Local admin distances itself from unsealing of Haasil village chairlift

CHAKWAL: The matter of unsealing a chairlift in the Haasil village have intensified, when a the district information officer issued a press release in which the district administration distanced itself from the unsealing of the chairlift and indirectly accused PML-N MPA Zulfiqar Ali Khan for backing the villagers, against the chief minister’s order.

The press release quoting the district coordination officer, Mehmood Javed Bhatti, said that locals with political support had ‘forcefully unsealed’ the chairlift.

Residents of Haasil, a remote village across the Soan River, had been using the chairlift to cross the river since 2007. The chairlift was sealed in the wake of an incident in Sahiwal during the Eid holidays, when 34 children were injured when a swing collapsed.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif banned swings and chairlifts across the province until their operators received clearance certificates from the authorities concerned, and a four person team was set up in each tehsil.

Villagers ‘with political support’ thwarted attempt to reseal chairlift

The authorities sealed the chairlift after the chief minister’s order, and directed the operator of the chairlift to renovate the pillars of the platform on which the chairlift was installed and to remove all technical faults that could otherwise may result in any mishap. The operator of the chairlift, and the villagers, renovated the pillars.

Because the chairlift was sealed, villagers were confined to the village and cut off from the rest of the area, after which MPA Zulfiqar Ali Khan reached Haasil on July 20 and had the chairlift forcefully unsealed without informing the district administration. While the villagers hailed the MPA’s actions, the district administration was shocked.

On July 26, a team consisting of the civil defence officer, tehsil municipal officer, motor vehicle examiner and an engineer from the District Agriculture Department, travelled to Haasil to reseal the chairlift.

Announcements were made from loudspeakers installed in the village mosques, urging villagers to come to the chairlift to thwart the officials. As the team stepped into the village area, scores of villagers gathered at the site carrying clubs.

The press release said: “The villagers not only stopped the officials from sealing the chairlift but also harassed them.” The officials left the area fearing a violent reaction from the villagers.

“The officials made a phone call to the SHO of Neelah police station for their help but he refused to come,” DCO Bhatti told Dawn: “Four senior officials of the district administration who went there to implement the order of the chief minister kept on being harassed but the SHO did not bother to come to their aid,” he added.

He said the chairlift was sealed in the interest of the villagers.

“The pillars of the platform of the chairlift were in bad condition, which could invite danger at any time. To avoid any imminent incident, the chairlift was sealed. It should have been unsealed after team’s clearance, but it was unsealed by the locals who had political support,” he said.

He added that the district administration had nothing to do with the unsealing of the chairlift. “If any incident occurs, the villagers and the chairlift operator would be responsible for that,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2016