Railways knew about vulnerability of Sukkur division track: official

HYDERABAD: Much before Monday’s train crash near Daharki, Pakistan Railways authorities were informed about the vulnerability of the 900-kilometre-long up and down tracks of the Sukkur division, but to no avail.

The vulnerability of the entire track could be gauged from the fact that the point where the tragic accident took place on Monday was welded and PR authorities conducted a forensic audit of that joint of the track just two years ago and cleared it.

Speaking to Dawn over the phone from the scene, PR Sukkur division’s superintendent Mian Tariq Latif said he had time and again brought into the notice of the top railways authorities the vulnerable condition of the entire track within his jurisdiction.

“There are around 6,000 joints on both up and down tracks in the Sukkur division and the point where the tragedy has occurred is one of the welded joints,” Mr Latif said, adding that the entire track in Sukkur division had welded joints.

Questions raised over the fate of ML-I project

“I have only one welding machine and that too is substandard,” he said, adding that the entire track needed rehabilitation.

He said he had been facing an inquiry for reporting these things to PR authorities. “A man with questionable credentials is conducting an inquiry against me,” he claimed.

He said he had been writing to the PR authorities regularly ever since he assumed office.

PR Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Nisar Memon did not agree with the contention of Mr Latif and claimed that the safety of passengers could never be compromised.

ML-I’s fate unknown

Opposition MNA Ch Hamid Hameed, who is a member of the Standing Committee on Railways, said that the federal government had not committed 15 per cent funds under the ML-I (main line) project. “The last meeting of the committee was scheduled in the office of Railways Minister Azam Khan Swati on his own request but he didn’t turn up and it shows his seriousness,” he added.

Minister Swati could not be reached over phone for comments. During his last visit to Hyderabad and different PR locations, the federal minister had said the ML-I project would change the destiny of PR.

‘Entire system needs rehabilitation’

According to Ch Hamid, the ML-I project was worked out at Rs800 billion, but it had been slashed to Rs600bn now by the current government. “Chinese won’t commit their 85pc funds for the project unless we [Pakistan government] commit our share of 15pc,” he said.

The PTI government, he said, did not allocate funds for this project in the last three years so why the Chinese would come to rescue it? “The entire system needs rehabilitation and this we have debated in June 3 meeting of the standing committee,” he said.

Fast locomotives

Ch Hamid, who belongs to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, attributed tragedies on railway tracks due to powerful new locomotives, which were not meant for passenger trains. “These locomotives were procured during the past PML-N government and these were solely meant for freight trains. They were supposed to be used for cargo purposes like carrying oil, coal, containers, etc. But this government has attached them with passenger trains and there’s a mismatch of speed between locomotives and old bogies.”

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Hyderabad MNA Sabir Kaimkhani somewhat tended to agree with Hamid.

“Why we are waiting for the ML-I alone when major train tragedies are taking place in the same Sukkur division near Ghotki. This strip has become a killer track. We need to invest on it without waiting for ML-I to save precious lives,” he said.

He said that due to a delay in ML-I project other projects including that of Hyderabad railway station had been delayed as well.

He said there were instances when PR drivers tried to cover delays in the journey by overspeeding and this ended up in derailment or collision. “For how long the current government [can] keep blaming the past government for its own follies?” he asked.

However, PR CEO Memon said: “Speed restrictions are applied wherever the condition of the track is not satisfactory. They vary between 50km per hour to 80km per hour depending on the condition of the track.”

PM inaugurates polio vaccination campaign

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday expressed the hope that Pakistan would soon become a “polio-free” country as only one case of the paralysing disease was reported in the country during the current year.

The prime minister kicked off the polio eradication campaign by administering vaccination drops to some children. He expressed satisfaction over sharp decline in new polio

“With well-coordinated efforts of the federal and provincial governments, Pakistan can become a polio-free country,” the prime minister said while chairing a meeting of the National Task Force on Polio Eradication which was attended by Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Shah Farman, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Mohammad Khalid Khursheed, PM’s Special Assistant Dr Shahbaz Gill, Engineer-in-Chief Pakistan Army Lieutenant General Moazzam Ijaz, provincial chief secretaries and representatives of the Ministry of Health and global partners.

Congratulating the provincial governments and the partners for the polio eradication campaign, he said surfacing of a single case across the country this year was a great success. “However, their mission is to make Pakistan a complete polio-free country,” he added.

Says Pakistan will soon become ‘polio free’

The meeting was apprised that due to effective strategy of the federal and provincial governments, only one polio case had been reported from Balochistan this year. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the polio immunization campaign had been slow.

Prime Minister Khan said during the pandemic, the government saved human lives along with securing livelihood of the people, which was acknowledged by the world. “With such spirit, they (all stakeholders) would have to defeat polio,” he added.

It was informed in the meeting that in different districts of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, traces of poliovirus were found. Due to issues of access, security and non-cooperation of parents, every year, a large number of children were deprived from being administered polio drops.

The meeting was told that information and technology was being utilised along with geographical information system and tracking in this regard.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Development president Dr Chris Elias lauded the prime minister and the government for achieving a significant milestone in the polio eradication campaign.

The chief ministers apprised the meeting about the measures taken in their respective provinces with regard to polio eradication drive.

The prime minister also expressed his gratitude to global partners, including World Health Organisation, Rotary International and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for extending technical and financial support to the country.

Earlier, the prime minister administered anti-polio drops to children while inaugurating fresh countrywide polio campaign at Prime Minister House.

