While TV talking heads were predicting the number killed an injured by nuclear weapons, another threat was preparing to attack a major urban area. Today, thousands are choking and having difficult even breathing, their eyes burning in their heads. A blanket of toxic smog has covered Lahore like the fall out of a chemical weapons attack. Only this attack came not from across the border, it was carried out from within.
The deadly smog is expected to cover the Punjab capital for days, if not weeks. The fact is no one knows how long it will remain, or even how quickly it will come back again once it does finally clear. No matter, though, the injuries can be permanent, and devastating to our future. Executive Director UNICEF Anthony Lake has said that ‘Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs – they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures.’
Toxic smog is not just a threat in Lahore. Karachi, Peshawar, and Rawalpindi also rank among the world’s worst cities for air pollution. If a chemical weapons attack from across the border was injuring thousands and threatening our future, we would unite and demand a National Action Plan for clean air. Are we unable or unwilling to address this threat when it is internal?