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A cyclist crossing railway tracks in a dangerous way at Jhal Khanuwana Phattak. — Photo by APP
A cyclist crossing railway tracks in a dangerous way at Jhal Khanuwana Phattak. — Photo by APP

LAHORE, June 16: The new government decision to reshape Pakistan Railways and the subsequent policy statement by Minister In-charge Khwaja Saad Rafiq regarding making it a ‘corporation’ has created doubts about the move enormity of which seems no less than cleaning of Augean stables.

After assuming the charge, Saad Rafiq had on June 13 announced that the Pakistan Railway would be turned into a corporation governed by a restructured (railway) board.

This is not for the first time that revival of the railway board has been sought. In 2005, the then minister of state, Ishaq Khan Khakwani, had raised voice for the railway board’s autonomy. Later, four retired principal officers of Pakistan Railways had in 2011 seconded Khakwani’s proposal.

“Making railways a corporation may prove a Herculean task (for the government) as it will need the intervention of powerful Council of Common Interest, governed by Articles 153 and 154 of the Constitution,” maintains Mr Khakwani who was deputy chief engineer in the PR when he resigned in 1989.

“Before giving a policy statement about what he intends to do with PR, Khwaja Sahib should have spent some days looking into the issue as to why the organisation has not yet been privatised or turned into a corporation? Being a minister is one thing and getting to decide the issue to turn the railways into a viable organisation is totally a different ball game.

“The first thought which comes to mind on seeing the allocation of portfolios is that the PR is not high on Nawaz Sharif’s agenda. In the prime minister’s team, if at all anyone has dealt with railways it is Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. Khwaja Saad Rafiq has never dealt with any serious issue in his tenures at national level. The PM has chosen a star performer at TV talk shows to pull the railways out of debt, corrupt practices and lethargy syndrome from which it suffers at the hands of its managers… (it would be) a huge task for Khawja Sahib,” said Mr Khakwani.

“For the PR to turn around, it has to be taken out of the ministry’s control and run professionally by a new Railway Board with some seed money injected. The new board members be hired locally and or from overseas. Selection of professionals cannot be restricted to Pakistan alone. It should include chartered accountants, transport specialists, engineers (of various fields), security managers and economists. This Board can later hire a law firm and a real estate developer to assist it in achieving its goals. Above all, the state has to adopt a principle that organisations cannot come into competition with each other — case in point being National Highways, NLC and railways. If at all these have to be developed that must not be at each other’s cost,” maintained the former minister.

Four retired principal engineers of the PR had in 2011 proposed restoration of the old organisational setup of the Railway Board in a report “by re-designating the posts of additional general managers as member (mechanical), member (traffic) and member (engineering) whereas the post of member (finance) already exists with the ministry of railways.

“The set-up was tried for more than three decades without any problem but was changed on the recommendations of Irish consultants appointed by the World Bank,” says the report prepared by Asad Saeed, Aurangzeb Khan, Anwar Saeed and Iqbal Khatri.

Both Mr Asad Saeed and Mr Khan served as general managers (operations) and retired as GM (M&S) while Mr Saleem as managing director of Locomotive Factory, Risalpur and Mr Khatri as additional general manager (passengers).

“The views expressed by senior (serving) officers indicate there is often a clash of opinion between chief mechanical engineer and AGM (mechanical) on technical issues which is damaging for the organisation. With functioning members of Railway Board at the Ministry in Islamabad deciding all policy matters and general manager (operations) dealing with all day-to-day affairs and acting as chief executive of PR, decision making will be smooth and quick which is the need of the hour,” said the Report on Deterioration in Availablity and Reliability of Locomotives.

Comments (47) Closed

Shabbir Jun 17, 2013 11:17am

In my view probaly current government want to convert PR into a scarp producing entity. How come H.E. Ayaz Saddiqe can lead PR when he is owner of big companeis which deal with Pakistan Railways. Would it not be conflict of interest.

