On Saturday January 8, calamity hit Pakistan’s most popular hill station with 23 people dying as their cars were stranded in a massive traffic jam worsened by a snowstorm. Unfortunately, instead of acting statesmanlike the government of Imran Khan preferred a blame game. When the opposition asked for a judicial probe, the government refused to consider this.
As an editorial in Dawn points out “If the government can constitute judicial commissions on other matters, why could it not agree to the opposition’s demand?” Further, the government has also come under attack “for not taking prior measures to prevent the disaster despite the forecast of heavy snowfall by the Met Office and its warning to the authorities to be alert as bad weather could force closure of the roads in an area where vehicular mobility is problematic even in normal conditions. Rather than mobilising machinery to clear the snow-covered roads for smooth traffic movement and issuing alerts to warn incoming tourists or turn them back, the administration let them in.”
According to Omar Mukhtar Khan, the author of a book on Murree, what happened is partly because of “our collective apathy when it comes to strong urban governance and sustainable environmental practices.”
Finally, “Murree continues to be run from Lahore with very weak local government as elsewhere in the country, limited building regulations leading to monstrous hotels and apartments cropping up, poor waste management systems with trash everywhere, smelly sewage flowing all around and an unregulated and predatory hospitality industry doing the rest in destroying this only mainstream tourist resort for Pakistanis. There is also limited focus on traffic management as well as an effective communications system to inform the public at large about any weather warnings.”