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NDMC will be responsible in case of another Murree-like incident: IHC CJ

21 Jan, 2022
An aerial view of the road cleared in Murree. Photo: Twitter.com/@RwpPolice/File
An aerial view of the road cleared in Murree. Photo: Twitter.com/@RwpPolice/File

ISLAMABAD. Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Friday said the National Disaster Management Commission – which includes the seat of prime minister and opposition leaders in Parliament – would be held responsible if any tragedy, like the Murree tourist tragedy, happens again.

The IHC chief justice made the remarks while presiding over a hearing of a petition calling for an inquiry against the investigation committee and perpetrators of the Murree tourist tragedy, which claimed 22 lives – including nine children – on a heavy snowfall day.

Apart from Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan, Additional AGP Qasim Wadood, Murree resident petitioner Hammad Abbas and his counsel Danish Ashraf Abbasi, and National Disaster Management Authority’s Planning Member Idrees Mehsood appeared before the court.

The high court ordered the NDMA to implement its laws as it disposed of a petition.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah asked the AGP Jawed that the only problem was the NDMA law was not being implemented. “Tell us this, is there a separate NDMA in Punjab?”

Punjab has the Punjab Disaster Management Authority, AGP Jawed replied, adding that since it was their matter, the provincial government had formed a committee to probe the incident.

The court asked the petitioner’s lawyer Ashrafi whether he was satisfied with the investigation or not as the provincial government had changed the investigation committee.

“No, we are not satisfied with the inquiry report. The mere removal of officers from their posts was not enough. There should be some action,” the lawyer said.

The IHC CJ asked whether the responsibility for the tragedy lies with the Punjab head. “Was there any district plan in place?” he asked.

The AGP said that there was a suggestion to make Murree a separate district.

The court observed that the district plan was never made as the related law was not implemented. It added that except Sindh all provinces had given suggestions for the law.

To this, the AGP said that Sindh has also proposed its suggestions in the law.

IHC CJ Minallah said according to the law all the work falls under the domain of disaster management authority, to which AGP Jawed said the NDMA has given guidelines to everyone.

The chief justice said it was confirmed that the policy-making body never had a meeting and action has been taken related to this. “The law was not being implemented till the filing of this petition. If anything happened they all will be responsible as per the law. Are any steps being taken to avert such tragedies,” CJ Minallah asked.

The NDMA was “completely functional” and working, AGP Jawed said, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan was ready to summon a meeting of the National Disaster Management Commission. “An NDMC meeting will be convened soon and I have to talk to the Punjab government on a few things," he added.

The court observed that the Punjab government took action and formed a committee in response to the Murree tourist tragedy. “These things come to light after the filing of the petition. God forbid what will happen if any big tragedy occurs tomorrow,” it added.

To this, the AGP replied that a meeting has been called upon in the Centre and provinces.

The court added that as per the law all the work fell under the domain of the district disaster management authority. On this, the petitioner’s lawyer said no such meeting was held at the district level. The lawyer demanded of the court to give the order for the release of compensation for the deceased in the incident.

The court emphasized the need to implement laws that have been formulated. “Neither provinces nor anyone else followed the existing law. Such an incident would not have happened if the law was implemented in districts and provinces. All these will be responsible if the law was not being followed next time.”

The IHC called for the execution of NDMA laws while disposing of the petition.

In his remarks, IHC CJ Minallah said: “Now the law was being implemented. Hopefully, this won’t happen again. If this ever happens again, everyone involved in the NDMA commission will be held responsible.”

The instructions would be issued in a written order on the petition.

Urea fertilizer shortage

Meanwhile, the IHC on Friday also took up the petition of a farmer named Ahsan Abid’ pertaining to obtaining urea fertilizer, its crisis, and overpricing. IHC CJ Minallah instructed the petitioner to approach the ministry concerned for the matter.

The lawyer said that the country’s 220-million population “desperately” needed a solution to this problem.

He informed the court that his client is a farmer from Rahim Yar Khan where people were facing many problems related to fertilizer.

The CJ said: “What this court can now do for Rahim Yar Khan. It is the job of the executive. Have you sent an application to the federal government?”

To this, the lawyer replied in the negative.

The court observed that it was disposing of the petition and sending it to the ministry concerned.