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Tuesday June 18, 2024

Spending 67pc of railways budget on salary, pensions big challenge, Senate told

23.53pc of total budget for department was spent on running trains and 6.3pc and 3.65pc, respectively, on repair and maintenance of trains

By Asim Yasin
May 23, 2024
Policemen walk along trains at Karachi Cantonment railway station. — AFP/File
Policemen walk along trains at Karachi Cantonment railway station. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar told the Senate on Wednesday that 67 per cent of the railways budget was spent on salaries and pension of employees, which was a big challenge for the department. Also, he added, 23.53pc of total budget for the department was spent on running trains and 6.3pc and 3.65pc, respectively, on repair and maintenance of trains.

During the Question-Hour, while replying to criticism by opposition Senator Dr Zarqa Suharwardy Taimur, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar clarified that all federal cabinet members were not getting their salaries as they had voluntarily given it up. They also pay their electricity and gas bills from their own pockets. He said the federal ministers had official residences, but they pay their utility bills from their own pockets. He said the ministers had entitlement of 300 litres of petrol, an 1800cc vehicle, a driver and a security guard, while most ministers use their own vehicles.

In reply to question of Senator Shahadat Awan, the law minister told the house that Pakistan Railways earned over Rs40 billion in the first half of the current fiscal year. Azam Tarar said the revenue of railways had increased to Rs63.250 billion during the last fiscal year. Pakistan Railways had substantially increased its revenue (251pc) during the last decade through reforms and improved management, yet it is not sufficient to meet its requirements mainly due to exponential growth in pension.

The minister rejected an allegation that railways suffered a loss of Rs55 billion in FY2022-23 and said the improved management system was helping improve the revenue amount.

The minister said during General (retd) Pervez Musharraf era, valuable railway land including Royal Palm, which was a shady deal, was wrongly dealt with and cases were run in courts of law and for recovery of the land. In a written reply to a question of Senator Shahadat Awan, the law minister stated that in fiscal year 2022-23, the Pakistan Railways earned a revenue of Rs63.25 billion and received a grant in-aid/subsidy of Rs47.5 billion from the Finance Division, which comes to Rs110.8 billion. It was informed that there had been an exponential growth in pension since 2016 in the wake of new pension policy/PM package for in service death, issued by the Finance Division in 2015. “There are pending liabilities of Rs27.5 billion on account of commutation, payment of prime minister’s package etc.,” the written reply stated.