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RAWALPINDI, Feb 16: Railway Workers Union (RWU) threatened to launch countrywide protest against the proposed privatisation of Pakistan Railways (PR).

“Government and railway management are bent upon privatising the public sector mass transit facility on the dictates of World Bank (WB) and the workers would resist this move tooth and nail,” said the leaders of Railway Workers Union (Open Lines) during a public meeting at Rawalpindi Railway Station on Thursday.

The meeting was attended by more than 300 railway workers from Rawalpindi and Peshawar divisions.

While talking to Dawn, RWU Rawalpindi Chairman Aasim Sajjad lashed out at the top railway management for its anti-workers policy as, according to him, Divisional Superintendent Rawalpindi issued a notice warning the workers if they attended the meeting, they would be considered as absent from duty. He said such moves could not stop workers to play their role in trade union activities.

Pakistan Railways was a profitable enterprise until 1980s when military regime of Ziaul Haq created National Logistics Cell (NLC) depriving the railways of all of its freight services, he said.

RWU General Secretary Naseem Rao said most of the public sector enterprises, including Pakistan Railways, deteriorated and the workers were blamed for all the ills terming them unproductive and uninterested in delivering quality services.

“In fact, successive railway administrations and governments have destroyed the public service culture in the organisation by following ad hoc policies and refusing to adopt new methods,” he lamented. He said RWU presented a comprehensive 142-point recommendations to the railway management almost two years ago with workable solutions to reduce railway debt by at least Rs20 billion, but the union had never received a response from the relevant authorities indicating their non-seriousness in turning the situation around.

Other speakers stressed the need for unity among the workers to get their rights and improve the condition of Pakistan Railways. They condemned the recent launch of the ‘Business Express’ meant only for high-income group but the services for low-income group were being shut down on daily basis.

They also condemned recent drive of the Pakistan Railways to reclaim railway land as they were of the view that only the poor were being targeted in the campaign. — A Reporter