PTI govt responsible for delay in ML-1 project, Senate body told

Published July 5, 2022
This photo shows a meeting of the  Senate Standing Committee on Railways held in Islamabad on Monday. — Photo courtesy Senate Twitter
This photo shows a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Railways held in Islamabad on Monday. — Photo courtesy Senate Twitter

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Railways was informed on Monday that the multi-billion main line (ML-1) project of Pakistan Railways, which was to revolutionise the entire railway network of Pakistan, has been delayed due to the poor handling of the previous PTI government, and its cost has also jumped up.

Secretary Railways Syed Khalid Ali Gardezi informed the committee that certain security-related issues and uncertain situation also caused delay in the project which will now cost $9.8 billion instead of $6.8bn.

The completion period of the CPEC flagship project will now be seven years, he informed the standing committee meeting, chaired by Senator Mohammad Qasim. The secretary railways also blamed the statements of the previous government leaders which kept the project from implementation. The secretary says the Karachi Circular Railway project has been included in the ML-1 project.

A member of the committee, Senator Mushahid Hussain, called for supporting the project irrespective of political affiliations, and said the tradition of blame-game and statements and counter statements on the project should now be avoided, adding that the ML-1 project will change the destiny of the country.

Project will now cost $9.8bn instead of $6.8bn

The standing committee reiterated its complete support for the completion of ML-1 project, and asked the government to start planning to initiate the project. The committee lauded the role of the Ministry of Railways with regard to the ML-1 project. Members of the committee were of the view that the ML-1 project will prove to be a ‘game changer’ for Pakistan.

Officials of the Ministry of Railways presented details of railway lands in the country, and said that during the past three years, a total of 4779 acres of land was leased out. According to details presented, 112 acres were leased in Peshawar, 621 acres in Rawalpindi, 1,344 acres in Lahore, 2.1 acres in Mughalpura, 2,425 acres in Multan, 79 acres in Sukkur, 79 acres in Karachi, and 5 acres in Quetta. Pakistan Railways has a total of 168,858 acres, out of which 10,772 acres have been leased out. Details showed that 9,291 acres were allotted for agriculture, 955 acres for residential purpose, 221 acres for commercial activities and 621 acres for miscellaneous use.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed raised the issue of the sacking of railway patrollers, and said these people have served Pakistan Railways for about twenty years. All these staff should be restored and given permanent contract.

The secretary railways further informed the committee that Pakistan Railways has started restoring daily wagers, however, restoring patrollers and giving them permanent contract is beyond the authority of Pakistan Railways.

Patrollers can only be restored and regularised by the Establish­ment Division. Such staff can only be regularised if the government announces a policy of regularisation. After detailed debate on the issue, the committee recommended restoration of railway patrollers, and directed that all the daily wagers in railways should be given the rights of regular employees in the case of injuries or loss of life.

The committee deliberated the recruitment issue of ten sub-engineers by Pakistan Railways under ‘Agaaz-e-Haqooq Balochistan Package’. Ministry of railways officials informed the committee that these sub-engineers were given contracts renewable every year. These employees will not be sacked, however the establishment division can award them the regular contract, but at the same time, these employees have crossed the age limit to become regular employees.

Senator Mushahid Hussain proposed that a summary should be sent to the prime minister, recommending relaxation of age so that these engineers could be regularised. On this suggestion, it was decided that a summary should be sent to the prime minister on behalf of the committee chairman and the Ministry of Railways for the relaxation of age for the ten sub-engineers.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2022

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