News reel


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Progress in Pakistan Railways


ISLAMABAD: The Senate was all smiles Friday when a lady senator, in a bid to praise Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique for his good job, compared him with India’s corruption-tainted ex-railway minister Lalu Prasad.

The House, which saw angry senators expressing anguish over plight of Fata people during an on-going debate, also witnessed light moments during the question hour.

Senator Kulsoom Parveen of the BNP-Awami, apparently oblivious of the recent conviction of Lalu in a 17 years old fodder corruption case, said that Saad Rafique was performing as good as the Indian minister. This prompted several senators to rise on their seats to inform her about the bitter fact about Lalu.

“By this, I mean Lalu had done a very good service to the Indian railways as its minister. I did not refer to his other issues,” the lady senator explained.

Replying questions, Saad Rafique complained that despite clear orders of the Supreme Court, the provinces were not ready to give back land to the railways and that was why they had decided to take the matter to the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

The minister noted that the Railways Ministry wanted to earn revenue from the commercial use of its land, as was successfully being done in India. He said this process had been started from Karachi, wherein cold storages and hotels could be built.

Regarding the Royal Palm issue, Saad Rafique said initially the lease was for 33 years that was increased to 49 years and the leased land was 120 acres that was also enhanced to 141 acres. He added the ministry had filed a petition in the Supreme Court and urged for early hearing of the same.

He said an amount of Rs25 million payable by the party to which the land was leased out was not paid, forcing the government to write a termination letter on this count.The minister noted that no new passenger train would be launched until the freight trains were equal in number to the passenger trains.

Presently, 25 goods trains are in operation and two of these are for transportation of PSO’s oil products. There are 96 passenger trains on tracks presently.About accidents on unmanned railway crossings, he said security on the crossings was the provincial governments’ responsibility and there were a total of 2,442 railway crossings across Pakistan. He added that the ministry had banned opening of new such crossings.

The minister said he had meetings with provincial secretaries and even chief ministers regarding railway crossings. He maintained that the issue of crossings could be solved in next five years if provinces provide funds for this purpose.Saad Rafique made it clear that in future the ministry would allow only underpasses or flyovers at railway tracks and no more new railway crossings will be allowed.