Under the shadow of Death
(A tale from ROWLEY (Lawari)
Nature keeps beauty and hostility together. So is Rowley Pass,
heaven in summer death cell in winter. It provides grazing space,
timber and firewood for both sides of the people, but has also
swallowed scores of people in the past. Now a tunnel dugout is in
the process of completion but temporarily provides passage to
passengers and good transportation twice a week every year in
winter. But it is time bound and uncontrolled messy traffic jam,
mismanagement makes life miserable for the passengers.
Thus, 2 February 2014 was one of the deadly days in the life of the
passengers travelling on this route. Snow had already begun to fall
since morning but slowly caught speed with every tick of the clock
and messy traffic of heavy vehicles blocked the road completely at
6.00pm. The passengers got trapped inside their vehicles, freezing
temperature, strong blizzard made movement completely impossible.
They became hostage inside their vehicles without water, basic
food, proper warm clothes and the lives of infants, sick, elderly
and ladies became more vulnerable, thus shadow of death slowly
began to siege life. I at around 2am in the morning of 3 February
2014 in a state of helplessness and desperation I crept out of the
vehicle and gave a desperate rescue call to different police
stations of district Chitral, DC office and Chitral Scout posts
begging for help. I although cannot blame them for not to come to
our rescue, an answer from one channel gave me a fatherly advice
“KHUDAIOT HAWALA KORUR” surrender to GOD. It was my duty to pass on
a survival call to my rescue agencies, by then mobile signals had
Dawn rose and also brought hope of survival. In sheer frustration,
I attempted every effort what a human being could do but of no
vain, because strong blizzard, heavy layer of snow and avalanches
on both sides had seized every inch of the track. It was time to
make last attempt to survive, so along with my small family
including nine year old Gibran, the last survival attempt took
place. Having taken a few steps a police personnel interrupted,
hoisting a red flag of dangers ahead of the point. But my
travelling party resisted and continued creeping with a snail pace
unaware of dangers ahead, no indigenous knowledge of the area and
weather, without scientific weather updation and in a state of
starvation. The most difficult day in my life, visibility kept
fading awing to blizzard, stepping became slower and slower due to
deep fresh snow but now or never struggle continued.
The most life threatening spot happened to be a gorge opposite the
tunnel. Where avalanche had just landed and was too steep, having
no track to walk on, a cuoee then attracted my ears that you have
survived. Then in sprawly way my party landed near the tunnel,
helped by SAMBO employees my party huddled together like penguins
of Antarctica. I thanked GOD to bless us a lease of life and also
the nature to spare us. The SAMBO employees deserve special thanks
for their generosity and welcoming behavior, shelter warmth, hot
sugar tea and moral support.
I firmly believe that nature has no answer but timely response
saves life as when in 2002 I was in England with my family the
Daily Mail reported that an Austrain climber sought guidance from
the metrological department, but despite warning of bad weather he
continued his expedition, swept away by strong blizzard and buried
underneath a heavy layer of snow. In a state of despair he sent out
a mobile call and was safely rescued by the rescue team. The same
newspaper again reported that a group of shark attached a fishing
couple in Sydney harbor; the couple sent a rescue call from the
wrecked boat and was rescued by the Australian rescue team.
I am not a strategist, story writer or a management expert, what is
described here is a true picture of the scene.
I thus put forward a few suggestions to avoid any possible disaster
1. Lesson learnt from the previous experiences be made part of the
strategy for every next year.
2. Separate travelling schedule for goods transportation and
passenger transportation may be made and messing of tracks may be
3. Shelter houses along with toilets may be erected for emergency
4. Rescue mechanism may be ensured.
5. Flow of traffic may be made smooth as both sides by stopping
trucks at different points
6. Introduce chair lift system at Dir side.
7. Proper information system be improved
8. Presence of army personnel, police force, Dir/Chitral Scouts may
be ensured to get people out of danger.
9. Rash driving and overtaking inside tunnel be strictly monitored.
In 2002 when I was in England with my family the Daily Mail
reported that an Austrian climber sought guidance from metrological
department, but despite warning of bad weather he continued his
expedition and swept away by strong blizzard and buried underneath
a heavy layer of snow. In a state of despair he sent out mobile
call and was rescued by the rescue team. The same newspaper
reported that a Shark attacked a fishing couple in Sydney harbor.
The couple sent a survival call from the wrecked boat and was
rescued by the Australian rescue team.
I am not a strategist, a story writer, or management expert. What
is narrated here is a true picture of the scene. I thus put forward
a few suggestions hope to be helpful to minimize difficulties:
1. Develop separate travelling schedule for good transportation and
passengers transportation, because it the heavy trucks that always
cause road blocked.
2. Lessons learnt from previous experiences be made part of
strategy for every next year.
3. Shelter homes along with toilets may be erected for emergency
4. Rescue mechanism may be made.
5. Smooth flow of traffic from both sides, by blocking trucks and
6. Rash driving and overtaking inside tunnel be strictly monitored.
7. A rapid rescue team may be prepared to rescue needy, sick,
elderly, infants and ladies in emergency situation.
8. Chair lift system must be introduced to avoid avalanches.
9. Proper information mechanism may be improved between the tunnel
and the danger zone.
10. Ensure presence of army personnel. Police force, scouts any
other rescue team to help people getting out of danger.