Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique. — File Photo
ISLAMABAD: If a federal minister is to be believed he intends to send a retired army general and former railways minister behind bars for causing a severe haemorrhage of the institution.
Painting a bleak picture of the state of railways in the National Assembly on Friday, Khwaja Saad Rafique said the organisation had been bleeding profusely since 2000 at the hands of its managers and at present it was literally on a ‘life support system’.
He lashed out at retired Lt Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi for triggering collapse of the Pakistan Railways in 2002 as its minister and said he was waiting for the appointment of a new chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file cases against the general.
“We have done the homework and the moment a new NAB chairman, whose appointment is due, takes charge, we will bring all those, including Gen Qazi, to the dock for causing irrevocable losses to the organisation,” Mr Rafique said.
It may be mentioned here that Gen Qazi and a number of PR officials were accused of being involved in the controversial leasing of railways land in Lahore to a private company which built a golf. A special parliamentary committee of the previous National Assembly had recommended filing of criminal cases against people involved in the leasing of the land. According to the findings of the committee, the deal caused losses of over Rs25 billion.
“Until now many officials of the PR have served sentences for their part in its mismanagement, and some are serving, but so far none of the big guns has been held accountable,” Mr Rafique said, adding that time had come to bring them to book. “I will not spare anybody.”
The minister was replying to lawmakers’ questions about how soon the government would be able to bring some improvement in the operations of the railways which over the years had severely deteriorated.
“At the moment the entire fleet the PR locomotives have completed their shelf lives and one can well imagine how trains are being managed,” he said.
The PR is running 96 passenger trains in the country and at least during the current financial year the government can’t afford to start any new train due to shortage of engines.
About a deal for importing 75 locomotives from China signed by the PPP government, the minister said not only had the contract been cancelled but the Chinese company had also been blacklisted.
“It was the same company which provided 69 faulty engines in 2002. Notwithstanding the Chinese government’s pressure, I have also through the Foreign Office filed a claim of Rs2.5bn against the company.”
Sharing details of how the PR had suffered because of sheer ineptitude of its former bosses, Mr Rafique said: “I got the shock of my life when I was told that the director general (legal) of the PR is not a law graduate.”
He said the ministry was hiring a former high court judge as director of legal affairs to retrieve its land from illegal occupants.
He said the railways had suffered a loss of Rs32bn in 2012-13, which he hoped would be curtailed because he had recently managed to put about 10 redundant locomotives back on the tracks after maintenance. The PR also has to repay loans of Rs71bn.
The minister said in a written answer that the railways owned 167,690 acres of land which, if put to use, could be of great help in ending its losses.