The Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) on Friday informed the Islamabad High Court that action had been initiated against those responsible for the recent Murree tragedy, wherein 23 tourists had died while stranded in their vehicles on the roads of the hill station during a blizzard.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah was hearing a plea filed by a resident of Murree seeking action against those responsible for the tragedy. The petitioner, Hammad Abbasi, had prayed to the court that tourists were not informed about the hazard at the toll plaza before entering the hill station, adding that they were also not stopped by the authorities concerned from proceeding further.
AGP Khalid Jawed Khan added that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had issued guidelines to all the departments. “A meeting of the National Disaster Management Commission, as recommended by the NDMA, will also take place.” Justice Minallah noted that the law of the NDMA should be fully implemented.
“We will observe in the decision… if anything happens, the National Disaster Management Commission will be responsible.” The AGP told the court that the problem was that the NDMA law was not being fully implemented. The counsel for the petitioner said it was not enough to remove the officers, whose negligence caused the tragedy, from their posts but action should also be taken against them.
The IHC CJ noted that according to law, all the work should have been carried out by the District Disaster Management Authority. “It has been established that the policymaking body has never held a meeting.” Justice Minallah further observed that law was not being enforced until a petition was filed and now action had been taken in this context.
“The court has to look into the law but disaster management meetings have not been held in the provinces under this law,” he noted. “If anything, they will all be held accountable under the law.” The IHC CJ observed that every province had its own disaster management authority and they too were responsible for the matter.
The court would issue such directions that if anything like this occurred in the future, the responsibility could be fixed, he added. Last week during the previous hearing of the case, the court had held the NDMA responsible for the tragedy.
Turning his attention towards the NDMA members, who were present at the hearing, the chief justice had asked who was responsible for the deaths as parliament had earlier enacted the disaster management law. “It was supposed to be implemented since 2010. Has there ever been a meeting [on the subject] of National Disaster Management till date?” he had asked.
An NDMA member had replied that one meeting was held on February 21, 2013, and the second on March 28, 2018. The IHC CJ noted that had the meetings been held regularly and adequate preparations were made, precious lives would not have been lost.
“It is unfortunate; you have failed. It was your responsibility to convene the meeting,” the chief justice had remarked, expressing his displeasure at the NDMA.
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