Officials responsible have dodged the questions of media at every juncture or simply rendered themselves invisible
Two weeks have passed since the incident at Mina in Saudi Arabia when hundreds of Hajj pilgrims were crushed to death in a stampede. It is still not possible to give a definitive figure for the total number of those who perished, but there are now 89 Pakistanis known to be dead. Another 45 remain missing and government officials with any responsibility in this matter — namely supporting and advising relatives of the missing and dead — have remained monumentally incompetent. Ministers and officials responsible have dodged the questions of the media at every juncture or simply rendered themselves invisible. The religious affairs ministry that should be front and centre in this matter is nowhere to be seen and the only source of information for relatives is the website of the ministry, which gives little by way of consolation beyond listing the missing, known dead and the 309 people who were originally listed as missing but have now fortuitously been found to be alive.
Equally unclear and unhelpfully so considering that Saudi Arabia is keen to tell all and sundry of its prowess when it comes to administering the Hajj — is just how many people died in the incident in total, not only those from Pakistan. Senior figures from a range of agencies, including the religious affairs ministry, have gone to Saudi Arabia supposedly to seek out information and closely question the Saudi authorities as to the whereabouts of the missing — and also to ask if there are any more dead as yet unidentified. These ‘senior officials’ seem to have disappeared without trace and there is no information in the public domain as to what they are doing, what inquiries they may or may not have made and what they propose to do next, if anything.
All of this is unacceptable, indeed shameful. If those whose job it is to rise to the occasion when a tragedy such as this occurs fall short of expectations, then heads must roll. Yet again, the ordinary people of Pakistan are treated with contempt and indifference by a government which appears to be serving nobody but itself. The government’s response and actions, or the lack of them, deserve nothing less than our collective contempt.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2015.
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