For those that died in the PSX attack, restitution remains a distant dream

Did the PSX or anyone put in 12 minutes to even think about the individuals that lost their lives during a cowardly attack on the PSX?

Twelve minutes. That is all it took for the attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) to be diffused. Twelve minutes does not seem like much, but in that much time, entire lives can end, families be uprooted, and stories unceremoniously cut short. To die in the line of duty is noble, but it is also always tragic and senseless. 

In the wake of such horrific days, we are often fed a narrative of resilience. How it is easy for citizens to go back to business as usual immediately after a tragic event like this. Much was made about how the PSX remained trading throughout the attack, of how the business community and the index remain resilient. 

But little was said about the lives that were snuffed out that day. For them, this was the end of the road, and their families were left forever disrupted and scarred. Their stories do not make for as resilient a narrative, especially when you realise that talk of compensation from government and businesses alike is often just that – talk. 

Subinspector Shahid Ali, Saeed Akram and Iftikhar were the three gentlemen that were killed on duty. The injured include Khuda Yar, Ashiq, Waqas, Shahzad Ahmed and Imtiaz Ali. Today, Profit looks back at these lost lives, and how we have treated their family. We look back at the disrespect to their legacies and their sacrifice.

The ceremony 

This was a sombre affair. For all the talk of resilience, the attack on the PSX did shake the business community up pretty bad. Which is why on October 2 this year, the business community gathered with the families of the deceased and those that were injured to distribute compensation cheques among them. 

“When we are hit by a tragedy, everyone seems eager to make a donation or announce rewards or compensation. However, as time goes on, the interest starts to diminish,” said Aqeel Kareem Dhedi, chairman of AKD Securities, an investment bank, on the occasion. Perhaps he was frustrated by how these things go, or he could see through what was happening. Because very quickly it became apparent that the ceremony was nothing but corporate fluff, and an attempt at getting over with their corporate social responsibility.

As usual, when there is an unfortunate event that results in the loss of lives, the government is often the first to publicly announce compensation to the victims. As time goes on, these announcements fade away. Many news agencies, whether digital or print, often write about these announcements but seldom are there follow ups regarding whether the money has actually been handed over.

Following the attack on the PSX and the announcement, Profit had repeatedly called the PSX and asked whether payments had been made. Moreover, Profit asked the PSX to share contact details of the families to verify regarding the compensation. The PSX, however, took their sweet time. This is because, in addition to an upfront cash payment, the PSX decided to create a fund to provide a long term solution.

Before we talk about the difficulty getting these amounts announced, we would just like to say that the notion of financial compensation following the loss of a loved one or lifelong injury and trauma cannot be quantified and put to numbers. Sure, one could run a few numbers and come to a number near the total income you’re likely to earn throughout your life, but simply it will never be enough. No money in the world can ever replace the feeling of emptiness a child faces when he or she graduates or walks down the aisle without a parent watching over, the feeling of sorrow when a spouse misses their partner, or parents reminisce over their child.

While no financial compensation can ever be enough that does not mean the government and corporations do not have to compensate. However, what they are to do is make the process smooth, efficient and trouble free for the grieving family.

Farrukh Khan, the Managing Director of the PSX feels the same way. During the ceremony he stated, “this is nothing compared to the value of their life and their contribution not only towards the safety of individuals on premises but the economy and country at large.”

This is what we expected from the PSX, Security 2000, Sindh Police, and the Sindh Government. Sadly, that is not the case. While speaking to grieving family members, Profit has discovered that families had remarked that this is the first cheque they had received that was not from an NGO.

On July 1, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah announced that the police sub-inspector who was martyred will be promoted, his family will be compensated with Rs10 million and two jobs, while his salary will continue to be disbursed until superannuation. The CM also announced that the families of the martyred security guards will be compensated with Rs5 million each, along with one job in the police force for one member of each family.

In addition, the employer of two martyred security guards, Security 2000, told Profit that it too has paid Rs1 million in compensation to the families of the guards. The company is also helping bear the medical expense of the injured guards admitted in the hospital.

“Many entities and organizations came forward with announcements regarding compensation, however, this is the first time we are receiving any of it. CM Sindh announced amounts and we have not got it yet nor has anyone contacted us further.”

On July 9, however, the National Assembly was informed that one million rupees each had been provided to the bereaved families of the Security 2000 guards that were martyred and that the police Shuhada Assistance Package was provided to the martyr belonging to the Sindh Police.

“Security 2000 only provided us the salary for the month of the attack. Following that we have received no further help from them.”

Similarly, an injured security guard explained that he had thus far only received a cheque from the Governor of Sindh, and a meager insurance amount from Security 2000 in addition to the cheque he received from the PSX. When asked about who was paying for his treatment, he said that he was bearing it on his own and Security 2000 did not provide further help.

While talking about the PSX they said, “We made a few trips to the PSX. The staff here treated us with nothing but respect, however, they could not give us an answer as to when we would receive compensation.”

The PSX, however, claims that this delay of approximately three months is due to the fact that not only were they gathering amounts from various donors, but were also working out the projections for the fund that they were forming especially considering the changes in the interest rate.

While speaking off record, an official at the PSX explained that a number of people came forward announcing cash to the families but never went through with it. The families, however, think that the PSX promised them that money. This confusion has been difficult to overcome.

