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Sunday August 14, 2022

Buzdars vows 'indiscriminate action' as committee to probe Murree tragedy formed

A report as a result of the findings obtained will be submitted to the provincial government in seven days

By APP & Web Desk
January 09, 2022
Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar. — APP/File
Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar. — APP/File

Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar on Sunday vowed "indiscriminate action" against all those found negligent in their duties in the tragedy that unfolded in Murree as a probe committee to investigate the incident finalised the terms of reference it will operate under.

The tragedy saw the deaths of more than 20 people  on January 7, who were stranded in their vehicles amid "unprecedented snowfall" as was put by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A notification was issued by the Punjab government after names of the probe committee's members were finalised, according to which Additional Chief Secretary Home Zafar Nasrullah has been appointed as the convener.

Provincial secretaries Ali Sarfaraz and Asad Gilani have been named as members of the committee.

In addition, Assistant Inspector General Farooq Mazhar has also been named as a member.

The notification also listed the terms of reference under which the committee will operate.

According to these terms, the committee will ascertain which government departments were responsible for the crisis situation that unfolded in Murree.

It will also assess what measures were taken to control the influx of visitors and vehicles.

Furthermore, the committee will look into what precautionary measures were taken by institutions in light of the weather advisory issued by the Met Office. It will determine whether a warning was run on media to dissuade people from travelling to the tourist destination.

The committee will probe what traffic control measures were taken amid the snowstorm and after reports of the adverse weather conditions were received, what safety measures were implemented.

The report as a result of the findings obtained will be submitted to the provincial government in seven days.

Earlier today, Buzdar issued a statement on Twitter to announce a series of measures being taken by the Punjab government to institute permanent solutions to longstanding issues in the tourist destination.

He said that the government's foremost priority had first been to complete rescue operations.

Thereafter, a "long consultative session" was held in Murree accompanied by a "detailed briefing".

"Some important decisions have been taken so that with short term and long term solutions, a permanent solution to longstanding issues can be arrived at," the chief minister said.

Buzdar said that in seven days, a probe committee supervised by the additional chief secretary for the Punjab home department, will submit a report and "indiscriminate action" will be taken against those found negligent in their duties.

Measures for Murree

The chief minister said that a decision "in principle" has been taken to give Murree the status of a district.

"We will immediately appoint officers of the ranks of superintendent of police and additional deputy commissioner in Murree," he added.

Buzdar said that two new police stations will be established in the city.

In addition, two new parking plazas will be constructed in Sunny Bank and Jhika Gali and a shuttle service will be run between these points.

In a statement yesterday, Buzdar said that there were a total of 33,745 vehicles in Murree till last night, much higher than what the hill station can accommodate.

The chief minister in his statement today said that Rescue 1122 staff will be provided trail bikes and wireless communication systems.

Furthermore, under a new traffic management system, new connecting roads to Murree will be built.

Buzdar 'annoyed' over overcrowding

State-run APP reported that the meeting took place in Gharial, Murree, during which the chief minister was given a detailed briefing on rescue and relief operations.

Commissioner, Rawalpindi Division; City Police Officer, Rawalpindi; Deputy Commissioner, Rawalpindi; and CTO Rawalpindi gave a detailed account to the chief minister on various aspects of the tragic incident.

A report was presented to him on the tragic incident and he was briefed about the traffic management plan. Buzdar expressed his annoyance over the overcrowding in Murree, APP reported.

He spent over three hours in Murree, APP said.

Initial report attributes deaths to carbon monoxide poisoning

Later in the day, an initial report was presented to the chief minister. It said that on January 7, four feet of snow fell in Murree.

According to the report, between January 3 and 7, 162,000 vehicles entered the city.

The report said that the 22 people who died on January 7 died due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Trees fell at 16 different points, blocking off the roads for traffic, said the report.

According to the report, 21,000 cars that made their way to Murree were sent back.

Financial assistance for heirs of deceased

The chief minister also announced Rs17.6 million in financial assistance for the families of the deceased, while noting that monetary assistance is "no substitute for human life", APP reported.

The chief minister expressed his heartfelt sympathies with the bereaved families and said that the Punjab government shares in their sorrow, the publication said.

It also quoted Buzdar as saying that the entry of vehicles and tourists in Murree would be controlled from now on.

"Vehicles and tourists exceeding the specified limit would not be allowed to enter Murree," Buzdar was quoted as saying.

The chief minister also directed the authorities concerned to take strict action against hotels involved in overcharging rent, terming it "absolutely intolerable".

Provincial Law Minister Raja Basharat, MNA Sadaqat Abbasi, MPA Latasib Satti, Punjab Government Spokesman Hassan Khawar, Chief Secretary, Inspector General of Police, Senior Member Board of Revenue, Secretary Construction and Communications, Commissioner Rawalpindi Division, RPO Rawalpindi , CPO Rawalpindi, Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi and other officers were present on the occasion.

Aerial inspection

Earlier, Buzdar also conducted an aerial inspection of the areas of Murree, affected due to heavy snowfall reviewed the relief activities being carried out in the affected areas.

The Relief Commissioner/Senior Member Board of Revenue gave a briefing to the chief minister about relief activities.

Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat, Special Assistant to CM Punjab on Information Hassan Khawar, Chief Secretary, IG Police and other officers concerned were also present.