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Who saved whom for what?

Dismissed worker says only government officers made scapegoats in Murree incident report

The instant generation of a probe report on the Murree tragedy that claimed about two dozen lives led to the dismissal of some 15 officers, a fact that would seem like the end of the story, but this occurrence has left some footprints that lead to another narrative.

The Murree tragedy may be termed as a natural calamity and various excuses may be cited to justify inefficiency, but what forced the committee to leave loopholes in the report and the way it was projected in the media, are matters of serious concern as many say.

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The long story of inefficiencies was cut short, making scapegoats of those who were holding the ropes now. The photo session in which the Murree incident report was presented to the chief executive was infuriating, at least for those who became victims of the authorities’ lethargic attitude.

The big wigs present with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar included the home minister, chief secretary (CS), Board of Revenue’s senior member, inspector general of police (IGP) and others.

It was like the period of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President and then chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, during which a photo session in the presence of big weights was done in what was deemed an attempt to cool down the incident of the rape and murder of Kasur’s innocent girl Zainab.

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An officer who was removed from his post after the Murree incident told Minute Mirror that only government officers were made scapegoats.

He said that the committee didn’t hold any of the political bosses responsible for this tragedy. What are the ministers for, with all monetary and fringe benefits, if they are not accountable, he asked?

On the condition of anonymity, he said that the Provincial Crisis Management and Control Centre has been established in the home department. Its purpose was to control any emergency.

Moreover, the centre ensured timely transmission of information and warnings to the concerned quarters for necessary action. He further asked whether anyone questioned the convener of the committee.

A forest officer was removed as some trees fell to the ground, the dismissed officer continued, but no one questioned the role of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA). Only a director of the provincial disaster management body was removed while a Board of Revenue senior member and head of PDMA Babar Hayat Tarar could be seen in the photo when the report was presented.

He also criticized Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s tweet in which he had encouraged more motorists to enter an already stuffed Murree but the committee didn’t question him.

Moreover, now as the Murree assistant commissioner (AC) was also removed from office, a tweet from the CS would hinder free and fair disciplinary proceedings against him.

In this regard, an officer of the PDMA, on the condition of anonymity, said that the CS’s tweet that appreciated the role of the Murree AC was not questioned and discussed in the report. It had made the divisional, district and tehsil officers slow, he added.

Meanwhile, on the matter of postings of officers, Noorul Amin Mengal, who was transferred from the local government and posted as sports secretary a few days ago, was now serving as the Rawalpindi division commissioner. Mengal replaced Gulzar Shah, and before him Muhammad Mehmood was removed on charges of corruption from the same post.

It was then claimed that Shah was an efficient and hardworking officer when he prepared a report on the Ring Road scam. Shah had pointed fingers in the fact-finding document on Shehbaz’s former aides.

After asking multiple experts on the topic, a major suggestion that came up was that the SC, besides preparing a list of officers based on performance, should also devise a mechanism to transfer officers and ensure their tenure.

He should also hand over key performance indicators while posting any officer in a key position. Moreover, he should also direct the outgoing or transferred officer to submit their experience to their office and to their successor.

The Punjab Information Technology Board in this regard could play a key role and public opinion should also be weighed in while evaluating an officer’s performance.

When Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal was contacted, his staff said that he was in a meeting. Questions were sent on his cell but there was no response till the filing of this report.

Home Secretary Zafar Nasrullah Khan, the main author of the Murree report, was also not available for comments.

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