The proprietor and operator of a chairlift that was stranded above a ravine in Battagram due to high winds have been arrested, according to a statement from a local police officer. Mohammad Sheraz Khan, an officer at a district police station, confirmed the apprehension of both individuals after the rescue of the stranded passengers. However, he did not provide specific details regarding the charges brought against them.
The Deputy Inspector General of Hazara Division, Tahir Ayub, informed the media that the incident occurred due to a cable break. Consequently, a case was filed against the owner of the chairlift, Gulzarain, and the operator, Ejaz.
Prior to this incident, the Deputy Commissioner of Battagram had issued a notice to all chairlift operators, requiring reports on the fitness, maintenance, and safety protocols of their lifts. The chairlift owner had not responded to the notice issued about a month before the incident.
Regarding the possibility of restoring the lift service, the Deputy Commissioner stated that the district government would only permit the chairlift service to resume after ensuring proper repairs and safety measures.
Chairlifts play a crucial role in transportation in hilly regions. While a complete ban on their use is not feasible, the government aims to impose conditions on their operation, according to the DIG.
Rescuers successfully saved all eight individuals stranded on the chairlift after over 15 hours of being suspended due to a snapped cable.
In response to the incident, several chairlifts connecting different hilly areas in Balakot have been temporarily closed, leading to the isolation of multiple villages and disrupting transport routes. This action was directed by the assistant commissioner of Balakot.
Due to these closures, the Paror community in Balakot is facing challenges such as food shortages and students being unable to attend school. The former nazim of Bela Sacha Paror, Munir Hussain Shah, emphasized the risks of chairlift journeys and called attention to a previously trapped group. Shah revealed that approval for a bridge in Paror was granted two years ago, but construction has not yet begun.
Frustrated residents are urging prompt government action to construct the promised bridge and reopen the sealed chairlift to ensure the community’s well-being.
Additionally, as a precautionary measure, several chairlifts in Balakot and other tourist spots within the Tehsil have also been closed.
These incidents highlight the complexities of balancing transportation needs, safety considerations, and community welfare in hilly regions reliant on chairlifts for connectivity.