The Minister for Railways and Communication Lt. Gen.
(Rtd) Javed Ashraf Qazi has claimed that there has been a complete turn
around in the economy of Pakistan Railways and the organisation which
was showing an operational loss of about Rs.3 billion 2 years back has
started showing profit. The current financial year 2002-2003 will end
with a sizable profit, he hoped.
While talking to this correspondent, in a special
interview for PAGE, in his office on last Saturday, the Minister said
that the year 2001-2002 closed with an operational loss of Rs.591
billion despite an extra expenditure of Rs.1.2 billion because of raise
in pay and pension of employees. The first month of the current
financial year (July 2002), however, closed with an operational profit
of about Rs.600 million.
The Retired General said that when he took over the
charge of Railways under the present government, Pakistan Railway was
plagued with corruption, inefficiency, poor utilization of available
resources, and had become a demoralised, bankrupt and disorganised
institution with no unity of command. Passenger trains were in shambles
with no amenities and punctuality was at rock bottom. Pilferage and
theft of Railways assets was rampant and unchecked. Stations were
hostages to beggars, drug addicts and black-marketeers of tickets. The
organisation was not only overstaffed but full of ghost employees and
ghost pensioners. Track was in a very poor condition necessitating speed
restrictions and about 8000 acres of precious Railways land had been
encroached by land mafia. Owing to the bogey of privatisation, hardly
any investment was forthcoming. In fact Pakistan Railways was infested
with multifarious evils and was on the verge of collapse. It was saddled
with an overdraft of Rs.19 billion, from State Bank with a mark up of
Rs.3 billion per year.
Pakistan Railways, as of today Retired General Qazi
claimed, has been completely rehabilitated, refurbished, re-aligned and
right-sized as an institution. It came into operational profit in
December-2001 however, raise in pay and pension (Rs.1.2 billion) and
revise in diesel prices (Rs.500 million) have pushed it slightly below
the line. This revitalisation, re-activation and a turn-around was a
challenging task and needed many pronged attack.
Recounting the achievements in different sections,
the Minister said, the organisation has been restructured with a full
unity of command, thereby improving efficiency. A vigilance directorate
was created, to identify and detect corruption/ malpractices, to assist
in taking preventive measures and necessary punitive action. Vigilance
Directorate supports and assists the executive head in maintaining
administrative, operational and financial discipline in the organisation.
So far 3800 cases have been detected and punished saving Pakistan
Railways an amount of Rs.856 million. 1700 Enquiries are under process
with the vigilance directorate. 92 officers and 937 employees sent home
for corruption and malpractices detected by vigilance directorate.
Railway's sanctioned strength of 1,33,000 has been right sized to
95,565. Additionally 2000 employees transferred from non-essential to
essential categories after retraining.
To institutionalize financial discipline in the
organization, a "Finance Advisory Team" has been set up
besides establishing a separate "Directorate of Information
Technology". Marketing Directorate is another success story in
Pakistan Railways. It was set up to generate revenue from Railways
assets and so far Rs.304 million have been received in cash. Deals worth
Rs.20 billion are under negotiation, he added.
Talking about the rehabilitation and development of
railways infrastructure the Minister said, renewal of track and bridges
is in progress, rehabilitation of track, approved by ECNEC with an
outlay of Rs.11192 million, is ongoing. 1920 km of sleepers and 1769 km
of rail will be renewed. 65 km of track has already been renewed,
sleeper renewal on 136 km is completed and 75 bridges have been
strengthened. Fifty-two tons of rail is on order from China and own
sleeper factories are producing 300,000 sleepers per year for our
replacement programme. Dualisation of track from Lodhran to Khanewal is
being started by next months. Rehabilitation of 48 diesel electric
locomotives is underway, while 17 have already been done. Procurement of
69 diesel locomotives from China, with an outlay of Rs.11151 million has
been approved by ECNEC. 15 locomotives will be shipped by July 2003.
Procurement of 40 Chinese passenger coaches and manufacture of 135
coaches has also been approved, costing Rs.7776 million. Fourteen
Chinese coaches have already received and balance will be received by
December 2002. With transfer of technology on these imports, Pakistan
will get into export market for coaches.