Saad Rafiq -> creat scrap in PR -> Ayaz Saddiq -> his companies buy from PR -> use that scap in higher up Foundries -> end product to be used in another Metro by higher up contractors :)

Gautam Jun 17, 2013 11:24am

Good luck and lol !

ysk Jun 17, 2013 01:14pm

Please spend some time writing something worthwhile...just mentioning herculian task and mentioning besides the obvious is waste of space

akram Jun 17, 2013 02:42pm

this is long over due however rather than one big corporation it should be privatized into multiple corporations in different areas. With the profitable areas providing money to be used in the non profitable ones.

Its time all these loss making assets are turned around by modern management.

NAEEM sYED Jun 17, 2013 03:35pm

I need to cut off my hands for writing this but in the better national interest i would suggest to the PM to give the job of rehabilitating the PR to the second most loathed person in the country. Mr Riaz malik. He is a opportunist, a man of so many shades but still I think he has the muscle, the organisational ability, the finance to put it back on its feet. He must first take an oath in front of the whole Parliament to forsake Politics for ever,and devote the rest of his life to the betterment of the Country so his name can go down in history as a savior and not a land grabbing crook. You can count on him to sell of much of the land the railways owns, but then he has to fund the PR back into the black. He has the wherewithal to make the Railways flourish again. Can you imagine what that would do. Clean.On time trains .reasonable fares would allow the public to travel again and take off the pressure of the high costing Air travel.

Mr. prime Minister give it a go and you wont be sorry. May be you may give him the franchise to set up 10 High capacity Electric generating systems simultaneously in the next two years all over the country. He has the money, he has the ability, he has again the muscle what he really need is a place in history.

What i am trying to say there a a Hundred other so blessed, like Mian Mansha, Wazir Ali group, and others who would be more than willing to step up and share the responsibility. This would take off the pressure of Money,Time and responsibility of the Government to tackle other pressing matters such as Defense, Education, and most important to the time to deal with the law and order in the country, particularly Karachi.

Mr. PM persuade Altaf Hussain to come back to Pakistan and merge MQM with you Party, thus you will be rid of PPP for ever and have a strong if an overly ambitious ally. What I am trying to say that this is the time for bold,bold steps and not the time to think you can solve all the problems by yourself. You justy dont have the time.

G1 Jun 17, 2013 04:27pm

Most of the locomotives in Islamic Republic of Pakistan are "Made in China". Why don't Pakistan have a ToT or MOU for a joint cooperation in PR... given that both countries are cooperating in nuclear technology, fighter jets, missile technology and all other things that are meant to target India?

Aizaz Moin Jun 17, 2013 05:09pm

Actually, Yes Good Luck. It is important that state institutions are resurrected/re-invigourated. Railways, PIA, the Mail service, our failed medical service, to name a few. It is crucial that these very fine institutions come back to life to serve the average Pakistani in the street, who pays his taxes and expects some return on his investment. That said, some new creations must also be taken in hand. For example creating a national pension scheme, where the taxpayer must be the final authority to its usage. Education should be free without exception so rich and poor can integrate to form a new Pakistan and we must also extract talent from every class of individual. COME ON PAKISTAN, THERE'S WORK TO BE DONE!

Yasir Khan Jun 17, 2013 05:17pm

@Gautam: poor Indians. Their newspapers are full of bollywood rubbish and Laloo Prasad, so they have to read Pakistani newspapers. lol at poor Gautam

Masood Hussain Jun 17, 2013 05:36pm

New Pak .Railways minister ,instead of rushing to address a Press conference try to study the problem. There was an article published in your esteemed paper few days back by Mr.Irfan Ahmed who was associated with Pak railways for long time described destruction of this means of transport in chronological manner. He should also try to study what Mr .Lalloo Parsad did to revive Indian railways which were in much worse state .I don't think there is any harm in taking advice from any corner.

