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LAHORE: The daughters of Faiz Ahmed Faiz inaugurated a passenger train named after the revolutionary poet in a ceremony held at the Lahore Railway Station on Sunday.

Accompanied by their grandchildren, both Salima and Muneeza Hashmi appeared overwhelmed by memories as they cut a ribbon to mark the inauguration of the Faiz Ahmed Faiz Passenger (209-Up/210-Down). Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique was also there.

“I have grown up among railway (trade union) leaders. The Lahore Railway Station is witness to the strength the trade union had. Right now, I have more memories of the railway leaders than my father,” Salima Hashmi said. Her younger sister Muneeza termed the launch of the train named after her father a tribute to the poet.

Carrying at least 730 passengers per trip in seven coaches and one brake van, the train will cover the distance between Lahore and Narowal in two hours and 10 minutes.

The 209-Up will leave the Lahore station at 6.15pm and the 210-Down will depart from Narowal at 5am.

The minister said operation of more passenger trains would be restored gradually.

“This is first of the eight passenger trains that used to originate from Lahore on branch lines and were suspended due to locomotives’ shortage. We are also working to restore operation of the passenger trains originating from Karachi for other areas of Sindh, especially Sukkur,” he said.

Replying to a question, he said former minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had got about 80 seats reserved in the Awami Express for his train march. “I am optimistic that Sheikh Sahib will not take any measure that would cause inconvenience to some 5,000 passengers on the Rawalpindi-Lahore section. He had been the minister for railways for quite some time and understands that railway is not like the GT Road or motorway.”

Commenting of PTI chief Imran Khan’s remarks against the government, he said Mr Khan had failed to deliver in the province where his party had got mandate. “The perks and privileges of ministers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been increased by 150 per cent. Is it the change Mr Khan had promised his voters? Polio has reached an epidemic level in Peshawar because no attention was paid to the issue,” he alleged.

The minister said the PML-N would welcome Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri whenever he would arrive here.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2014