By Swair Akram —
Islamabad, Jan 28 (TLTP): Proving himself a seasoned politician, Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad got the Supreme Court to summon Federal Minister for Planning and Development on the next hearing for he was not approving the Railways development plans. Sheikh appeared before the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed who had summoned him in person to explain massive losses by his ministry.
The CJP led the three-member bench of the Supreme Court that passed the order. The bench was joined by Justices Ijaz ul Ahsan and Sajjad Ali Shah.
CJP Gulzar started berating Sheikh Rasheed as soon as the hearing began. “What is your performance?” the CJP asked adding, “the details of your achievements is in front of us”.
Sheikh Rasheed, however, patiently let the top judge let off steam before he told the audit report before the court was an older one. “No audit report from our tenure is out yet”, he said having informed the court the report pertained to 2013-17 which was the tenure of the last government of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).
Earlier, judges took him to task asking tough questions noting the Railways had no engines, boggies or tracks. The CJP asked the railways minister to inform the court about the October 2019 train fire that killed 73 passengers when a gas cylinder exploded on board. “You should have resigned,” said the CJP.
“What action did you take”, Justice Gulzar Asked. “We have fired 29 people”, Sheikh replied. This did not sit well with the court and the CJP asked him if he had taken any action against some senior officials to which he said it was in the offing. This prompted the CJP to note, “You are the most senior? You should have resigned”.
The CJP also said “you talk tall but your institution is the most corrupt”. He further noted people were being recruited against bribes to which Sheikh replied there has been “not a single recruitment”. This really made the bench go after him as the CJP caustically told him “Daily wagers in the thousands were being hired”. Sheikh Rasheed kept quite as the Bench berated him.
It was a reference to the Circular Railway Karachi by the CJP that gave him an escape route. He praised the court profusely saying it was thanks to the CJP and the court that the encroachments could be removed. “Only 6 kilometers area is left to recover from encroachers”, he told the court. “Trains are not yet running”, the CJP said and ordered the remaining six kilometre portion of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) be completed in two weeks. The court also instructed the Sindh government to provide all assistance on the project.
The willy politician then shifted his gears and dragged another federal minister into the foray. By putting Asad Omar on the spot, he got the court to summon him on the next hearing to explain why the ML-1 project was not being approved.
Judges made numerous comments that underlined the fact Railways around the world made money with freight and cargo trains as passenger traffic was not very profitable. “How will the Railways improve”, aked Justice Ejaz-ul-Ahsan adding, “tell us the plan”.
It was interesting to note that Sheikh Rasheed did not utter a single line on his plans to turn the Railways around. The CJP told him to share his plans with the court and stressed If he does not implement the plan shared with the court then he will be held in contempt.
Adjourning proceedings till February 12, the court summoned the minister and the secretary of planning in the next hearing.
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