A Himalayan tragedy | By Sirajuddin Aziz


A Himalayan tragedy

LIKE all other unfortunate incidents, the grave tragedy at Murree, is also most likely to become a victim of a “Committee”.

I have grown in this beloved country of mine witnessing endless formations of Committees and Commissions that did Absolutely Nothing. Time after time, these are formed, with no substantive results.

A colossal waste of time and energy of the country’s resources. This time, hoping against hope, I am looking forward to some corrective action, by a Government that is at least headed by a person, who belongs to the category of people considered, by many as an “honest” politician.

Only a few days back ministers and government functionaries, who appear to have their fingers perennially placed on the Twitter keyboard were arrogantly claiming that tourism in the country is back on its feet because the economy was doing so well; as if all the milk and honey from New Zealand had made its way to Pakistan.

An untrue claim. Once the tragedy happened these very individuals are proving their lack of moral courage to admit their administrative lapses; instead they are finding lame excuses, so much so that one had the embarrassing audacity to say that people in our country do not respect law and those who enforce it.

Is this the pathetic writ of the State? “One cannot balance a tragedy in the scales, unless one weighs it with the tragic heart” (Stephen Bennet).

Undoubtedly the snowfall at Murree was unusual, but for a change the Met Office had forecast it and had appropriately advised the administration…they were napping; no action was taken.

A hilly area like Murree, we are told has a capacity to take 35,000 cars at a time, so how and who permitted the avalanche of 100,000 plus cars? If people as told to the nation by the government functionaries, were not heeding to their advice of not to proceed, why weren’t enough barricades created? If the Punjab government does not know the “multi-purpose” use of cargo containers, they should have taken training and lessons from the Karachi Administration/Sindh government that are adept at using them for various reasons, inclusive of traffic management.

It was sad and painful to see that instead of being with the people the Chief Minister of Punjab took literally a “helicopter view” of the tragedy and the efforts of the defence forces to remove obstacles, aiming to clear the roads.

Is that all he could do? A leader must be seen with the masses in times of crises. Extraordinary men are required to do extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances. This callous attitude demonstrates the quality and also the lack of leadership.

Religion and especially our Noble religion of Islam bestows through the Holy Quranic ordinances and through the Best Conduct of Our Beloved Prophet (PBUH), the highest form of personality traits, one of which is to make us human out of being just a man.

The common good of all is enshrined through the universality of the concept of Islamic brotherhood. All Muslims are brothers.

Having established that it is appalling to note, the callous and insensitive behaviour of the Hoteliers in Murree. We have shylocks residing in this Islamic Republic.

Our Prime Minister leaves no opportunity to talk about creating and copying the standards of the State of Medina; I can appreciate now, why he does so, because we have become Muslims in name only. Our many formats of worship that we religiously undertake are not giving us any change in our behaviour patterns; this is highly regrettable, but true.

We abhor, rightfully interest and usury, but have no qualms to excessive profiteering, by legal and non-legal means. Callousness at its worst was seen at Murree….one family seeking a room, was asked to pay Prs 50,000/- for an overnight stay; they told the receptionist that all they possessed was 30,000/-, the balance can be given later. They were refused.

The head of the family put the keys of his car on the desk, and his CNIC and begged to have a room …he was still refused…to no avail, finally he asked if the jewellery be- decking his better half’s neck, ears and hands would suffice… It did.( this narrative was given by several channels and the print media too).

One is left wondering where does Islamic brotherhood fly away in such situations?? Isn’t this a matter of shame upon us, who are imbibed and trained to seek better for our brothers than own self? Sad. A woeful tale of distance between word and deed.

The media, particularly electronic, needs frenzy — any news that sells is their take! So in less than two days they will find something more sensational and the Murree tragedy with no bugles ringing in the air will get buried in the blanket of non-meltable snow! Mr Prime Minister, do not let that happen.

Resignation as an act of grace is unknown to our politicians and leaders. They do not have it in them, hence need to be sacked.

While sacking a few responsible functionaries, I urge the PM to take heed for action from what Abraham Lincoln wrote, when he fired, Gen John C Fremont from his command in Missouri (09 September 1861); “ His cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself, and allows nobody to see him; and by which he does not know what is going on in the very matter he is dealing with.” A helicopter assessment was poor judgment.

And for the benefit of all public office holders, know that Abraham Lincoln as President often attended private funerals; he would visit the wounded….and isn’t it a grave injustice and poor judgment that for the funeral service of the 22 dead, there was no presence of the Office holders.

Through these columns as an ordinary citizen, I appeal to Prime Minister Imran Khan that he should not let this pass without some concrete action of putting those responsible to accountability, coupled with punitive action that is seen and implemented. At Murree virtue did not triumph but vice did.

—The writer is a contributing columnist, based in Karachi.


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