The tragic death of 22 tourists in Murree due to heavy snowfall has brought to light lack of planning on part of the administration. Three days before the loss of lives, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had termed the tourist influx an indicator of economic prosperity in the country, yet no effort seemed to have been made to deal with the fallout of the situation.
In a tweet, Prime Minister Imran Khan blamed the “rush of people proceeding without checking weather conditions” for the deaths.
Shocked & upset at tragic deaths of tourists on road to Murree. Unprecedented snowfall & rush of ppl proceeding without checking weather conditions caught district admin unprepared. Have ordered inquiry & putting in place strong regulation to ensure prevention of such tragedies.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) January 8, 2022
This despite the fact that no travel advisory asking people to avoid going to the hill station was issued. In fact, the information minister had encouraged tourists and presented their enthusiasm as an achievement of the government.
Lack of arrangements for tourists
I was in Murree a day before the blizzard worsened, and witnessed firsthand some of the administrative issues. Amid traffic jams and road blockades due to snow, the administration was missing in action. Traffic police played little role in managing blockades.
Further, almost all hotels in Murree tripled their rates in the wake of the tourist influx, with many charging 30-50k per night. Tourists had no option but to book the rooms at high prices.
There is no check and balance on the number and type of cars being entered in the city during snowfall. Small cars that do not work well in snow-affected areas freely entered the city. The government banned entry of vehicles on Friday night, but it was too late. It is clear that the situation could have been avoided if there was proper vetting of vehicles before entry.
Moreover, parking spaces cannot be found easily anywhere in Murree and there is no assistance from the hotels’ management or locals in this regard.
The rescue operation has now begun in the city as thousands of people remain stranded in vehicles on blocked roads. But the 22 lives lost will remain a blot on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s governance record.
Very well penned stark facts of the terrible event.
I would like to add few more to complete the picture being an eye witness to it. This will enable us to look at the picture more holistically before passing any judgement.
1. Major traffic blockade, well before the snowy area, caused by the reckless drivers who violated the traffic rules and left their lanes to move fast despite clearly visible signage for disallowed overtaking.
2. Lack of sanity by the well equipped tourists with smart phones which gave authentic information on traffic blockade ahead. We followed and made the life saving u-trun.
3. Inside Murree, a day earlier, we escorted out, on payment, to a point where the road was clear. The local escort told us that the government could clear the road till that point because the heavy machinery couldn’t go up due to narrow roads and heavy traffic. The fact narrated by the local and witnessed by us personally showed that the local government wasn’t sitting in their warm drawing rooms.
The sole purpose to narrate the facts above is to highlight that the responsibility is a two sided process/ action. It will never be effective or efficient if one side is passive. Therefore, it is our moral and professional responsibility while using any public platform to bring a holistic view to facilitate the concerned ones’ effective decision making. One sided story is always a half truth that creates nothing other than the unrest and negative wibes.
Murree crisis could be avoided or it’s intensity could be reduced if responsible behaviour exercised by everyone involved.
We as a nation have got into a habit of blaming everything on the government. A friend who came back that day half way from Murree luckily survived. She was stopped and warned at two different places on her way but argued with the authorities and went ahead and turned back only because her children started to cry. It’s the job of the driver to check the weather forecast before going on such an adventure. Should be physically and mentally prepared for any untoward accident. Should keep chains for wheels, extra food and water, warm clothes, first aid box and should have a steady vehicle.