Fire in Balochistan


The whole of Pakistan may try to deflect from the national catastrophe that ravaged the Koh-e-Suleman mountain range for nearly two weeks however it wants but simply closing its eyes would not undo the damage. Over 30 per cent of precious pine forests (already declared a heritage site by UNESCO) have been lost. While the flames have finally died down–all thanks to specially modified firefighting aircraft dispatched by Iran–our failure to lose a single night’s sleep over such an irreparable loss is, for the lack of a better word, abhorrent. What affairs kept the provincial government so exhausted that it could not be bothered by the boiling cauldron under its own nose? Perhaps, handling the no-confidence motion filed in the Balochistan Assembly trumped showing compassion to the very masses that elected these leaders to power headquarters. Imposing an emergency in Zhob and cosmetic measures like banning cooking might look good on paper but cannot make up for the glaring absence of the higher authorities on the frontline. Some footnote stories and carelessly-thrown tickers would, similarly, not do any justice to the watchdog role of the mainstream media that failed in its crusade to jolt the complacent authorities to meaningful action. Yes, the overwhelming foreign exchange loss (considering Pakistan’s fifth-largest production worldwide) is an absolute tragedy on its own, but the utter disregard of communities already living on the fringe of the poverty line simply twists the dagger.
What a shameful display of the egrocious double standards!
The administration wastes no time in registering a complaint against a social media influencer when the elite Margalla foothills scream for help but hides behind platitudes when stringent measures are needed in the country’s underbelly. Does this mean the faint shadow of environmental legislation present in the mothership also cherrypicks which areas to guard under its wing?
Simply announcing compensation for calamity-struck farming communities is not enough because lofty promises seldom see the light of the immediate need to deliberate upon the possible rehabilitation. Losing thousands of prestigious pine trees to ashes just because the authorities did not decide to act until too late in the deadly game calls for a mighty reckoning. We are entering dangerous waters climatically, and much is required on a war footing to ensure searing winds do not light up worse flames. If now is not the time to acknowledge the underlying global changes and take every smallest possible step to fight off the debilitating greenhouse effect, when on God’s green earth would be our cue to turn the tide?