ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday said with maximum facilitation for common man as its top priority in “Naya Pakistan,” the present government was striving to upgrade the country’s train travelling system to the next level with the support of China, which had one of the best railway systems in the world.
“Common man from across the world used to travel by train, which is considered as the best source of travelling for common man. But in Pakistan train has never been a priority of the previous governments, who focused on the construction of roads to facilitate the elites,” he remarked.
The Prime Minister was addressing the inauguration ceremony of a new Rawalpindi-Multan Thal Express train as well as a live train tracking system here at the PM Office.
He referred to work carried out under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) so far specially the construction of roads and said his government was focusing on various areas of economic development including the transfer of technology from China for seeds development to boost agriculture sector as well as the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
Similarly, the Prime Minister said the construction of ML-1, under which train track would be laid from Peshawar to Karachi, would considerably curtail the travel time from Peshawar to Karachi and facilitate the common man.
He referred to the huge corruption done by the previous governments in railway as mentioned by Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad and asked to send such cases to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for prosecution so that people might have fear and do not indulge in corrupt practices in future.
The Prime Minister also referred to the two NROs – NRO-1 and NRO-2 – done over the last 10 years and said those arrangements helped the corrupt and did away with the fears of corrupt.
He said it was due to corruption that the country’s debt swelled to Rs 30,000 billion from Rs 6.000 billion in ten years, adding, this money went into the pockets of corrupt, leaving the country in a situation where it has to pay Rs 6 billion per day as interest on the huge loans taken in the past.
The Prime Minister was also critical of the opposition parties seeking government subsidy for Hajj and said, “We would have given a subsidy, if you had not left the country in this situation.”
“We wish to send our people to perform Hajj for free,” he remarked and added, “At one hand we have to pay Rs. 6 billion per day as interest on the loans, and on the other we have poor people suffering from disease like Cancer, Hepatitis etc. “
The Prime Minister stressed for cost-cutting in public spending in every sector and said he himself had achieved 30% cost-cutting at the PM House during the last six months and for that purpose an auditor had been hired.
“Nihari was served at the PM House in the past. But now only tea and biscuits are served here,” he remarked and questioned if he could succeed in cutting the cost by 30%, why other ministries and divisions could not have 10% cut in their running costs.
The Prime Minister talking about the recent complaint of inflated gas bills for consumers said with Rs 157 billion of debt and Rs 50 billion of annual pilferage, the gas companies were facing closure, which caused raise in the tariff of this commodity.
“At present, we are passing through hard times, but Insha Allah the country has a bright future,” he added.
The Prime Minister praised Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad for his efforts to revive the country’s railways and assured that the government would support Pakistan Railways by all means to give ease to common man.
The Prime Minister on the occasion also inaugurated the new train as well as the live train tracking system by unveiling a plaque.
Earlier, Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad in his opening remarks highlighted the performance of Pakistan Railways over the last months and said that with Thal Express being launched today, 20 new trains including Rehman Baba Express and Mohinjodaro Express were launched during the last six months without any additional spending.
He said Pakistan Railways generated additional revenue of Rs. 2.38 billion during the last six months when compared with the same period of corresponding years, adding, cost of diesel used for train operations had been slashed to Rs. 15 billion from the earlier Rs 18 billion.
The Minister for Railways said the present government has given 100% concession for train travel to the people with 75 years of age and above and half ticket for people with 65 years of age.
He said Pakistan Railways had acquired 365 acres of land in Gwadar for constructing a railway station, for which the ground-breaking would be performed by the Prime Minister.
The railway minister also criticized the previous government for useless utilization of precious public funds at the so called up-gradation of railway stations at cities like Okara and Norowal.