To get Pakistan Railways (PR) back on track, the Supreme Court has ordered Chairman PR Javed Iqbal to prepare a report on the total number of locomotives and expenditure on their repairs and maintenance with former railways minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed’s assistance and submit it in seven days’ time.
The chairman informed the court that PR has 494 locomotives, 60 per cent of which are dysfunctional. “Since repairs would not be cost effective, they need to be replaced.” “Why is Pakistan railways interested in purchasing new locomotives instead of second-hand ones? Corruption is at the root cause of the railways’ destruction,” said Chief Justice (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Ahmed said 20 locomotives have been repaired and the department is waiting for funds to fix the rest. He said each locomotive can be repaired for Rs10 million since PR has spare parts.
Ahmed told the bench that he was being pressured to withdraw from the case.
The CJP proposed a forensic audit for highlighting irregularities in PR and fixing of responsibility. The court has ordered the National Accountably Bureau (NAB) to initiate legal action against corrupt officers and employees of Pakistan railways in light of the forensic audit once it comes up with its findings.
A division bench headed by the CJP was hearing a suo motu case on payment of salaries and pension to PR employees. The apex court also ordered all provincial chief secretaries to present details of the department’s land occupied by the mafia within ten days.
Presenting a report to the bench, PR counsel Rai Nawaz Kharal contended that the auction of scrap at cheaper rates is being minutely investigated and efforts are under way for recovery of land occupied by the mafia. The CJP asked the counsel why PR had not taken recourse to the law for recovery of occupied land.
Chairman senate standing committee Ayaz Sadiq informed the bench that PR was bailed out with Rs12 billion but it did not work out because of the absence of a railway board.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2011.