Pakistan: Inquiry blames official negligence for Gujrat van fire tragedy

Van had no fitness certificate and route permit, court told. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Van had no fitness certificate and route permit, court told. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: An official inquiry into the May 25 school van tragedy in Gujrat shows that the vehicle involved in the incident was in violation of a number of road regulations.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was informed on Wednesday that the van had no fitness certificate and route permit. Its original diesel engine had also been replaced with a petrol engine to make it run on CNG without fulfilling legal requirements.

An inquiry conducted by the Gujranwala commissioner has blamed the secretary of Gujrat’s regional transport authority, motor vehicle examiner, district traffic police, excise and taxation department and education department for the incident, Punjab’s Additional Advocate General Jawwad Hassan told the bench.

The bench was hearing a suo motu case about the May 25 incident when 18 pupils – aged between five and 15 – of a private school and their teacher died when their van caught fire on their way to school.

The bench took exception to the fact that the police had not so far arrested any official of the Punjab government and observed that criminal action should be initiated against the officials responsible.

Gujrat’s District Police Officer Tahir Khan Khattak informed the bench that the driver and owner of the van, the school owner and the fitter of the CNG kit and cylinder in the van had been arrested.

The Punjab transport secretary’s statement that the van’s last fitness certificate expired on April 3, 2013 further alarmed the bench.

“It has been learnt that more than one CNG cylinders are fitted in passenger wagons and that too under the passenger seats. The passengers are sitting on bombs and the authorities have been unaware and unmoved,” Justice Chaudhry remarked.

He directed the Ogra chairman to appear in person and explain the policy of the federal government vis-a-vis fitness of the CNG equipment used in public transport and the precautionary measures taken in this regard.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2013.

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