Problems for pensioners

Published: October 30, 2011

With 90,000 employees, Pakistan Railways is one of the largest employers in the country. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

With 90,000 employees, Pakistan Railways is one of the largest employers in the country and has been so almost since its very inception 150 years ago. So when it fails to pay its pensioners for several months on end, it has a big impact across virtually every district in Pakistan. Yet, even as the crisis at the railways has come front and centre on the national agenda, there is depressingly little talk of sustainable and lasting solutions.

One would have hoped that a man dying outside a bank branch while waiting for his pension would have shocked the ministry and the company’s management out of their complacency. It appears, however, that nearly everybody who has a say in the matter is still looking to make ad hoc decisions.

President Asif Ali Zardari has taken action against branch managers at the National Bank of Pakistan, which was responsible for disbursing the pensions. The chief justice of Pakistan has taken a somewhat more interesting approach of threatening the railways’ management’s salaries if they fail to pay pensions to the company’s retirees. The apex court has also, thankfully, accepted the principle that the railways should be run like a commercial entity, meaning it should be required to turn a profit. It is likely that the government will release some amount of money to the railways as a means to ensure that the pensioners finally get paid.

Yet this still leaves the question unanswered as to why — if the railways are so desperate for cash — they refuse to present a credible plan to restructure the company and move it towards profitability. This very reasonable request has been made by the finance ministry, which says that it will then release funds that will eventually allow Pakistan Railways to get back on its feet. The finance ministry is acting like the grown-up in this situation. It is time the railways management did what is best for their institution and the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st,  2011.

Reader Comments (4)

  • Interconnect
    Oct 31, 2011 - 1:41PM

    Sovereign state guarantee for the railway debts/outstanding for salaries are very important. With our head count of 90,000 salaried staff and the state of affairs it is most important to look for alternatives as redundancy of the huge surplus staff to reduce the cost of operations. It is very important that the railway staff should be trained on modern rail technologies, automation, high speed rail etc.
    In order to prepare the staff for the time to come, for the newer technologies, fuel, environment as hydrogen gas operation of railways was demonstrated in Europe. Being close to the international organisations I would suggest massive training/re-organising of the railways. Timing is very precious the default of railway will hurt the national credibility, pride and future. First be ready for the challenge and train, educate the lot.

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  • Gul Bahadur
    Oct 31, 2011 - 4:09PM

    This is not something new.Every dept.whether federal or provincial is immune to proper functioning.A case in point is the decision of the supreme court where all those who had retired before 2001 were given some relief in pension and gratuity.The decision was made sometimes in may and the P.M. Had issued a notification to that effect.It would be news to all that no action was taken and the beneficiaries of that are still waiting for the implementation of the order of supreme court.Even the universities,where one would expect a fair play from the so called educated community are silent over the issue.One wonders why the supreme court issues orders when those are flouted with disrespect.

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  • It Is Economy Stupid
    Nov 1, 2011 - 3:19PM

    Cost of one stealth missile will cover the cost of all railway workers pension. It is time to make right decisions Recommend

  • Nov 1, 2011 - 8:31PM

    It is a very sad situation that a pensioner died while waiting at a bank counter for his pension. There are innumerable problems faced by common people in this country while dealing with government departments. There should be a help desk in every department to resolve the issues within a reasonable period. The government shall impose penalties/fines on the government employees who do not attend to these problems or sit on the files. The military is only the establishment in this country where its people get all the benefits promptly either in service or after service.

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