Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday said that according to the initial investigation, all the deaths in the Murree tourist tragedy were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.
According to the minister, some people opted to stay in the car while many left left their vehicles to seek help nearby when the road between Kuldana and Parian was blocked due to heavy storm.
"Those who stayed in their vehicles had turned on the heater and fell asleep. It resulteded in carbon monoxide [poisoning],” he said in a media briefing in Islamabad, where he also shared decisions of the federal cabinet.
According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide is found in fumes produced any time people burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. The colourless and odourless gas can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it, it added.
Punjab Chief Minister on Sunday had announced the formation of a seven-member inquiry committee comprising senior government officials to investigate the incident and submit the findings in seven days.
At least 22 people – including nine children – lost their lives after being stranded in their cars en route to Murree amid heavy snowfall.
Quoting the interior ministry, Fawad said that around 164,000 vehicles entered Murree in just five days, adding that it was difficult for the authorities to conduct the rescue efforts in the blizzard and difficult roads.
Despite such a tragedy, he said that a huge number of tourists were travelling to Kalam, Kaghan, Naran and northern tourist destinations.
“Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments are closely monitoring this situation. Other tourist authorities should remain vigilant after the Murree tragedy. It needs careful consideration,” he said and advised the authorities to start specific warning trends about the flow of people and updates on weather.
Elaborating on decisions made by the federal cabinet, he said that it was of the view that the provincial government and local authorities have to get prepared for the “tourism revolution” in the country.
"The country’s existing tourism infrastructure is medieval," said Fawad, adding that 13 tourist destinations were also being developed.
“It is important to consider tourism as a fundamental industry to boost the country’s economy. We are changing Murree’s system and bringing new laws,” he said.
The information minister added that the incident has to be investigated if it was preventive. He praised the rescue teams for their efforts during the relief operations.
Talking about appointments, he said that Azam Jamil has been appointed SAPM on Tourism and head of the coordination committee.
Govt to move LHC against Shehbaz for submitting ‘fake undertaking’ on Nawaz’s return
Terming it as another major decision, Fawad said the government has decided to approach the Lahore High Court against Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif for submitting a “fake undertaking” on three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s return.
“It has now been proved that Nawaz openly deceived the government. Nawaz’s departure from the country was a fraudulent transaction,” he said, adding that the Sharif family in London had twice refused the Pakistani embassy when they tried to contact them.
The information minister said that the government would raise two points in front of the court. "First, Shehbaz should make the effort to bring his brother, Nawaz, back to Pakistan.
Secondly, Fawad added, if Shehbaz could not [convince Nawaz to return], then he should be disqualified for submitting a “fake undertaking,” which is a violation of article 63 of the Constitution.
‘We won’t go to lockdown’
The information minister added that the country would not go into lockdown this time amid fears of a new Covid wave in the country. Rebuffing reports of school closure, he said the economy could not sustain such decisions.
He added that the government was monitoring the situation and stressed the need for wearing masks.
Moreover, he said the government would provide electronic voting machines (EVM) to the election commission (ECP) before April 15 – a date suggested by ECP to conduct local government polls in Islamabad.
He further said the government would start a 6,000-apartment housing project on 400 kanal land in Islamabad for overseas Pakistanis in Islamabad. “Expats, who are part of Roshan Khayal accounts scheme, will be able to invest in this project," he said.
“We think it can generate investments to the tune of $2 billion.”