Avoidable tragedies

By Editorial Board
January 30, 2023

Fifty-two killed on one day – not because of a disease or war or conflict, but due to mindless accidents in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Sunday saw 42 people killed as a passenger bus fell into a ravine in Lasbela, Balochistan. The bus was travelling from Quetta to Karachi and local authorities say that the accident occurred as the bus was taking a U-turn, apparently at high speed. The same day, in Kohat 10 children died when their boat capsized in Tanda Dam Lake. These deaths will likely be mourned for a short period as unavoidable tragedies before everyone moves on. But this is exactly the point: these are not unavoidable tragedies. They were no natural disaster but human-made accidents, stemming from negligence, apathy and greed.

These accidents, and countless others like them, raise questions about how we manage road and boat safety in the country. Thousands are killed on Pakistan's roads; the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1965 does not lay out any regulations for testing vehicle fitness and so motor vehicle inspectors have a lot of leeway in passing vehicles as fit to be driven. Add to this risky drivers – especially those that drive public commuter vehicles – and we have a dangerous cocktail just waiting for a tragedy to strike. We should make sure that only those vehicles are permitted to be used which have certification based on international standards proving they are not a safety hazard. More generally, the country is in dire need of better education for drivers. Traffic stoplights are treated as mere suggestions and speed limits may as well be advising drivers on the minimum speed they must maintain. Traffic cops seem more interested in collecting bribes than handing out tickets as a deterrent to dangerous drivers. Drivers’ licences can be had at a price but no qualifications are necessary, as our bus and truck drivers prove on a daily basis. The anarchy on our roads is reflective of a complete absence of a regulatory state. People do as they please because they know there are no consequences to pay for their recklessness.

We can say much the same for boat safety, which is even less regulated. From road safety to boat safety to factory safety to food inspections, we are being put at risk because no one has the incentive to comply with regulations. How many children will have to die before we realize that our lawlessness has dire consequences?