The news from Dera Ghazi Khan that at least 33 were killed in a highway collision between a bus and a truck was eerily similar to so many other highway collisions that have claimed for too many lives over the years. With at least 40 injured in the accident and some in critical condition, the bitter truth is that the death toll is likely to rise and the entire nation is waiting with bated breaths as they pray that it does not.
This exercise in prayers is one that has become far too familiar. Road safety in Pakistan continues to be an issue that receives little attention, and accidents of the sort that just took place in Dera Ghazi Khan are usually swept under the rug with typical bureaucratic candour. First, there are promises of inquiries which almost certainly end up going nowhere and achieving nothing. Then, there are promises that assistance will be given to the families of the victims, which rarely happens. And then the entire conversation shifts until the next major accident takes place.
Introspection is the need of the hour when so many lives are needlessly being lost. There is the initial issue of course that there is no check and balance on the drivers operating heavy vehicles like buses and trucks. Many of them are self taught and others at best have been taught by drivers that were self taught. Driving heavy duty vehicles is skilled labour that is rarely treated as such in the country, and more stringent checks on the quality of drivers is vital to avoid further senseless deaths.
There is also another reality in this situation. The trucking and transport industry in Pakistan is a vicious and highly unregulated space, particularly in regards to how the drivers of these vehicles are treated. Transporters and bus operators regularly make their drivers work overtime, causing them to fall asleep at the wheel and end up in fatal accidents. All of these problems are combined with the less than ideal conditions of the roads in Pakistan, and a lack of both road safety awareness and facilities. If further accidents like this are to be avoided, it is of the utmost importance that the government take immediate steps to confront the problem at its roots.