The Tezgam tragedy

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  • No effort to put railways on track

Keeping in view the number of casualties, the Liaquatpur incident is the third biggest disaster in Pakistan Railways history. In the latest case of sheer mismanagement, at least 73 people died and several were injured when two economy-class bogies of Tezgam Express caught fire near Liaquatpur and subsequently fire engulfed a third bogey also. Many passengers jumped out of the running train to save their lives. Some of them succumbed to serious injuries. Many inside the bogies were burnt alive or suffered serious burns.

Sheikh Rashid, the Railways Minister, initially maintained that the tragedy was not caused by any negligence on the part of the Railways staff but by a group of  Tableeghi Jamaat passengers who were cooking breakfast on gas cylinders which burst inside the bogies. A little later he apologized, a routine reaction by him after every railway incident, and conceded that it was “our negligence” that the passengers managed to carry the gas cylinder into the train.

Sh Rashid spends most of his time in issuing political statements, targeting opposition leaders and making sensational political forecasts. He has little time to find solutions to some of the chronic problems that face the Railways. Measures being introduced now like requiring every passenger to carry his CNIC, barring non-passengers from entering the compartments and verifying that disallowed items were not smuggled into the train could have been enforced earlier had Sh Rashid found time to focus on safety-related issues faced by those traveling by the country’s trains.

Thanks to the indifference shown by the minister the country’s railway network has further degenerated during the PTI tenure. In August the government conceded that Pakistan Railways suffered 74 accidents nationwide over a period of 11 months between August 2018 to June 2019. The Liaquatpur tragedy is the third major railway incident in the last four months. At least 21 people were killed in an accident in July and four in another in September. During the PML(N) tenure Mr Imran Khan invariably demanded the resignation from the concerned minister after every train accident. In a display of double standards, the concerned minister is allowed to hold the office despite all these accidents.