Traffic plan in place ahead of predicted snowfall in Murree

RAWALPINDI: With another spell of snowfall predicted in Murree, a comprehensive plan has been chalked out by traffic police for the convenience of those whose access to the hill station had been restricted, following the tragic death of 22 tourists in a blizzard last week.

Drivers with valid licenses will be allowed to travel to the hill station between 5am and 5pm. “Not more than 8,000 vehicles per day would be allowed to enter Murree Hills in normal weather conditions,” said a notification issued by the authorities concerned. However, these restrictions will not be applicable to residents of Murree, Azad Jammu, and Kashmir (AJK) and official vehicles.

Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Taimoor Khan on Sunday reviewed the traffic plan during a session with Deputy Superintendent of Police (Traffic) Ajmal Satti.

According to the plan, in addition to 268 personnel of the district police that will be deployed to facilitate tourists, three DSPs, 20 inspectors, 125 traffic wardens, 100 traffic assistants, and 20 district police tourist guides will be deployed in the hills.

Special pickets have been established on all routes that lead to the hill station to avert trouble and tourists have been asked not to park their vehicles on the side of the road so that flow of traffic remains smooth.

“Avoid taking selfies while parking on the road or driving. Avoid one-way violations and wrong overtaking to make your trip safer,” the CTO said, adding mechanically fit vehicles with tool kits that must be taken for the journey.

Rawalpindi police’s radio station (88.6) and all official pages of the traffic police will keep providing updates to citizens about the weather so they may equip themselves in case of emergency.

Tourists have been advised to keep essential food items with them and refrain from keeping car windows completely shut while chains must be used on tires so the vehicle does not slip.

A police spokesman urged tourists to cooperate with deployed officials as they were working in severe weather conditions. Sector in-charges and staff at all toll plazas and entrances have been asked to facilitate tourists too.

Orders have also been issued for the deployment of heavy machinery for immediate removal of snow from roads beside the distribution of awareness pamphlets among the tourists. Officials have been asked to immediately remove snow from roads and sprinkle salt.

Furthermore, emergency numbers of all departments should be kept with staff while the duty officer will post numbers of all departments in his office so relevant officials may be contacted in time. Cranes and two trucks will be present at key points for the timely assistance of tourists, lifters, and beat in-charges will be patrolling the area.

It was also discussed in the meeting that along with landline numbers, a mobile phone number should also be provided so that timely assistance could be provided in case of breakdown of communication during heavy snowfall.

The staff has been asked to perform their duties with full capacity, sense of responsibility, and teamwork to maintain an uninterrupted flow of traffic.

Indian media bodies slam Kashmir Press Club ‘coup’

NEW DELHI: Indian media bodies have deplored the forcible takeover of the Kashmir Press Club in Srinagar by a group of journalists who raided the precincts on Saturday under the watch of armed police — a month before fresh elections are due to be held there on Feb 15.

The takeover, described by media spokespersons as a coup, took place under the cover of a Covid lockdown ordered by the government at the weekend.

The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) said on Sunday it was “dismayed at the government move to close the Press Club of Kashmir”.

The DUJ statement said the authorities had renewed the licence of the Kashmir Press Club on Dec 29 after the issue had hung fire for months. Once the renewal notice was received, the Press Club belatedly announced elections.

Now the licence renewal has been suddenly cancelled, ostensibly beca­use of an adverse intelligence report. “This volte face is inexplicable.”

The DUJ slammed what it said were arbitrary and unabated arrests, detentions and questioning of journalists in Kashmir. “On Jan 5, Sajad Gul, a trainee journalist with Kashmir Walla, was arrested for (allegedly) fomenting anti-government feelings. Last year Salman Shah and Suhail Dar were arrested for ‘breach of peace’. Journalist Aasif Sultan has been in jail since Aug 27, 2018, and awaits trial.

The Delhi-based Press Club of India slammed the takeover.

Former Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti expressed their shock over the ‘coup’ by some journalists supported by the official machinery.

Taking to Twitter, National Conference Vice President Omar wrote: “There is no government this `journalist’ hasn’t sucked up to & no government he hasn’t lied on behalf of. I should know, I’ve seen both sides very closely. Now he’s benefited from a state-sponsored coup.

According to newslaundury.com, a fact-checking portal, the leader of the takeover — Saleem Pandit — was among the journalists invited to meet foreign diplomats brought to the Valley on a tour conducted by the Indian government in Jan 2020.

“At 1.45 pm, the group’s head, journalist Saleem Pandit, arrived in an armoured cavalcade comprising a bulletproof Ambassador and a Scorpio along with his security detail.”

Within an hour an announcement was made through the Press Club’s official WhatsApp group and email address, that “various journalist organisations across Kashmir valley unanimously decided to form an interim body of three members with M. Saleem Pandit as president, Zulfikar Majid, bureau chief of Deccan Herald as General Secretary and Arshid Rasool, Editor of Daily Gadyal as treasurer of the Club till elections are held in free and fair manner”. The statement released did not specify the name of journalist organisations supporting the move.

News laundury quoted a member of the last elected body as likening the takeover of the press club to the stalling of elections of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association (JKHCBA).