Ahmad Jun 17, 2013 05:43pm

Learn your lesson from PIA and KESC. Start the railways running and make reforms. The old saying, " Pay as Play ". Learn from the experts. They will tell you three things are essentials. Revenue generated, customer service ( meaning run on time and consider them your boss, unlike PIA where customer is an idiot who has no choice. ) and monitor your performance until you have enough cash on hand. Abolish free services like free passes and saloon cars for PR employees. The Brits have gone home with their " maim sahebs ".

Agha Ata Jun 17, 2013 06:46pm

The old woman prayed and asked God to make her the most beautiful- young- teen- aged lady of the world. And God said, "No. counting down in one's age is not possible. Ask something else" and she said, "OK God, in that case, I would ask you to please reshape Pakistani Railway to become the most efficient system." and God thought for a moment and then said. "Lets go back to your first request. What age did you say you would like to be at, 18 or 20 or 22?

Salman Hussain Jun 17, 2013 07:46pm

This is very good step of our Government but due to corruption and non payment of contractor this contract should be give to International Company as China because china works on low cost with entire satisfaction.

Ahmed Nizami Jun 17, 2013 08:49pm

Private railway service seems to be beyond surprised at the level of good service provided by this new initiative. If Pak railway is made into a corporation, they can run it with public private collaboration. Make diff tiers and provide service based on need.

guru Jun 17, 2013 09:01pm

Railways are an asset in any nation & more important in the sub continent where the population density & traffic means that it is by far the efficient & safest form of transport. Railways need to run efficiently on a non-profit basis. Laloo made some tamasha in India when he was the railways minister, but by no means is the icon to learn lessons from. Individuals have no lasting influence. Best would be for PR to study the Indian Railways organisation. It is getting politicised & is not what it used to be, but is still like an angel in front of PR.

Raza Shah Jun 17, 2013 09:02pm

@Shabbir: I wonder, is this what happened to CHAKWAL railway line ? If i remember correctly it was Muslim League running Punjab, when the rail line was uprooted and sold to the foundaries.

rahul Jun 17, 2013 09:48pm

@Masood Hussain: mr masood hussain indian railway never in history from 1947 worse state then pakistan keep ur mind on all datas if u not find just open the indian railway site and u see the last 64 years railway data profit and loose then u open pakistan railway data from from starting if the data are availabe then compare u find indian railway always fare fare always better then pakistan railways

irfaan Jun 17, 2013 09:58pm

@Gautam: hand it over to taliban

Akif Sheikh Jun 17, 2013 10:04pm

I like all the comments and how readers and writer are throwing suggestion like current lot of politicians know nothing. They are more knowledgeable and clever than us however good things start with good intentions and they don't have good intentions.

Janikhel Jun 17, 2013 10:48pm

@Shabbir: What don't you think about bringing our Old Masters back, Angreez sahib is a good governing material, we and us have FAILED since August 15, 1947 to run this patch of land, constant and absolute failure, if we don't shape up Mogadishu would look like paradise compared to Pakistan, land of thieves.

Shahid Jun 17, 2013 11:33pm

@Yasir Khan: Dear Yasir, first check the reality about how many theaters in Pakistan are running INDIAN films and how the Bollywwod is making money out of you. They do not force any one to go and watch their movies. How much coverage do our national papers give to bollywood is there for every one to see. And as far as Laloo Prasad is concerned he turned Indian Railways in to a money generating unit. If you can not learn from your neighbour, then the whole world will LOL at you for times to come.

Wir Juden Jun 17, 2013 11:58pm

Pakistan can do business with India, no harm in that, The Indian have taken the same railway the British left for both India and Pakistan and turned it around in 1 of the biggest employers in Asia, Indian railways is way ahead then Pakistan;s own, Business dont see any religion, no harm inviting or learning the tricks from India

TKhan Jun 18, 2013 12:46am

@NAEEM sYED: Did you eat your breakfast this morning or smoked it? With these ideas Pakistan Railways reshaping will never be on Track!

Raza Shah Jun 18, 2013 12:57am

@Shabbir: I hope your views are wrong, because in past the CHAKWAL railway line was uprooted and sold as scrap for foundries. This removed Chakwal from the railway map

desiinpardes Jun 18, 2013 01:18am

@G1: Pak railwasy is not meant to target India. But good point though and PR should also consult with Indian Railways as we share same culture and same customer mind sets. It would be easier to derivate or copy policies from Indian Railways.

