Black Friday, bloody Sunday

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The horror and sorrow continued with the oil tanker tragedy on Sunday at Ahmedpur East Tehsil of Bahawalpur, where opportunism, poverty and greed combined with criminal ignorance to turn the green Punjab countryside into a charred and blackened place and a national tragedy of monumental proportions

 

In normal circumstances it might rightly be considered a travesty, no doubt offensive to many, to express the last Friday and weekend of the fasting month that followed the holiest night in the Muslim calendar, by this regrettable phrase. Tragically, the supposedly serene period on Friday began literally with a bang when a suicide bomber, either belonging to an IS affiliate or a splinter group of the TTP (both proudly claimed responsibility afterwards) blew up his vehicle containing 75 kilograms of explosives near the office of the Balochistan police chief in Quetta, the Valley of Death, killing 13, including eight policemen and injuring 20. But the worst was still to come. In the afternoon came the stunning news of the twin blasts in Parachinar, a lesser decoy explosion to attract assistance and curious onlookers and then the bigger detonation, with the two suicide bombers taking a combined bloody toll of 75 dead and dozens injured. It was the third hit in six months in the capital of Kurram Agency, behind which unfortunate incidents lies an unfortunate sectarian issue as also the vulnerable location of the town, which protrudes into Afghanistan’s Paktia province and facilitates foreign ingress and exit. Now with the fanatically sectarian IS reportedly entrenched in the nearby mountain redoubt of Tora Bora, the danger has increased manifold and the security apparatus will have to come up with much more effective plans and strategies to safeguard the innocent citizens who are the usual victims of attacks. Finally, with the stage now shifting to the hopelessly misgoverned megacity of Karachi, two armed men on motorcycles, their faces masked by helmets, brazenly gunned down four policemen at a roadside restaurant. And that too in a Karachi that was on the mend after the murderous mayhem and outrages of past years when the MQM supremo’s writ ran paramount.

All these incidents are perturbing as the anti-terror operation Radd-ul-Fasaad is ongoing since long and there are daily reports of more of these wild and malevolent species being killed or netted by the security forces. There is pre-emption of some of these heinous acts or plots, but the harsh reality remains that they and their collaborators can still strike at will, revealing the shortcomings in the existing tactics in confronting this no doubt formidable challenge. Perhaps the rulers tend to forget or conveniently ignore the oft-repeated maxim that we at war, an existential war in fact, occupied as they are in personal matters of survival and petty political infighting. But the law enforcement agencies also cannot afford to relax their vigilance or lower their guard. The comprehensive National Action Plan, to the victim’s cost, never took off, courtesy the government’s indifference. Hence the urgent need of a proactive and robustly coordinated national policy against terrorism, gearing all our resources and energies, if the fight is to be a success.

 

Our wounded planet too contributes its share with natural disasters which are increasing in intensity and frequency: global warming brings catastrophic floods, landslides, changing climate patterns, droughts and famine in its wake

 

The horror and sorrow continued with the oil tanker tragedy on Sunday at Ahmedpur East Tehsil of Bahawalpur, where opportunism, poverty and greed combined with criminal ignorance to turn the green Punjab countryside into a charred and blackened place and a national tragedy of monumental proportions, with 190 dead and scores wounded. Bitter and shameful secrets were revealed, giving the lie to the government’s tall claims of progress in the vital health-care sector. Despite Ahmedpur East Tehsil being the largest Tehsil, population-wise, in the whole of Pakistan, with a population of over a million, no Burn Unit existed at the local Bahawal Victoria Hospital. A sorry state of affairs, especially with the two MPAs and one MNA of the Tehsil all belonging to the ruling PML-N. But it was really the ‘something for nothing’ mindset so rampant in our chaotic society (with the elite itself setting the bad example), as well as the herd instinct of being left out from easy pickings at the site of the ‘kill’ that led so many to an untimely and unnatural end.

Terrorism is now undoubtedly the biggest threat confronting the world. From humble beginnings as a ‘cottage industry’ it has mushroomed into a giant global conglomerate with ‘franchises’ and tentacles and foot soldiers spread across the globe. But disasters due to human error or negligence are also markedly on the rise worldwide, as recently evidenced in the Grenfell Towers inferno in London on 14 June with the toll possibly surpassing one hundred and in the overloaded, structurally faulty tourist ferry that capsized near Medellin Colombia on 25 June, leaving seven dead and nine missing so far, with both tragedies graphically captured by the camera.

Our wounded planet too contributes its share with natural disasters which are increasing in intensity and frequency: global warming brings catastrophic floods, landslides, changing climate patterns, droughts and famine in its wake. This year, flood warning bells have started ringing in Sindh and Punjab with the first heavy monsoon rains.

Frankly, also underlying most of the modern-day global tragedies are, too many people, too little resources, too much ignorance and stupidity, negligence, too much grasping acquisitiveness and greed (as witnessed in the television ‘Ramzan shows’), an overwhelming profit motive for quick bucks, callousness about others’ pain, seeking overnight riches, egotism, frantically fast paced life-style and frenzied, driven hurry, disparity of incomes, abject poverty, increasing gap between rich and poor, neglect by ruling elites of the interests of ordinary people, political systems rigged in favour of billionaires, and last but not least, that eternal human nemesis, Mortality itself.

 

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