IHC comes down hard on NDMA over Murree tragedy

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC), in a hearing Thursday on a petition seeking to fix the responsibility for the two dozen deaths on snow-covered roads of Murree, censured the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), saying the tragedy could have been avoided if the agency was “prepared and had taken prior measures”.

At least 23 people died over the weekend after heavy snow trapped them in their vehicles in the hill station. A policeman, his wife and their six children, as well as another family of five, were among the dead.

Over 20,000 vehicles became stranded as would-be tourists rushed to view the winter snowfall.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Athar Minallah wondered if NDMA even held a meeting to discuss the weather forecasts issued by the Met Office and the subsequent influx of tourists.

“There must have been a mechanism to avoid an incident like this,” he added.

Justice Minallah said those responsible for the tragedy deserved to be hanged, declaring there wasn’t any need for an inquiry.

The petitioner, Hamad Abbasi, a resident of Murree, appeared along with his counsel during the hearing. The counsel requested the court to take action against those responsible for the deaths for their criminal negligence.

He said the family of the deceased policeman had informed the higher authorities about the situation, but the “prime minister, interior minister and the police” did not take any action in spite of receiving the information.

He further said why more than 100,000 tourists were allowed to come to a town that could barely accommodate 20,000? The failure of all senior officials to take action on the incident shows their criminal negligence, he maintained.

The court then summoned Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Tayyab Shah to the rostrum.

After being summoned by the bench, the NDMA officials appeared in the court. The judge summoned them to the rostrum and rebuked them over their failure in protecting the precious lives of the tourists.

He expressed outrage over the negligence of NDMA officials and questioned them as to who was responsible for the 22 deaths in the tragedy? The performance of NDMA should have been visible to all.

Later, the hearing was adjourned until Friday.

An interim investigation report into the tragedy exposed the administrative flaws during the influx of tourists to the scenic hill station during snowfall.

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