NA echoes with blame game on Murree deaths; Shehbaz, Balawal ask PM to quit


ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the National Assembly (NA), while rejecting the constitution of government’s fact-finding committee, on Monday demanded a judicial inquiry into death of tourists during heavy snowfall in Murree.

“We will not agree on less than formation of a judicial commission to probe into the deaths of 23 tourists who were stranded in their vehicles during snowfall in Murree,” the opposition leader Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif while taking part in a debate on the Murree tragedy said.

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also backed the demand of the opposition leader and proposed constitution of a judicial commission to probe the deaths of tourists in Murree. “I will also request you to use your good offices to form the judicial commission,” he said.

At the outset, the National Assembly also offered Fateha for departed souls for those who died in Murree and deceased brother of the Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

The House also witnessed an exchange of harsh remarks between members from the two sides during the speech of the information minister who called the PML-N leader particularly referring to Shehbaz Sharif as ‘Tiny Men (Bonay)’ who could not become leaders despite ruling over the country for 30 years. “I was expecting that Shehbaz Sharif will address the House like a leader but he spoke like an ordinary person,” Fawad Chaudhry said.

The federal minister said that even after staying in the government for 30 years, the PML-N president has “failed to turn himself into a leader because leaders are born not made.” Fawad said that the PML-N have “just built their palaces and not even a single penny was spent on Murree during the party’s tenure,” adding that “now they are giving lessons to us.”

The opposition members continued to raise slogans ‘Liar and Sharam Karo’ during information minister’s speech. Parliamentary Leader of JUIF, Asad Mahmood, while regretting speech of the Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, said thousands of vehicles carrying tourists entered Murree following his tweet in which he (Minister) invited people to rush to the hill station.

Earlier, the Speaker Asad Qaisar said both the government and the opposition have agreed to defer debate on the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2022 and decided to hold discussion on the Murree tragedies.

Kicking off debate on the Murree incidents, the opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif said that deaths of 23 tourists who also include youth, children and women were not due to natural calamity rather it was a man-made slaughter and glaring examples of incompetency and inefficiency of the government and the administration which could not be forgiven.

Shehbaz said that when people were losing their lives in Murree despite making rescue appeals to the administration, One Nero (Imran) was sleeping in Islamabad and the other Nero (Usman Buzdar) was chairing a meeting in Lahore to devise methods of rigging in local bodies’ elections.

He also regretted a tweet of Imran Khan in which he said the administration caught unprepared and the tourists should have taken to Murree after getting information regarding weather. “Prime Minister should quit if his government could not handle rush in Murree and avert the human disaster,” he said.

Shehbaz regretted that the PTI government in the last over three years, did nothing except from victimisation of opponents and pushing opposition leaders against the wall.

Questioning performance and statements of Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was the same person who used to call him and Nawaz Sharif and himself as ‘Dengue Brothers’ and ridiculing him (Shehbaz) for visiting flood areas while wearing long shoes.

Shehbaz Sharif maintained that the nation would not forgive 23 deaths due to criminal negligence on part of the government and its administration.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari recalled that Fawad Chaudhry who was celebrating entry of a large number of tourists in Murree, took U-turn on learning deaths in Murree and started blaming victims by saying that they should not have come. “We have not experienced such a hypocrite in history of the country who took U-turn next day,” he said. He also regretted remarks of Prime Minister for saying on his tweet that tourists should have checked weather before coming to Murree. “It has become routine with the government people that they start victim-blaming after every tragedy.

He said every commodity had become costlier in the last over three years it was the human blood which go cheaper.

Bilawal recalled an army helicopter was arranged to rescue son of Imran Khan who was stranded in Chitral but the same was not done in case of Murree. He also asked the government to refrain from playing politics on the tragedy. “The government people should have learnt humanity before doing politics on the issue,” he said.

Bilawal Bhutto also supported opposition leader’s demand of judicial inquiry, saying only by doing so, the facts behind the tragedies could be known. He said instead of participating in rescue and relief operation, the Punjab chief minister did not more than aerial visit of Murree.

Salahuddin of MQM said that responsibility of averting such tragedies lies both on the Federal, Punjab governments and the local administration. He said a red alert should have issued for Murree once the Met Office had predicted heavy snowfall there.

The PTI MNA from Murree Sadaqat Abbasi said the administration distributed cooked food and other commodities among 10,000 tourists besides 850 blankets. He said the government is making arrangements to avert such tragedies in future. He revealed that then chief minister Shehbaz Sharif awarded Rs1.5 billion contract of a parking plaza in Jheeka Gali to ex-Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Ansar Aziz but the plan was not materialised. Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that civil administration and armed forces undertook rescue efforts and cleared all roads in twenty-four hours. He said 1, 64,000 vehicles entered Murree during the last five days. He said it should also be kept in view that internal tourism is booming in Pakistan due to the government’s pro-tourism policies.

Speaking on the floor of the House, Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif demanded a Judicial Commission to probe the deaths of tourists during heavy snowfall in Murree. He said the Meteorological Department had predicted heavy snowfall in Murree and surrounding areas but the government did not chalk out any plan to protect tourists from heavy snowfall. He said Murree tragedy is a result of criminal and administrative negligence of the government.

Amir Haider Khan Hoti of ANP, PTI parliamentarian Riaz Fatyana and Agha Hasan Baloch from Balochistan National Party, Murtaza Javed Abbasi of PML-N and Jamaat-e-Islami’s Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali and Mohsin Dawar also took part in the discussion and called for construction of infrastructure like parking plazas and roads in an around Murree and prompt action to avert any such tragedies.

Maulana Chitrali and Amir Haider Hoti proposed formation of a committee of parliamentarians to probe into killing of innocent tourists. Murtaza Javed Abbasi said the government was giving wrong statements that over 137,000 vehicles entered Murree and that roads were cleared within 24 hours once the snowfall stopped.

Mohsin Dawar termed tragic deaths in Murree as collapse of state machinery. He said that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in a tweet on January 05 said the situation was in complete control.

Federal Minister Hammad Azhar said that the government would work on improving every kind of infrastructure in Murree. He also suggested his government to make advance booking of hotel rooms mandatory to stop trend of over-charging by hotels’ owners.

The minister said that linemen with their dedication worked amid bad weather while suspending all the SOPs and electricity from three feeders of Murree were restored from 12 to 14 hours. He said such incidents took place in past but no body took any interest in those incidents.

Meanwhile, the House also adopted motion to suspend routine business on Tuesday and Wednesday to hold debate on the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2021.


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