LAHORE: ThePakistan Railways’ administration on Wednesday suspended its eight officials including the driver and the assistant driver for showing negligence leading to a horrible accident of Karachi Express near Sukkur (between Mando Dairo and Sangi stations)on March 7.
The administration also issued show-cause notices to eight officers to explain their position.
According to a notification issued in the light of the accident’s preliminary inquiry report compiled by the Federal Government Inspector of Railways (FGIR), those whose services were placed under suspension with immediate effect were Muhammad Shah Afridi, Divisional Engineer-III, Sukkur (BS-18), Peeran Ditta Ghulam Murtaza, Assistant Executive Engineer (BS-17), Amanat Ali, Permanent way inspector of Grade-II (BS-16), Abdul Sattar (Driver), Amir Muhammad Jan (Assistant Driver), Abdul Kareem , Mate (BS-5) and Mumtaz Ali, Key-man (BS-4).
The officers / officials, who were issued notices included Qasim Zahoor, Deputy CEN/South (BS-19), Asghar Ali Bhutto, Deputy Divisional Superintendent, Sukkur (BS-19), Abdul Haq, Signal Inspector (BS-11), Amanat Ali, Permanent Way Inspector (BS-16), Muhammad Iqbal, Traffic Inspector (BS-16), Tanvir Ahmad, Head Train Examiner (BS-14), Javaid Akmal, Relief Tri Incharge (BS-16) and Muhammad Tahir, Loco Inspector (BS-16).
“During preliminary inquiry, poor condition of the railway track and over-speeding at the stretch, where the speed limit was fixed 65km per hour, has been identified among various reasons of the March 7 Karachi Express (15-UP) accident in which around 10 passenger coaches derailed, some of them capsized, leaving a woman passenger dead and over 40 injured on the spot,” an official source told Dawn.
The officials, requesting anonymity, said despite knowing about the extremely poor condition of the track, especially from Khanewal / Multan to Sukkur and onward, faulty signaling system and the aged rolling stock being used after refurbishing, the railway authorities didn’t pay heed towards resolving these issues on a priority basis for the safety of passengers, crew members, staff etc.
Instead of doing so, they (the authorities), especially in the last two years or so, kept launching new passenger trains and expanding operation at the railway track that is almost unfit for this. Moreover, over 300 fatal and non-fatal accidents including a number of derailments have happened during the last two years or so,” the official explained.
He urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to direct the railways ministry to immediately start replacing the existing dilapidated track with the new one, especially in the PR Sukkur and Karachi divisions, rather than waiting for the launch and completion of the ML-1 project under CPEC. “Since no one knows well about launching and completion of the CPEC’s ML-1 project, why the rail authorities are waiting for this mega rail infrastructure scheme and avoiding replacement of various stretches of the decaying track in Sukkur and Karachi divisions with new ones at the cost of pubic lives. It is really dangerous,” he wondered.
He also demanded action against the decision-makers for ignoring such crucial issues by putting the lives of a huge number of passengers at stake.
Meanwhile, the ministry of railways, in the light of a fact-finding inquiry, has recommended placing servicesof Ghulam Dastagir Baloch (a BS-20 officer), former Pakistan Railways Freight Company Managing Director, under suspension for allegedly misuse of powers and committing irregularities.
“During a preliminary fact-finding inquiry the allegations leveled against Mr Baloch have been proved on which the PM Office has been requested to order for suspending him from service with immediate effect,” a senior official told Dawn.
On the other hand, the PR management, following increase in public complaints, has directed all divisional superintendents to hold open courts within their divisions so as to resolve the issues being faced by the passengers, general public and the railways officials. In this regard, the PR Lahore division has also scheduled an open court on Thursday (today).
Minister for Railways Azam Khan Swati was not available for comments.
Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2021