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Pakistan Deaths
Pakistan Cases

With directives to submit a business plan within two weeks, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed on Tuesday grilled Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed for his failure to revamp the state-owned train system which is in a state of utter decrepitude.

A three-member bench comprising Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah heard a case pertaining to losses incurred by the Pakistan Railways. The top judge also told the minister to apprise the court of the October 2019 train fire incident due to alleged blast of a gas cylinder brought by a group of clerics en route from Karachi to Raiwind.

The Chief Justice said that minister should have quit in the wake of such a big tragedy, which caused 73 deaths. In a bid to justify his decision not to call it a day, the minister said that a thorough probe was held into the incident and 75 people had been dismissed from service.

This infuriated the top judge who said that only a day ago, two people were fired and both of them were low-grade employees. "Just tell us when the heads will start rolling at the top level," he questioned. Rashid, known as the most outspoken minister of PM Imran Khan's administration, submitted to the apex court that some people holding important positions would also be sacked.

Again, this somewhat political response in front of the top court did not go well, as the Chief Justice grilled the minister and said: "We don't see any such thing're top man and you're still there."

"Minister, don't hoodwink the people at every turn with sugar-coated good for nothing're still running the 18th century railways riddled in corruption," remarked the CJP. The minister however claimed that he works 18 hours a day. He also claimed that he has taken the number of railways' passengers to seven million. But the top judge, once again, lambasted the minister, saying his entire ministry is still being run on "parchi system" (chit) even in 2020.

The Chief Justice said: "Yes, Minister Sahib [Rashid], tell us what have you been doing to steer the railways out of the prevailing crisis? Your whole story is in front of us."

Besides, the court said that ideally revenue from railways should take the ministry out of debt and make it profitable. The bench asked the minister to present a business plan on the next hearing, and warned if there were any deviation from the plan presented in the court, action will be taken.

The court also ordered that the six kilometers portion of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) be completed in two weeks and instructed the Sindh government to provide all assistance to the project. The court adjourned the hearing till February 12 with directives to the minister to appear before the court along with his ministry's secretary planning.

Talking to journalists outside the Supreme Court building, the minister said that he would make all-out efforts to streamline the railways as per instructions of the Chief Justice. Rashid also clarified that the audit report referred to in the Supreme Court earlier was an audit report from 2013-17, adding that the report of his present tenure has not yet been released.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020


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