Khalid Butt Jun 18, 2013 03:20am

@NAEEM sYED: I agree. I would add one more thing to the list of responsibilities to be given to Malik Riaz, DHA all over the country. There are dozens of directors with cars and drivers in DHA. Yet no water supply, bad roads, bad commercial areas are all what we see. Let Malik Sb., take over and clean the DHA also. Sell PIA, steel mills, railways, government has nothing to do with business of any kind. See what happened to Pan Am. If there is no hunger for making money you can not run a bussiness and government has no interest in making money. Their job is to run the country and Not business.

Khalid Butt Jun 18, 2013 03:36am

I think we should get railway engines from China on Wet Lease, like PIA get aircrafts on wet lease, meaning we get the railway engines from China with maintence, drivers and fuel charges. So that our Pakistanis would not use bad fuel or overlook the maintence or would not drive them with love as they are doing presently. British gave us this wonderful thing and we have ruined it. The PR own billions worth of land. It is Not difficult to make it proftible if one Really wants to do it.

SAK Jun 18, 2013 05:30am

There is no harm in taking a leave out of Indian Railways.

Abdu Jun 18, 2013 06:11am

@Ahmad: There were some big guns in the previous government who were deliberately bankrupting these national assets so that they can buy with bailout money? Keep in mind the Steel Mill case, and it was on the public that Zardari's sister was buying PIA with bailout money??

Abdu Jun 18, 2013 06:12am

@NAEEM sYED: Merge with MQM?? Come on?? You must get rid off both PPP & MQM if you want country on track.

beam Jun 18, 2013 08:35am

@Yasir Khan: we love to read about how miserable you guys are. Our newspapers dont care about you. So when we read our news, world news, Bangladesh news, Laos news, Sudan news, the Bollywood news, the Nepali news, the advertisements, the tenders, the last sips of coffee with our feet on table is dedicated to reading your news, The feel that you guys are in deep misery kind of is a great start to the day.

vimal raina Jun 18, 2013 08:36am

The first thing this minister needs to do is to get some engines and trains on track, the rest will take care of itself.

Salim A. Karim Jun 18, 2013 10:47am

Why is it in the minds of governing people to destroy the national and civic institutions of Pakistan since we the people of Pakistan will be benefiting from it. Our leaders are corrupt in the sense that whatever Institutions are given to them to run for the good of Citizens of Pakistan and our Country Pakistan, they intentionally destroy the Institution whether it is railways or any other institution of Pakistan. The charge should be given to such people who are honest, hardworking and cannot be bought. Only trustworthy, honest, diligent, people can bring up Institutions of Pakistan on the right track. The examples are China, Japan, USA, and even India has a good track record of Railway Constructions, Engineering & Management, in spite of the fact that India is more populous than Pakistan

Muhammad Farooq Jun 18, 2013 12:18pm

The Railway is over crowded like other Government Deprtments where the ministers make unauthorised recruitments. No department under Government control can function satisfactorily in our country. It should be privatised and made independent. It is better to sell it to some foreign county who should be given free hand to replace the existing staff with new energetic staff. Present staff/workers of workshops are not honest. They have opened their shops in Mughalpura and do their private jobs besides getting remuneration from the Government. There is also theft, leakage and pilferage. Some have grown their beards, offer prayers, but are dishonest.

sabiha Jun 18, 2013 01:31pm

@NAEEM sYED: How very naive to assume that MQM will join PMLN just because you wish it

FACT Jun 18, 2013 02:14pm

@Agha Ata: just a display of bad sense of humour.

cameo Jun 18, 2013 05:08pm

@Wir Juden: one of the biggest employer in the world!!! How in the world is that suppose to be a good thing for a railway. An efficient and cost effective transport system does not need hundreds and thousands of employees. This is the age of automated trains, automated ticketing. Some times you hardly see a railway employee on a small railway station in a developed country. India's railway may be better then ours but it is by no means and example to be emulated

Dr Satpal Jabbal Jun 18, 2013 05:24pm

Please Ask India For Help & Advice.

