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Monday June 17, 2024

No harm in polls after four years, if govt delivers: Sheikh Rasheed

By Riaz Khan Daudzai
December 23, 2018

PESHAWAR: Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said here on Saturday that there would be no harm in holding elections after four years if the present government is able to deliver even though Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks about mid-term polls were reported out of context.

Without elaborating, he claimed that Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif had “settled the matters” while for Nawaz Sharif the date of December 24 was very important.

He was addressing a press conference at the divisional headquarters of the Pakistan Railways here in connection with the inauguration of the low-fare Rehman Baba Express.

He said that by appointing Shahbaz Sharif as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the government has put a cat to watch milk. He said the one who looted public money has been made the chairman PAC.

The minister said he was wondering as to how a ‘thief’ would carry out the accountability of others.

Sheikh Rasheed claimed to be the most informed politician of the county. “It is so because I have neither raised children nor run any business,” he remarked.

Without naming Asif Ali Zardari and Sharif brothers, he said they would find no place to hide if he spilled the beans about them. Known for his sarcastic remarks about his fellow politicians, Sheikh Rasheed rated Zardari as the ‘biggest looter’ and blamed him for using the pro-poor stance of his party as no more than a hollow slogan.

The minister said Pakistan Railways was launching the low-fare and fast Rehman Baba Express on Sunday from Peshawar to reduce travelling time on the Peshawar-Karachi route at affordable fares.

Terming the new train a milestone achievement of Pakistan Railways, he said Rehman Baba Express would facilitate travellers by saving their precious time and money.

He said in addition to Rehman Baba Express, 20 new trains and three tourist trains would be operated next year while the government was also planning to start two VVIP trains service.

The minister said the trade trains service would be raised to 15 to shore up economic activities in the country.

Sheikh Rasheed said they have started building “new Pakistan” according to the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan and now no deal of wagons and engines purchase would be concluded for taking commissions.

He added the railway infrastructure would be upgraded and the government was going to ink an agreement in March next year to lay new railway track from Karachi to Peshawar.

He said that upgrading of the railway tracks would also help increase economic activities.

The minister said he was monitoring the trains operations and result-oriented steps were being taken to ensure improvement in the service.

Later, speaking to the business community at the headquarters of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), Sheikh Rasheed said the government was drafting feasibility for laying a track from Peshawar to Jalalabad in Afghanistan.

He said that expansion of railways and induction of new trains would boost economic activities that would benefit the businessmen.

He said the government would launch a business train from January 30 while a new VVIP train would be put into service from January 23.

He added that a plan to start train service form Dargai to Nowshera was under consideration.

He disclosed that train service would be improved by removing crossings from Peshawar to Karachi by constructing bridges on the track.

He added that the money owed by Pakistan Railways had risen to Rs25 billion. He added that payment of pension to retired employees had reached Rs35 billion while Rs30 billion was being spent on paying salaries.

He said the train fares had been increased 30 percent during the last three months.

He said that tourist train from Peshawar to historic railway station of Attock Khurd would be started.

He also sought support of businessmen for Pakistan Railway in matters relating to Azakhel Dry Port and said that work on Peshawar’s old dry port was underway.

The minister said that a cargo train for the business community was ready and would be launched within 60 days.