Graft in Pakistan Railways: NAB asked to complete probe

SC expresses satisfaction at the report submitted by PR.

Our Correspondent March 20, 2012


In a bid to rid Pakistan Railways (PR) of corruption once and for all, the Supreme Court (SC) directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday to complete its investigation of the PR’s graft cases on a priority basis. The court then disposed of its earlier suo motu action.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry heard the case about the non-payment of salaries and corruption in the institution.

The bench observed that the detailed report submitted by PR authorities suggested that the department had started to streamline itself. The approval only went so far, however.

The chief justice remarked that a number of passengers were still travelling on trains without paying fare, in connivance with PR employees.

“Everyone is involved in corruption in the department,” he added.

The court also observed that 25% of corruption would end immediately if the PR introduced a computerised system for tickets.

“Across the world, people are using computers. Then why is PR still relying on a manual system?” he questioned.

Railways Chairman Arif Azeem informed the court that after the suo motu notice, considerable progress has been made on different issues.

“Pensions and salaries are now being paid to all railways employees by the department,” he asserted.

Upon this, the chief justice asked the chairman whether it would be possible for the department to evolve a mechanism whereby pensioners receive pensions from post offices located nearer to their homes.

The chairman replied in the affirmative, saying the authorities were working on it.  “We are in touch with the Pakistan Post authorities to evolve such a mechanism exactly,” he asserted. Azeem apprised the court that at the time of SC’s notice, 106 trains were not functioning while another 362 locomotives were out of order. “Now, negotiations are under way with the private sector for rehabilitation of up to 100 locomotives,” he said.

“A commercial loan of Rs6.1 billion has also been arranged by PR’s finance division to repair 96 more locomotives,” he added.

Efforts still needed

Regarding cases of graft, Azeem said that the PR authorities had referred eight different cases to the NAB for further investigations, including four cases in the Royal Palm Golf Club land leasing scandal.

PR’s submitted report highlights that “within one and a half month, the department has retrieved railway land worth Rs4 billion from 2000 illegal occupants,” the report continues.

However, much still needs to be done as the report itself makes it clear.

Some 3,039 acres of agricultural, commercial, and residential land is still in possession of private elements and 447 acres of land is held by different government agencies, according to the report. 5,055 acres land is in the possession of army, Frontier Corps (FC) and other security forces as well.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2012.


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