Train accident and blame game

Written by The Frontier Post

A deadly train accident occur near Ghokti Sindh, when two passengers’ trains Sir Syed Express and Millat Express collided with each other between Raiti and Obaro Railway stations and fourteen bogies got derailed. The accident resulted in the death of over forty innocent people and injured eighty others. The relief and rescue operation was carried out by Pakistan Army, Rangers and Rescue 1122, while dead bodies and injured had been evacuated to hospitals in Rahim Yar Khan, Ghotki and Mirpur Mathelo. It is said that Army Urban Search and Rescue team, carrying cutter, hydraulic spreaders, life locators and search cameras specially flown from Rawalpindi, are busy in relief and rescue efforts. Seriously injured people have been evacuated to Pano Aqil through helicopter. The Prime Minister Imran Khan had ordered an independent and transparent inquiry into the accident.

The recent tragic train accident ignited a political controversy between the ruling elite and former PML-N Federal Minister for Railway Khawaja Saad Rafique. Ironically, Federal Minister for Railway Mr. Azam Swati was completely invisible for several hours after the occurrence of the train accident and even he was not available on cell phone and the media remained unable to hear Swati on D-day. Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain blamed previous governments for the accident while arguing that they did nothing during past tenures. Whereas Saad Rafique termed it a failure of the PTI government investing in the railway and operating excessive trains on worn out railway tracks.  

In fact, the Railway system in this region of the Indo-subcontinent was established by the British government during the 1860s. After one and half centuries, the system became badly exhausted due to excessive use, corruption, unsatisfactory maintenance, and absence of investment by the government over the decades. Such kinds of accidents have become customary and the government’s response to such incidents is very formal, limited to only issuance of verbal statements, departmental inquiries, and compensation payment to the victims of the incident. The common reason for all such accidents were negligence on the part of Railway staff, mostly falling asleep, absent from duty or non-fulfillment of duties in true letter and spirit.  The overall depletion of Pakistan Railway is due to massive politicization of this national institution through imposition of a political head in the shape of Minister. In fact, there is no need of installing a Minister for running such service providing institutions. It needs a professional Manager who oversees its business and makes decisions in the benefit of the institution purely on the basis of business development.  Unfortunately, in Asian democracies the governments used to post a political figure as Minister to oversee the operation of the department just for the sake of appeasing the buddies. The Minister mostly has no technical experience, related background knowledge/ education relating to the assigned field. Such a political figure makes politically motivated decisions, hires excessive staff for personal or political reasons and plunges the department into a financial crisis. In fact, all Ministers and Ministries must be abolished and a parliamentary standing committee having only an overseeing role must be in place. The Government of Pakistan must implement ML-1 projects as early as possible to replace the present worn out railway infrastructure. There is also a dire need for restructuring of Pakistan Railway organization, jobs criteria, removal of aged staff and induction of highly educated energetic youths to give new birth to this national institution.

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The Frontier Post

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