Tragedy in Karachi

Bilal Qureshi

Tragedy stuck Karachi Pakistan the other day when about 20 women died from suffocation while attempting to collect wheat flour that was distributed by a charity. It isn’t the only time that poor Pakistanis have died tragically, but this one is especially awful because it started with very good intentions. Because the price of flour is very high in Pakistan during Ramadan, a rice trader decided to help the poor in the community by giving away for free what is scarce and expensive – wheat flour, but his desire to help the poor destroyed at least 20 families.

President has ordered an inquiry, but it is obvious that no body will be held accountable for these tragic deaths. Actually, from what I have heard and read about the incident, it really was an unfortunate accident. However, if the trader who was actually distributing free flour had a) informed the authoritarians and b) opted for an open venue (perhaps a park), we wouldn’t be talking about this tragedy. But, hindsight is always 20/20 and I know the man who was trying to help poor in Ghori Garden Karachi regrets his noble efforts.

Poverty forces people to take risks, and this too was a risk on part of these poor women who went to collect free flour. They knew very well that the place and the space designated for distribution is too tight and too small, but they went there anyway. Regretfully, 20 women will never come back – they are dead.

This should be a lesson, a tragic but a valuable lesson that right intentions are not enough – there has to be planning and everything has to be taken into account. This becomes more important when someone tries to distribute free food in a poor area. We have all seen images of people fighting with each other when the aid arrives, but this is the first time I have really understood what it means when people fight each other for food. It is just awful.

As always, everybody has started talking about ‘where is the government’ even though, this act of charity was conceived and organized by a trader working independently in Karachi without consultations or informing anyone in the government or the local authorities. But the anger is directed towards the government as always, because people need a villain and the government is always there for everyone to attack. No body would talk sense; no body would ask for calm, no body would ask for the people to understand what went wrong, no way. Instead, they are all talking about government’s failure in preventing this tragedy from happening, even though, the government didn’t even know about the event. But, government in Pakistan can’t do anything right as reported by the media and the government should have somehow figured out that this is going to happen.

Yeah, time to call in the physics!

At times, I do think that sanity has left Pakistan. . Everyone look for a reason to start firing verbal missiles towards the government, even though the society never takes responsibility either individually or collectively. For example, a famous singer in Pakistan was recently in hospital recovering from multiple problems and his family kept saying that the government is not doing anything to help him. When I asked someone why should the government help this man, I was told that this singer is an asset and he has served the country (by singing?) etc and therefore, it is the duty of the government to pay his medical bills. When I asked the same guy that the singer opted to be a singer because anyone in the government asked him to be a singer or he decided to sing on his own, I was told that it was his (singer’s) passion that helped him become a singer.

So, he decided to become a singer on his own, but now that he is sick, he wants the government to pay for his medical bills. Why? Because by singing, somehow he served the national interest of Pakistan. Yeah, I am not joking, this is what is implied whenever there is anyone associated with showbiz is sick here.

Welcome to Pakistan. Here, almost everyone wants a free ride, especially if it is from the government, but never wants to pay taxes or work for it. If you listen to Pakistanis being interviewed by the reporters for TV channels in Pakistan, you will hear the same thing. Government is not doing anything help us, but when you ask them to specify what is that the government should do, a very long list of things is cited that the government in Pakistan should do, but what would be missing from this list is the desire or the need to work for what they want, let alone deserve. Yeah, the overall message from the public in Pakistan is give me all and give me for free. But this mindset has to change if the country wants to become strong, better and independent. What people in Pakistan have to understand is that in order to become a independent nation, they have to first become independent individually without relying on hand outs from the government.

However, the unfortunate, poor and deserving women in Karachi lost their lives while waiting to get free flour won’t come back. It is also a fact that this tragedy was well, a tragedy. But, isn’t time, yet again, to re-think how Pakistanis approach acts of charity and being responsible when confronted with a challenge? The easiest thing today is to blame the government for everything, but is that the right approach? Isn’t it time to be objective, honest and serious about how to fix the problems that are resulting in chronic poverty, joblessness, and sense of doom and gloom in the society?

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Tragedy in Karachi

  1. Mustafa

    Bilala this government is the worst in pakistans history never have such things happened as is happening under this government,…..btw….i am not simply zarari bashing,.,,,…..if i always talk badd about hitler….is that hitler bashing..or facts?

  2. Shahab Riazi

    I agree with you here. I think there is plenty of this sentiment around with respect to the Government. Bear in mind that this has roots in actions from our previous governments as well as the British Raj. The fact is that the British Raj, and subsequent governments chose to govern through awe and unchecked authority devoid of any sentiment to serve the people. People don’t think of the government as an entity created by them, to serve them but as an overlord of everything in Pakistan. This is the basic mindset that a Pakistani has and it keeps rearing its head, in our national discussion on anything, helped by the persistence of dictatorial (army and civilian) rule that has shaped Pakistan’s history and will continue to effect its future for decades to come.

    Mustafa, Are you seriously comparing Hitler to Zardari?…If so, all I would say is that hyperbole is not an effective tool of argument and grandiose hyperbole of this kind is an abominable excercize in absurdity

  3. Mustafa

    shahab: you have got me wrong…i am not comparing hitler to zardari……both are very different ofcourse…..what I am saying is that when you point out weaknes of a leader repeatedly it dusnt mean that you are simply bashin them….it means you are stating the facts.

  4. KOLN dweller

    Came across something which is relevant to this incident and is more horrific than the incident itself

    http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com/2009/09/gift-of-gall-or-permanent-laps-of.html

  5. for all i have read, heard and known I would only say that…

    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,but in ourselves.

    …the change has to come from within!

  6. Puzzled

    First thing first, I have noticed here on PTH that some blogs have become platforms for one-to-one conversation between some individuals, an informal chat site, so to speak. Guys, we are better than that!

    Second, Bilal Qureshi, although technically correct, in criticizing that singer who expects the government of Pakistan to come to his rescue, is overlooking that even in developed western countries, governments have come to the rescue of individuals however outrageous their endeavours might be. A case in point: a millionaire in Australia who decided to use his private yacht to go around the world solo. Put it this way, he was no Sydney to Hobart Race or America Cup champion. His boat capsized somewhere in the middle of the sea. It cost government of Australia some 12 million dollars to rescue him, yet they did it. I even wrote against that intervention by the government somewhere because I feel that we simply cannot afford to capitalize the profits and socialize the losses in a healthily developed economy.

    But in the instance of that Pakistani singer, we first of all have to reach the level of parity with the Western social welfare systems then criticize the individuals who expect governments to rescue them in their mis-adventures. We have a long way to get there in Pakistan.

    Thirdly, Bilal mentioned people unwilling to pay taxes. Don’t worry everyone, government of Pakistan has covered all bases to make sure that they get their ‘fair share’ in form of indirect taxes, such as duties and GST (200-300% on cars, close to 100% on fuel, 15% GST on literally everything that is consumed in the country, wealth tax etc etc).

    Fourth, Bilal has defended this Pakistani government a number of times now. I’m not sure if he is Bilal or ‘Bilawal’ J just kidding! Seriously though, I feel that it is naïve to assume that the government of Pakistan cannot do anything to alleviate these ills of the economy. I will seriously doubt the intellect of a person who would argue that this flour saga in Pakistan could not be dealt with by the government of Pakistan well in advance. Trust me, it is not the last time either.

    Last but not the least, people looking towards government for corrective measures is not that ‘far fetched’. Think about it. People in Western democracies come to streets for comparatively far trivial matters.

    “It is the right of a citizen to demand greater responsibility from its state, period.”