The fire in Hafeez Centre, Lahore earlier this month sent shockwaves through the trading community. The plaza was the go-to place for all technology-related needs of the provincial capital. The damage from the flames was spread out over an estimated 500 different shops, but most of those retailers in the centre had expensive stock stored at the plaza, ranging from top-of-the-line phones and computers to everything else related to tech that is currently available in Pakistan.

Luckily, Chief Minister Punjab has announced that a compensation package worth Rs5billion will be provided to those affected. This does not exactly cover the losses faced by the shopkeepers at Hafeez Centre, but is a good start nonetheless. It is important for the government to look to facilitate traders where possible, because a good business environment keeps the economy running.

The government quite clearly realises that the fire in Hafeez Centre did not only destroy the livelihoods of shopkeepers, but it also took away an important revenue destination for the government; the daily volume of sales in Hafeez Centre entailed that the government was always benefitting from the purchases made by retailers; especially in the current climate where taxes on all commodities and imports are extremely high.

Beyond compensation, the government must also look towards a rebuild and provide the space for traders to set up shop once more. Whether it is a renovated version of Hafeez Centre or any of the surrounding plazas, one thing that is clear is that there needs to be more awareness about fire safety. Anyone that has visited the centre is acutely aware of how hotch-potch wiring and tight corridors with makeshift setups were an accident waiting to happen. It was only a matter of time before something short circuited. We were fortunate that no lives were lost this time. It is hoped that we learn from this and adhere to better fire safety practices in the future.