ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Railways has directed railway authorities to provide details of new appointments including estimated salary outflows.
The details were sought after former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique opposed the new appointments in a briefing given by the Pakistan Railways to the NA panel. The committee also directed railway authorities to present details of total railway land, revenue generated and expenditures incurred as well as statistics pertaining to rail engines in the next session.
Chairman Moin Watto chaired the standing committee meeting in which officials from the Pakistan Railways informed the committee about the department’s performance and issues.
They informed the committee that the railway track was 11,881 kilometres long, while its overall route extended to 7,791 kilometres. The department has 458 locomotives and 1,819 passenger coaches from which 321 engines are operational, while another 70 could be made operational with overhaul. As a pilot project, railway department is currently overhauling five locomotives. The officials acknowledged that there was a need to improve the condition of railway tracks.
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Pakistan Railways is functioning with 132 trains, while oil reserves for 20 days are available, the officials informed. It has human resource capacity for 95,712 people against which 73,137 employees are currently working in the department, while 22,000 positions remain vacant, they added. In addition, there are over 120,000 pensioners of the department
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Khawaja Saad Rafique said that civil and military governments have not paid any attention to the railway department. “Railways can only stand on its feet again when it is free from all political pressures,” he added.
He maintained that the department was destroyed in a systemic manner during the course of five to six decades. “It will take over 15 years to restore the department to its full function,” he remarked.
Opposing new appointments in the department, Rafique maintained that such a measure will make railways financially bankrupt. “New appointments are only possible on contractual basis. Permanent employees will remain hanging on the department's payroll till the Day of Judgment,” he said.
Railway officials told the committee that appointments for 10,000 vacant positions were being made, to which the PML-N leader expressing reservations said that such a move will not be tolerated and that the authorities should present the committee of the appointments and the resultant financial burden.
The officials told the committee that Railways was paying Rs34 billion annually on account of pensions while 64 per cent of the department's budget is allocated for salaries and pensions alone.
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“Pakistan Railways has over 167,600 acres of land from which Punjab has 90,000 acres, Sindh has over 39,400 acres, Balochistan has 28,400 acres and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has over 9,700 acres,” they said.
Last year, the department collected Rs49.6 billion in revenues against its target of Rs50 billion, the officials informed the NA committee.
In the current fiscal year, the department has only added Rs500 million to its revenue target.
In the last year, the department made Rs19 billion in freight revenue against its target of Rs21 billion. As compared to the previous year, the department showed improvements in the current year, the officials said. In the first six months of the current fiscal year, the department made Rs33.39 billion in revenues.
Railway department officials also briefed the NA panel about their participation in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s tree plantation drive, having set up 24 nurseries with 250,000 plants. Another 300000 saplings will be planted during spring, they added.
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