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OGDCL discovers huge oil, gas reserves in KP

The find is being estimated as the biggest one in the last decade, according to top sources in the ministry

By Khalid Mustafa
January 03, 2022


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s prime oil and gas exploration company, OGDCL has discovered huge oil and gas reserves in the Wali block near Lakki Marwat in KP. The find is being estimated as the biggest one in the last decade, top sources in the Energy Ministry told The News on Sunday.

“The Wali block reserves are considered equal or more than the reserves found in the Nashpa field. The Nashpa reserves are equal to 95 MMBOE (million barrels of oil equivalent). Once the Wali block is developed with at least nine to ten wells, the country will be able to get 100-150 mmcfd gas,” the sources said.

When contacted, OGDCL spokesman Ahmad Hayat Lak confirmed the development, saying that the company has discovered a huge find of oil and gas in the Wali block but he refused to share the details.

The sources further said: “We are at present working at a well, namely Wali-1, wherein the OGDCL experts have found three formations that include Kawagar, Hungu and Lockhart. In the Kawagar formation, there is gas of 11 mmcfd with 1,000 barrels per day, while in the Hungu formation, 11 mmcfd gas with 950 barrels per day oil and in the Lockhart, the OGDCL has found 14 mmcfd gas with 1,000 barrels per day crude oil. And this is how 36 mmcfd gas and 2,950 barrels per day crude oil in total, the OGDCL will get from just three formations in the Wali-1.

However, the Wali block is large in size and the seismic studies have identified huge gas and oil reserves in this block. We have to carve out the development plan in the whole block in the next four to five years, under which the OGDCL will have to dig out more wells in this block.”

Read more: Oil and gas reserves of Pakistan going to India due to lack of exploration

“However, in the Wali block reserves, the OGDCL experts have found 4.2 percent existence of the carbon dioxide against the spec of less than three percent set by the OGRA. We will have to reduce the CO2 content by less than three percent,” the sources said, adding: “the OGDCL can increase the extraction of gas volume from 14 mmcfd to 20 mmcfd from Lockhart, which will be available in the short period of time and to this effect, the SNGPL has been asked to lay down the pipeline of 55 kilometres to get the gas from the Lockhart and connect it to the national grid.”

“We are also going to dig another well named Wali-2 as an appraisal well, which will further reinforce the existence of oil and gas reserves,” the sources said. The sources further disclosed that the Wali block also has the LPG (propane and butane) in abundance and the OGDCL is planning to install an LPG extraction plant also.

The OGDCL is currently producing 37,000 barrels per day crude oil, which is 48 percent of the country’s total production, the sources said, adding that likewise, the OGDCL also produces 900 mmcfd gas, which is 29 percent of the total production. The OGDCL also produces 850 metric tonnes of the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) per day, which is 37 percent of the country’s total production, the sources added.
 

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OGDCL discovers huge oil, gas reserves in KP

The find is being estimated as the biggest one in the last decade, according to top sources in the ministry

By Khalid Mustafa
January 03, 2022


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s prime oil and gas exploration company, OGDCL has discovered huge oil and gas reserves in the Wali block near Lakki Marwat in KP. The find is being estimated as the biggest one in the last decade, top sources in the Energy Ministry told The News on Sunday.

“The Wali block reserves are considered equal or more than the reserves found in the Nashpa field. The Nashpa reserves are equal to 95 MMBOE (million barrels of oil equivalent). Once the Wali block is developed with at least nine to ten wells, the country will be able to get 100-150 mmcfd gas,” the sources said.

When contacted, OGDCL spokesman Ahmad Hayat Lak confirmed the development, saying that the company has discovered a huge find of oil and gas in the Wali block but he refused to share the details.

The sources further said: “We are at present working at a well, namely Wali-1, wherein the OGDCL experts have found three formations that include Kawagar, Hungu and Lockhart. In the Kawagar formation, there is gas of 11 mmcfd with 1,000 barrels per day, while in the Hungu formation, 11 mmcfd gas with 950 barrels per day oil and in the Lockhart, the OGDCL has found 14 mmcfd gas with 1,000 barrels per day crude oil. And this is how 36 mmcfd gas and 2,950 barrels per day crude oil in total, the OGDCL will get from just three formations in the Wali-1.

However, the Wali block is large in size and the seismic studies have identified huge gas and oil reserves in this block. We have to carve out the development plan in the whole block in the next four to five years, under which the OGDCL will have to dig out more wells in this block.”

Read more: Oil and gas reserves of Pakistan going to India due to lack of exploration

“However, in the Wali block reserves, the OGDCL experts have found 4.2 percent existence of the carbon dioxide against the spec of less than three percent set by the OGRA. We will have to reduce the CO2 content by less than three percent,” the sources said, adding: “the OGDCL can increase the extraction of gas volume from 14 mmcfd to 20 mmcfd from Lockhart, which will be available in the short period of time and to this effect, the SNGPL has been asked to lay down the pipeline of 55 kilometres to get the gas from the Lockhart and connect it to the national grid.”

“We are also going to dig another well named Wali-2 as an appraisal well, which will further reinforce the existence of oil and gas reserves,” the sources said. The sources further disclosed that the Wali block also has the LPG (propane and butane) in abundance and the OGDCL is planning to install an LPG extraction plant also.

