Hafeez Centre fire | Pakistan Today

Hafeez Centre fire

  • Yet another reminder that skyscrapers need protection

The fire at Hafeez Centre may well have been caused by short-circuiting, but that does not mean that the electronics trade in Lahore, and indeed in the Punjab, will escape. The destruction of the stock of the largest electronics market of the city means that prices of computers and mobile phones will skyrocket, but only for the time being, until fresh supplies come in. However, as this is a capital-intensive business, with small items costing large sums, this need not be a rapid process.

However, it is a safe prediction that a large number of small traders, who had just a small shop in Hafeez Centre, will be hit hard by the loss of their stock. This is not the first fire in a multistory building in Lahore, or even Karachi, which indicates that the problem is generic, and may have the same cause or causes. Short-circuiting is avoidable, and one reason is miserliness about the quality of the wiring at the time of construction, this being one place where the builder might make savings. As such buildings are made for sale, not use, builders need to be kept on their toes by careful quality checking.

Then there is the proliferation of flammable material, especially where so much packing material is used. Efficient disposal should be the responsibility of the market’s traders’ association, but such bodies have developed other roles: as they have become subject to electoral politics, they see themselves mostly as traders’ mouthpieces. That usually means making sure that their members avoid taxes, rather than making sure that they dispose of waste properly. It is something of a mercy that the fire broke out on a Sunday, when the market was closed. That did mean that there were no casualties, and there were none of the heart-rending scenes that might have been seen if, as happened on previous occasions, some hapless shopkeeper or customer, was trapped on some upper floor by the inferno. An inquiry into the incident followed by the relevant authorities formulating and implementing building codes is necessary to avoid any such future disasters.