Take any natural disaster. Who are the first ones to succumb to it? The sick. The weak. The underprivileged. The poor. Rich people have the means to disappear, and get out of harm’s way, as long as they get enough notice. Precisely what has happened in Sindh within the last three days. Almost a thousand people are dead, and god forbid, more will die, until we address the root cause of this tragedy and forget about the weather and the load shedding.

The emergency ward at the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre has recorded more than a third of all the deaths in Karachi and they claim that a significant number of the victims were street beggars and drug addicts. Bodies that have grown frail over years of substance abuse and malnutrition, already barely surviving, are pushed further into the abyss when the temperature rises a few degrees above the usual, and precious, brittle life breaks under the burden. And what does it break to? Lack of shade and a glass of water?

Considering that street life has no relationship with electricity, or load shedding for that matter, dragging K-electric into the debate is like inviting the neighborhood to resolve a domestic quarrel. K-electric may still have a plethora of issues and by all means, if the Government wishes to take them to court, they should. By doing so, however, the Government cannot absolve itself from the responsibility of bringing street life into the fold. That is the issue our leaders are trying to circumvent and have gone far enough to state that electricity supply in Karachi and any calamity resulting from a lack of it is not within their ambit.

Leadership is not about ducking when the chips are down. It’s about marching out of the dark and into the light. Both the federal and provincial governments have miserably failed in this regard and while they squabble over who and what the loss of life should be accredited to, the army, in typical fashion, is the only institution reacting to the emergency at hand.

According to various sources there are an estimated 30,000 street children in Karachi and a surge of heat is not the only thing they are vulnerable too – in fact, it might just be the least of their concerns. Essentially, these children can fall prey to, or be rescued by, any force, marginally stronger than their petty selves. And eventually, if the weather doesn’t take them out, something else will. The fact that the freakishly hot summer in Sindh and the resulting loss of life is more about neglecting the underbelly of Karachi and less about the heat wave is reinforced by the number of lives lost across Sindh. According to a news report, nearly 1000 individuals have died in Karachi alone, whereas, 61 individuals have died in all the other districts of Sindh combined.

Yesterday, Nawaz Sharif met his Cabinet Ministers to discuss electricity and Khawaja Asif, responding to an earlier tirade from the leader of the opposition justified the position of the Federal Government vis-à-vis K-electric, admonishing the latter for not realizing its true power potential beyond the 650MWs it purchases from the Government of Pakistan and distributes to the people of Karachi.

My dear (or should I say delusional) countrymen, for once give a break to petty politics. Open your eyes to the street life. Bring that life into the fold. And watch your problems diminish.

Considering the kind of narrative we are hearing from our ‘leaders’, there is little hope for ‘better sense’ to prevail. In all probability, we will continue to shamelessly trivialize the loss of life to the lack of electricity; we will not compensate the homeless because civil servants will find it impossible to quantify the loss of an ‘unregistered’ street beggar; we will invest in technology to predict natural calamities but take no preemptive measures to secure or forewarn unguarded life; we will conduct meetings in high offices, not to discuss how to make the vulnerable less vulnerable, but how best to defend political attack and launch new allegations; we will hide behind legalities, amendments, contracts, deals and maybe even the ‘will of God’ and not face the music because it’s easier to circumvent blame.

Shame how petty politics will rob us off the truth and keep us hostage to a treacherous game.