As thousands across the country mourn the loss of their assassinated leader, Pakistan Railways is worried about a loss of another kind. The anger and sense of grief that translated into acts of arson and vandalism on this day, three years ago left its mark on Pakistan Railways as well when 15 locomotives and 87 coaches worth millions of dollars were set on fire, and completely destroyed in Karachi and Sukkur divisions.

But even after three years, the Pakistan Railways (PR) has failed to repair or replace these locomotives and engines with the result that train services on many routes have been affected and many routes have been shut down altogether. The arson incidents and other such acts of negligence on the part of PR has all combined to push the ailing utility’s total losses to over Rs40 billion.

These coaches were imported as part of a multi-million dollar contract with China during the tenure of former president, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. In this deal 69 locomotives and 250 coaches were imported. There were allegations of large-scale corruption in this deal because the coaches imported from China cost Rs50 million each, while the cost of producing one locally is reportedly about a fifth of the same.

According to official documents sent by the PR to the Senate Standing Committee on Railways, so far just three of the 87 destroyed coaches have been made usable again. And a source in PR told The Express Tribune that the management does not seem keen on the repair of this destroyed or damaged equipment.

The official documents also show that PR carried out an assessment of the damages and the amount that would be needed to repair the burnt coaches and locomotives. It was estimated that an amount of Rs600 million including foreign currency component of Rs409 million would be needed to make these coaches and locomotives usable again. A PC-1 was prepared to start this work, but so far only four locomotives have been made usable. The remaining 11 locomotives are just gathering more rust.

The Express Tribune