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Plea to revive Mandra-Chakwal railway line

June 14, 2009

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ONCE upon a time my beloved Chakwal was proud of having the best functional railway line. The Mandra-Chakwal railway line was a great facility to travel for the people of Pothohar and Dhankahoon regions.

However, the tracks on this line were removed before I came of age. When did this catastrophe occur? I am not sure; perhaps, during the regime of Gen Ziaul Haq, 'the King of Darkness'.

Different assets from the railway station and on this route have been taken away by plunderers of our country's wealth. It could have been useful to keep this line operational for the petroleum industry, which is passing through an experimental phase, and other minerals like coal, salt, gypsum, limestone and fine construction stone found in the area.

Right now experts of the geological department are doing their best to explore the reservoirs of oil and gas and other minerals. This railway line also had strategic importance due to an Air Force service in the vicinity.

Gen Pervez Musharraf, in his days of glory, made a huge din to improve the Pakistan Railways. His minister for railways, Shaikh Rashid Ahmad, on his visit to Chakwal in February 2007 made a promise with the people there that Rs2bn would be spent on the revival of the railway line. He said that all the land adjacent to the railway station would be sold, and a modern railway station would be established at Chakwal and the line would become functional within a year. But, alas, promises are only made to be broken and people are only to be cheated by politicians.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan took suo motu notice of the dismantling of the Mandra-Chakwal railway tracks and set up a commission to find out as to why the track was dismantled. The ministry of railways had given an unsatisfying answer that the line had turned into an unprofitable business for the government.

In his article, 'Something after all to celebrate' (Dec 31, 1999), veteran columnist Ayaz Amir gives vent to one of his feelings when he says “My third regret is about what we have done to our railways. They provided a civilided mode of transport but have since fallen on bad times, which is why anyone with a choice before him no longer uses them.

“One of the saddest things to have happened to Chakwal is the dismantling of the railway tracks which going past Chakwal ended at the picturesque village of Bhoun at the foothills of the Salt Range. Anyway, Gen Musharraf's government is making noises about improving the railways. But whether inducting military officers into this department is the best way of restoring its lost glory remains to be seen.”

Now as the people of Chakwal have elected Ayaz Amir as their representative in the National Assembly by giving him a record heavy mandate, they expect a focused attention towards the revival of this line by him. And I am sure that he would leave no stone unturned for this vital service of the people.

The government should revive this line so that the people of Pothohar and Dhankahoon regions could have a comfortable and cheap transportation system.

However, we are about to witness another 'miracle of ineptitude' by our masters as they are going to privatise the Pakistan Railways. May God save us from the 'champions of democracy'.

NABEEL ANWAR DHAKKU
Chakwal