LAHORE: Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid has said the only way Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari could salvage his political career is by launching a campaign against his father, Asif Ali Zardari, and aunt, Faryal Talpur, and by having them held ‘accountable for their crimes’.
“Instead of trying to save Zardari and Talpur, Bilawal will be better off launching a campaign against them. This is the only way he can establish his credentials in the country’s political landscape,” Rashid said while addressing media in Lahore on Saturday.
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Talking about Zardari, he said the PPP co-chairman is an astute political mind ‘who keeps his cards close to his chest’. “The day Bilawal says ‘if Zardari and Talpur are found guilty, then they should be hanged’ is the day he will truly become a political force,” said the minister while suggesting to Bilawal to distance himself from the corruption and money laundering allegations facing his father and aunt.
When asked about the recent string of arrests of high-profile politicians, including Zardari and Talpur and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Hamza Shehbaz, Rashid said more arrest will follow.
“There will be more arrests in the coming 15 days as 20 to 21 files are ready for reference,” he said. “I had already predicted that there would be a cleanup drive and all the corrupt politicians would end up behind bars,” he added.
The minister also rejected suggestions that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was being used against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) political rivals. “Shehbaz Sharif and Faryal Talpur are availing leniency.”
Rashid also claimed that the current corruption conviction of and allegations against the PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and Zardari would prove to be the death knell of their political careers.
He refuted the reports of a presidential system in Pakistan, adding that: “Anything can happen in this country but the governments of Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari will never return.
“This is the end of the road in politics for Zardari and Nawaz,” he added.
During his press conference at the headquarters of Pakistan Railways, Rashid announced that he would not only quit as railways minister but also politics if he was unable to reduce the department’s losses by August 24.
He also announced the issuance of tender for high-speed trains for Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi, Hyderabad to Sukkur as well as Main Line-1 (ML-1) on build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis.
He added that the department had obtained funds for ML-1 whereas the Punjab government had also provided funding for two universities. “Funds are also available for hospitals for mother and child care in Rawalpindi and Nullah Lai, and soon all these projects will be completed.”
The railways minister said work on the command and control system in Lahore would be completed within a month. “People will be able to check the position of trains from their homes.”
Rashid said a decision had also been made to install trackers in freight trains and the department is going to connect 117 inquiry helpline with telecommunication provider.
“220 call centres will assist travellers in booking tickets. Prime Minister Imran Khan would inaugurate the Sir Syed Express on June 30, although it was a tentative date,” he said.
To another question, he said the Pakistan Railways had benefitted from keeping its reservation offices open round-the-clock, garnering business to the tune of Rs400 million. However, he didn’t mention the difference the new facility made on total revenue or the timeframe in which it was generated.
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“Those who want to shoot dramas and movies at railway stations will be allowed to do so gratis,” he said, adding that using any engine, wagon or other material would be charged as per the PR rules.
Regarding the department’s fuel capacity, Rashid said: “The department has oil depots in case of emergency and more depots will be added.” As per the rules, the department should have fuel for seven days, but we have it for 20 days, he added.
He said a decision had also been made to increase fare of freight trains by 10 per cent. "We are going to manufacture freight wagons and passenger coaches."