ISLAMABAD, Jan 31 (APP):Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Thursday said a federal minister can be member of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Prime Minister Imran Khan has nominated him on behalf of his party to replace Riaz Fatyana in the parliamentary body.
“I have the letter of nomination from Imran Khan and now the matter is with the Speaker National Assembly. I am the senior most parliamentarian and had also been member in the PAC during the PML-N government tenure,” he said addressing a news conference.
He said Shehbaz Sharif or his party should not be afraid of his nomination as he was going there to play legal and constitutional role and not to indulge in any controversy. “In his legal opinion, Barrister Farogh Naseem has upheld that a federal minister can be the member of PAC.”
The minister also mentioned to move the apex court after the decision of Lahore High Court to challenge nomination of Shehbaz Sharif as Chairman PAC. “I feel that an immoral person cannot be made Chairman PAC, so I shall raise matter in the Supreme Court.”
Sheikh Rashid said he would take on journey by train from tomorrow (Friday) to travel to various destinations across the country for having firsthand on ground information about railways functioning and needs of the travelers. “My journey does not meet to be on board the train all the time during this month (February). Rather I shall also be dispensing with other official duties to my Ministry and the Cabinet.”
He also announced numbers for the complaint center and shifting it to Islamabad from Lahore and also starting a tracking system within next few days enabling the passengers to know exact location of trains from their homes.
The minister also hinted at merging certain departments of Pakistan Railways with sister departments to control expenditure as he mentioned to recent experience of merging some departments with others that had saved diesel worth millions of rupees.
Answering a question, the minister said after achieving the benchmark of running 40 new trains he will focus the condition of platforms. Pakistan Railways has 150,000 pensioners and 100,000 employees while the entity is running with a deficit of Rs 35 billion. “We are running in deficit and this situation poses serious challenges to bring railways back on track. But, nobody can beat experience of Sheikh Rashid. I am confident to cope with challenges I am facing in revamping Pakistan Railways.”
He said ML-1 and Nullah Leh are his priority projects and he would diligently endeavor for their completion. “ML-1 (Main Line-1, Peshawar-Karachi) is pending since last 12 years, and if the Board approves I would desire completion of ML-1, ML-2, ML-3 and ML-4 projects.”
With the completion of these tracks, the minister said the speed of train would increase to minimum 160 km per hour and maximum 220 km per hour. If the 56 kilometer Kallar Kahar curve is managed to be improved, traveling time between Rawalpindi and Lahore would reduce to just two hours.
He said 20 new trains are on track within first 100 days of the government while Thal Express would be on track during February while WiFi facility would also be available soon in trains and at railway stations.
He said three trains have been started to benefit poor passengers with nominal fare from Peshawar to Karachi. “I have also decided to personally monitor operation of freight trains and for purpose I shall be sitting one day each at Lahore and Karachi offices.”
Answering a question about removal of encroachments from Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) route, the minister said, 21 kilometer land in commercial use has been vacated while support of Sindh government was needed for vacation of land under residential use. “I have offered to meet Sindh Chief Minister for the sake of this project because if KCR is not completed now, it would never be completed.”
He said Pakistan Railways is ready to provide alternate land to residents if the Sindh Government promises to construct houses for them.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan is struggling to fight out economic crisis in the country, he had inherited from previous governments. “Imran is committed to transparency and clean governance while PML-N and PPP have no sincerity for democratic system. They only desire NRO to evade with looted money of the people.”
He said Asif Zardari and Sharif brothers, after failing to get an NRO, are now looking for relaxation in the name of ailment as he challenged to them to be brave and bear the brunt of what they have doing with the kitty and the people.
“You both are carrying such a big baggage of corruption that had you been a bit righteous, you could have bid adieu to politics far back,” the minister said as he also questioned issuance of Production Orders for Shahbaz Sharif. “How could his Production Orders be issued while on remand.”
Answering a question about dismissal of journalists from jobs, he appealed to media organizations to have a lenient view on this issue.