Last week, Punjab’s Chief Minister inaugurated the Walton flyover in Lahore. In celebration of the event, droves of helium balloons were released but they caught fire and exploded. The explosion injured 40 people, one of whom died yesterday. Little is known about these people, except that most were children and some were admitted to hospitals for burn injuries.

The event leads to two important concerns. First, it raises a red flag for safety under which it must be asked if the Punjab government’s planning team follows any safety standards during such large-scale, high-profile functions? Aside from security measures for politicians, do they account for any fire hazard rules or exit routes planned for the attending public? Are rescue services readily available in case of accidents? And in case of accidents, such as the one which has caused forty people to lie injured in hospital and one to die, who is held accountable?

The second concern, is that of displays of splendour. With so many inauguration and opening ceremonies occurring around the country hosting and hosted by politicians, the tax payer is paying the cost. These ceremonies usually involve marquees, caterers, air-conditioning and decor; a party every time. The Punjab Youth Festival allegedly cost Rs 6 billion. The Sindh Festival was worth roughly 250 million rupees. A hefty chunk of this amount went straight into grand opening ceremonies.

An example of the irony inherent to this, was the South Asia Labor Conference organized in Lahore last week. A conference that dealt with working class rights, addressed issues of bonded labour and policies related to the poorest of the poor, convened in the city’s foremost luxury hotel with exorbitant venue fees.

Leaders and politicians are revered across the globe and this veneration even when well-deserved, must be maintained with some dignity and humility which is respectful of the conditions of the country. The culture of organizing lavish political and opening ceremonies to impress voters and depress opponents, that are ill-planned, lack accountability and common sense, must end. And the common man and woman must call for this change. If wedding parties hosted by private citizens are regulated for food, expense and timing, then certainly, ceremonies hosted essentially by the tax payer must be subject to some of the same.