ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan Wednesday directed the federal government to make the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) fully operational within three months and complete the ML-1 project within two years.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed conducted hearing of a human rights case regarding a colossal loss incurred by Pakistan Railways. The former CJP Saqib Nisar had taken notice of corruption in the railways department.

During the hearing, Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar in pursuance of the court directives appeared before the bench.

Justice Gulzar stated that there would be serious consequences if the projects are not completed within the specified time. He asked from the railways minister when KCR would be inaugurated.

The minister replied that whenever the court orders.

The Chief Justice ordered that KCR be made operational within one month and fully functional within three months.

Sheikh Rashid informed that 85 per cent of the track for KCR has been cleared. “We carried out an operation last night as well and razed a few buildings to the ground,” he said.

The minister thanked the Chief Justice for taking interest in the case and said, “We are grateful to you; a lot of work has been done in the past 12 days.”

Justice Gulzar said that they are grateful to him, adding that in fact the whole nation is grateful to him (Sh. Rashid). “The KCR is a ‘project for the people of Pakistan and not for one individual,” said the CJP.

Justice Gulzar asked the railways minister not to give the KCR project to the Sindh government, keep it with him, adding that the KCR would end up like the Karachi transport system. “We were hoping to even run trams in Karachi,” the chief justice said.

The CJP questioned why KCR has been added to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

“We added it to CPEC because of the financial situation,” the minister responded. “China would give an expensive loan for KCR,” the court observed.

“If railways sells off some of its land, it will be able to fix its own financial situation,” the chief justice said. “Selling a single property from Karachi will fix the railways’ financial system. But the court has put a stay on selling of these properties,” Rashid responded.

Asad Umar said that completing the project in three months would not be possible. “You are saying that this cannot be done, the project will face delays while people are waiting for it,” said the chief justice while stressing that the Pakistan Railways should not let its people sleep and ‘order them to work.’

“The country’s financial situation is not too well at the moment. The real issue is that a large amount of funding is required for this project,” Umar told the court in response.

“The Japanese people have been asking you over and over again about this project,” the chief justice said to which Umar responded that the Sindh government will have to give an answer for that.

The bench, therefore, sought a reply from the Sindh government regarding the matter on the next date of hearing.

Umar also asked the court to tell the Sindh government to ensure action on the KCR project.

“Asad Umar, you are very respectable for us but you are not doing anything for Railways,” the chief justice said.

“We will present the 1,880 kilometers-long ML-1 project in front of the CDWP on March 10,” Umar responded while adding that the project will also be approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on April 12,” Umar told the court in response.

The court then enquired about the timeline for the completion of the project.

“From the day that it starts, the project will be finished in five years,” Rashid told the court while adding that the Chinese will also be “satisfied with this project.”

The apex court ordering that KCR be made operational within three months and the ML-1 fully functional within two years deferred the hearing till February 21 in this matter.