LAHORE: Mishandling, negligence and other administrative issues — said to be on the part of Ministry of Railways — have delayed the resumption of the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) freight train from March 4, with the result that Turkey and Iran were forced to cancel hundreds of tonnes of goods booked for Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani authorities, keeping in view the observations of Turkey and Iran, have suspended the services of Pakistan Railways Freight & Transportation Company (PRFTC) Director (Commercial) on charges of inefficiency and misconduct in a bid to calm and satisfy the respective authorities in the two countries.
Everything was set for the departure of the ITI freight train — also known as the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) Train — from Istanbul on March 4. The authorities concerned in the three countries had completed all administrative, operational and security arrangements in this regard.
A follow-up meeting of the three-countries comprising working group was held on March 2 so as to review all arrangements, an official source in the Ministry of Railways told Dawn.
The official, requesting anonymity, said that the PRFTC official had expressed concerns over the goods (40 tonnes load in each container) to be loaded in eight-wheel wagons and insisted that the Turkish authorities send four-wheel wagons having each 20 tonnes maximum load.
Mr Bukhari, who was also the focal person for the ITI operations in Pakistan, told his counterparts that the railway track condition in the country from Taftan onwards was not good and could lead to an untoward event.
He also told them about some security issues in the area that may put the train operations in danger.
On hearing this, the Turkish authorities allegedly expressed grave concerns over the attitude of the Pakistani authorities and questioned why they were being informed now when all arrangements had been completed.
PR seriousness questioned
The Turkish authorities also questioned the PR official and said that there was no issue in running of eight-wheel wagons (each having 40 tonnes load) on the track from Taftan onward to Quetta and elsewhere since the same train remained functional without any issue nine years ago.
The authorities also termed the Pakistani officials non-serious in resumption of the ECO train.
On the other hand, Pakistan authorities stuck to their stance, delaying the train’s resumption and forcing authorities in Turkey and Iran to cancel the freight booking orders, the official deplored.
He said that when the ministry came to know about the situation, it suspended the PRFTC official from service and started efforts to engage Turkish and Iran authorities in rescheduling the departure of ECO Train from Istanbul.
“Syed Hasan Tahir Bukhari, a BS-19 officer of railways (Commercial & Transportation) Group, presently working as director (Commercial) PRFTC is placed under suspension due to inefficiency and misconduct with immediate effect an until further orders,” a notification issued by the Ministry of Railways on March 4 read.
When contacted, PR CEO Nisar Ahmad Memon confirmed the development and said, “The ministry took action after it came to know that the officer (Mr Bukhari) mishandled this most important matter. It was also of the view that if there was any issue, the official should have taken it on board rather than discussing the same just before couple of days of the train from Istanbul.”
Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2021