KARACHI - Authorities concerned have started a blame game over the drowning of people at the sea, instead of owing the responsibility for such a criminal negligence that claimed more than two dozen lives.

The costal belt of around 130 kilometres remains without lifeguards as authorities have failed to establish a mechanism for the security of the citizen during the monsoon season.

The civil administration had imposed Section 144 at the beaches, requiring people to keep off the area, but they failed to impose this law and people freely rushed to the beaches in large numbers. The Clifton beach limits fall in the jurisdiction of the Clifton Cantonment Board but the CCB is yet to establish a rescue force to prevent such sort of incidents.

Pakistan Navy, which is leading the rescue operation, considers the civil administration primarily responsible for the deaths. An official wished to be anonymous told that Navy cannot start rescue activities without the request of the civil authorities, while Pakistan Cost Guard was unable to carrying out such kind of operation because of the limited resources.

Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui told The Nation, victims of the tragedy were defying the ban. He said that Section 144 had been imposed for last few months and people were strictly restricted to go in the sea, even the fishermen were not allowed to fish in the open sea. The commissioner said the rescue operation was continuing by the Navy officials who are better equipped and more skilled for this work, and private rescuers, mostly belonging to different NGOs and charitable organisations, have been stopped from continuing their operation because it would be too risky for them to work in an extremely rough sea. To a question he said that people across the world abide the laws and avoid going in sea but defying authorities and taking risks had become a habit of our people.  Siddiqui said that authorities concerned are responsible for establishing a public safety mechanism in their respective jurisdictions. He said this tragedy must be an eye-opener for all. He said now they were trying to develop a mechanism with the coordination of all concern authorities.

Navy spokesman told The Nation that they had started the operation in the wee hours on Wednesday and recovered the bodies of at least seven men on that day. He said that three rescue teams with two air surveillance helicopters were continuing search for the missing. He said that all those who drowned were Pakistanis, as he stressed the need for establishing a civil diving force.

Pakistan Coast Guard spokesman Major Zafar Abbas said that they don’t have enough resources to participate in such circumstance. He added that they could only deal with such issues in the surroundings of Kimari. He said that Pakistan Navy was carrying out the operation with the help of helicopters because the sea is highly ruff and rescue operation is highly risky without the air surveillance teams. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and many top bosses of relevant authorities were in their hometown to celebrate Eid in their native areas. A large number of employees of the authorities concerned were also off to their towns for Eid.

Political leaders on Thursday expressed their grief and sorrow over the tragic deaths. In separate messages, ANP Sindh chief Shahi Syed, Jammat-e-Islami Karachi Chief Hafiz Naeem, MQM-Haqqiqi Chairman Afaq Ahmed, PML-F Dr Taj, PTI Dawa Khan Sabir, PML-Q Haleem Adil Shiekh and other conveyed their condolences to the bereaved families and prayed for the departed souls. They questioned the performance and negligence of the Sindh provincial government and authorities who failed to protect the picnickers. Criticising government they said that the city of above 2 million people badly needed effectual trauma management and disaster response plan.

CM Qaim Ali Shah in a statement expressed his sorrow and directed police and security authorities to take strict measure for security and implement Section 144 to ensure safety of the people at the beaches. He further directed the police administration to increase the number of police personnel at the beach areas. The CM also ordered home secretary, Karachi commissioner and IGP to initiate inquiry of the incident. Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan said officials should use all possible resources for the rescue operation. MQM chief Altaf Hussain said strict ban should be imposed on all Karachi beaches. He expressed sorrow over the loss of lives of young people on Eidul Fitr.