Khawar T khyam Jun 18, 2013 05:40pm

I am having no doubt about the sincerity of Saad Rafiq. But I think it is too much to be asking for from this gentleman. PR needs a major overhaul. I don't know from where he is going to start with. Lets see he is going to be a new Lalu or a bust. But I am praying for his success and prosperity of Pakistan.

Khawar T khyam Jun 18, 2013 05:47pm

I think Pakistan should hire Lalu from India or we may borrow him for few years. After all What neighbors are for.?

Smack Jun 18, 2013 06:54pm

Come Dubai and see how to Run Railway... they are running Driver-less trains in Dubai without any accidents and delays. Pakistan Politician are not born to work, but to loot Pakistan. So either change your politician or give it under control like Army or any other good Management team.

Prakash Rao Jun 18, 2013 07:01pm

@Masood Hussain: My comment is just in jest. Therefore please do not take offence. " It is a good idea to take Lalu Prasad Yadav as advisor to your Railway board. It will be a good riddance for us in India"

ahmedj Jun 18, 2013 08:15pm

If Railways become a corporation the prices would shoot up beyond a poor man's reach. Similarly many uneconomical routes will be shut down. Such a step was taken by the British Government. Their railways standard has improved but at the same time fares have become the highest in the world.
For a common Pakistani such a change would be suicidal for the railways and beyond the reach of our poor people. The best remedy is to improve the system within. The railways require subsidy and should remain a poor man's mode of transport. The labour class travels all over the country in search of work and they are the backbone of the economy. Corporation will stop such movement.

Jehanzeb Khan Jun 18, 2013 09:51pm

@beam: You are mocking Pakistanis as if India is so different than Pakistan. Your economic indicators do not reveal the overall picture. India is still way ahead in poverty and illeteracy than Pakistan. Indian wealth is yet to trickle to the lower class of the society. Is it not true that about half of the politcians of world's biggest democracy are either murderers or rapists. So let's not go that way. People from both countries should post constructive and meaningful comments instead of cheap criticism and slurs at each other. Thank you.

Agha Ata Jun 19, 2013 08:36am

@FACT: I see. So you are the ONE who gave me the thumb down. :)

beam Jun 19, 2013 11:39am

@Khawar T khyam: Sir you can keep him forever. He is a great talent. He will supervise everything himself.He loves Muslims. Maybe if you send him to Inzi for some meetings he might convert. But you got to have some kind of election there to keep him interested. He will be happy, more so because he loves Muslim votes. When he finds that everyone who has voted for him is a Muslim, he will even take your cows and buffaloes to eat grass. Since everyone, to make a nuclear bomb, eats grass in Pakistan, he belongs to your ilk. Pakistan is in turmoil. You need humor, Trust me Lalluji epitomizes humor. Once in a while bring him to your parliament. The roar of laughter will fill up the whole parliament. He needs rest too. If he doent answer your calls he is sincere enough to get his beloved wife Rabri devi to help you out. So take him. We will send him on a fresh new diesel engine. As a gift you can keep that engine too.

Jalbani Baloch Jun 19, 2013 01:14pm

No Government can solve the railway problem. The best and only way to solve problems of Railway and other corporations e.g. Steel Mill and PIA, is to privatize these facilities in the public interest. It will be difficult for workers to accept the privatization due to fear of loosing jobs on account of adherence to strict discipline to be put in place, but these organizations will perform better than before and soon will become profitable institutions. So, the Govt. must go ahead with its privatization agenda without any consequences.

dubos Jun 19, 2013 03:05pm

@Khawar T khyam: I think he is a born funny public relation and what best to apply it in indo pak relations at least there were no more plastic cups and reviving of olden days mati cups this fellow is fullof pep and humour just have to watch that his own wallet does not get too big