Punishing bureaucrats, sparing political boss(es)

Published: 03:21 PM, 20 Jan, 2022
Punishing bureaucrats, sparing political boss(es)
Caption: File photo of the Murree blizzard.
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The Inquiry Committee report on the Murree tragedy – that took more than 20 lives on January 8 because of a snowstorm - and the ‘stern action’ taken by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in the light of this document is being eagerly discussed at public forums. 

Two different opinions are being expressed by people.  Some are all praise for the chief minister for the ‘punitive action’ he has taken against the negligent officials, while others are criticizing the report for its failure to identify the political boss(es) who could be held responsible and must have been proceeded against. 

Unless this aspect is properly addressed, the report will appear to be one-sided, discriminatory. And the absence of this vital information will also dent the very credibility of this report on such an important subject.

At a news conference on Wednesday - that lasted less than three minutes - the chief minister removed 15 officers from their posts in the light of Murree tragedy investigation report and ordered disciplinary action against them.

The chief minister did not take questions, because of which journalists could not ask whatever they wanted to about the tragic incident and the report thereabout.  

A five-member committee – constituted after 23 deaths – pointed out the negligence and mistakes made by the officers concerned as major causes of the tragedy.

The officials who have been removed from their positions include the Rawalpindi commissioner, Rawalpindi deputy commissioner, Rawalpindi chief traffic officer, Rawalpindi city police officer, Murree assistant superintendent of police, Murree assistant commissioner, SP Highway Circle, DSP Traffic Murree, In-charge Rescue 1122 Murree, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Punjab director, divisional forest officer, district emergency officer 1122 Rawalpindi, SE Highway Rawalpindi, SDO Highway Mechanical Murree and Rawalpindi Highway XEN.

Rawalpindi commissioner, deputy commissioner and Murree ASP have been removed from their posts and sent to the federal government. Their suspension from service along with disciplinary action have also been recommended.

“I had promised a transparent inquiry into the tragedy along with action against those responsible. This has been fulfilled,” said the chief minister, satisfaction from his radiating face visible.

The report said that machinery was available but half the staff was absent. The highways and building department was also neglecting its responsibilities.

The entire chain of command of Rawalpindi division failed to perform its duties and was unable to identify the looming risk, says the document.

The officers of the departments concerned kept informing each other about the situation through WhatsApp but did not take any action.

The officers could neither understand the situation nor did they take it seriously.

The inquiry committee has recommended setting up a regular office of the meteorological department 

The chief minister would be doing a great service by identifying the minister(s) who were supposed to be watchful of the tragic situation and issue necessary instructions to the relevant officials to deal with it. 

It would also add to the popularity of Mr Buzdar if he highlights the very role he played as the province’s chief executive. 

Unless this was done, people would not be fully satisfied with the utterances of the chief minister.  Everybody knows that action against bureaucrats means nothing more than eyewash.  Today it is announced tomorrow the negligent officials would be occupying some other important posts and dealing with other important matters. They will continue to get salaries and enjoy other benefits, rubbing salt on the wounds of the tragedy-hit families.  

All they need is powerful connections that will kick them ‘upstairs’.

Ashraf Mumtaz

The writer is the Deputy Editor of 24 Digital.