Friday June 21, 2024

Remembering non-stop train

By Zafar Alam Sarwar
June 23, 2019

Common people very often discuss in their own style the rise and fall of governments and institutions in the past.

The starting point is Pakistan Railways that was known as NWR (North-Western Railways) when Pakistan was established after a long arduous struggle. About two million men, women and children sacrificed precious lives and properties.

The exemplary success was manifested by railways also: EPR (East Pakistan Railways) in East Wing and WPR (West Pakistan Railways) in West Wing. Railcar was introduced as an additional cheapest and best service to people who travelled between Lahore and Rawalpindi-Islamabad.

At that time Mohammad Khan Junejo was Railway Minister who was regarded a gentleman. The railway network expanded with passage of time and people from different walks of life benefited from the facility. When Bangladesh came into being after the fall of Dacca on December 16, 1971, the West Pakistan railway service was renamed as Pakistan Railways which stands to this day.

Cases of corruption, including pilferage, were rare, only a small number of persons succeeded in traveling without ticket but they too were nabbed and fined. Ticket checkers and examiners were vigilant. There were some instances of travel without ticket on branch lines, for instance, Rawalpindi to Faisalabad and between Lahore and Pak-Pattan, or elsewhere in the country.

The print media selflessly pinpointed such malpractices, and helped the railways overcome this menace in the national interest. However, the bare fact has to be kept in mind that poverty played its negative role in those days also. Nevertheless, one witnessed many honest railway staff members paying for the poor travellers from their own pocket.

At the same time, some people exercised political influence on the railway management here and there for change of time-table and route, the purpose being to benefit their own road transport service and voters of their individual constituencies. They always bore in mind the end result---political, economic and social.

Practices of such nature didn’t stop because nobody at the helm took interest in checking this deterioration. Instead, there were instances of some rail routes being closed down, and tracks finding their way into iron and steel foundries. Corruption of this kind gave birth to an evil of its kind patronised by corrupt elements at higher levels. Nobody at the highest level thought of modernising and making travel by train cheaper, more comfortable, reliable and punctual as in other countries.

Unfortunately, some politicians preferred to build motorways, they didn’t pay attention to planning and implementing schemes to widen the GT Road and updating the Pakistan Railways. That’s what common citizens said then and say it now.

The people, who believe in the character and unblemished leadership of the founder of Pakistan, speak of unity, faith and discipline needed to help the Pakistan Railways regain its lost zenith from the present nadir. The common man says he wants back on the track the non-stop railcar which saved his time, energy and money.

Ordinary citizens say they are sick of the man who weakened the economy and future of the Pakistan Railways. The common people who have long travelled by railways insist there was a well-planned conspiracy to reduce the country’s renowned pro-people strong institution to such a status that it is put “for sale”. The nefarious design did not succeed. —