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.
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.