The fire that broke out on the Tezgam train from Karachi to Rawalpindi – killing at least 72 – is a catastrophe that was easily avoidable if the rules and safety procedures were followed to the letter. According to the government, the fire started when a gas canister brought by passengers to cook their own meals exploded, engulfing three carriages in flames as a result. The state as announced compensation for the victims and heirs, but in light of what happened, 1.5 million in exchange for a lost loved one is a paltry sum that will do little to help the families of those that lost their lives.

The two questions that rise out of this are obvious; why were the passengers not checked before they boarded the train? Was there no conductor or train official on board that could have stopped this tragedy from taking place if the passengers were restricted from cooking on a moving train? According to the Railways Minister, only 7 stations have security checks within, while roughly 580 do not. It is no wonder then that passengers can bring whatever they want on board, regardless of whether or not it goes against all safety and security protocols.

Federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed response also implicates him in this accident. According to the Minister, the fault lies with both passengers and railways staff, the former for bringing and using such dangerous items on board, while the latter failed in preventing this from happening. He also went on to state that greater precautions will be taken in the future. When asked why these precautions were not taken already, his flaky answer about mistakes being made and doing better in the future does nothing to bring back those lost or indeed offer up a resolute strategy on how best to prevent such tragedies.

The last year has seen the railways lurch from one disaster to the next; as a first step to improving the train system in Pakistan, Sheikh Rasheed must be de-notified as the Federal Railways Minister. The Prime Minister must step in and take back the portfolio from one of his strongest allies; but that is not something to expect, given that the PTI government has reshuffled the Cabinet twice, but has chosen to retain the services of Rasheed.

In any other democratic country, a tragedy such as this under a minister’s watch would lead to a resignation purely on principle. But since that is not something we expect of Sheikh Rasheed, the government itself must take stock of the railways sector to gauge Rasheed’s performance in the last year. It does not take an expert to see that a change at the top of the ministry is required not even to improve the system, but to simply ensure its smooth running and avoiding such disasters in the future.