Eid amidst tragedy

THE nation celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr with simplicity as the otherwise joyful occasion was marred by the oil-tanker tragedy that took lives of 153 people and injuries to scores of others. Dozens of relatives were waiting outside hospitals in Bahawalpur to claim the bodies of their loved ones as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cut short his foreign trip to return home to visit victims. The explosion ignited early Sunday as crowds ignored warnings to stay away from the tanker, which had overturned on a main highway from Karachi to Lahore, spilling some 40,000 litres of fuel.
It was one of the most horrifying accidents that the country witnessed and came in the backdrop of killing of about 69 people in a series of terrorist bombings in different parts of the country on last Friday of Ramazan. There are no clear accounts as to what caused the tanker to overturn but as per witnesses it was due to over-speeding. Heavy vehicles especially those carrying enormous weight ought to maintain a controllable speed but ill-trained drivers usually ignore rules due to lack of proper enforcement of traffic rules and regulations. It has rightly been observed that Pakistan has an appalling record of fatal traffic accidents due to irresponsible/reckless driving, poor roads and badly maintained vehicles. Road conditions have greatly improved on some sections, thanks to vision of present government to have world-class infrastructure, but still majority of roads are uneven, in a bad shape and not maintained properly by relevant departments. Similarly, driving licenses are on sale and are issued after palm-greasing and not properly judging expertise of the holder in driving and knowledge of traffic rules and regulations. There is also a system in place to gauge fitness of vehicles but it is only in paper and unfit vehicles are routinely found on roads imperilling life and health of the citizens. Heavy death toll would also have been avoided if people heeded to the warning of Highway and Motorway Police as well as driver of the vehicle to stay away from combustible material. No doubt, the government has announced compensation for those killed and injured in the incident but it is quite obvious that no compensation would be enough for the loss of precious souls. However, such tragedies can be prevented in future or, at least, their impact minimised if traffic rules are enforced in every respect.

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