Following up the Tezgam inferno

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That many of the 74 victims of the Tezgam inferno would need DNA identification was necessitated by the horrible way they were burnt. However, that meant that relatives who came in to the Sheikh Zayed Hospital mortuary in Rahim Yar Khan to claim the bodies of their missing relatives, would have to give DNA samples themselves, against which the horribly disfigured corpses would be matched. This was thus a task which required tact and empathy, not the kind of officiousness displayed by some doctors, which led to them clashing with some of the relatives. It was also noticeable that neither the Pakistan Railways nor the Punjab government had deputed anyone to receive the relatives and help them in a melancholy task. One basic prerequisite was that the corpses’ DNA should have already been analysed, so that all that was needed was that to match them against that of relatives’ samples as they came in. This was not done.

It would be purposeless to enter the debate of whether the fire was caused by the bursting of gas cylinders brought on board by passengers for cooking, or whether there was a short circuit. In case of the former, the passengers were at fault, in the latter, Railways. However, even if one was to concede that the former, Railways would still have questions to answer, most pertinently how the cylinders were smuggled on board. There would also be a host of other issues, such as whether Railways had developed a policy of looking the other way at the cooking arrangements of the Tablighi Jamaat.

All of that is to be determined by an internal Railways investigation. How that investigation is to take place independently in the presence of a minister who has taken a stance placing the blame fairly and squarely on the passengers is moot. This was an old demand for the PTI whenever anything went wrong: it wanted the minister in-charge to resign so that investigations could be done freely. How does that not apply to the present situation?