A railways minister should mind the phenomenon that is the rail line, especially in Pakistan, where some of its 12,000 kilometres-long tracks are rusting. War and peace do not fall in his domain, except to ensure that the system is maintained at all times.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, however, seems to have his priorities wrong, for we often find the loquacious minister making forays into issues that do not concern him. The other day, he criticised the minister for science and technology for tweeting about a proposal, later clarified by the foreign minister, to deny Pakistan’s airspace to India. He said it was not the science minister’s job to talk about cabinet decisions. We wish the railways minister applied the same principle to himself.

Speaking at a function in Rawalpindi on Wednesday to express solidarity with the people of India-held Kashmir, Mr Ahmad said he foresaw a war with India in October or November. It is of course true that Narendra Modi’s recent actions in IHK poses a serious threat to regional peace, but what made the minister come to this rather precise conclusion, and was it really his duty to potentially create a public scare?

Those whose duty it is to keep the gunpowder dry to meet any eventuality know their job — they proved it well in February. For a government official to talk recklessly about war is an act of gross irresponsibility.

The minister ought to leave war and peace to the right quarters and instead paid attention to the issues plaguing Pakistan Railways, of which there are many. Wide sections of the tracks have been damaged by the ongoing monsoon, not to mention already crumbling infrastructure and chronic system failures that have resulted in all too many rail accidents in the months since he took charge of the portfolio. The minister once promised to revamp the railways within 120 days. His zeal would be best applied towards fulfilling this much-delayed pledge.

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2019



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