The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday said that the ML-1 train line should be made fully functional in the next two years while the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project should be completed in the next three months.
A three member bench — comprising Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah — heard a case pertaining to the losses incurred by Pakistan Railways.
There will be dire consequences if the timeline given for the completion of the railway projects is not followed strictly, the court warned.
Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told the court that 85 per cent of the track for KCR has been cleared.
"We carried out an operation last night as well and razed a few buildings to the ground," Rashid said, assuring the court that work was being done to make KCR functional again.
Rashid also thanked the court for taking interest in the case, "We are grateful to you, a lot of work has been done in the past 12 days," he said.
"We are grateful to you, the whole nation is grateful," Justice Gulzar said in response while adding that the KCR is a "project for the people and not one individual. We want to bring good to people."
"Do not give the KCR project to Sindh government, keep it with yourself," Justice Gulzar told Sheikh Rashid while adding that KCR will end up like the Karachi transport system.
"We were hoping to even run trams in Karachi," the chief justice said.
He also asked the railways minister why the KCR was made part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). "We added it to CPEC because of [our] financial situation," Rashid responded.
"China will give an expensive loan for KCR," the chief justice observed.
"If railways sells off some of its land it will be able to fix its own financial situation," the chief justice said. "Selling a single property from Karachi will fix the railway's financial system. But the court has put a stay on selling these properties," Rashid responded.
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, who had been summoned to present the business plan for railways to the court, said that completing the project in three months will not be possible.
"You are saying that this can't be done [...] the project will be faced with delays while people are waiting for it [to be finished]," said the chief justice while stressing that Pakistan Railways should not let its people sleep and "order them to work."
"Sheikh sahib when will the ribbon be cut for the project?" the chief justice asked about the KCR project.
"The country's financial situation is not too well at the moment. The real issue is that a large amount of funding is required for this project," Umar told the court in response.
"The Japanese people have been asking you over and over again about this project," the chief justice said to which Umar responded that the Sindh government will have to provide an answer for that.
Hearing this, the bench summoned a reply on the matter from the Sindh government in the next hearing. Umar also asked the court to tell the Sindh government to ensure action on the KCR project.
"Asad Umar, you are very respectable for us but you are not doing anything for railways," the chief justice said.
"We will present the 1,880 kilometres-long ML-1 project in front of the CDWP on March 10," Umar responded while adding that the project will also be approved by Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on April 12.
The court then enquired about the timeline for the completion of the project.
"From the day that it starts, the project will be finished in five years," Rashid told the court while adding that the Chinese will also be "satisfied with this project."
The hearing of the case pertaining to losses incurred by railways was adjourned for two months.
The hearing on KCR was adjourned until Feb 21; the next one will be held at the SC Karachi registry, where the railways minister and the Sindh chief secretary have been summoned.