The OGDCL is currently producing 37,000 barrels per day crude oil, which is 48 percent of the country’s total production, the sources said, adding that likewise, the OGDCL also produces 900 mmcfd gas, which is 29 percent of the total production. The OGDCL also produces 850 metric tonnes of the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) per day, which is 37 percent of the country’s total production, the sources added.
Hopefully this materializes into something significant.
 

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only certain areas, there are police officers trying to make a change, i am part of a neighbourhood watch myself working closely with Police, problem is that it takes time to develop understanding and by that time someone in govt decides to make transfers so everything is brought back to square one
 

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only certain areas, there are police officers trying to make a change, i am part of a neighbourhood watch myself working closely with Police, problem is that it takes time to develop understanding and by that time someone in govt decides to make transfers so everything is brought back to square one
These transfers can often be necessary because police officers develop the same level of understanding with immoral elements of society.
 

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FBR 2019 data: PM Imran paid Rs9.8m in taxes while PPP's Yousuf Raza Gillani paid none

Published January 3, 2022 - Updated about 11 hours ago

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) released its 2019 tax directory for parliamentarians on Monday, which shows that former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani paid no tax in the said year while Prime Minister Imran Khan paid Rs9.8 million.

According to the document, the directory was tabulated from tax returns filed manually and electronically till January 3.
"This data only includes income and tax declared in returns filed to FBR and does not include agricultural income tax paid to provinces, sales tax, federal excise duty etc," the document states.

In the foreword, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said that the FBR has been publishing the directory for the last six years.

However, this time special efforts were made to make the directory more informative "which will help not only in educating taxpayers but also in encouraging compliance with tax laws as a national duty," he said.
"The directory embodies the government’s policy of better governance, accountability and transparency through public access to information," the minister added.

According to the data, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif paid Rs8.2m while PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari paid Rs0.53m.

PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari paid Rs2.2m. Senior banker and incumbent finance minister, Shaukat Tarin paid Rs26.6m while former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi paid Rs4.9m.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah's tax amounted to Rs1.1m. In contrast, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar paid a measly Rs2,000.

Current Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo Rs1.1m and his predecessor Jam Kamal Khan paid Rs11.8m. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan paid Rs66,258.

Among the members of the federal cabinet, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi paid Rs0.9m while Planning and Development Minister Asad Umer paid Rs4.3m. Energy Minister Hammad Azhar paid Rs29,025 in an individual capacity while his associations of persons (AOPs) tax amounted to Rs18.1m.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan Senator Faisal Subzwari, Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas and Punjab Prisons Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan were among several lawmakers that paid Rs2,000.


Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Yousuf Raza Gillani and PML-N's Azma Zahid Bokhari did not pay anything in taxes. Additionally, a PTI MNA from Karachi, Muhammad Najeeb Haroon, paid a whopping Rs140m.

Tarin calls for simplifying tax regime

Addressing a ceremony held for launching the tax directory, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said that it was important for parliamentarians to make their tax returns public as it would ensure transparency and set an example for others.

He also highlighted the importance of paying taxes, adding that it was imperative that everyone in the country paid taxes and that there should be no "sacred cows".

"The government is unable to help the common man because we are unable to fulfil our current expense from this revenue. So, for development expenditure we have to take loans," he said.

The minister also said that the taxation system in Pakistan had a lot of "distortions". "Some are taken at a federal level, some at a provincial level [but] we do not speak to each other," he said, adding that authorities were now moving towards "tax harmonisation".

Tarin also called for simplifying the tax system. "We take withholding taxes because we are unable to collect it from other means. We should have two kinds of taxes: income tax and consumption tax. There should be no other taxes apart from this."

The minister said that the country should move towards "progressive taxation".

He said that the government was focusing on increasing the tax net, adding that there were three million taxpayers in the country. He said that the FBR will now send notices to those who are not paying taxes based on the information from their ID cards, bank accounts and utility bills.
"This will not be harassment but we will put the facts and figures in front of them," he said, adding that this will be done in a "knowledgeable, organised and objective" manner.
 

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FBR 2019 data: PM Imran paid Rs9.8m in taxes while PPP's Yousuf Raza Gillani paid none

Published January 3, 2022 - Updated about 11 hours ago

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) released its 2019 tax directory for parliamentarians on Monday, which shows that former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani paid no tax in the said year while Prime Minister Imran Khan paid Rs9.8 million.

According to the document, the directory was tabulated from tax returns filed manually and electronically till January 3.
"This data only includes income and tax declared in returns filed to FBR and does not include agricultural income tax paid to provinces, sales tax, federal excise duty etc," the document states.

In the foreword, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said that the FBR has been publishing the directory for the last six years.

However, this time special efforts were made to make the directory more informative "which will help not only in educating taxpayers but also in encouraging compliance with tax laws as a national duty," he said.
"The directory embodies the government’s policy of better governance, accountability and transparency through public access to information," the minister added.

According to the data, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif paid Rs8.2m while PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari paid Rs0.53m.

PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari paid Rs2.2m. Senior banker and incumbent finance minister, Shaukat Tarin paid Rs26.6m while former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi paid Rs4.9m.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah's tax amounted to Rs1.1m. In contrast, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar paid a measly Rs2,000.

Current Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo Rs1.1m and his predecessor Jam Kamal Khan paid Rs11.8m. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan paid Rs66,258.

