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Please learn the value of human life

It was utterly distressing to watch and wholly shocking to read the tragedy of seven men trapped inside a cold storage facility at the old terminal of Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on June 10, 2014, which came under attack by 10 heavily-armed terrorists, killing 36 people, including all the militants.

The charred remains of seven workers of a private cargo company Gerry’s D’Nata were recovered from cold storage facility that was on fire; 28 hours after employees took safe-heaven inside there to escape the deadly annihilation staged by terrorists.

The walls of cold storage which were engulfed in flames, levelled down to retrieve the remains of the ill-fated employees after Pak army assisted the strenuous rescue work. All mandatory actions were taken after electronic media highlighted the sad incident and repeatedly made appeals for the help. In fact the delayed response of the concerned authorities including Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) made the lives of seven families colourless forever. 

Undoubtedly, it is the terrible and disturbing story of human misery; resulted in loss of young lives in the most cold-hearted and ruthless state of affairs. The unpleasant incident candidly showed the true picture of our system, performance, responsibility and accountability.

In coming days, many may stop thinking about it or fail to remember the miserable tragedy and may be argued that it was merely an accident. However, it unequivocally demonstrated meager coordination mechanisms among various departments. Even the federal and provincial government exhibited absolutely poor performance. The unfortunate men lost their lives as a result of gross carelessness and ill-management.

There are many imperative questions being raised, for instance, why CAA signalled clearance without properly inspecting the airport? Why officials ignored the protest of families and listened to their relentless pleas only after media coverage? Why provincial government showed irresponsibility regarding rescue work? Who is responsible for the lack of rescue equipments?

All these simple yet vital questions eventually hinge on the bigger question – Why there is no value for human life in our country? In civilised countries, the authorities would immediately halt everything even if a single person was trapped in such a situation. They would never say:

 “It is not in our jurisdiction”

 “Our responsibility in connection with the said area is very limited”

 “It is not our department’s liability”

They would do extreme team management just to save a single human life. They would change their ‘Laws’ just to avoid future unpleasant incidents. They would immediately address the short-comings in rescue operation. There would be no blame-game. Not only this, the families of deceased can approach courts to sue the official or department for any negligence. Everyone is accountable for the misdeeds, none is above the law. Every human life is equally valued in the eyes of their leadership, who would visit the unfortunate families and in person console them.

On the contrary, the death of an anonymous citizen barely affects us, as it has no value in the eyes of our ruling class. In Pakistan, hundreds of people lost their lives during last decade mainly due to terrorism, calamities and crimes. All that we as citizens heard or read run of the mill few announcements from our leaders, for instance:

‘Condemnation statements’

“Prime Minister has taken the notice of the incident’

“Press conferences and meetings’

‘A committee has been made to look into the matter’.

The loss of a human life is somewhat a regular happening in Pakistan, if truth be told; it has made us heartless towards loss of life. We have started taking human life as mere statistics and lost the significant aspect of a life. We may chant slogans of the value of life; only few of us honestly believe it and practice it.

At government level, no measures have been taken to tackle catastrophic situations, albeit the continuous wretched events. There is no proper disaster management in our country, because the concerned authorities are really not concerned to do it. After every dreadful incident people help each other as per philosophy of ‘help yourself’. As a matter of fact, our leadership does not value human life; because in their eyes, the ordinary people deserve a lesser amount of apprehension. 

With absolute power, great political leaders who do not loose their moral bearings transform their ordinary people in to extraordinary people. They do not engage themselves in unethical activities. These sort of leaders never risk their reputations for ephemeral gains. 

I still remember how South Korean president cried and apologized for handling of ferry disaster and how the South Korean prime minister announced resignation over the government’s management of ferry disaster. I also remember the 2010 ‘Chilean mining accident’ where government including president of Chile and the first lady were involved in rescue work when Chilean miners were stranded in a copper mine after explosion.

This resignation, apology and rescue effort by the leaders showed the care, respect and sympathy they have for their ordinary citizens. The value of life is supreme, with absolutely no compromise and it is not debatable.

I wonder, at what point would our leaders learn the value of a human life, accepting responsibility and apologising to show regrets? When would they learn that taking photographs with the victims and their families is not compassion or it isn't a way to console despondent citizens? When would they learn that tragic incidents are not for point-scoring for the sack of political need? When would they learn to act as per their constitutional job and when would they learn their moral responsibilities?

The celebrated American author Joni Eareckson Tada has rightfully said:

“If you truly believe in the value of life, you care about all of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society”

It would be much better for our leaders to realize the notion as soon as possible that things they do for themselves will be gone the moment they are gone, but the things they do for others will remain as their legacy.

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