After a passage of 25 years, the government would run a container train from the Karachi Port Trust today (Monday) at 1pm, said Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad as he addressed a press conference at the Pakistan Railways’ camp office in Karachi on Sunday.
The minister was in the city for a two-day visit. He said the railways was implementing the order of the Supreme Court regarding the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR). The land for the KCR, he said, would be cleared of encroachments before handing it over to the Sindh government. “We will extend all our support to the Sindh government in this regard,” he assured, adding that the government did not need to acquire land from anyone for the Main Line (ML) 1, which went from Karachi towards north.
“We have our own land over which we will lay a new railway track,” the federal minister maintained. He said he respected Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah “but he [the CM] is unaware of the route of ML-1”.
Once the new track would be laid on ML-1, trains would run at a speed of 160 kilometres per hour, he said. Taking a jibe at the Sindh government, he said in a span of their 10-year rule, they did not even run a single train.
Whatever Justice Gulzar Ahmed had ordered for the KCR would be implemented in its true spirit, Rashid announced. “A huge portion of land has already been retrieved from encroachers,” he said and added that after resolving all the issues, the federal government would hand over the track to the Sindh government for operations.
Criticising the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the federal minister said all the bad eggs were being assembled at one place. In this country, the sugar and floor mafia is a political party, he said. “I said it even earlier that Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif is seeking an NRO,” he remarked and added that Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari would also follow suit.
According to Rashid, Pakistan faced no threats from Narendra Modi but it were internal political forces that threatened the country. The gang of five, he said, had looted the country. The previous evening, Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shallwani, along with DS Railway Karachi Syed Mazhar Ali Shah, had visited the alignment of the KCR’s track from City Station all the way till Baldia Town’s station in a rail trolley.
It was a nine-kilometre area which took around 25 minutes to travel in a trolley, whereas in a car or a public bus, according to commissioner, it could take more than one hour. This correspondent accompanied the commissioner during the ride.
The KCR’s track from the City Station to Baldia was in quite a bad shape — even broken at some portions. After a 10-minute ride, the trolley man had to board off and drag the trolley to cross the broken portion.
There were scores of katchi abadis, shanties and fruit markets just few inches from the railway track. White marbles were strewn across the railway track. The KCR’s track also crossed a few deep sewage and rain drains before reaching the Baldia station.
The track was highly dangerous for the residents of katchi abadis in the surroundings, especially for children, as it wasn’t fenced at all. The trolley man had to shove away children hopping and playing around. There was police and Rangers deployed at certain portions of the track for security.
Addressing a presser after the visit, Shallwani said that there was no encroachment on the track “as such”. On the right of way, he said, the operation was under way and they were cleaning a 50-foot area from the right of way. In the light of a Supreme Court order, he said, they were carrying out the operation.
Meanwhile, Shah said that the Pakistan Railways administration, the district government and the provincial government, in a joint operation, were clearing the land along the KCR’s track. On May 9, he said that the orders were issued after which they immediately launched a joint operation.
The apex court had ordered the Pakistan Railways last week to retrieve the land along the tracks of the KCR in 15 days. Speaking on this, the commissioner explained that as of now there was no encroachment on the track. “We only had the issue with the right of way, for which the operation is underway,” he said.
The city’s one of the oldest flyovers in Nazimabad, Board Office Flyover, was knocked down in 2016 due to the construction of Green Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Under that flyover was a track of the KCR, which doesn’t exist anymore.