Among the members of the federal cabinet, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi paid Rs0.9m while Planning and Development Minister Asad Umer paid Rs4.3m. Energy Minister Hammad Azhar paid Rs29,025 in an individual capacity while his associations of persons (AOPs) tax amounted to Rs18.1m.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan Senator Faisal Subzwari, Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas and Punjab Prisons Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan were among several lawmakers that paid Rs2,000.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Yousuf Raza Gillani and PML-N's Azma Zahid Bokhari did not pay anything in taxes. Additionally, a PTI MNA from Karachi, Muhammad Najeeb Haroon, paid a whopping Rs140m.

Tarin calls for simplifying tax regime

Addressing a ceremony held for launching the tax directory, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said that it was important for parliamentarians to make their tax returns public as it would ensure transparency and set an example for others.

He also highlighted the importance of paying taxes, adding that it was imperative that everyone in the country paid taxes and that there should be no "sacred cows".

"The government is unable to help the common man because we are unable to fulfil our current expense from this revenue. So, for development expenditure we have to take loans," he said.

The minister also said that the taxation system in Pakistan had a lot of "distortions". "Some are taken at a federal level, some at a provincial level [but] we do not speak to each other," he said, adding that authorities were now moving towards "tax harmonisation".

Tarin also called for simplifying the tax system. "We take withholding taxes because we are unable to collect it from other means. We should have two kinds of taxes: income tax and consumption tax. There should be no other taxes apart from this."

The minister said that the country should move towards "progressive taxation".

He said that the government was focusing on increasing the tax net, adding that there were three million taxpayers in the country. He said that the FBR will now send notices to those who are not paying taxes based on the information from their ID cards, bank accounts and utility bills.
"This will not be harassment but we will put the facts and figures in front of them," he said, adding that this will be done in a "knowledgeable, organised and objective" manner.
These politicians who refuse to pay taxes, or cheat on them, should have their assets confiscated, and they should be tried for Treason.
 

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RED ZONE FILES: The darkest hour

Fahd Husain
Published January 13, 2022 - Updated about 7 hours ago

Islamabad is running a low grade fever. There is weakness, fatigue and body aches but the temperature is not burning. Yet.
It is so draining.

On everyone. The government is burdened with the lethargy of its own mis-governance even as it tries to compensate for its lack of actionable vigour by ramping up the volume of its accusations against rivals. It finds it easier to raise its voice than to raise its finger. To win, it has to survive. That’s the barometer.

The opposition is burdened with the lethargy of its indecision even as it tries to compensate for the lack of its coherence by ramping up the volume of its threats against rivals. It finds it easier to drop broad hints of a deal than to drop the pretense and actually lock a deal. To win, it has to eat its own narrative. That’s the barometer.

Editorial: PDM appears to be more of a pressure group than a real threat to the govt

Inside the Red Zone, political enemies are circling each other warily — daggers drawn and swords unsheathed — but none wants to lunge forward and strike the first blow. It is a war dance in slow motion. The stallions are neighing as battle cries reverberate across the hills. But the trumpets have not blared. The charge of the cavalry has not happened.

And it may not. For now. The contentious foreplay is spilling over into the parliament and raising sparks from political embers that are gradually emitting an orange glow. A flame could break out. But it hasn’t yet. There’s just not enough fuel. You can sense the heat and imagine the flame. But it does not burn you. Yet.

Hard to imagine how long this state of coiled tension can last before snapping apart and unleashing a torrent of unpredictable consequences. It is agonisingly difficult for the government to govern when it is haemorrhaging from the inside. It is painfully frustrating for the opposition to put up a spirited challenge when it is weighed down by its own strategic inertia.

Whispers echo against the hush of such inertia and inaction — whispers about the growing lack of trust between key citadels of power, and how loose talk is fanning the flames of such mistrust. Unwise things are said to have been said in private meetings inside the Red Zone about important people. They have trickled out. Such meetings have also witnessed loud thinking about exercising options that are best left unexercised. Such words have a nasty habit of taking on a life of their own even if they do not translate into actions. Loose lips sink ships, goes the old saying. It still holds metaphorical relevance in this day and age.

Strange that responsible people in responsible offices would display such irresponsible behaviour when the stakes are so high. The government’s balance sheet is skewed against it. Still smarting from the drubbing in the KP local body polls, the government knows that it may be walking into a bigger trap in the Punjab LG elections. That’s just one such trap. The economic situation is not expected to ease up till late in the year. If that. The opposition’s street pressure will start to build up in a month or so and begin to consume media oxygen. There’s a change of command happening at the Supreme Court in the first week of the next month. Inside the Red Zone, random events have a strange habit of making non-random patterns. The government knows full well it is venturing into its darkest hour. First light is still a few months away.

It is in this darkest hour — when the night is intense and fears lurk like shadows — that things that should not happen, must not happen, and cannot happen — happen. Like a train entering a tunnel, the politics of this land is plunging into a time-trail of darkness before it emerges back into the glow of day. Some say the time-trail spans two months, others claim three, but almost all agree that the next few weeks will determine whether these unsheathed swords plunge into the soft folds of the flesh, or return to the cold comfort of their scabbards.

Meantime all are going through the motions. The ministers are holding press briefings to present unconvincing arguments about their government’s performance while the opposition leaders are venting their spleens on the floor of the house to compensate for the lack of will to pull the trigger. There will be new cases against the leader of the opposition for optics sake, and there will be new acts of resistance through rallies against the government for optics sake. These will provide fuel for the media and fodder for the public but none will likely translate into the blow that brings the house down.

