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Sheikh Rashid must go home

Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid should tender his resignation from the railways ministry. This may not change the pathetic chugging of the railways immediately, but the symbolic move will help the railways come out of the jinx, it has been in since the firebrand politician from Rawalpindi took over the department one year ago, which was not doing well under his predecessor, Khawaja Saad Rafique. The move will also set a healthy trend of acceptance of the failure of the system by someone holding the highest post in a department. What justifies demand for the resignation of the minister is the latest train accident at Walhar Railway Station near Sadiqabad on Thursday where over a dozen people were killed while dozens more injured in a collision between passenger train Akbar Express and a freight train. A probe ordered into the incident will ascertain the cause for the deadly collision, but initial report suggests that the accident happened due to human error in fixing the line signals. The manual signal system, called Kanta in the railway jargon, determines the track for a train, and it is all done manually. In the age of artificial intelligence when the sensor technology has the ability to intercept and thwart the imminent danger, it is quite criminal to rely on the outdated system at the cost of the passengers’ lives.
The political nature of governance in the Pakistan Railways never makes the passengers’ safety a priority. The minister, instead of making the railway journey a safe and happy experience, always showed his inclination towards initiating more number of trains. He gleefully referred to the number of trains he started during his tenure. During a Question Hour in parliament, it emerged that out of the 10 trains he initiated, six were running in losses. But who can question the powerful minister and who does care about the losses? Prime Minister Imran Khan, who often talks of loot and plunder as a result of arbitrary powers by previous rulers, has chosen not to take any action on the railway losses and spree of accidents. He tweeted offering his condolences to the families of the victims of the Rahim Yar Khan incident. “Have asked Railways Minister to take emergency steps to counter decades of neglect of railway infrastructure [and] ensure safety standards,” he wrote. Minister Sheikh Rashid, who earlier offered apology on a similar train accident near Hyderabad the last month, also expressed grief over the loss of precious lives caused by the Rahim Yar Khan accident. He announced compensation of Rs 1.5 million for the families of the deceased and Rs 500,000 each for the injured.



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