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بدھ، 20 جولائی، 2011

Pakistan Railways coming to a Dead

In a shocking development, Minister for Railways Haji Guhlam Ahmad Bilour revealed on Monday that the Railways has been left with only two-day fuel and its operation would come to a grinding halt if the Government did not provide necessary finances. He claimed that department was standing at the verge of virtual collapse due to non-availability of funds and absence of locomotives to run goods and passenger trains.

Pakistan Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour has portrayed a dismal picture of the organization quoting financial crunch as the main reason. Speaking at a news conference in Lahore on Monday, the minister said the government approved last year Rs13 billion bailout package as a one-time assistance but has released only Rs3.5 billion so far. He talked about depletion to “dangerous level” the critical fuel reserves and if the reserves was not augmented, the entire operational activity would come to grinding halt. Pakistan Railways was a profitable public service utility till 1976 when its decline started that has not been arrested in 35 years. And the most important factor to this deterioration is rampant corruption in one of the cheapest, safest and most economical service. The PR’s losses began when Gen Ziaul Haq’s ministers plundered its resources, particularly in the procurement of rolling stock and their spareparts. No bids were ever invited by Zia’s ministers who themselves approached companies abroad, mostly from China. This practice has not stopped till now and this was Haji Bilour himself who placed the order of importing 75 locomotives in 2009-10. This deal was challenged in the Supreme Court through a constitutional petition and this is the case whose early decision has been requested by the minister on the plea that pending the petition the PR was losing Rs1,50,000 that the PR had to pay to the Chinese firm every day for not making payment of the locomotives in a stipulated period. Every PR budget has a sizeable annual allocation for the maintenance of rolling stock, track and signaling system. Most of these funds are feared misappropriated in procurement of spareparts. No doubt that Pakistan Railways is heavily short of locomotives, high-capacity wagons and coaches to haul passenger and freight traffic. Only 155 from the stock of 520 locomotives are being pressed into passengers service and the remaining are out of order. In working condition and the number of locomotives for freight trains is only 12. As a result, some 3,000 wagons loaded with freight had been stationed at Karachi waiting for engines to haul them upcountry. In all, the PR is short by some 400 locomotives to efficiently run its passenger and freight trains.What, however, remains a mystery is why is the PR not using its own locomotive and carriage workshops at Mughalpura, Lahore, and the carriage factory in Islamabad to repair engines, coaches and wagons although a number of this rolling stock can be put back to rail with little repair, although most of this stock has been discarded as unfit for service. These workshops have in the past prepared whole of trains for many Asian and African countries and they are known for their quality works. The Railway needs a bailout package to keep the wheel moving; but propriety demands that the entire railways affairs are investigated by a high powered judicial commission the degree of corruption since 1976 to fix responsibility and punish officers and political people responsible for the collapse of this public utility. The commission should also probe turning the organization into various corporations in 1990 that followed closure of hundreds of branch lines all over the country.

It is unfortunate that at a time when Railways elswhere in the world have moved towards bullet trains, Pakistan Railway is at the verge of collapes. Whether or not the Government provides financial injection to Pakistan Railway, its conditions would not improve until and unless it gets a dynamic leadership that is willing to initiate reforms and carry out surgery to remove corruption and improve its services.
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