Mera Ghar Mobile Service

Prime Minister Khan also launched a mobile service of National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) to provide loans to the people who wanted to have their dream house under the PM’s Mera Ghar Programme.

The NBP service called “Mera Pakistan Mera Ghar” was launched under which mobile vans of the bank will move to remote and far-flung areas where proper banking facility is not available and will provide one-window facility to process house loan cases.

It is believed that some commercial banks will follow suit and launch their own mobile services to make PM’s housing programme successful.

FIA allowed to investigate complaint against journalist

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday allowed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to investigate a complaint against vlogger and journalist Asad Ali Toor filed by a female television anchorperson Shiffa Yousafazi.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that the court has never stopped FIA from investigation but suspended the notice issued to Toor since it was issued without proper procedure. The observation came during the hearing of the petition filed by Toor seeking suspension of notice issued to him in another case pertaining to ‘defaming’ the institution.

The IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah was hearing two identical petitions of Toor filed against summoning him in two different cases related to his vlogs and social media updates.

The first petition was taken up on May 7 and IHC Chief Justice has suspended the notice issued to Toor by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Advocate Jawad Hussain Adil, counsel for Ms Yousafzai, informed the court that since the court had suspended the notice, FIA had stopped investigating the matter.

When the court inquired from the FIA about the progress, its assistant director replied that since the court had suspended the notice, the FIA did not proceed in this matter.

Justice Minallah reminded him that the court never stopped the investigating agency from performing lawful tasks or completing investigations.

He remarked that the court had suspended the notice since it was apparently issued without completing the formalities. Moreover, there was no reason mentioned in the notice for which it was served to Toor.

As per the complaint of Ms Yousafazi, Toor has recently uploaded three videos, one after the other, wherein he has made bizarre allegations against the complainant which are based on frivolous grounds, weak assumptions and mala-fide intentions.

It said that the defamatory remarks do not in any way correspond with the existing ground realities and are indeed ill founded and are being propounded with mala fide intention of maligning the complainant’s name and reputation.

She also listed the links to all three videos as well as the transcripts with the complaint.

Justice Minallah advised the FIA to proceed on the complaints filed under the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (Peca) in accordance with the law.

“The complainant has to establish its case before the investigating agency first, and then the investigating officer may issue notice to the accused,” he said.

However, in certain cases, the complaints were filed by a third person, he added.

Another complaint against the vlogger was based on the complaint of a citizen Fayyaz Mehmood Raja. The complainant pointed out that he was perturbed to see vlogs and tweets of Toor since these were against the national institutions.

The court suspended this notice as well and adjourned the hearing till June 30.

NCOC plans to vaccinate 70m by year-end

ISLAMABAD: While under 2,000 new Covid-19 cases and less than four per cent positivity rate were reported on the second consecutive day on Wednesday, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) decided to launch a campaign to vaccinate 70 million people by the end of current year.

The campaign is aimed at reducing adverse effects of the viral disease to provide substantial flexibility to the business fraternity to enable them to continue their businesses with minimum restrictions.

Meanwhile, the number of active Covid-19 cases has decreased by 40pc in the last two months. A significant decrease in the number of hospitalised patients has also been observed.

A meeting of the National Coordination Committee on Monday, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, had decided to expedite vaccination to achieve herd immunity at the earliest. It was also decided that various segments of public and private sectors would be involved in the vaccination process under the “whole of the nation approach”.

According to a statement issued by the NCOC, the mass vaccination drive strategy revolves around three objectives: motivation of public through effective media partnership, capacity building of existing vaccination infrastructure and uninterrupted supply of vaccine, including indigenous production which has begun on Tuesday with the launching of PakVac by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

The NIH has prepared 120,000 doses of the vaccine, from the concentrate of Chinese company Cansino’s single dose vaccine, and aims to produce three million doses every month.

“A target to vaccinate 70 million people by the end of this year has been set by NCOC. All federating units have been taken on board to enhance their vaccination capacity for which federal government will provide necessary assistance. Federating units have also been asked to engage private sector including business community, media, religious scholars and other departments for close collaboration in this campaign,” the statement said.

Two special sessions of the NCOC, chaired by its chairman Asad Umar, were held and attended by representatives of media houses, chambers of commerce and the Pakistan Business Council. The participants assured the NCOC of their organisations’ support to contribute to the national mass vaccination campaign.

Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar highlighted that the campaign was aimed at reducing adverse effects of disease to provide a substantial flexibility to business fraternity to enable them to continue their businesses with minimum restrictions. The participants were assured of all out support in vaccinating their employees and families.

Later Mr Umar said in a tweet: “Held special NCOC session today with all major chambers in Pakistan. I want to thank the business leadership for willingness to participate in vaccination drive to help Govt accelerate the vaccination campaign & open up the economy while safeguarding health of the nation.

The vaccine statistics show that on Tuesday as many as 305,093 doses were administered and number of total vaccine doses administered is 7,953,574.

According to data of the NCOC, 80 deaths occurred and 1,843 people tested Covid-19 positive with the positivity rate of 3.91pc. The other day 1,771 cases with the positivity rate of 3.72pc were reported.

The number of active cases, which was over 90,000 in April, has fallen by around 40pc as there were 55,052 active cases as of Wednesday. There were 446 patients on ventilators and the number of patients admitted to hospitals was 4,088. In April there were around 7,000 patients admitted to hospitals across the country.

Published in Dawn,