Railway and road accidents are a common occurrence in Pakistan. On July 11, at least 16 people were killed and more than 80 injured when Quetta-bound Akbar Express collided with a goods train near Sadiqabad. The death toll is feared to rise as some passengers are reported to be in a serious condition. Carriages and the train engine were heavily damaged. On June 20, three people died when Jinnah Express, travelling from Karachi to Lahore, crashed into a parked freight train in Hyderabad. When there are engine drivers who get down on a halt station to buy naan-chholay, give control of the engine to a young girl and no corrective actions are taken, then accidents should not come as a surprise.
A National Assembly panel was recently told that there have been 384 train accidents in the country since 2014: 74 in 2018-19, 67 in 2017-18, 78 in 2016-17, 76 in 2015-16 and 89 accidents in 2014-15. These figures are by no means small. For the past many years, the Pakistan Railways has been on decline due to corruption, mismanagement, inefficiency, favouritism and nepotism in recruitment. So far not much corrective measures seem to have been taken by the government to stem the rot. The PTI-led government has taken some half-hearted steps to arrest the downslide in the affairs of the railways. This is borne out by the fact that the railway minister bragged much about introducing a new train from Karachi City Station to Dhabeji. Of course, commuters preferred this train to road transport. But the train service was discontinued in less than a year for reasons unknown.
The government should order a probe to get to the causes of frequent railway accidents. The possibility of an organised conspiracy aimed at failing the railways cannot be ruled out. All aspects of the issue should be kept in view. This is necessary to bring the railways back on track.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2019.