When motorways can be closed for the safety of all traffic due to fog and poor visibility, the same can and should have been done for all traffic entering Murree, Nathiagali, etc., through toll tax check-posts. The administration should maintain a check on the total number of cars entering these check-posts. The state collects taxes i.e. toll tax, vehicle tax, etc, to facilitate people. Therefore, it is the state’s responsibility to ensure safety of all citizens that travel on motorways, roads, etc.
The meteorological department had already warned of heavy snowfall in several parts of the country. Given the inadequate equipment and services, the government and relevant administrative authorities should have already issued warnings and informed people of the possibility of heavy snowfall that could cause disruptions, especially considering that Murree and the adjoining Galiyats have limited capacity for parking vehicles. The National Highway Authority, Galiyat Development Authority, District Administration, and other state institutions, including traffic police and security agencies located and posted in Murree and adjoining areas should have coordinated to prevent the callous loss of human lives. Irresponsible public office holders in Punjab and Islamabad claimed excess traffic entering Murree was a show of prosperity, instead of a cause for alarm.
Across the world, airports, highways and motorways are closed during harsh climates to avoid calamities. Even though the Instrument Landing System (ILS3) was installed at Lahore and the new Islamabad Airport to facilitate the landing of aircraft in poor visibility, all this money goes to waste if the ILS3 system is not maintained and calibrated for precision landing by hiring competent professionals. These measures serve no purpose if the administrative departments continue their negligent conduct. The tragedy in Murree should be taken as a learning lesson by the authorities and they must adopt a more responsible attitude for the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2022.