Farrukh Khan, managing director of the PSX says that they wanted to come up with a long term solution for those families that had lost their breadwinners that worked for Security 2000. “We plan to provide them with the returns on the fund which will be near the amount they were earning through their jobs.”

This means that the PSX used the money gathered from various brokers to pay upfront compensation during the ceremony and will invest the remaining in safer and less volatile asset classes. The return will then be given to the families.

Considering how 2 out of the 3 individuals that embraced martyrdom belonged to Security 2000, this money will go to them. Sub inspector Shahid Ali’s family will not be receiving further compensation considering how his family will continue to get pension and an individual in the family can seek employment in lieu of the sub inspector.

The PSX believes that it is best if the fund is used to provide for the families of the late Saeed Akram and Iftikhar. While they do have a point, the fact that only Rs 20.3 million had been gathered so far out of which upfront cash was deducted. One can easily see that the income of the fund would not be substantial and would roughly amount to what a security guard earns on a monthly basis.

However, Dedhi as chairman of the Pakistan Stockbrokers association, has explained that PSBA has only managed to receive contributions from 21 members. He adds that there are approximately 230 more members who the PSBA and PSX will contact together in order to increase the amount deposited in the fund.

Profit asked Khan whether the families will be able to make any withdrawals or requests in case of extraordinary circumstances such as health care emergencies. He said that the PSX may consider it. However, the money will be invested in long term securities that will give steady returns.

An image saving affair 

Anyone that entered the trading hall on the day of the ceremony could see who the chief guests were. Despite the PSX staff calling grieving families the chief guest, the first row was exclusive to the MD and CEO PSX, the Chairman and other members of the PSBA and other guests. Everyone else came later. The families of those that had died were seated behind, where anyone could claim a seat. It was from here that they would shuffle out to recieve their cheques, a hall full of eyes following them. 

The crowd watched silently as sons that had lost their fathers tried to stand tall while honoring their father. However, you could not miss out on their watery eyes. As injured security personnel and police officers came forward, the crowd couldn’t help but feel sad for individuals that had faced life altering injuries.

Moreover, the event while claiming to honor the heroes was anything but that. Yes, the PSX thanked the sacrifices and talked about the importance of the actions undertaken by those exemplary individuals, but the event failed to eulogize them at all. The only time the names of the fallen were called out was when their family members were called on stage to be handed an envelope with a cheque enclosed within and told to pose for the camera.

Not once could one hear the names Shahid Ali, Saeed Akram and Iftikhar other than when their families were on stage. Nor could one hear more about how long they had served at the PSX, who they left behind, or any words of individual appreciation. It made it seem like the event was put together at the last moment without much thought or research into ways one could honor their simple lives and honorable deaths.

Yes, they did place a plaque right near the entrance, but is that enough, especially when none of the heroes or their families were even able to stand alongside the higher ups at the PSX while the plaque was being unveiled?

And more importantly should the PSX have been more graceful about the way they gave compensation? One could argue that the distribution of cheques was an opportunity for CSR photos and letting the world know that they did their job.

But did the PSX, the business community, or the government really do their job?

Is Rs20.3 million cumulatively a befitting amount for the heroes that not only saved precious civilian lives during the attack but also saved a national economic symbol, the PSX?

If we look at the market performance on the day of the attack, the benchmark KSE-100 Index started the day on a negative note, losing 219.98 points to mark its intraday low at 33,719.51. The index, however, managed to recover losses following the attack and touched its intraday high at 34,207.00 (+267.51 points). It finally settled higher by 242.31 points at 34,181.80.

Among other indices, the KMI-30 Index gained 383.07 points to close at 54,967.72, while the KSE All Share Index accumulated 256.61 points, ending at 24,510.83. Of the total traded shares, 169 advanced and 122 declined.

Approximately 4.801 million shares were traded during the duration of the attack which is approximately 0.31% of the overall market volumes witnessed throughout the day. The average traded value on that day was $34 million. As a result, 4.801/156.9 and then multiplied by 34 million dollars gives $10.4 million.

This shows how the reward and compensation money is inadequate if one were to only account for the monetary value of ongoing trading.

A fundamental flaw in the system

Fundamentally, compensation and rewards should come second. The problem lies in the system of employment. While ex-army officials are the ones that run such security companies and enjoy a life of perks even after retirement such as homes, healthcare and other subsidized facilities; they do not provide the employees of their organizations the same.

Not only do they provide terrible and inadequate weapons and protective gear, but in case of an injury the employee suffers. They do not get paid in full nor do they get the right treatment considering the insurance cover is minimum as it is a reflection of the salary.

This problem is not restricted to Security 2000, but it applies to all third party security companies.

The PSX or any other entity that is strongly linked to the nation and government, however, should provide a higher criteria of human resource facilities while entrusting its security with a third party provider.

While a number of publications including Profit have called the KSE 100 index resilient during the day of the attack, real resilience was shown by those that had no option but to stand strong, the heroes and their families.

Ariba Shahid
The author is a business journalist at Profit

1 COMMENT

  1. A very sad state of affairs indeed. It clearly shows how the society is evolved into ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. Where the ‘haves’ do-not want to share their wealth with the ‘have nots’, especially individuals with high level of networth. This was not the case a decade or so back but clearly the materialistic tendencies have taken over the through process and giving any money to the needy is not on the agendas of ‘our super wealthy who are under the illusion that they will continue to enjoy their wealth till death without sharing.

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