ISLAMABAD: Railways Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed has praised the chief justice of Pakistan for his recent decision regarding additional accountability courts to clear the backlog of cases, saying the ‘mess’ would be cleared before the next general election.
Addressing a news conference on Friday, Mr Rashid stated that a quick dispensation of justice was the nation’s biggest need. “A new Pakistan will emerge after the chief justice’s decision.”
Shaikh Rashid recalled that he had said ‘NAB will get Tarzan-like powers in July’.
“My words have come true after the chief justice’s decision about setting up of 120 accountability courts to clear the backlog of cases,” the minister observed.
He was of the view that television channels would have to discontinue half of their talk shows and start entertainment programmes instead as there would be no room left for mud-slinging and character assassination after quick dispensation of justice.
Says opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif belongs to his party
In reply to a question concerning the holding of a multi-party conference (MPC) by the opposition, Shaikh Rashid said it was beyond them to hold an MPC. “Shahbaz Sharif [Leader of the Opposition] belongs to my party and he will follow our instructions.”
The railways minister said that the Main Line-1 (ML-1) project, likely to be approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) within 15 days, would revamp the entire structure of Pakistan Railways.
As soon as Ecnec approves the $7.2 billion fast double track project, the process of tendering will commence. Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, and Planning and Development Minister Asad Umer will begin the process of securing loan for the project from China.
The contract for the five-year project will be awarded to China and it is expected that work will start this year.
Under the terms and conditions of the contract, only 10 per cent engineers from China can be hired, while 90pc of workers will be local, Shaikh Rashid added.
With the completion of ML-1 project, the travel time between Karachi and Lahore will come down to seven hours from the existing 18, and that from Lahore to Rawalpindi will be two hours instead of over four hours at present.
An important feature of the project is that there will be no level crossing at any section of the track. The existing 3,000 unmanned crossings are a major cause of fatal accidents.
Shaikh Rashid stated that about 2,500 employees of Pakistan Railways retire every month and the ministry would have no objection if they join the project. “Payment of pension is the biggest issue for Pakistan Railways.”
The railways minister said the ML-1 project would not only give jobs to 100,000 workers but could also need another 150,000 workers for the laying of an 1,872-kilometre long track and installation of the latest signalling system, bridges and under-bridges to enable trains to run at a speed of 160km per hour.
This speed can be extended to 200km per hour at a later stage and hopefully will be converted into a track for “bullet trains” before long, he said.
The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) of the Planning Commission had cleared the ML-1 project last month and referred it to Ecnec for approval.
The Karachi-Peshawar ML-1 will pass through Kotri-Hyderabad, Rohri, Multan, Lahore and Rawalpindi.
The 1,872km-long track includes the 55km Taxila-Havelian section and the 91km-long Lodhran-Khanewal section.
The project envisages the establishment of a dry port near Havelian, upgrade of Pakistan Railway Academy at Walton and development of facilities for passengers at important stations.
The existing track was built in 1861 and without naming any previous government, Shaikh Rashid blamed “the people taking commissions in purchase of locomotives and coaches” for the delay. The ministry is banking on ML-1 to transform Pakistan Railways into a profitable organisation.
Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2020