SIALKOT: Salma Bibi, the widow of a retired Pakistan Railways employee Mushtaq Hussain Gillani who survives on her late husband’s pension, is on the verge of starvation. Reason: the Pakistan Railways has not paid her the pension money for the last five months.
She told The Express Tribune that she and her family are suffering serious financial crisis for not receiving the payment.
Hers is not an isolated case. There are more than 2,500 retired railway employees going through the same kind of ordeal.
Two other pensioners Talib Hussain and Khaliq Hussain told The Express Tribune that due to prolonged delay in the payment of pensions they were facing serious problems in paying the tuition fees of their children and utility bills.
They said that due to their old age they were unable to get any job even on a daily-wage basis. The retired employees staged a protest demonstration to press the PR authorities for payment of their pensions.
Muhammad Hafeez, who is in charge of pension payments at the National Bank’s District Courts branch here, said that due to non-availability of funds the payment of pensions was being delayed. Bank officers said that cheques issued by the federal government for payment of pension to retired PR employees bounced for want of funds in the federal government account. They said that if new cheques are issued and cleared, the payments will be made shortly.
The pensioners have appealed to the high-ups for payment before Eidul Azha.
PR is said to be deep in debt due to poor management, ineffective policies and lavish money spending by the bosses at the helm. Their spendthrift ways are partly to blame for the mess the Railways are in, sources said.
Contrast this with the plight of low-ranked retired Railway employees: they are having a hard time making ends meet because of non-payment of pensions.
Some 150 pensioners receive their pensions from Sialkot Railway Station, 85 from National Bank Small Industrial Estate area and another 350 receive pension from National Bank District Courts and most of them were facing the delay.
Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court has given a three-day deadline to pay the salaries of 50 legal advisers who have not been paid. Justice Shaikh Azmat Saeed told the PR’s counsel during the hearing on Wednesday that either PR should pay the salaries of the petitioners or its officers should get ready to go to jails.
The minister for railways Ghulam Ahmed Bilour told INP in Islamabad that he was committed to pulling the railways out of its financial crisis. He said that President Asif Ali Zardari has especially given him time for a meeting on October 17 to discuss the PR crisis at President House. He was optimistic that the meeting will certainly produce some results.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2011.
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