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Jun 06, 2020 PRINT EDITION

A time for mourning

Friday's unfortunate PIA plane crash in Karachi has turned what was already going to be a sombre Eid holiday into a time of national mourning. Ninety-seven people have been killed, with more feared dead as rescue workers search through the rubble of destr

May 24, 2020

Friday's unfortunate PIA plane crash in Karachi has turned what was already going to be a sombre Eid holiday into a time of national mourning. Ninety-seven people have been killed, with more feared dead as rescue workers search through the rubble of destroyed houses in the dense residential area where the aircraft went down. The government has ordered an independent and thorough investigation by the Safety Inspection Board, as expected, but the Pakistan Airline Pilots' Association (Palpa) is right in demanding the involvement of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as well as the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Association (IFALPA) to make the official inquiry more transparent. They have also made it pretty clear, as is their right, that they would not accept any formal results unless a Palpa representative is also taken on board. The Association's reservations over the ability of the Safety Investigation Board (SIB) to conduct such investigations, because of its unimpressive record, should also be addressed. The importance of this inquiry cannot be stressed enough. It will not only point out just what went wrong on that fateful day, but also help make sure nothing of the sort is allowed to happen ever again. A nation in shock and grief, especially the families of all the people that met such an untimely end, deserves no less. This tragedy, on top of more than 52,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and almost 1,100 deaths from it as of Saturday morning, means Eid has come at a particularly grim time this year. And while Pakistan's Covid-19 figures are not as high as some other countries', these numbers also tell stories of families either in acute pain and uncertainty or torn apart by a loved one leaving in such a helpless manner.
Then there's also the discomforting fact that things are not exactly getting better with time in Pakistan; that is to say the curve is not flattening. Here, quite to the contrary, it is now on the steepest rising trajectory of the few months of the crisis so far. Could this be because we didn't relax the lockdown in the right manner? It was roughly a fortnight before Eid that provinces tried to slowly take the foot off the brakes. Yet the people didn't exercise the kind of caution and responsibility to mitigate the spread of the virus that was expected of them. And since the coronavirus takes two weeks or so to be detected, there's a good chance that in our zest to reopen our economy and get back to business as usual without ensuring the proper safeguards for mitigation, we might have also sowed the seeds of our own long-term destabilisation. Whether or not that is true will become apparent with time, but the fact is, that a lot more people are suffering now than about two weeks ago, and it wouldn't exactly do them justice if the rest of us take to celebrating Eid like nothing had happened; especially because it would put those who are not sick in the line of fire as well. Simply put, the more people go out to celebrate Eid, the more they are setting up coronavirus time bombs to go off in the near future.
The government is doing what it can to get people to observe preventive and safety measures but such is the nature of the spread of this particular virus that it is pretty much up to the people to take care of themselves at the end of the day. And the way a lot of Pakistanis behaved when they went out this week was just too disappointing for words. While one can understand the desperation of the lower income groups, who would've been pushed to starvation by the lockdown, the way high end shoppers rushed to designer stores - like addicts deprived of heroin - was nothing short of shameful. We should know that relaxation of lockdowns has led to a sharp surge in new cases even in countries that observe the strictest social safety rules. What, then, can be expected of countries, like ours, where people do not just flout the rules but some of them take pride in doing so? Groups of people that are out and about just for fun or adventure, especially buying designer clothes and bags, counting it as a welcome break after being in lockdown for so long, should understand that they are putting the people who need to be out to work as well as the whole economy at grave risk.
Hopefully, sooner or later a vaccine will be developed and this virus will go away. But how we behave now will determine how much effort will be needed for the eventual rebuilding. The less we destroy of ourselves in this trying time, the better for the whole country in the long run. We should keep these things in mind as tragedy, rather than festivity, unites us on this Eidul Fitr.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020