After Pakistan Railways (PR) failed to retrieve 2,000 acres of agricultural, residential and commercial land from the armed forces, the Supreme Court issued notices to the relevant authorities and sought a detailed report from the defence and interior ministries in this regard.
The apex court summoned the railways secretary for the next hearing, and directed all four chief secretaries to cooperate with the railways in retrieving the occupied land. A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry heard a suo motu case involving corruption and irregularities in the department.
The court was informed that out of 5,055 acres of railway land that is occupied, the authority could only retrieve a paltry 67.64 acres. It could not succeed in retrieving a single acre of land from the armed forces.
Out of the 5,055 acres, 1,059.64 alone are under the occupation of the Pakistan Army. Pakistan Rangers, Janbaz Force, Frontier Constabulary, Frontier Corps, Pakistan Air Force and Frontier Works Organisation are also among the illegal occupants, as per the railways report submitted before the court.
The court also termed PR and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) progress in this regard unsatisfactory. The court also expressed its annoyance over the PR Chairman’s absence despite the court notice, and directed him to ensure his personal appearance at the next hearing.
The chief justice asked, “Has the Railways brought any influential people within the net or are only the cottages of poor people being demolished?”
He added that in Quetta, while FC land had remained untouched the land belonging to the poor had been grabbed. “It has become the culture in this country that law is enforced only on the poor people, whereas no one dares to touch the influential people,” the chief justice noted.
Pointing to negligence on NAB’s part, he said, “Had the work been done, all the illegal occupants would have been in jails”.
The report submitted by the railways stated that 15 more locomotives will be repaired soon. It added that business train, under the auspices of a public-private partnership, has successfully been launched on February 3 between Lahore and Karachi, whereas the Shalimar Express train between Lahore and Karachi will be inaugurated on February 24
During the hearing, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Railways Chairperson Ayaz Sadiq informed the court that the PR had become “the most corrupt institution of the country”.
While the chief justice noted that the bureaucracy was not taking action against their ‘corrupt brothers’, an embittered Sadiq said he did not have faith in the Federal Investigation Agency or NAB as both are “corrupt departments”.
Former railways minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad told the court that the business train launched recently between Lahore and Karachi had been given on contract to the son of National Assembly member Abdul Ghafoor and three others, alleging that the much anticipated train had suffered losses worth Rs100 million in 10 days alone. He said spare parts worth Rs1.5 billion recently purchased from China had not yet reached Karachi.
The former minister added, ominously, that huge embezzlements were made in the purchase of these spare parts, and that the court should also take note of the matter.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2012.
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