Sheikh Rashid says ‘we aren’t the last choice’, hints at ‘minus three’

Updated 05 Jul 2020

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PESHAWAR: Three people sit on a C-130 aircraft at the Pakistan Air Force base after it brought the bodies of the Sikh pilgrims on Saturday. The pilgrims were killed in a train-coach collision in Sheikhupura district on Friday. — INP
PESHAWAR: Three people sit on a C-130 aircraft at the Pakistan Air Force base after it brought the bodies of the Sikh pilgrims on Saturday. The pilgrims were killed in a train-coach collision in Sheikhupura district on Friday. — INP

LAHORE / PESHAWAR: In remarks bound to fuel conspiracy theories, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Saturday warned that there would be ‘minus three’ if ‘minus one’ formula was applied.

He criticised the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf ministers for loose talk during TV programmes which he said was not good for the government.

“We are neither the last choice nor will there be any minus one. If someone thought that there will be minus one, they should know that then it would be minus three instead of minus one,” Mr Ahmed said at his first press conference here at the Pakistan Railways headquarters after he recovered from Covid-19.

“Since Imran Khan is working hard to take the country out of the crisis, I would ask the PTI ministers not to wash their dirty linen in public. I can only request you (the ministers) since I believe that you are doing the job of the opposition which is doing nothing at the moment,” he said. “It is very sad.”

Sadness in the air as bodies of Sikh pilgrims arrive in Peshawar

Talking about the coronavirus, the minister termed it a horrible decease. “Coronavirus is very dangerous. And thank God, I have recovered finally. But I tell you that an injection was not available even for Rs500,000 to a minister (Sheikh Rashid) who has held 14 ministries in his political life. I thank the chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority who arranged this injection for me.

“I pray that no one, not even my enemies, suffer from this disease. I also pray for an early recovery of Shahbaz Sharif.”

Mr Ahmed said: “Nothing made me worried or frightened, including various suicide attacks on me in the past, but Covid-19 worried me.”

The minister announced restoration of discounts in fares of passenger trains for senior citizens, journalists and others. The facility had been withdrawn two months ago.

The minister said he wouldn’t remove any employee / worker from job.

He held the driver of the passenger coach, which was carrying Sikh pilgrims, responsible for Friday’s train-coaster collision that left 22 people dead. He said that the coaster driver tried to cross the railway track from an unmanned level crossing avoiding a gated crossing which was closed due to arrival of the train, adds APP.

The minister said that after completion of the Mainline-1 (ML-1) project, the track would be more protected, adding that the paperwork on the project was speedily in progress and work on it would starts soon.

Bodies arrive in Peshawar

Meanwhile, Mohallah Jogan Shah, a predominantly Sikh neighbourhood in the heart of Peshawar, witnessed moving scenes as the bodies of 20 Sikh pilgrims were shifted to a local Gurdwara there from Bacha Khan International Airport for last viewing before being taken to a crematorium on the bank of River Indus near Attock crossing.

The bodies were airlifted to Peshawar from Lahore late on Friday in a Pakistan Air Force transport plane.

Twenty-two people, including 20 Sikh pilgrims, a driver and a conductor, were killed and nine others injured when a train rammed into a passenger coach at the railway track passing through Sucha Soda town in Sheikhupura district on Friday. Officials said that eight women, a child and five members of a family — three brothers and two girls — were also among the dead.

A large number of mourners, including women, turned in the congested Sikh neighbourhood to attend the last rites of the victims of the horrific accident.

Earlier the bodies of the Sikh pilgrims were airlifted from Lahore to Peshawar in a C-130 plane of the PAF. Relatives received the bodies at the airport from where coffins were brought to Gurdwara Bhai Jogan Singh in Mohalla Jogan Shah.

Adviser to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister on Information Ajmal Khan Wazir expressed condolence over the death of the Sikh pilgrims. Mr Wazir visited the Gurdwara and met the families of the deceased pilgrims.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2020