Court expresses annoyance with NDMA over Murree tragedy

Friday, Jan 14, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday expressed annoyance with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and instructed the government to determine who is responsible for the Murree tragedy through an inquiry within a week.

On January 7, 22 tourists died after their vehicles were stranded in a massive traffic jam amid a blizzard in the resort town Murree.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the case filed by a local Hammad Abbasi. The petitioner’s lawyer said the plea had been moved in the public interest. He said when the tourists were on the way to Murree, no one tried to stop them despite extreme weather conditions.

Justice Minallah asked Deputy Attorney-General Syed Tayyab Shah to read out the laws related to the NDMA. The court observed that the NDMA was a concerned body having relevant professionals. The bench asked whether any meeting of the body was held ever (with regard to Murree).

Shah said he could tell the bench regarding the matter after receiving instructions. At this, the court summoned officials of the NDMA and remarked there should be a proper management plan to deal with such incidents. The court said if the meeting of the body was not held, the reasons should be explained.

Later, a member of the NDMA appeared before the court. The chief justice asked who was responsible for the deaths of those 22 tourists in Murree. A law was introduced by the Parliament which was supposed to be implemented from 2010, he observed, adding that lives could have been saved if the department was ready to deal with it.

The NDMA member told the court that one meeting of his department was held on February 21, 2013 and second was on March 28, 2018. The court asked whether the leader of opposition ever requested for a meeting of the NDMA. To this, the member said no one had asked for it. The member said the director general of his department had requested the Prime Minister to call a meeting of body during the peak days of Covid-19.

The court asked the member if it was their (NDMA) responsibility to give a management plan, adding that the authority was responsible for ensuring implementation of the law. The court observed that it was a very comprehensive law, which transferred responsibility to the officials at every district level.

The Chief Justice asked whether any meeting of the provincial bodies were held, adding that no loss would have happened if the law was implemented. Justice Minallah asked whether there was any district plan related to Murree since 2010, adding that there was no need for an inquiry as all [those] responsible belong to the NDMA.

The court observed that everyone had been criticising the people of Murree despite it not being their fault. The court said the NDMA and other people involved in the said law were responsible of the deaths. The court asked the Prime Minister to call the meeting of the NDMA commission and fix responsibility over the negligence. The court sought a report till January 21, and adjourned hearing into the matter.