Since I moved to a new and rather distant locality of Lahore, my office is now 25 km from home. My daughter goes to a college which again is almost 25 km from home; there is about 12-13 km which is common on these two tracks that we have to follow to reach our workplaces.

It has since been a routine to take the new Ring road from DHA, take the Harbanspura exit, drop her and then, take the city route to Mayo Hospital. On the 28th of June, there was a sign of diversion just after the Airport exit, on the Ring road. Since we are so used to these signs, whether on account of a V.I.P, some sinking of the road, some unexpected strike or protest etc, there could be a thousand apparently acceptable reasons that we take no time in following the instructions. I have yet to recall a single uninterrupted journey, without a diversion to Gujranwala ever since I was a small child when we first realized that apparently, it was a double, rapid transit, Highway between the two adjoining cities. It was perhaps built in anticipation of the increase in the number of daily commuters on this segment.

Pedestrian Collapse in Lahore
Pedestrian Collapse in Lahore 
It however never crossed my mind that half of the newly constructed, as they say till smelling new overhead pedestrian bridge could have come down on a truck before even completion of the project. It was even more difficult to imagine the bridge having passed all technical, material and physical tests, supposedly before, being approved, to be opened to the public.  It was even more difficult to imagine such an imposing structure not allegedly being able to withstand the impact of a truck.  If the impact of the truck brought it crumbling to the ground, Lahore is then in grave danger with millions of tonnes of concrete and metal hanging over our heads. This becomes even more alarming when you also take into account that we often experience tremors and jolts because of the fault line that travels through the length of the country. We fall in a Seismic zone. Perhaps we would be better off with traffic jams but without this booming danger over their heads if the level of competence and predictable safety of these projects is at this level. The authorities need to look into this more seriously and objectively. The development and growth of the west are based on one fundamental principle and that single principle is quality, both in designs, execution and systems of maintenance, as well as accountability. Learning lessons, which then need to be recorded for reference, not just to be slipped under the carpets, is what prevents a recurrence of these tragedies. 

Yesterday I decided to take a full exploratory ride on the Ring road and rather than taking the route through the city, decided to go all the length and then take the exit to the District courts, to reach Mayo Hospital. That was an eye-opener. There are legally allowed U-turns, where the divider has been breached at places either by the local people or by the authorities themselves in response to the demands of some influential people.

There are strategically carved, complimentary cuts also, to enable people to enter the ring road on one side, go against the one way traffic for a furlong and then move over to the other side through the breached divider. This is all happing in broad daylight or a regular basis. The sudden appearance of cars and jeeps in the fast lane on the wrong side from the opposite direction can be a frightening and very confusing situation, as you don`t expect that. The possibly fatal accidents that inevitably will follow will not even make news as the death of a simple, innocent, law-abiding citizen due to the act of a more influential law breaking individual hardly is news in this society, it is rather a norm. News is created when a bridge falls due to the impact of a truck, allegedly due to the mistake of the poor driver or the truck itself. The principle in Pakistan today is undisputed; power can make holes, and break bridges whether the power is in the dumper truck or in the powerful elite. 

Perhaps we are now like a net, which was once described by a comedian as a structure made, by joining many holes. We are living precariously clinging to the loose strands joining the holes. 

Our future depends on repairing the holes and sending power to where it belongs, to the people and not the ruthless ruling elite.

About the Author:
Professor Mahmood Shaukat (MBBS, FRCS) is the Chairman of the Paediatric Surgery Department of  King Edward Medical University/ Mayo Hospital Lahore. This is his 3rd article for Pakistan Hotline. Admin of this weblog is very thankful to him for the precious time he is giving to PakistanHotline.com


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