Negligent & Greedy

Week after week, tragic stories of people losing their lives after catastrophic accidents in Pakistan’s northern areas are published. Entire families, university tours, and villages have ended in a flash due to the negligence of drivers and transport companies. The enormity of this needs to be properly understood; dozens of people, often related to each other, lost in a single event.

On Wednesday, a Muzaffarabad-bound jeep, modified to carry more passengers than its normal capacity, was transporting 16 people when it fell into the Neelam River, killing 15. The oldest of the casualties was 50 years old, the youngest was 12. All passengers were from Lawat Bala, a village located some 100 kilometers from Muzaffarabad. This needs to be stopped immediately; humanity demands that the state fixes this issue. The maddening thing is that this can be fixed easily. Tighter control over vehicle certification, regular roadworthiness tests, specialized licenses for commercial drivers in the mountains, and rigid accountability for transport companies will solve this problem. Greedy companies push their drivers to drive recklessly to make up for time, don’t maintain vehicles, and flout regulations. Unless companies start going bankrupt under the weight of lawsuits for such accidents, change will not come. Pakistani authorities know how to enforce this. After a horrific bus crash on the Salt Range motorway last year, the government instituted new regulations. All passenger buses now stop before entering the Salt Range, are checked by officials, and then allowed to travel downhill in closely-knit and slow-moving caravans. Simple, common-sense solutions for a simple problem.

For now, the blame for such accidents rests on greedy transport companies and negligent drivers. The next crash’s blame will rest on the government’s shoulders, which saw this tragedy unfolding and did nothing to fix it.