The death and destruction in Murree’s snow blitz is staring us in the face. It is undoubtedly owing to lapse of adequate measures on the part of the local administration, and a callous attitude of several stakeholders. Inclement weather is a common feature and inconveniences too are often the order of the day, but what the hapless visitors to the Queen of Hills, Murree, witnessed in the first week of the New Year is no less than a nightmare and unpardonable, to say the least.
The Islamabad High Court has rightly reprimanded the state authorities, and has squarely blamed them for negligence and awful behaviour before and after the snowfall, and their cynic approach towards essential civic amenities. The honourable court has raised several pertinent questions and grilled the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for its failure to come to the rescue of the stranded tourists and, moreover, not being in a state of inertia to take stock of the situation beforehand. In fact, a plethora of oops went altogether that led to the unimaginable death toll. The merry-makers were made to mourn for no fault of their own.
Firstly, the weather alert was taken in stride; secondly, the tourist traffic was not regulated accordingly, and thus the swirling hill tracks witnessed massive traffic jams; third, with the incoming of snow, greed went into play and reportedly the hotels raised the tariff to exonerated proportions. All this was a killing combination for tourists, which forced them to stay put in their vehicles for many, many odd hours and even overnight. It is pathetic to note that none came to their rescue, and in fact, there wasn’t any effort on the ground too — till it was too late.
The Murree misfortune is a grim reminder that the country lacks a proactive strategy to deal with natural disasters. Many of the mechanisms are responsive in essence, and there isn’t any adequate preemptive value to address such exigencies across the length and breadth of the country. This aspect is in need of being attended to in all humility and state consciousness.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2022.
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