The Supreme Court on Friday directed Pakistan Railways (PR) to immediately clear pensioners’ dues and asked for its departmental record to determine when faulty locomotives will become functional again.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry began hearing a suo motu case regarding delayed payment of dues to pensioners of Pakistan Railways. The chief justice said that Pakistan Railways is being destroyed for personal motives and warned that if employees were not paid, salaries of high-ranking officers, including Railways chairman, would be withheld.
The CJP expressed displeasure over the absence of Railways chief. During the course of hearing, Railway Board Secretary Shafiqullah said that pensioners are facing problems due to a shortage of funds, but arrangements are being made to disburse pensions as soon as possible. He requested the court to pass an order to allow them to draw their pension from the federal government’s budget like employees of other departments.
The CJP said Railways has been in crisis for the past four months and its management is guilty of neglect. “Pakistan Railways is a commercial entity and it should generate its own funds.” He said withholding pension from retired government employees is a violation of human rights. The apex court also ordered pensioners to open bank accounts close to their homes.
Shafiqullah said that 106 trains have developed faults and another 362 locomotives are non-functional due to mechanical failure. “Negotiations are under way with companies for repairing 273 locomotives.” The CJP asked him why he did not resign when Railways had practically ground to a halt. “Bad governance is the main reason behind the failure of Pakistan Railways.” He said PR officers have failed to deliver and if they cannot perform their duties, others should be given a chance.
The court also asked what steps are being taken to regain control of ticketing — which has been taken over by black marketers — acres of land occupied by the mafia.
Meanwhile, former railways minister Sheikh Rasheed informed the court he would like to become a party to the case since more than a 100 million people have been affected by the degradation of service.
He will express his viewpoint on the next date of hearing. The case was adjourned till October 31.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2011.
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