FIR registered against residents
The Punjab government has launched a crackdown against hotels in Murree for charging massive rents from tourists on the fateful Friday night.
At least 22 people died of cold and asphyxiation in Murree after they were stranded in their cars during a snowstorm on January 7.
According to tourists, hotel owners jacked up accommodation charges, forcing people to spend the night in their cars. Three hotels in the hill station were sealed Monday after social media posts calling them out for overcharging people went viral. The authorities have refused to share the names of the hotels.
Talking to SAMAA TV Sunday, tourists said that accommodation charges were raised to Rs70,000 ($398) per room from Rs6,000 ($34). Some tourists said that food prices also sky-rocketed in the area, specifically amid the severe weather conditions.
One pack of biscuits worth Rs10 was sold at Rs300, while a small water bottle was sold at as high as Rs300, they added.
An FIR, on the other hand, was registered on Monday at the Murree district police station against identified residents of the hill station for deliberately throwing snow on the roads.
It stated that the accused persons, a group of men in a blue jeep, deliberately threw snow outside the Bhurban Hotel. “When a tourist vehicle stopped, they [the suspects] would charge between Rs4,000 and Rs5,000 from them to tow the car.”
A case under sections 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint)
and 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees)
of the Pakistan Penal Code has been registered.
Rescue operation by the Pakistan Army and the National Disaster and Management Authority was completed Monday night. Most of the main roads leading into and outside the hill station have been cleared for traffic.
However, people without their personal transport had to travel in buses and vans provided by the local authorities. These vehicles left them at the Satra Meel Toll Plaza near Islamabad. The tourists then walked several kilometres, carrying their children and luggage.
The ban on the entry of non-locals was scheduled to expire at 9pm on Monday, but Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed has extended it for another 24 hours.
An announcement from his Twitter handle said that the ban on travel to Murree and Galiyat would be lifted only after another review.
Report by Zafar Raheem