Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Gulzar Ahmed on Tuesday remarked that Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed should have resigned after a train inferno left 70 people dead near the city of Liaquatpur last year.
The top judge made the remarks while hearing a case related to the business and management of Pakistan Railways. Ahmed appeared in court on Tuesday morning on behalf of the governmental entity.
A three-member bench of the top court, comprising CJP Gulzar, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, is hearing a case related to the huge financial deficits of the railways department.
“Can you tell us about the progress you have made in the case? All your records are in front of us,” CJP Gulzar said while addressing the minister during the hearing today.
“You should have resigned after the train inferno left 70 people dead,” the top judge said, addressing Ahmed. “Seventy people were burned to death. What is the progress of the investigation into the case?” he asked.
“We have acted against nineteen people in the case so far,” the minister told the top judge. However, CJP Gulzar asked Ahmed why the inquiry into the accident had been limited to low-level employees.
Railways should be closed down
“You sacked the gate-keeper and the driver. When will you act against the top officials involved in the incident?” the top judge asked. In his reply, Ahmed assured CJP Gulzar of action against top railways officials.
“Can you tell us why action should not be taken against you for the train accident that left over 70 dead? You are the top-most official after all,” the top judge said after hearing the reply from the minister.
“In my opinion, Pakistan Railways should be closed down. It is better that the department be closed down rather than letting it run the way you are running it,” the top judge said in his remarks, addressing Ahmed.
Court summons Planning Minister Asad Umar
The court asked Ahmed to submit in court within two weeks a comprehensive plan to make the railways profitable. The court also asked for an update on the up-gradation of railway tracks.
The bench summoned Minister for Planning Asad Umar to answer questions about the ML-1 cross-country railway project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as well.
The court, before adjourning the hearing into the case till further notice, warned Ahmed that if the plan to turn around the railway department was not complied with, a contempt of court proceeding would be launched against the minister.
Would abide by court instructions?
Ahmed, while talking to reporters after the court hearing on Tuesday, said his ministry would abide by instructions of the Supreme Court in improving the affairs of Pakistan Railways.
“We are thankful to Supreme Court for taking up this matter. We shall proceed forward in light of its instructions. We shall also request the court to settle the stay orders issue,” he told reporters.
“We shall honor the court instructions. Even if the Chief Justice desired my resignation, I would abide by him,” he said answering a question about the audit report of the department that had incurred the displeasure of the court.
Railways most corrupt institution
The top court had on Monday observed that Pakistan Railways is the most corrupt institution of the country. The observation was made during a hearing of the case pertaining to the deficit-ridden governmental body.
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by CJP Gulzar observed that it is very dangerous to travel in railways, adding the whole institution was engulfed with politics.
While expressing annoyance over the performance of the railways, the top judge said that the railways tracks are not in order. “It is the most corrupt institution of the country,” the CJP remarked.
He said that the life of the passengers is in danger while traveling in trains. The CJP also asked about the outcome of an inquiry into an Liaquatpur tragedy, wherein at least 73 people were killed and 48 others injured after a fire engulfed a train.
The court also took strong exception to the audit report of the department. “Your record is not computerised. Nothing is running correctly in the railways,” the bench had observed.