It is a strange time, this. All can sense the possibilities of what could lie ahead but none can tell whether it will happen. All are weighing options that could present themselves but none can exercise them till they do. The clarity of confusion is casting dark shadows across the Red Zone’s fortifications as the capital plunges deep into the folds of the darkest hour.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2022
 

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RED ZONE FILES: The darkest hour

Fahd Husain
Published January 13, 2022 - Updated about 7 hours ago

Islamabad is running a low grade fever. There is weakness, fatigue and body aches but the temperature is not burning. Yet.
It is so draining.

On everyone. The government is burdened with the lethargy of its own mis-governance even as it tries to compensate for its lack of actionable vigour by ramping up the volume of its accusations against rivals. It finds it easier to raise its voice than to raise its finger. To win, it has to survive. That’s the barometer.

The opposition is burdened with the lethargy of its indecision even as it tries to compensate for the lack of its coherence by ramping up the volume of its threats against rivals. It finds it easier to drop broad hints of a deal than to drop the pretense and actually lock a deal. To win, it has to eat its own narrative. That’s the barometer.

Editorial: PDM appears to be more of a pressure group than a real threat to the govt

Inside the Red Zone, political enemies are circling each other warily — daggers drawn and swords unsheathed — but none wants to lunge forward and strike the first blow. It is a war dance in slow motion. The stallions are neighing as battle cries reverberate across the hills. But the trumpets have not blared. The charge of the cavalry has not happened.

And it may not. For now. The contentious foreplay is spilling over into the parliament and raising sparks from political embers that are gradually emitting an orange glow. A flame could break out. But it hasn’t yet. There’s just not enough fuel. You can sense the heat and imagine the flame. But it does not burn you. Yet.

Hard to imagine how long this state of coiled tension can last before snapping apart and unleashing a torrent of unpredictable consequences. It is agonisingly difficult for the government to govern when it is haemorrhaging from the inside. It is painfully frustrating for the opposition to put up a spirited challenge when it is weighed down by its own strategic inertia.

Whispers echo against the hush of such inertia and inaction — whispers about the growing lack of trust between key citadels of power, and how loose talk is fanning the flames of such mistrust. Unwise things are said to have been said in private meetings inside the Red Zone about important people. They have trickled out. Such meetings have also witnessed loud thinking about exercising options that are best left unexercised. Such words have a nasty habit of taking on a life of their own even if they do not translate into actions. Loose lips sink ships, goes the old saying. It still holds metaphorical relevance in this day and age.

Strange that responsible people in responsible offices would display such irresponsible behaviour when the stakes are so high. The government’s balance sheet is skewed against it. Still smarting from the drubbing in the KP local body polls, the government knows that it may be walking into a bigger trap in the Punjab LG elections. That’s just one such trap. The economic situation is not expected to ease up till late in the year. If that. The opposition’s street pressure will start to build up in a month or so and begin to consume media oxygen. There’s a change of command happening at the Supreme Court in the first week of the next month. Inside the Red Zone, random events have a strange habit of making non-random patterns. The government knows full well it is venturing into its darkest hour. First light is still a few months away.

It is in this darkest hour — when the night is intense and fears lurk like shadows — that things that should not happen, must not happen, and cannot happen — happen. Like a train entering a tunnel, the politics of this land is plunging into a time-trail of darkness before it emerges back into the glow of day. Some say the time-trail spans two months, others claim three, but almost all agree that the next few weeks will determine whether these unsheathed swords plunge into the soft folds of the flesh, or return to the cold comfort of their scabbards.

Meantime all are going through the motions. The ministers are holding press briefings to present unconvincing arguments about their government’s performance while the opposition leaders are venting their spleens on the floor of the house to compensate for the lack of will to pull the trigger. There will be new cases against the leader of the opposition for optics sake, and there will be new acts of resistance through rallies against the government for optics sake. These will provide fuel for the media and fodder for the public but none will likely translate into the blow that brings the house down.

It is a strange time, this. All can sense the possibilities of what could lie ahead but none can tell whether it will happen. All are weighing options that could present themselves but none can exercise them till they do. The clarity of confusion is casting dark shadows across the Red Zone’s fortifications as the capital plunges deep into the folds of the darkest hour.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2022
with the new elections approaching the fever is going to get more intense. Opposition parties and even the govt is getting more active.
 

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Tragedy in Murree and how we can prevent such calamities in the future

I cannot stop thinking about the young police officer and his family who could not survive that dreadful cold night.
Omar Mukhtar Khan
Updated 2 days ago

As the nation has been watching with horror the images coming out of snowstorm-hit Murree and hope that we never have to see such a calamity again, I cannot stop thinking about the young police officer who along with his beautiful family got stuck in the snow and how none of them could not survive that dreadful cold night. This thought alternates with me with thoughts of my own children playing and enjoying the snowfall in Murree only a few days back. Last week's snowstorm disaster is a trauma that will stay with a Murreephile like me for a long time.

So what went wrong? Well, to be fair, at least part of the reason is our collective apathy when it comes to strong urban governance and sustainable environmental practices. Murree has been our top most visited resort since independence and while the elite may have found other places to spend their vacations in, majority of Pakistanis did not have many options and stuck to this beautiful colonial hill town for their brief holidays.

