Reports say that no lives were lost because of the massive fire at Lahore’s Hafeez Center on Sunday; but how many livelihoods were lost? How many men had to go home that day with their heads hung below their shoulders and tell their families that all they had struggled for had gone away? That the means through which there was food on the table and clothes on their backs had turned into ash. No lives lost is a lot to be thankful for – but many livelihoods destroyed quickly turns that thanks into grief.
The photograph above shows the aftermath of over 500 shops after the fire on Sunday was put out. These shops were mostly of laptops, mobile phones, accessories, and other electronics. The fire reportedly started in the early hours of the day and continued to burn over the next 14 hours.
Millions of rupees worth of goods were burned during that time. Shopkeepers, the ones looking at their lives’ work go up in flames could do nothing but watch; watch, hope, and pray from afar. People started giving the adhaan and making duas in congregation, hoping for a miracle:
— Hafiz Ali🇵🇰 (@Alisays424) October 18, 2020
Two days have passed since that Godforsaken day in Lahore and the whole of Hafeez Center has been sealed off. Police have declared the area and its building ‘dangerous’ for businesses to use. So not only have the earnings of the victims taken a hit but all shops of that building have been closed off, affecting all other business owners and their earnings as well.
These people, the ones majorly affected, looked towards the All-Mighty for a miracle and a half on that day. They now look towards the government to provide them with the relief that they desperately need. The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) issued an SOS call to the government for early compensation for these victims. In an impromptu press conference held, the LCCI President, Mian Tariq Misbah, pleaded to the government’s humane side and pointed out that these victims have already been facing problems because of the ongoing global pandemic. He said that the repercussions of this fire will likely echo through the next decade for some of them.
Mian Tariq said that the government should come up with a plan of action to compensate traders for their losses. He further went on to thank the heroics of the responding teams that worked tirelessly to put out the fire on Sunday.
“We welcome the move as the government has immediately constituted a 14-member committee which will submit its preliminary report in 24 hours and a full report in a week estimating the losses,” said Mr Misbah. “We demand that the government immediately announce cash compensation to the affected businessmen as soon as the loss estimate report is received.” He added that any employees of the shops should also receive compensation and that the salaries of all employees working at the Hafeez Center should be covered by the government until the Center is fully restored.
The Pakistan Industrial and Traders Association Front (PIAF) chairman, Mian Nauman Kabir has also expressed his condolences towards the victims of the fire. He urged the government to investigate the cause of the fire as well as arrange compensations for the affected. He pointed out the fact that fire incidents in Lahore have exposed many weaknesses in the infrastructure of these kinds of buildings and that these weaknesses need to be rectified on a urgent basis, in order to avoid other incidents of this kind.
Any governmental relief programs have yet to be revealed but these businessmen remain hopeful. They have to. As said by Mian Tariq, these people will be suffering the consequences of this fire well into the next decade and relief from the government’s side will go a long way in helping them rebuild their businesses and starting their lives back up.