Buzdar removes 15 senior officers over Murree tragedy

All recommendations of probe committee implemented in letter & spirit

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar Wednesday said that 15 officials had been removed from their positions in line with recommendations of the inquiry committee probing the Murree tragedy, wherein 23 people had lost their lives after their cars were stranded in a snowstorm in the resort town of Murree earlier this month.

Addressing a press conference, Buzdar said the officials who had been removed from their positions included Rawalpindi commissioner, whose services were kept at the federal government’s disposal and their suspension was recommended.

Though the chief minister didn’t mention names of the officers, sources have informed Pakistan Today that the removed officers included Commissioner Rawalpindi Division Gulzar Shah, Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi Muhammad Ali, CPO Rawalpindi Sajid Kiyani, ASP Murree Ahmed Shah and CTO Rawalpindi Taimoor Khan, Assistant Commissioner Murree Umer Maqbool, DSP Traffic Amjad Satti, SE Highways Rawalpindi Tahir Mehmood, XEN Highways Rawalpindi Rao Tahir, XEN Highways Mechanical Rawalpindi Saad Salamat Raja, SDO Highway Murree Ezza Saleha, DFO Murree Amir Sohail, District Emergency Officer Murree Abdur Rehman, Incharge Murree Engr. Hamza Ali, and Director PDMA Tariq Faooka.

The chief minister said the Rawalpindi deputy commissioner, too, had been removed from his position. It was recommended that his services also be kept at the federal government’s disposal and that disciplinary action be taken against him after his suspension.

Moreover, the chief minister said the Murree assistant commissioner had been suspended and disciplinary action was ordered against him.

The Rawalpindi city police officer too had been removed from his position and his services were surrendered to the federal government, Buzdar said, adding that directives had been issued for his suspension and disciplinary action against him.

The chief minister said directives had been issued for removing the Murree assistant superintendent of police from his position, surrendering his services to the federal government, recommending suspension and disciplinary action against the official.

“The Punjab government has fulfilled the promise it made regarding the incident’s investigation,” Buzdar said.

Recommendations of inquiry committee

Punjab government implemented all recommendations of probe committee in letter and spirit. The inquiry report submitted by the committee with the Punjab government had recommended suspension and disciplinary proceedings against Commissioner Rawalpindi Division Gulzar Shah, Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi Muhammad Ali, CPO Rawalpindi Sajid Kiyani, ASP Murree Ahmed Shah and CTO Rawalpindi Taimoor Khan.

Besides, the report proposed suspension and disciplinary proceedings against Assistant Commissioner Murree Umer Maqbool, DSP Traffic Amjad Satti, SE Highways Rawalpindi Tahir Mehmood, XEN Highways Rawalpindi Rao Tahir, XEN Highways Mechanical Rawalpindi Saad Salamat Raja, SDO Highway Murree Ezza Saleha, DFO Murree Amir Sohail, District Emergency Officer Murree Abdur Rehman, Incharge Murree Engr. Hamza Ali, and Director PDMA Tariq Faooka.

The report pointed out serious lapses and failures on part of the above officers.

“Failure of risk assessment and inadequate transmission of warning to concerned officials through right channels and to the right quarters; lack of leadership at all levels — divisional, district and tehsil by administration which was reflected in poor planning, skewed risk assessment and sub-optimal implementation; failure to set up a proper control room at the district level in Murree with representatives from all the relevant federal and provincial entities; almost no follow-up to ensure the deployment of assets such as snow removal machinery and necessary verifications of prior actions,” the inquiry report maintained.

“The reliance was placed entirely on verbal confirmations besides lack of coordination among the departments to work in a unified manner to help the stranded tourists,” it added.

The inquiry report recommended that Murree may be upgraded to the status of a district. Automated entry-exit points be established for counting entry and exit of vehicles from Murree on real-time basis, which may be connected with a “Visit Murree” application that can issue entry permits or ticket to tourists based on the absorption capacity of local infrastructure.

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

“Strict building code regulations should be developed and implemented, land use control should be enforced strictly and illegal buildings, structures must be demolished forthwith. A modern early-warning system may be established with the PMD in Murree to warn officials, tourists, and travelers,” the reported recommended.

“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 official documents and information be discouraged in line with federal government instructions and policies,” it further recommended.

The report recommended that a joint management committee under the co-convenership of Deputy Commissioner and Station Commander, Pakistan Army, may be set up for Murree to implement 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 concluded.

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