'I should have never believed in this government'
Tayyab Gondal will live with an everlasting regret: Why he relied on government machinery and believed in government officials to rescue his cousin ASI Naveed Iqbal and seven other family members who were stranded on the Kuldana Road in Murree during the snow storm Friday night.
They were only three kilometers from the point which had caused the roadblock.
If he knew, Gondal says, he would have walked through the blizzard and carried the children on his shoulder to move them to safety.
But Tayyab Gondal as well as ASI Naveed Iqbal were making phone calls and sending text messages to everyone they knew. Tayyab being a freelance journalist and Naveed being an Islamabad police officer, they believed that they knew people in power corridors who could move the system to help them.
In the last audio message sent to Gondal, Naveed Iqbal seems optimistic. He says that they have been stranded for the last 20 hours, but he still thinks that a machine would be sent over to clear the road.
The message was sent at 4am on Saturday morning. A few hours later, Iqbal, his sister, his three daughters and one son, his sister's daughter and his brother's son were found dead in their car. All the children were under 15 years old.
Tayyab Gondal, speaking on SAMAA TV's show Nadeem Malik Live, narrated how he and Iqbal had been pulling all the strings.
“I was in Murree when he [Naveed Iqbal] contacted me at 6pm [Friday]," Gondal says. By that time they had already been stranded for eight hours.
Gondal sent his first text to Prime Minister Imran Khan, the second to Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, and the third to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry. Then he sent texts to Rawalpindi City Police Officer Sajid Kiyani, Assistant Commissioner Murree and others.
He says response came only from Kiyani.
And what did Gondal and Iqbal want. There were snow moving machines sitting on the roadside but no one to operate them.
Only if there had been an operator, the machines could have cleared the snow on the road and the stranded vehicles would have made the last three kilomotre to safety.
“I saw three machines there but no one was there to operate them.”
Gondal has called out the federal ministers' claims that there were more than 100,000 vehicles stranded on the roads saying, “No, it was not”.
“From the toll plaza to Murree Road, the road was clear and just to cover their negligence they have been creating drama,” he claimed.
He said that the area which received the snowfall was choked with traffic and no one from the administration was on the spot to clear the route.
In the text messages sent to senior officials through WhatsApp Gondal had shared the details.
He shared the screenshot of WhatsApp messages with the SAMAA TV team. “I told them there is a very bad situation and it’s not just my family,” he added.
According to Gondal, he also shared the location of the stranded people, but nothing was done to clear the spot where 22 people lost their lives.
Naveed Iqbal himself called the local SHO, says Tayyab, but the SHO said that he was having dinner and would call him back. That did not happen.
“The CPO took action and I was contacted by the assistant commissioner and SSP traffic,” he said. “This is why I assured Naveed that the help is on the way at 4am in the morning” on Saturday.
"After being assured Naveed fell asleep and didn’t wake up," Gondal lamented.
Since Iqbal had been insisting on reopening the road, Gondal was focused on that aspect. He did not think that people could die in their cars with heaters on.
"I was focused on getting the road cleared. ... If I knew that the situation go go this bad, believe me, I would have carried the kids on my should. I would have walked [to the vehicle]. I should have never believed in this government."