ISLAMABAD, March 4: The government told the National Assembly on Friday locomotives bought from China had gone wrong on Pakistani tracks and remaining orders under a deal could be cancelled if defects , including under frame cracks, were not rectified.
Railways Minister Mian Shamim Haider said Pakistan Railways had suspended the re assembly of eight Chinese diesel engine locomotives and asked China's supplying Dong fang Electric Corporation to stop the delivery of the remaining 38 machines out of the total 69 contracted till issues were resolved.
"If we are not satisfied order for the remaining 38 locomotives will be terminated," he said while responding to a call-attention notice from five members of the opposition Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) that said the purchase of "18 defective locomotives and parts of railway engines" had resulted in a loss of crores of rupees.
Asked about the reasons for going for the Chinese locomotives, the minister said China offered the suppliers' credit in the deal when no other country was prepared to give such a facility to Pakistan as a consequence of the 9/11 events.
The MMA members alleged wrongdoing for monetary benefits by railway authorities in the November 2001 contract. It appeared to be a move to target Education Minister retired lieutenant-general Javed Ashraf, who was the railways minister at the time of the contract and has recently been at odds with the MMA over the government's education policy.
Although no specific charge was made against the education minister, an MMA member named a former army major-general, Hamid Hasan Butt, for possible wrongdoing as a PR general manager (M&S) at the time.
The railways minister said Mr Butt was "relieved" from PR, while another clarification issued by his ministry later said the official had left PR after completing his employment tenure.
Reading from a text, the minister said the first lot of eight Completely Built Up (CBU) Chinese locomotives were received in July 2003 and seven CBU 2000-HP units in September 2003 and they all were put into operation immediately.
He said the first lot of semi-knocked down (SKD) locomotives, whose number he did not specify, were reassembled at the PR locomotive factory at Risalpur in the NWFP and put into operation in 2004. Another lot of eight SKD 3000-HP locomotives was received in December 2004 and was under process of assembling at the Risalpur factory.
The minister said the locomotives had been purchased on suppliers' credit basis with funding provided by the EXIM Bank China through the Dongfang Electric Corporation while the machines were being manufactured by China's Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Works.
He said the performance of Chinese locomotives was "not satisfactory in the beginning" but initial defects were attended to by a Chinese technical team and the machine's performance had "now improved".
"Further modifications were still under process when a major problem of cracking of under frames was detected," the minister said, adding that nine 3000-HP locomotives whose under frames had cracked were removed from service.
He said PR was proceeding in the matter in accordance with the attorney general's advice and provisions of its contract. "At present the Chinese engineers have been advised to arrange the repair of the under frames to the entire satisfaction of Pakistan Railways and furnish the warranty of at least five years for the under frames," Mr Haider said.
"At the same time further reassembling of eight locomotives in Risalpur has been suspended and the Chinese suppliers have been advised to stop the delivery of balance 38 locomotives till the issue is resolved to the entire satisfaction of Pakistan Railways."