ISLAMABAD: Railways Minister Azam Khan Swati on Tuesday informed a Senate committee that Pakistan Railways (PR) has been suffering a loss of Rs2 billion annually due to electricity theft.
He told a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Railways presided over by Mohammad Qasim at the Parliament House that electricity was being stolen in connivance with officials of the Water and Power Development Authority and it could be stopped only by installing over 54,000 electricity meters.
The meeting discussed the proposed Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) and future strategies of Pakistan Railways.
Deputy Chairman of the Senate Mirza Mohammad Afridi, Senators Dost Mohammad Khan and Mushahid Hussain Sayed, senior officers of the railways ministry and other officials also attended the meeting.
The committee ratified Senator Faisal Saleem Rehman as member of the Railway Advisory Committee.
Mr Afridi urged the railways ministry to launch fast passenger and freight trains as there was a cargo business worth billions in the country and if Pakistan Railways could get 30 per cent of it the financial position of the organisation would change.
While reviewing details of the PSDP’s tentative allocation of Rs35 billion for 2022-23, Mr Swati informed the meeting of the strides Pakistan Railways had taken in the past 10 months.
The minister urged the committee to fully support the PSDP package so that the railways could be revived. He said that if the provinces played their part, the sector could be revolutionised, spreading business and trade opportunities far and wide.
He said the Taftan-Quetta track would be restored if the Balochistan government gave Rs15bn out of Rs600bn and the federal government would bear the remaining amount which will help development of the province also.
Mr Swati said Pakistan Railways had started a freight train service to connect Islamabad with Tehran and Istanbul and also planned to start a passenger train on this route.
He said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government was restoring the old track from Peshawar to Torkham.
The minister told the committee that Pakistan Railways was controlled by the mafia and tenders for more than 1,500 trains were awarded to one man.
He informed the committee of plans to develop the Afghan-Pakistan transit trade route.
He said that tourism would be enhanced if historical railway routes and stations were revived.
Mr Swati invited the members of the Senate and the National Assembly committees to visit the railway stations and give suggestions for building hotels, hostels or markets.
He informed the committee that once completed the Rs220bn Karachi Circular Railway project would revolutionise commuting in the metropolis. He said the seed money had been arranged for its completion in 36 months.
The minister said Pakistan Railways would dynamically pursue the expansion of routes and take these beyond borders. It planned to develop the Chaman-Kandahar route and the Havelian-Kashgar route to promote international trade.
The committee lauded the efforts of the ministry despite lack of funds and assured it of its complete support.
Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2021