Murree continues to be run from Lahore with very weak local government as elsewhere in the country, limited building regulations leading to monstrous hotels and apartments cropping up, poor waste management systems with trash everywhere, smelly sewage flowing all around and an unregulated and predatory hospitality industry doing the rest in destroying this only mainstream tourist resort for Pakistanis. There is also limited focus on traffic management as well as an effective communications system to inform the public at large about any weather warnings. And yes, while we can try putting all the blame on the government in its role as enforcer, there is a need for general public awareness and ethically responsible local business practices to ensure that Murree is revived to its formal glory.

Hopefully, this disaster will bring the government, businesses and people together to ensure that in the future no precious lives are lost due to our collective callousness and disrespect for nature. Following are some steps that can be considered in order to ensure a sustainable eco-friendly Murree continuing to thrive as a resort of choice for the people:

Establishment of a Murree Development Authority: First and foremost, Murree should be brought under an empowered and autonomous Murree Development Authority (MDA). The authority used to exist a few decades back but was subsequently revoked. I would have liked to advocate for a strong local government in Murree like we had under the 2001 local government regime but then that very strong local government is partly responsible for allowing unregulated mushrooming buildings in Murree; so we can perhaps live with an autonomous development authority.

The Galiyat Development Authority model in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is one example of such local authorities and the model can be improved upon and implemented in Murree as well. The authority should be mandated with the enforcement of recently approved building codes, waste disposal, traffic management, quality control when it comes to hotel and restaurant standards, and most importantly it should be allowed independent revenue collection from local sources.

Building code and regulations: After an early 2000s construction bonanza, Murree remained under some sort of construction ban for the next 15 years. However, it then saw another unregulated construction boon in the last three years. Recently, the government has again passed some building regulations which will hopefully put a break on this haphazard urban sprawl.

In the future, there should be a strict ban on new commercial construction and all construction in violation of building codes should be dismantled to establish authority. In the colonial era, there used to be a rule that no one could block another property’s valley view. That rule no longer exists and the result is an eyesore of buildings all around Mall Road with no parking space and proper waste disposal systems. It may be a bit late now for a revival of Murree of yesteryears but reinstating such rules is the least we can do to stop further degradation.

Waste collection and disposal: During rush season in summers and in winters, Murree starts to stink. There is trash all around and sewage is flowing into what used to be natural nullahs or streams. The waste disposal was outsourced few years back but perhaps the contractors need to be better monitored and incentivised to ensure cleanliness.

As a start, the administration should consider banning plastic bags, including chips and biscuits wrappings, as well as plastic water bottles that can contain less than a litre. These items contribute to the bulk of the trash in Murree. Similarly, options around waste compaction techniques and bringing the waste to factories in the plains to be recycled should also be explored.

Traffic management: In my book, ‘Once upon a time in Murree’, I had suggested to my readers not to visit Murree during the weekends and on national holidays, not knowing that there was going to be a disaster so soon. And while implementation is indeed difficult, the government should manage the inflow of traffic into Murree. It is not that the government isn't capable of doing it, it did so very efficiently during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which demonstrates that this is more about planning and less about a capacity to implement. Luckily, Murree has limited entry points, which include toll plazas on Murree Expressway and Kashmir Highway, Jhika Gali, Kuldana and Sunny Bank. And since the Mall Road is most visitors' key attraction, if these entry points are restricted, it will disincentivise people to head towards Murree in the first place.

The government should fix a maximum number of tourists in Murree at any given point and then use these entry points to regulate that traffic inflow. There are now technological solutions like online visit permits, which should be explored to manage visitors’ traffic. Also, there should be a clearly advertised preference for families intending to go to Murree at all times but especially during weekends and national holidays.

Regulating businesses: Hotels and restaurants in Murree do not follow decent quality standards; they also overcharge customers and seldom pay taxes. And worse, if the going gets tough for tourists as it happened this week, some of them increase their rates arbitrarily. Governments should develop a strict standards monitoring and enforcement system, something like a customer feedback system, where hotels are rated as per the customers' reviews, ensure food and lodging standards and ensure that these businesses pay taxes to run Murree on a sustainable eco-friendly basis.

Parking spaces: During peak season or national holidays, Murree is reported to accommodate more than 100,000 vehicles as against a parking space of perhaps some 5,000 vehicles. The government should develop large parking plazas near Sunny Bank, Jhika Gali, Mussiari Village, Kuldana and Bansra Gali etc. Day visitors should only be allowed to take some sort of eco-friendly electric vehicles from the parking places to Murree and only visitors with valid overnight hotel bookings should be allowed to proceed towards the Murree ridge. This option should take care of a big chunk of the vehicular congestion issue in Murree.

Water supply: Water supply was the reason Murree lost to Simla as the summer headquarter of Punjab in 1876. Later in the 1890s, a water pipeline was laid from Donga Gali to Murree and its water problem was solved to a great extent for the next century at least. But with burgeoning local and tourist population, it is again time for the government to think about additional water sources, like pumping water in from the Jhelum. Water-scarcity in Murree also remains an important cause of lack of hygiene and disease prevalence in the region.

Weather advisory: While a weather advisory was indeed issued before last week’s snowstorm, the government could have definitely done better with communicating it widely and ensuring that Murree and other snow bound areas have adequate snow removing machinery and equipment. Again, a strong local body or authority with decent revenue collection should be able to invest in such equipment.

Revenue collection: Murree is host to millions of visitors every year, with its hotels, restaurants and other businesses doing a roaring business all year around. The suggested Murree Development Authority should be able to collect enough revenue from this substantial economic activity.

