While asleep-the guiltless dwellers of a fascinating village in the Northern Areas of Pakistan-met an atypical catastrophe mid-night Sunday which-as the preliminary reports say-took almost 51 precious lives with over 150 precariously injured and several still missing.
The blasts are believed to have been caused by detonators-sometime used for road building-and were stored at the home of a local contractor. The explosions occurred in a remote village of Diamer district, flanked by the well-known K-2 peaks, standing aside the mighty Himalayan range-situated about 200 kilometres [124 miles] from the town of Gilgit, some 240 km [150 miles] north of the capital city of Islamabad.
Some reports pin-point that almost the entire village was smashed in the explosions. This tragic episode is-no doubt-an unrivalled full-size calamity-ever seen by the people in the charismatic area. Witnesses say the main blast triggered a series of smaller explosions during which hundreds of dynamite sticks hit nearby houses like missiles. Though authorities believe the fire and ensuing blasts were accidental, yet the real n’ authentic cause is yet to be determined.
Some people view that the conflagration was an eventual result of faulty electrical wiring, adding that the house-with dynamites-was made of wood and thus-eventually-burnt a vast area in the locale in a spur of moment. A piece of info-which is apparently-worth serious concern is that most of the government and private companies handling explosives in the area seldom trail the international safety standards. As a result there have been a number of perilous upsets–thought a bit elfin in nature–even in the past.
Yet the Sunday’s tragedy-prima facie-is the biggest ever since 1988, when a series of bangs echoed at ammunition dump in the city of Rawalpindi taking more than 150 lovely lives. Whereas the President, General Pervez Musharraf, while conveying his-spontaneous-grief, angst n’ shock over the ill-fated occurrence, has-instantly-ordered the germane circles to bring to light the basic cause of this dreadful incident, the Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali has-simultaneously-directed a high-level inquiry to establish the actual basis of the episode.
A gloomy n’ murky facet-as experienced in the times of yore-has been that though beamed from the highest level-a pragmatic picture of such risky scenarios have-scarcely come in view. A peculiar mind-set-mostly at the local level has-by n’ large-abandoned the upshot of such a course in a callous style. Such a state of affairs-in no way-can be allowed to persist.
One hopes that the authorities-steering the affairs of the Northern Areas of Pakistan-shall take the President’s directive as the foremost task-instantaneously-so as to ensure that such a misfortune does not recur-at any cost. An in-depth survey of the abodes of private contractors-dealing with the upkeep of the magnificent yet hazardous KKH-is equally significant.
With this approach, every unsafe but indispensable gadget can-conveniently-be located at safer sites-far away from the terrains with valued lives-as inhabitants. Side-by-side an administrative probe, it may be apposite if a judicial inquiry is initiated-at-once to reach a realistic n’ rational raison d’étre of this untoward event.
And finally the gallant troops of Pakistan Army fittingly merit all-out eulogize for reaching the far-off vicinity-exact on time-to the help the affectees, in the hour of their woe n’ agony. The chivalrous jawans and the officers set off the rescue operation without any delay-not only to douse the fuming blaze-but also by evacuating the injured souls-even by means of helicopters-to diverse hospitals for prompt medical aid-to save their precious lives.
The author is a noted journalist, political analyst and ex-Director News Pakistan TV. He is a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN).