Lodhran tragedy: Railway employees warn of strike over arrests

Investigations suggest human error caused accident

Owais Qarni January 09, 2017

MULTAN: Scores of Railways employees protested against the arrest of a fireman and a train driver who were taken into custody over the Lodhran train accident. While the investigation team reached Lahore after completing their probe into the accident, the employees warned of a wheel-jam strike.

The team interrogated train driver Raja Zulfiqar, fireman Tauqeer Mushtaq and gateman Fazil at the City police station in Lodhran. All of them were ultimately taken into custody.

Eight people, including six schoolchildren, lost their lives when a train crashed into two rickshaws at a railway crossing.

Chief Operating Superintendent Mahmoodul Hassan said an inquiry report would be compiled and presented within seven days. However, present investigations revealed that the accident occurred due to human error and not weather or fog, he said. Hassan added a signal system was not working properly as per the initial inquiry.

Mahmood ul Hassan led the team, while others included Chief Mechanical Engineer Shahid Aziz, Chief Engineer Open Line Basharat Waheed and Chief Signal Engineer Ataullah. The team jotted down the statements of MS Lodhran and Adam Wahan, chief controller, deputy controller, PWI, MET and signal assistants.

Pakistan Railways Running Staff Association Joint Secretary Abdul Waheed Shah, who led the protesters, reiterated the warning of a wheel-jam strike across the country if the fireman and the driver were not released within three days. He demanded stern action against the senior officials instead of drivers, gatemen and firemen.

The association’s president, Rana Sarwar Ali, said the police was using violent means to get to the driver and fireman to confess to a crime they did not commit.

“Negligent officers are trying to make poor people scapegoats to hide their inefficiencies,” he added.

Train drivers cannot continue with their jobs in this current situation, said association general secretary Mehar Asif Ali. He added around 200 drivers of the Multan region had requested early retirement as they had to bear the brunt for officers’ negligence.

He said railway officials fix fog signals at a distance of 800 metres from the train crossing gates. Ali stated that these signals were provided to train drivers, security guards and gatekeepers, but officials had not provided the necessary equipment and firecrackers to the drivers for a long time. He alleged that the railway officials were continuously receiving funds, but were involved in misappropriation.

A protester said railway officials did not want the organisation to prosper as they would have to put in an honest day’s work for this to transpire.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2017.


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