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Sunday January 16, 2022

Failure of the state

January 15, 2022

Even several days after the devastating catastrophe in Murree and the Galiyat area, which led to the death of at least 23 people, many of them stuck in their cars in deep snow and killed by carbon monoxide fumes, we have no real idea about what accountability efforts are being made. The Islamabad High Court has noted that no progress appears to have been made so far and has asked officials of the National Disaster Management Authority to explain how this tragedy could have occured. They seem to have come up with few if any answers and the court has demanded a report with details of all the matters and all the issues involved.

It is also becoming obvious, both as the IHC observed and other analysts have commented, that the entire state machinery seems to have gone through a simultaneous failure in the case of the Murree tragedy. In the first place, those who are to keep note of the cars entering Murree appear to have failed to have done their job. On top of that, we have been hearing different accounts from very different authorities and we still do not know precisely whether any meeting was held to determine how to handle the forecast of heavy snowfall and a blizzard in the Murree area. It certainly does seem that no one considered what problems could arise as tourists headed up the road leading to Murree. It is difficult to pinpoint responsibility on one particular agency or outfit but it is apparent that each and every organ of the state failed in keeping the citizens of this country safe from a death that was cruel in more so in how much and how easily it could have been avoided. The initial enquiry findings presented to the prime minister have indicated the failure of relevant government departments.

What we need from the state is to place the lives of the people at the forefront of all decision-making and governance matters. Death by snowfall is an indictment of the whole system, and while the dead are gone and will be mourned by their loved ones forever, it is essential that SOPs are developed and then implemented so that never in the future is this allowed to happen to families who just wanted some respite from their daily routines. We know that each year, there is snow in the northern areas and possibly dangerous road conditions because of this. A mechanism involving several different agencies needs to be put into effect. In the meanwhile, we await the findings of whatever investigation has been ordered into this as well as the Islamabad High Court’s decision into the Murree tragedy case.

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