During his yearlong stint as the Minister of Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad has been in the news often, but always for the wrong reasons. While the Minister seems to be in a competition with himself to claim the most outrageous and outlandish things possible, his ministry is stumbling from disaster to disaster. The veteran politician may be a colorful public spokesperson for the ruling party’s agenda, but as a Minister he has failed his job miserably.  

In yet another accident, three bogies and the engine of Karachi-bound 48-down Rehman Baba Express derailed at Toba Tek Singh railway station on Thursday night. Fortunately only 10 people were hurt and there were no causalities, but this derailment could quite easily have been another terrible tragedy. 

These are not isolated incidents anymore that the Minister can blame on “incompetent staff”; the previous administration operated with the same staff yet kept accidents to a minimum. It is not just the safety of the trains which is a problem, the whole operation has regressed. Four to six hours delays in operations have become so regular passengers plan for it and the maintenance standards have fallen sharply at both the stations and onboard the trains. The new routes – started by breaking protocol and using reserve boogies – are extremely unsafe and uncomfortable rides, since these boogies have been drafted into use without proper safety testing.

It is damning for the Mr Rasheed that the engineering team at the latest derailment found that the brake pads of seven coaches were out of order.

This is the cost of “rewarding” politicians with ministries that they have no competence for; they will institute ill-thought publicity-seeking policies while spending the majority of their time doing the only thing they know how to do; do politics on national television.

The situation with Pakistan Railways has gotten so dire it is about time the Prime Minister asks for a resignation.