The increasing frequency of railway accidents in the country in recent years indicates that some things are seriously wrong with the Pakistan Railways. Around 3:30am on Monday, Peshawar-bound Millat Express, which was on its way from Karachi, collided with Sargodha-bound Sir Syed Express, which was en route to Karachi, leaving at least 40 passengers of the two trains dead and 100 others injured. The death toll is likely to rise as many are feared trapped in the mangled bogies of the ill-fated trains.
The horrific mishap occurred near Rohri in Ghotki district. Several coaches of Millat Express derailed and collided with the other train coming from the opposite direction. The impact of the collision was so strong that 13 to 14 coaches of the two trains derailed and overturned. Of these, 6 to 8 bogies were completely destroyed. The accident happened at an unearthly hour when most of the passengers were asleep. Rescue work was underway at the time these lines were being written and it is difficult to say when rescuers would be able to reach those still trapped inside the damaged bogies.
The regularity of railway accidents raises several questions about safety measures being taken by the authorities, and competence and efficiency of the railway administration. There is also the factor of negligence. These suspicions are strengthened by the official inquiry reports into railway accidents that have also pointed to these deficiencies. In this accident, the possibility of sabotage too cannot be ruled out.
However, former railways minister Saad Rafique, a senior leader of the PML-N, believes that lack of maintenance of the tracks and related components is chiefly responsible for the accident. “Which machine can keep on working without the upkeep it requires!” exclaims Rafique in his reaction to the Ghotki accident, one of the most horrendous in a series of such accidents over the last couple of years.
All these aspects need to be thoroughly probed in order to eliminate the chances of accidents in the future. It is about time the authorities took corrective measures to inspire the trust of the people.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2021.
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