Opposition in Senate slams govt for ‘criminal negligence’ in handling Murree tragedy

Published January 12, 2022
A view of Senate session underway on Tuesday. — YouTube screengrab
A view of Senate session underway on Tuesday. — YouTube screengrab

ISLAMABAD: Criticising the government for ‘criminal negligence’ in handling the events claiming 23 lives in Murree, opposition in the Senate demanded formation of a judicial or parliamentary commission to unmask those responsible for failure to prevent the tragedy.

Senators belonging to the opposition said those responsible for the tragedy should not only be identified but also awarded punishment.

Speaking on an adjournment motion after laying and adoption of a report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance on what is being called a mini-budget, they came down hard on the prime minister, chief minister Punjab and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for their alleged negligence that led to the loss of lives.

PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said: “The shocking reality is that this incident was completely preventable had the government that was taking pride in enhanced tourism taken safety measures that are integral to every tourist destination in the world.”

Demands formation of judicial, parliamentary commission

She questioned as to why this does not happen in parts of the world that receive more snowfall.

“Despite warnings from the Met Office, the authorities, including the PDMA, NDMA and the local administration, chose to take no actions and too many people perished in those severe weather conditions. The government’s abdication of responsibility is breaching new limits. The five-member committee to investigate this incident is unacceptable,” she added.

Former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani said the administrative committee formed on the incident had been rejected by the opposition as it was tantamount to an inquiry by own peers.

He said the committee lacked legal and statuary push vital to carrying out the required task. “If the committee seeks a report and it is denied and summons someone who gives an incorrect statement, then it does not have powers to punish him,” he said.

Mr Rabbani said if the Punjab government had been serious it would have formed a commission under the Punjab Inquiry Commission 1969. He called for either formation of a judicial commission or a parliamentary committee to probe the tragedy to identify the responsible persons and recommend criminal proceedings against them.

PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui questioned as to why the massive inflow of tourists to Murree had not been checked when an alert had already been issued by the Met Office.

He said the tragedy could have been prevented had the government’s spokesmen which keep on frequently meeting been directed to go on air to advise people not to visit Murree. He said a Supreme Court level judge should head the proposed commission.

He rejected the committee of government officials formed to investigate the tragedy saying assigning the task to those who should be in the dock was a joke.

He regretted that instead of admitting its failure in managing a preventable disaster, some ministers were adding fuel to the fire by holding the victims responsible for the tragedy.

He wondered if the NDMA can be held accountable. He criticised the prime minister for his repeated claims of dealing with mafias with an iron hand, saying the iron hand turns into wax on finding out they belong to the ruling party.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2022

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