RAWALPINDI: The Murree inquiry committee constituted by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has recommended setting up of automated entry-exit points for counting entry and exit of vehicles in Murree on real-time basis.

“This may be connected with a ‘Visit Murree’ application that can issue entry permits or tickets to tourists based on the absorption capacity of local infrastructure,” the inquiry committee in its detailed report said.

The report has blamed lack of coordination among federal and provincial government departments for the tragedy that left 23 people dead on Jan 8.

The committee also noticed that relevant departments under the ministries of defence, interior and communication lacked proper preparedness, planning, response and delivery system to deal with the situation.

“The role played by these relevant federal entities before, during and after the calamity in Murree may be examined by their respective ministries,” the committee recommended.

The report available with Dawn said the cantonment executive officer of Murree Cantonment Board was contacted to give his position on the arrangements made for removal of trees within his jurisdiction but no response was received.

The committee was headed by Punjab Home Department Additional Chief Secretary Zafar Nasarullah with Secretary Food Ali Sarfraz, Secretary Agriculture Asad Gillani and Additional Inspector General of Police Farooq Mazhar as members.

In its recommendations, the committee said Murree might be upgraded to the status of a district.

A comprehensive master plan of Murree may be prepared and implemented for the future development and promotion of Murree as a tourism destination of choice.

Strict building code regulations should be developed and implemented, land use control should be enforced strictly and illegal buildings and structures must be demolished forthwith.

A modern early warning system may be established with the Met Department in Murree to warn officials, tourists and travelers. Department of Tourist Services may be strengthened by appropriate human and physical resources.

The regulatory framework for various tourist and allied services may be developed and implemented.

Official use of WhatsApp especially for transmission of documents and information be discouraged in line with federal government’s instructions and policies.

It recommended that a joint management committee under the co-convenorship of the deputy commissioner and the station commander, Pakistan Army, may be set up for Murree to implement the upgradation and master plan. Safe city infrastructure may be established in Murree.

All snow-clearing management services be equipped with modern gadgetry, snow-borne equipment and appropriate gear, the report said.

The authorities concerned failed to set up a proper control room in Murree with representatives from all the relevant federal and provincial entities.

They did not ensure the deployment of assets such as snow-removing machinery and necessary verification of prior actions. The reliance was placed entirely on verbal confirmations.

The departments concerned lacked coordination to work in a unified manner to help the stranded tourists.

The inquiry revealed that during the blizzard, the entire administrative, rescue and support machinery made limited attempts to rescue the stranded tourists.

At most, support was provided near the main roundabouts or close to main roads with shops and hotels.

The Forest Department and Iesco officials were absent except one or two positions during the extreme blizzard to remove fallen trees and electric poles, respectively. Their absence worsened the situation during the blizzard.

Some people were asked to move out of cars to safe places but this exercise was not carried out extensively and comprehensively as part of the strategy.

Part of the reason was that the entire administration was singularly focused on restoring the flow of traffic out of Murree.

It said the deputy commissioner Rawalpindi did mention that the city police officer and he had discussed possible health risk to sick and elderly but the actions did not demonstrate that they had followed up on the risk assessment probably because it was too late.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2022



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