Some of the avenues in this regard include services tax on hotels and restaurants, Murree entry fees for both visitors and vehicles, waste collection and disposal fees, water supply fees etc. There should be a prohibitively high congestion fees for private vehicles entering Murree at all times but only after the government has established a decent public transport system in and around the resort town.

Public awareness: A key to preventing such disasters from happening in the future is public awareness about their rights and obligations. There are limited public awareness campaigns on explaining responsibilities of citizens towards ensuring livable cities for our future generations. Such awareness campaigns should focus on eco-friendly ethos, proper waste disposal, weather conditions, people's rights and obligations while dealing with businesses and with each other etc.

We have seen a very successful public awareness campaign in Covid times, with people actually following government instructions to a large extent. Perhaps, we need something similar in Murree and other cities.

Reimagining Murree

Murree is a beautiful town with some lovely heritage spread all across. It is time that local authorities sit together and come up with an alternative vision for Murree. One suggestion is to shift food joints on Mall Road to lower bazaar, developing it into a food street, and leaving Mall Road for traditional colonial restaurants, books and coffee shops.

Ideally, the valley view on Mall Road should be opened up by dismantling all illegal construction obstructing it. A good example comes from the cantonment authorities who have kept their part of Murree spanking clean with some beautiful landscaping and display of Murree's history and heritage. Such efforts can be replicated all over Murree ridge.

There is also a need to establish a Murree museum on the ridge so that people can know about Murree’s past and its heritage. The strip from Pindi Point to Kashmir Point should be declared ‘pedestrian only’ and only local government managed eco-friendly vehicles should be allowed to transport people if needed.

Murree is full of colonial heritage with some lovely hotels, villas, churches and schools spread all over the ridge and its slopes. Students of Lawrence College, Convent and Kohsar University should conduct heritage tours of the town as is common around the world and help visitors understand the history of this lovely hill town.

Similarly, the walls and roofs of buildings on Murree slopes should be painted in eco-friendly colours. And lastly, the Murree ridge is largely plain in gradient and cycling stations following the Zu Peshawar model should be established for people to ride and enjoy.

These are some simple suggestions but perhaps by implementing them, we may be able to save Murree from further destruction and ensure that we leave a better place for our future generations. Hopefully, someone is listening.
 

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Tragedy in Murree and how we can prevent such calamities in the future

I cannot stop thinking about the young police officer and his family who could not survive that dreadful cold night.
Omar Mukhtar Khan
Updated 2 days ago

As the nation has been watching with horror the images coming out of snowstorm-hit Murree and hope that we never have to see such a calamity again, I cannot stop thinking about the young police officer who along with his beautiful family got stuck in the snow and how none of them could not survive that dreadful cold night. This thought alternates with me with thoughts of my own children playing and enjoying the snowfall in Murree only a few days back. Last week's snowstorm disaster is a trauma that will stay with a Murreephile like me for a long time.

So what went wrong? Well, to be fair, at least part of the reason is our collective apathy when it comes to strong urban governance and sustainable environmental practices. Murree has been our top most visited resort since independence and while the elite may have found other places to spend their vacations in, majority of Pakistanis did not have many options and stuck to this beautiful colonial hill town for their brief holidays.

Murree continues to be run from Lahore with very weak local government as elsewhere in the country, limited building regulations leading to monstrous hotels and apartments cropping up, poor waste management systems with trash everywhere, smelly sewage flowing all around and an unregulated and predatory hospitality industry doing the rest in destroying this only mainstream tourist resort for Pakistanis. There is also limited focus on traffic management as well as an effective communications system to inform the public at large about any weather warnings. And yes, while we can try putting all the blame on the government in its role as enforcer, there is a need for general public awareness and ethically responsible local business practices to ensure that Murree is revived to its formal glory.

Hopefully, this disaster will bring the government, businesses and people together to ensure that in the future no precious lives are lost due to our collective callousness and disrespect for nature. Following are some steps that can be considered in order to ensure a sustainable eco-friendly Murree continuing to thrive as a resort of choice for the people:

Establishment of a Murree Development Authority: First and foremost, Murree should be brought under an empowered and autonomous Murree Development Authority (MDA). The authority used to exist a few decades back but was subsequently revoked. I would have liked to advocate for a strong local government in Murree like we had under the 2001 local government regime but then that very strong local government is partly responsible for allowing unregulated mushrooming buildings in Murree; so we can perhaps live with an autonomous development authority.

The Galiyat Development Authority model in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is one example of such local authorities and the model can be improved upon and implemented in Murree as well. The authority should be mandated with the enforcement of recently approved building codes, waste disposal, traffic management, quality control when it comes to hotel and restaurant standards, and most importantly it should be allowed independent revenue collection from local sources.

Building code and regulations: After an early 2000s construction bonanza, Murree remained under some sort of construction ban for the next 15 years. However, it then saw another unregulated construction boon in the last three years. Recently, the government has again passed some building regulations which will hopefully put a break on this haphazard urban sprawl.

In the future, there should be a strict ban on new commercial construction and all construction in violation of building codes should be dismantled to establish authority. In the colonial era, there used to be a rule that no one could block another property’s valley view. That rule no longer exists and the result is an eyesore of buildings all around Mall Road with no parking space and proper waste disposal systems. It may be a bit late now for a revival of Murree of yesteryears but reinstating such rules is the least we can do to stop further degradation.

