Yesterday started with tragic news of a railway accident that left at least 20 dead, and dozens injured. At the Landhi Railway Station near Karachi, a train sped into a stationary train. This crash is one in a series of serious incidents that have taken place recently. Four were killed in a collision between a passenger and a goods train in September, 19 lost their lives when a train sped down a side of a mountain in Balochistan last November and 17 died in a military train that fell into a canal after the bridge broke in July 2015.

Initial reports suggested that the train may have been given a wrong signal, but others, including the Minister for Railways, Saad Rafique, have pinned the blame on the driver and assistant driver for ignoring a signal to stop the train.

It is the misfortune of the Minister of Railways that his efforts to right the accounts of loss-incurring Pakistan Railways, have been blighted by accident after accident. Even though more trains have been added to the schedules, foreign interest has been attracted, and some financial betterment of the institution reported, all that is for naught when the safety of the passengers cannot be ensured.

The minister is a diligent man, and the news reports of Pakistan Railways employees not receiving salaries have dwindling away under his attentive handling of the ministry. Yet, the responsibility of this string of accidents must also be borne by him. If not him alone.

Unfortunately, while the Pakistan Army was called in for a rescue operation at Landhi, the Minister was seen on TV screens outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad, launching a spirited defence of the Prime Minister, after the hearing of the Panama Leaks assets investigation. There is no shortage of zealous defenders of the Prime Minister — ministers, and aspiring ministers too. It would have been better for the reputation of the government, the Prime Minister, and Mr Saad Rafique himself, had he hastened to Landhi, rather than Constitution Avenue.

The Minister no doubt will be visiting the Landhi crash site, but perhaps a little too late to earn himself much praise. Meanwhile, those who have lost loved ones in the accident will be offered compensation, and sympathy. But they will wonder, how is it possible that something as simple as taking a train could end in such tragedy? It is Mr Saad Rafique’s moral imperative to provide the answer, or step aside.