The collapse of the five-storey building in Lyari, resulting in the loss of life and injuries is not a one-off event that can be attributed to bad luck or uncommon negligence. This is the third such incident in Karachi alone during the last six months, which points towards a failed system that is killing people. It is not just old, depleted buildings that are ticking time bombs waiting to go off, but many cases involve relatively newer buildings that have collapsed due to shoddy construction work.

This is sometimes due to poor planning and lack of expertise, but mostly due to corruption by contractors who cut corners to earn a bigger profit. Government bodies ought to be regularly conducting surveys of buildings – new and old – and see if a structure is worthy of being given a safety certificate and be operational. Now, as it often happens in the case of regulation in Pakistan, this should not be a money-making scheme for government personnel who can simply be paid off to look the other way while greedy landlords continue to operate. Transparency should be ensured, and personnel be held liable if their approval of a structure turns out to be unwarranted and lives are put at risk.

While in the case of the building in Lyari, the Sindh Building Control Authority had in fact declared it unsafe and most residents had vacated. But the error occurred in ensuring complete removal of residents in time. Who allowed them to stay on? Also, it would be proper to check how long ago had the SBCA marked the building as unsafe. And what steps did it take in the days that followed? Perhaps if both the federal and provincial governments took the issue of affordable housing more seriously and actually delivered, people would not be forced to live in such dangerous conditions.