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At least 30 killed, several injured as train derails near Nawabshah


scores injured as eight coaches of the hazara express train en route karachi to rawalpindi derail near the sarhari railway station in nawabshah district on august 6 2023 photo express

Scores injured as eight coaches of the Hazara Express train en route Karachi to Rawalpindi derail near the Sarhari Railway Station in Nawabshah district on August 6, 2023.

Pakistan railway: A tale of corruption and negligence

Beyond the grim statistics, it unveils a tale of political neglect, bureaucratic inefficiencies and unaccountability

Muhammad Shahbaz Rajper
August 10, 2023

Amidst the gentle early morning breeze that enveloped Nawabshah on that fateful day, the Hazara Express hurtled forward, its passengers blissfully unaware of the tragedy that awaited them. The rhythmic clatter of wheels against the tracks echoed the optimism of their journey, one that would soon turn into a nightmare. The tranquility shattered as 10 coaches of the train derailed, resulting in chaos and horror unfolding before the eyes of stunned onlookers. A heart-stopping cascade of events that left at least 35 lives lost and over 100 injured.

The Hazara Express derailment, followed by a train accident near Bahawalpur, shows that these incidents have not only caused casualties but it also highlighted the deep-rooted political implications and governance challenges that have plagued the institutional system of Pakistan Railway for decades. Beyond the grim statistics, this incident unveils a deeply entrenched tale of political neglect, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and a glaring lack of accountability that has long undermined the safety of the nation's citizens.

Pakistan’s railway has long been suffering from the inadequate investment and outdated systems. Train accidents are not a new phenomenon in the history of Pakistan Railways. Historical data from Pakistan Railways shows there were 757 train accidents between 2012 and 2017. During Sheikh Rashid’s tenure as the Federal Minister of Railways, 74 accidents were reported between August 2018 and June 2019.

It is essential to question why Pakistan Railway has been severely neglected. The Hazara Express derailment is a reminder that political agendas must prioritise the welfare of people over anything else. The failure to do so could possibly endanger the lives of innocent citizens and enhance distrust in the government’s ability to ensure basic safety.

The incident has also exposed the gap between political rhetoric and actual action. The promises of infrastructure development and improving safety measures often get dominated by political campaigns and rhetoric, yet such accidents expose the disconnect between words and deeds. The tragedy prompts us to ask whether the politicians truly intend to address the systemic issues, or whether their words are mere political stunts for securing votes and maintaining their political power. This incident should motivate the citizens to demand actual actions and change rather than settling on empty promises and assurances.

The derailment also highlights the bureaucratic negligence, inefficiency and corruption within the railway system. In the past years, there have been multiple reports of poorly maintained tracks and outdated signal systems that point towards mismanagement and negligence. The major question is whether these issues are a result of resource scarcity or of deeper institutional problems, including corruption and mismanagement.

To ensure accountability and avoid any such incidents, it is important for the government to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the causes of the incident. If corruption and sheer negligence is found to be the reasons behind the derailment, those responsible must face the consequences. Also, effective measures should be taken to ensure proper management and streamline the bureaucratic processes to prevent any further incidents.

The derailment incident has resulted in significant economic consequences – the disruption of railway services and transport, tragic loss of lives, trade and tourism loss has all added to the economic instability of the state.

The political will is central to achieving all the necessary reforms. Projects ensuring safety of human lives should be prioritised over infrastructural projects. The Khanpur-Kotri-Khanpur section of ML-1 has led to many fatal accidents, especially in the last five years. In 2021, Pakistan Railways requested Rs30 billion for rehabilitation but both PTI-led and PDM-led government delayed the approval as unnecessary because of a planned ML-1 project under CPEC.

As the nation mourns over the lives lost in this tragic incident, it is essential for citizens to demand political change and institutional reforms. By advocating accountability and efficient resource allocation, Pakistan can transform its railway system into a symbol of progress, safety, and connectivity. The derailment should serve as a wake-up call for political leaders to rise above power politics and work together to ensure a safer and more prosperous Pakistan.
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