, 2012 04:53pm
The simple fact is that all institutions should have fire evacuation plans approved by the fire department as part of standard operating procedures (SOP). These SOPs just do not exist in hospitals or other institutions in Pakistan. Why don't we start with basics rather than blaming people or excusing this case the hospital administration for not having a fire evacuation plan as part of their SOP.
mission40kg Jun 08, 2012 02:48pm
Amazing how people can be so inhumane! Our priorities are all messed up and just accepting each and every tragedy by saying Allah ki marzi is doing us no good either - things will not change unless people change their attitudes and their priorities- we are all selfish from the top to the bottom and unless and until that changes -there will be no change!
ali ahmed Jun 09, 2012 02:12pm
in pakistan everything revolved around money...the priority is to make money..less money are kept for maintenance..b/c less kickback.even bills are passed without doing the works,at every level % is fixed
aaa Jun 09, 2012 01:43pm
I was taught at one of the places i worked earlier and i liked it alot and thought of just writing it down. In case of fire if someone is sick and cannot run or walk picking that person up would be difficult so it was taught that get hold of a blanket razai anything and put the person over it and it will easily slide over the floor even if the person is far heavier than you. My opinion is that the main responsibility lies in the hands of the people who had responsibility to check that no such thing could happen. Was there a routine was it followed. It still is possible that inspite of having all checks the accidents happen. As far as the people present there are involved mostly people get panicked in such situations and create even more harm.
naheed Jun 09, 2012 11:25am
HUMANITY - simple moral goodness that should exist in every person - demands that the nurses and doctors should at least have ATTEMPTED to remove the babies when the fire could not be put out. This is a very callous thought to suggest it is not their duty. Their duty is to TRY.
naheed Jun 09, 2012 11:24am
There was recently a fire in Qatar, in a mall playarea where 13 young children died. 4teachers and 2 firefighters died trying to rescue them. the whole nation - no, the Gulf region - was shaken. How coldblooded we are in contrast, when nobody even grabbed a baby each as they ran? and if nobody comes out on the streets to protest this tragedy and ensure more safety measures are in place, then we deserve the healthcare and callousness that these babies got.
andleeb Jun 09, 2012 10:23am
depressing. we need military rule again.
dhiraj garg Jun 08, 2012 01:07pm
Its just a matter of priorities!! Different people, different priorities!! the problem lies in that there is no common priorities among people. They also don't know which priorities are really a priority and which are not !!! A second struggle for independence is required- hopefully this time not with the dirty and mean politics of Religion and Regionalism leading to Partition. Best of Luck!!
seema Jun 08, 2012 01:03pm
People need to change their attitude.Instead of saying that it was God's will,efforts should be made to prevent it from happening in future.I think ,instead of always blaming and relying on the government,people should try to take care of things on smaller level and make themselves a responsible part of the country ?We all know that nothing will happen if one complains to the government about this incident or any other disaster. '
Abbas Sheikh Jun 08, 2012 12:49pm
Well thought and well written.
Amjad Wyne Jun 08, 2012 12:38pm
So long as the nation continues to elect the same leaders, the same parties and the same families, the outcome will, unfortunately, remain the same. As they say, "garbage in - garbage out"
Ashfaq Jun 09, 2012 04:07am
The Safety department and whoever in the chain should be arrested and tried for negligence and murder.. Strong and monitored safety policies should be formulated at the federal and provincial levels. Something like this should have never happened, ever. Particularly when children, elderly or weak are concerned and in a hospital?.. As for this not making headlines, people are de-sensitized therefore this news isn't as sensational as the others... sadly and unfortunately! Inhuman? probably!... but most importantly the everyday killings, pictures, news and video coverages have really hardened people's hearts and minds and they now lack compassion... sad and unfortunately true...
hashmizazai Jun 09, 2012 06:25am
Let's give a chance to Imran!!
GangaDin Jun 09, 2012 08:23am
An ordinary Pakistani is occupied with the maze of corruption, day-to-day management of his/her household and stomach. How many of them have access to Services Hospital? What do you expect? Will anyone from Services Hospital go to prison over this? The answer is "NO".
Naseema Perveen Jun 09, 2012 09:17am
thumbs up mr shahbaz sharif!!!!! you always visit and ask for investigations after every thing else bad has happened. I don't understand why the leaders do not get lesson from what bad has happened in the past, instead of investigating and noticing every thing before the any dilemma what they do is that condemned after every thing has gone.. This is what the identity of the failed leadership and failed administration.. If any of the our leader treat the country like their home and take care of citizen as if they are their family members this wont happen again..but alas every thing goes negativity. For this we Pakistanis are lagging behind.
Zain Jun 09, 2012 09:39am
I cant believe that hospital staff ran to protect themselves but left the helpless infants to burn. This is not about lack of funds or resources, its about lack of compassion and accountability.
Ramsha Rashid Jun 09, 2012 09:51pm
I disagree- Pakistan- OUR homeland, is NOT a failure. Its not the kind of land or state that counts or makes a country prosper with flying colours. Its actually an truly the people who are misguided which in-turn brings out the devastating results - Many of which we are facing today. Many countries in the world have gone through even more difficult times- worse than what we are facing now- And that has what has now made them able enough to get the title of a developed nation/ country. I Believe that one day Pakistan- Our Pakistan, will soon get over with its problems and Insha Allah there will strike a ray of happiness through it, but that could only happen if we, us Pakistanis make the right decisions at the corret time an fight for what is right, what counts- and make things better so that in future- We would not regret when called as Pakistanis. Long live Pakistan. <3
Diorites Jun 10, 2012 07:15am
What exactly are you disagreeing on? 'If we continue to consume the hopelessness served to us, there will be no change" ....that's exactly what the writer is saying..make right decisions. Because Pakistan is definitely not gonna reach the state you talk about with our 'inshallah's' only!