Waste collection and disposal: During rush season in summers and in winters, Murree starts to stink. There is trash all around and sewage is flowing into what used to be natural nullahs or streams. The waste disposal was outsourced few years back but perhaps the contractors need to be better monitored and incentivised to ensure cleanliness.

As a start, the administration should consider banning plastic bags, including chips and biscuits wrappings, as well as plastic water bottles that can contain less than a litre. These items contribute to the bulk of the trash in Murree. Similarly, options around waste compaction techniques and bringing the waste to factories in the plains to be recycled should also be explored.

Traffic management: In my book, ‘Once upon a time in Murree’, I had suggested to my readers not to visit Murree during the weekends and on national holidays, not knowing that there was going to be a disaster so soon. And while implementation is indeed difficult, the government should manage the inflow of traffic into Murree. It is not that the government isn't capable of doing it, it did so very efficiently during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which demonstrates that this is more about planning and less about a capacity to implement. Luckily, Murree has limited entry points, which include toll plazas on Murree Expressway and Kashmir Highway, Jhika Gali, Kuldana and Sunny Bank. And since the Mall Road is most visitors' key attraction, if these entry points are restricted, it will disincentivise people to head towards Murree in the first place.

The government should fix a maximum number of tourists in Murree at any given point and then use these entry points to regulate that traffic inflow. There are now technological solutions like online visit permits, which should be explored to manage visitors’ traffic. Also, there should be a clearly advertised preference for families intending to go to Murree at all times but especially during weekends and national holidays.

Regulating businesses: Hotels and restaurants in Murree do not follow decent quality standards; they also overcharge customers and seldom pay taxes. And worse, if the going gets tough for tourists as it happened this week, some of them increase their rates arbitrarily. Governments should develop a strict standards monitoring and enforcement system, something like a customer feedback system, where hotels are rated as per the customers' reviews, ensure food and lodging standards and ensure that these businesses pay taxes to run Murree on a sustainable eco-friendly basis.

Parking spaces: During peak season or national holidays, Murree is reported to accommodate more than 100,000 vehicles as against a parking space of perhaps some 5,000 vehicles. The government should develop large parking plazas near Sunny Bank, Jhika Gali, Mussiari Village, Kuldana and Bansra Gali etc. Day visitors should only be allowed to take some sort of eco-friendly electric vehicles from the parking places to Murree and only visitors with valid overnight hotel bookings should be allowed to proceed towards the Murree ridge. This option should take care of a big chunk of the vehicular congestion issue in Murree.

Water supply: Water supply was the reason Murree lost to Simla as the summer headquarter of Punjab in 1876. Later in the 1890s, a water pipeline was laid from Donga Gali to Murree and its water problem was solved to a great extent for the next century at least. But with burgeoning local and tourist population, it is again time for the government to think about additional water sources, like pumping water in from the Jhelum. Water-scarcity in Murree also remains an important cause of lack of hygiene and disease prevalence in the region.

Weather advisory: While a weather advisory was indeed issued before last week’s snowstorm, the government could have definitely done better with communicating it widely and ensuring that Murree and other snow bound areas have adequate snow removing machinery and equipment. Again, a strong local body or authority with decent revenue collection should be able to invest in such equipment.

Revenue collection: Murree is host to millions of visitors every year, with its hotels, restaurants and other businesses doing a roaring business all year around. The suggested Murree Development Authority should be able to collect enough revenue from this substantial economic activity.

Some of the avenues in this regard include services tax on hotels and restaurants, Murree entry fees for both visitors and vehicles, waste collection and disposal fees, water supply fees etc. There should be a prohibitively high congestion fees for private vehicles entering Murree at all times but only after the government has established a decent public transport system in and around the resort town.

Public awareness: A key to preventing such disasters from happening in the future is public awareness about their rights and obligations. There are limited public awareness campaigns on explaining responsibilities of citizens towards ensuring livable cities for our future generations. Such awareness campaigns should focus on eco-friendly ethos, proper waste disposal, weather conditions, people's rights and obligations while dealing with businesses and with each other etc.

We have seen a very successful public awareness campaign in Covid times, with people actually following government instructions to a large extent. Perhaps, we need something similar in Murree and other cities.

Reimagining Murree

Murree is a beautiful town with some lovely heritage spread all across. It is time that local authorities sit together and come up with an alternative vision for Murree. One suggestion is to shift food joints on Mall Road to lower bazaar, developing it into a food street, and leaving Mall Road for traditional colonial restaurants, books and coffee shops.

Ideally, the valley view on Mall Road should be opened up by dismantling all illegal construction obstructing it. A good example comes from the cantonment authorities who have kept their part of Murree spanking clean with some beautiful landscaping and display of Murree's history and heritage. Such efforts can be replicated all over Murree ridge.

There is also a need to establish a Murree museum on the ridge so that people can know about Murree’s past and its heritage. The strip from Pindi Point to Kashmir Point should be declared ‘pedestrian only’ and only local government managed eco-friendly vehicles should be allowed to transport people if needed.

Murree is full of colonial heritage with some lovely hotels, villas, churches and schools spread all over the ridge and its slopes. Students of Lawrence College, Convent and Kohsar University should conduct heritage tours of the town as is common around the world and help visitors understand the history of this lovely hill town.

Similarly, the walls and roofs of buildings on Murree slopes should be painted in eco-friendly colours. And lastly, the Murree ridge is largely plain in gradient and cycling stations following the Zu Peshawar model should be established for people to ride and enjoy.

