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January 24, 2015
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Defying death

Opinion

January 24, 2015

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Exactly how Pakistanis will be convinced to give up their death-defying feats and adopt a more safety conscious approach remains to be seen

For the sellers of security equipment, business is booming these days. CCTV cameras are being installed, guns are being repaired, and barbed wire is being wreathed on boundary walls.
Ever since educational institutions started to reopen following the Peshawar tragedy, there has been a flurry of mock exercises to improve response time in emergency situations.
While one hopes and prays that the time never comes when all these measures might actually be tested by a terrorist threat, it is best to stay realistic and assume that sooner or later this is going to happen. Our war on terror is by no means over – and until it is, vigilance is the only thing that can keep us (relatively) safe.
However, safety cannot be ensured just by installing security equipment by the truckload. It takes a culture that puts safety first to really reduce the number of mishaps and lapses caused by negligence. Pakistan has suffered the ill effects of ignoring threats and leaving things to chance for a long time.
Pakistanis are applauded for showing resilience in extremely trying circumstances and for the courage we show by still continuing with day to day activities rather than turning into panicky, cowering messes whenever a terrorist attack happens.
This courage is borne out of an acceptance of the concept of death that arises as a direct result of religious beliefs. Rather than trying to forget about it, most of us accept death as an unshakeable reality and so the fear that comes attached with it is somewhat reduced.
But the courage can be taken to a reckless extent. Just because you are not afraid to die does not mean that you should ride a motorbike at breakneck speed without wearing a helmet. Or that you should ignore building codes, forget to get security equipment repaired and have your security guards make tea

rather than attend to their duties.
This isn’t just courage; it is plain ignorance and apathy. Recently, upon hearing that a fire drill was to be conducted by a local organisation, I asked the participants whether there was a fire escape in the building and was told that there wasn’t one. Well then what purpose would this fire drill would be serving? None apparently.
They were only doing it because they had been told to. Wouldn’t it be better then, if they did the drill right instead of just going through the motions? Yes it would be better they said, but this is Pakistan. As if that is the one universal answer to all life’s ills.
This is Pakistan and there is no point in trying to make things better or to initiate change. This is Pakistan so there is no need to be careful when doing anything because we have so many other things to worry about.
The practices of wearing fancy goggles and helmets, of having fire escapes and following building codes, of obeying traffic laws and not leaving naked electrical wires unattended are for rich people and rich countries who have nothing else to be concerned about.
What’s the point of trying to be safe when your life is filled with so many problems already? We will deal with things when they happen.
Until this mindset changes, truckloads of security paraphernalia is not going to make us more secure or better prepared. No one will be looking at the CCTV feed, the guards will be dozing off and the terrorists will be pushing against open doors. Exactly how Pakistanis will be convinced to give up their death-defying feats and adopt a more safety conscious approach remains to be seen.
The writer is a businessstudies graduate fromsouthern Punjab.
Email: [email protected]

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