The Minister claimed that as a result of all these
measures the railway generated Rs.1.1 billion more during 2001-2002 as
compared to 2000-2001. It earned Rs.13033 million and Railway paid back
Rs.5.50 billion to the State Bank of Pakistan. the gap between revenue
and expenditure which stood at Rs.2.842 billion during 1999-2000 was
narrowed down to Rs.918 million during 2000-2001 and to Rs.500 million
in 2001-2002, despite Rs.1.5 billion extra burden due to pay raise in
December, 2001 and fuel rise.
Talking about future plans of development the
Minister said that the following are on its agenda:
Doubling of track between Lodhran and Khanewal via
Multan besides complete renewal of 1600 km of track from Karachi to
Peshawar and renewal of another 1600 km from released material on other
sections. Rehabilitation of Quetta-Taftan section and linking of Gawader
Seaport with Dalbandin on Quetta-Taftan line as international corridor
for traffic from Central Asian Republics is planned. Procurement of
bridge equipment is also planned. Rehabilitation of 690 passenger
coaches with economy air-conditioning is on going — 204 have already
Overhauling of 900 passenger coaches per annum is
also ongoing 175 Chinese passenger coaches including 62 air conditioned
coaches shall also be inducted into the system. Three new non-stop
trains will be run with these Chinese coaches between Lahore-Karachi,
Faisalabad-Karachi and Rawalpindi-Karachi.
Rehabilitation of 48 Diesel Electric Locomotives with
facility of dynamic brakes for working on the Bolan section is underway
(17 already done) besides re-commissioning of 55 stabled Diesel Electric
Locomotive with OPEC financing of 10 million US$ to be completed by
June-2004. Purchase of 45 new electric locomotives is also planned.
Installation of modern signaling equipment form
Shahdara to Hyderabad is planned. The contract in this regard is likely
to be signed within a month. Laying of Fibre Optical Cable with Joint
Venture partner for better telecommunication facilities is under
consideration, however, the necessary license from PTA is awaited.
Computerising reservation and ticketing at 33 major
stations on the network is planned, besides opening of new and modern
reservation office at Karachi Cantt station having 30 terminals.
Establishment of container terminals at Karachi and
Lahore and introduction of inter-modal freight handling and delivery
system at all Dry Ports is planned. There is also a plan for induction
of new generation of 1600 high capacity, high speed freight wagons,
besides provision of air brakes on 574 bogie freight wagons for which
OPEC fund of 3.2 million US$ is provided. Procurement of 4 Breakdown
Cranes of 100 tons capacity is planned Islamic Development Bank
financing of US$ 5 million.
Upgradation of workshops and manufacturing facilities
is being undertaken with Railway's own resources. Procurement of 52000
tons of UIC 54 Rails from China is planned. In phase-1, 10,000 tons of
Rail shall be delivered by December 2002, 21000 tons by October 2003 in
phase II and then another 21000 tons by April 2004 being part of phase
At the end of 2004-2005, Railways plans to generate
7.3 billion ton kilometers of freight and 23 billion passenger
kilometers i.e. a modern railway capable of standing on its own feet.
The Minister for Railways took pains to explain the
position regarding lease of Railway golf club Lahore to a Malaysian firm
for development and maintenance of which, he alleged, a distorted
version has been reported in a section of press motivated by the vested
interest. Giving detail of leasing of 80 acre land comprising golf
ground he said that golf club site was being misused by the committee
mostly from outside Railways who was paying only Rs.12 per month as rent
and pocketing the entire profit. As against this railway was spending
hundred of thousand rupees annually on its maintenance. In return only
10 to 15 railway employees were using the facilities of the club without
any charges while there were more than 5000 outside members. The
Malaysian firm will develop a golf club of international standard with
lounges, villas, restaurants and at a later stage a 5 star hotel at
their expenses. They will pay Railways $ 250 million for 49 lease period
and 10 per cent of gross revenues with a minimum of Rs.10 million a
month. It will also give 25 membership free of charge to the railway
employees. After expiry of lease all the infrastructure will be property
of Pakistan Railways. "Can there be a more favourable deal for
Railways, the Minister asked.