These are some simple suggestions but perhaps by implementing them, we may be able to save Murree from further destruction and ensure that we leave a better place for our future generations. Hopefully, someone is listening.
First and foremost we need to get basics rights, corruption of all kinds including monetary and moral needs to be abolished. Only if we can boycott Murree for a year change would happen.
 

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‘NDMA failed in its responsibility,’ says IHC chief justice on Murree tragedy

Tahir Naseer
Published January 13, 2022 - Updated 15 minutes ago

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Thursday came down hard on the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) over the Murree tragedy , in which at least 22 people died after their cars were stranded in a snowstorm, saying the fatalities would not have occurred if NDMA was "prepared and had taken prior measures".

In its written order, the court also observed that "prima facie, the failure to implement the NDMA Act is the sole factor which had led to the loss of precious innocent lives, including nine children."
"Further delay in implementation of the NDMA Act is likely to expose human lives to grave risk," the order read.

Tens of thousands of people had thronged Murree last week, creating traffic jams which were exacerbated by heavy snowfall. Among those stuck and forced to spend the night in cars, 22 had lost their. Eight of them froze to death while others probably died from asphyxiation after inhaling exhaust fumes.

Hammad Abbasi, a Murree resident, had subsequently filed a petition in the high court through Advocate Danish Ishraq Abbasi, calling for an investigation into the incident and action against those responsible.

"When tourists were going to Murree through toll plaza, no one stopped them or informed them of the danger," the petitioner's counsel informed the court at the onset of the hearing today.

At this, Justice Minallah called Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Syed Tayyab Shah to the rostrum, instructing him to read the laws about the NDMA.

"This is such a massive body in which all people concerned are present. The opposition is there too. Has there ever been a meeting of this body?" the judge inquired from the DAG about the National Disaster Management Commission.

To that, the DAG responded he could only inform the court after taking instructions in this regard.

The judge ordered NDMA officials to appear before the court today and answer whether the body had ever held a meeting, adding that there should have been a management plan in place to deal with such situations.

"Come and inform the court that if the meeting did not take place then why was it so. The plea in the petition is that timely action should have been taken," the judge remarked.

The hearing resumed after an NDMA representative appeared in the courtroom.

"You are responsible for this incident. Every [official] included in the NDMA law is responsible for these deaths. The whole state is responsible for these deaths," the chief justice said while addressing the NDMA official.
"Determine that who is responsible for the 22 people who died," the judge asked the official, who then proceeded to read out the law related to the authority.
"If preparations and measures had been taken, 22 people and children would not have died," the judge remarked, questioning: "Has there ever been a meeting of the NDMA [on disaster management]?"

The NDMA member replied that five meetings had been held, and when asked if any opposition members had requested for a meeting, his answer was in the negative.

The judge further questioned if the NDMA director general had ever requested the prime minister to convene a meeting, to which he was informed that a meeting had been requested during the pandemic.
"The law is present. If it was implemented, then no life would have been lost. It is such a strong law that it accords responsibility to every district.

Did the NDMA identify those responsible [for the tragedy]?" Justice Minallah asked as he grilled the official.
When the official replied that it was the responsibility of the provincial governments, the chief justice berated him and said: "Then you did not read the NDMA law properly."

"The opposition leader, prime minister of Azad Kashmir and chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan are also members of this body. If the prime minister did not call for a meeting then no one else did so either?

"What plan did you make for Murree or Rawalpindi districts? It was the responsibility of the NDMA to have regular meetings. Lack of meetings is a failure of NDMA," Justice Minallah said.

"The NDMA is responsible if the commission did not have a meeting. The chief ministers of all provinces are present in the commission as well."
Justice Minallah reprimanded the official for putting the blame on the provinces in front of the court and said that there wasn't even a need for any inquiry in the case.

"The NDMA is responsible. If meetings weren't being held then you should have informed. If the law were followed then this accident would not have happened."

Justice Minallah directed the NDMA member to ask the prime minister to call a meeting of the authority and identify those responsible. "Every member of the commission is responsible for this incident," the judge reiterated.

"God forbid if those were your children then what would you have done? Who would you have blamed?" the chief justice admonished the NDMA official.

The IHC ordered for the prime minister to call a session of the National Disaster Management Commission next week and the NDMA to submit a report on the commission's behalf to the court by Jan 21.

The court also directed the commission to inquire why the provisions of the NDMA Act were not implemented, reasons behind the Rawalpindi District Management Authority remaining non-functional and whether a district plan covering Murree was prepared.

The commission was further instructed to identify reasons for the non-implementation of the district plan, the court's written order said.
"The commission, after fixing responsibility of officials/entities involved in failure to implement the provisions of the NDMA Act, shall make them accountable by proceeding in accordance with law," the order further stated.

It added that the commission should also probe "the lack of preparedness and lack of response" that led to the loss of lives and then tack action as required under the law.
 

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First and foremost we need to get basics rights, corruption of all kinds including monetary and moral needs to be abolished. Only if we can boycott Murree for a year change would happen.
Unfortunately, by next season, everyone would've forgotten this tragedy.

Our nation Alhamdullilah is awash with unmatched beauty. So many of these people drove for over 6 hours to Murree, some even driving all the way from Karachi - couldn't they have driven a few hours further? There are motorways leading all the way upto China.
 
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