Railways is a corrupt department, admits Rashid

Says only ML-1 project can save institution from complete destruction


Rizwan Shehzad   January 31, 2020
Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid. PHOTO: AGENCIES/FILE

ISLAMABAD: After being reprimanded by the Supreme Court for not taking any constructive steps in the wake of Tezgam incident and uplift of railways, Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid has finally admitted that Pakistan Railways is a “corrupt” department.

The apex court had summoned the federal minister on Tuesday and gave him two weeks’ time to submit a business plan for upgrading the railways.

Chiding Rashid, the chief justice had remarked that he should have resigned after the train tragedy.

A day earlier, commenting on the Tezgam tragedy and lack of measures taken for the uplift of the railways, the apex court observed that no department in the country was more corrupt than Pakistan Railways.

Last year, in October, 73 passengers were burnt to death when apparently a gas cylinder brought by one of the travellers exploded.
Rashid, who appeared in Express News talk show, “The Review” admitted that Pakistan Railways was a corrupt department but not the most corrupt in the country.

He said the only thing that could save the railways from complete destruction was the Main Railway Line-1 (ML-1) project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“ML-1 is the matter of life and death for Pakistan Railways,” he said, adding that “no revolution would come in railways without ML-1”.
The main line project involving 1872km railway track will be completed at a total cost of $8,172 million with the scope of doubling of entire track from Karachi to Peshawar.

The speed of passenger trains will be raised from the current 65km to 110km per hour to 160km per hour, while freight trains will be operated at 120km per hour.

The entire track will have computer-based signalling and control system in addition to grade separation to ensure safety of train operations.

The main line will cover Karachi to Peshawar via Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Rohri, Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalpur, Khanewal, Sahiwal, Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi and Peshawar.

The railways minister observed that ML-1 would approximately create 100,000 employment opportunities – 90,000 for Pakistanis and 10,000 for Chinese nationals – in the coming three to four months.

The minister declared that railways was burdened because of its annual deficit of Rs32 billion and was facing crisis such as shortage of competent people, pensions and mass retirement of employees in the coming months.

Railways officer suspended over Tezgam tragedy after SC drubbing

“Sorry to say but I don’t see railways coming out of the deficit during current government’s tenure unless ML-1 is completed,” he said.
“PC-1 and feasibility report is before the planning ministry and the nation would soon hear good news about ML-1,” he announced, without any further elaboration.

He blamed the PML-N government for slowing down of the ML-1 project and said the past regime did not take any constructive steps for the purpose.

Rashid claimed that the ongoing case before the top court did not pertain to his tenure but to the previous government.
He added that the cases related to his tenure were expected to be taken up in June this year.

Commenting on the Tezgam passenger train tragedy, Rashid said he stood by his words that the incident occurred due to a cylinder blast and not because of a short circuit.

He said railways accidents mostly took place due to the reason that 3,000 railway crossings across Pakistan were not fenced.

Deliberating on the political situation, Rashid said both the establishment and government were on the same page and had good relations.

“In Rawalpindi’s opinion, Imran Khan is the only choice,” he said.
The minister predicted that there was no chance that former premier Nawaz Sharif would return to Pakistan.

Calling Shehbaz Sharif as “our own man”, Rashid said “Shehbaz managed to play on both sides of the wicket.”

He quipped that Shehbaz could “change a hat and come back”, adding that “he has bought some new hats during his stay in London”.

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