Murree suspensions

Published January 21, 2022

ON Wednesday, the Met Office issued a red alert for more heavy snowfall in Murree over the coming weekend, and advised immediate precautionary measures. But it seems that at the helm of administration now are people just days into their job. Also on Wednesday, the Punjab government identified “gross negligence, lack of coordination and team work as well as risk assessment” on part of the administrative authorities as the reasons leading to the tragic deaths on Jan 8 of 23 souls who became stranded in sub-zero temperatures. The suspension with immediate effect was announced of 15 officials — effectively, the entire chain of the relevant administrative command, as mentioned in our report. Those taken offline range from the Rawalpindi commissioner, deputy commissioner and city police officer to the Murree assistant commissioner, assistant superintendent of police, Rawalpindi highways officers and Murree forest and district emergency officers. These persons are to face disciplinary action in line with the findings of a five-member committee inquiring into the lapses that led to the disaster. At a news conference that lasted hardly a couple of minutes and apparently with no reporters in attendance, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar announced: “I have fulfilled my promise of holding a fair and transparent inquiry into the Murree tragedy and taking action [...].”

So easily are duties discharged that it is indeed a cruel joke. The reasons for the tragedy have been identified, blame apportioned, and action taken — in an inquiry that lasted just about 10 days? Further, the inquiry committee claims the compilation of a four-volume report as well as a shorter version that was apparently presented to the chief minister at his office on Wednesday evening — but we have to take the authorities at their word, given that no detail therein was released to the press or the public. The administration needs harsh reminding that much more is required than its usual resort to knee-jerk reactions and scapegoating. This is urgently needed to learn lessons; it is also the very least owed to those who died.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2022

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