ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court has directed the Defence and Interior Secretaries to submit a detailed report over the Railways lands under the possession of armed forces.

The court expressed dismay over the Railways Chairman, who did not turn up despite the court notice, and directed him to ensure his personal appearance on next hearing.  Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry observed that it had become culture of the country that law was enforced only on poor and no one dared to touch the influential.

He was heading a three-member Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Tariq Parvez, which was hearing a case involving huge corruption and irregularities in Pakistan Railways (PR). Justice Khilji Arif Hussain observed that the Supreme Court did not wish to interfere in administrative affairs, had the parliament fulfilled its obligations and stopped wrong doings. Justice Tariq Parvez observed that now ‘corruption’ was being considered as a right. The court directed Secretary Railways Board Shafiq Ullah, who was present in the court, to submit a comprehensive report over the strategy made or being made to evacuate the Railways land from the illegal possession. Chief Secretaries of all the four provinces have been directed to cooperate with Railways in getting back the possession of its occupied land.

At the outset of hearing, the PR and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) submitted a report, in compliance with the court’s earlier order, over the occupied land so far retrieved as well as corruption. The court, however, rejected the report terming it dissatisfactory. The court noted that the directions given by the court were not implemented so far.

Attorney for Secretary Railways Board Shafiq Ullah told the court that 87 acres of land had so far been retrieved from the illegal possession, whereas efforts were under way for retrieving the remaining land. To a court query, he said that the provinces were also extending cooperation to this effect.

“Has the Railways brought any influential in the net or only cottages of the poor people have been demolished,” the Chief Justice asked”. In Quetta, the Chief Justice said that the cottages of poor people have been demolished but the land under the occupation of FC has not been touched. “It has become the culture in the country that law is enforced only on the poor people, whereas no one dares to touch the influential people”, the chief justice noted.

“I can tell the name of a person, who has constructed and is running a petrol pump on Railways land,” the Chief Justice said, adding that the land so far retrieved was just peanuts and an eye-wash”. He said had the work been done, all the illegal occupants would have been in jails. He said that compromise is made everywhere and no one is ready to do his work with honesty. “Now it is said that corruption is our right,” Justice Tariq Parvez noted.

The report submitted by Railways stated that 15 more locomotives will be repaired soon. It said that 67.635 acres of PR land had been retrieved. It said that 4987.369 acres of PR land are still being occupied by different departments and only the security forces have encroached upon around 25,000 acres of PR land.

Regarding the forensic audit, the report stated that around 14 firms had responded to the PR Expression of Interest (EI) by February 10, 2012. It said that short-listing of the forms would be completed by March 5, 2012 followed by the issuance of requests for proposal to the selected firms. The report stated that business train under the auspices of Public-Private Partnership has successfully been launched on February 3 between Lahore and Karachi, whereas Shalimar Express would be inaugurated on February 24 between Lahore and Karachi. During the hearing, National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Railways Chairman Ayaz Sadiq informed the court that PR had become the most corrupt institution of the country. He said that now it was not clear whether the PR was a private or public sector entity. “You are the member of the National Assembly and it is the responsibility of the Parliament to take notice against the wrongdoings,” Justice Tariq Parvez asked Sadiq.

 “We are not fond of interfering in the administrative matters, but when parliament does not perform its functions, we have to take notice,” Justice Khilji Arif Hussain asked Ayaz Sadiq. The Chief Justice noted that mismanagement and corruption prevailed everywhere and no institution was performing and delivering efficiently. He said that good governance produces good institutions. He said that action should be taken against every institution, which does not perform its duties according to law. He said that Railways should take care of its land and think about its losses. In Karachi, he said, big plazas have been constructed on the PR land. He said during hearing of the “Karachi’s unrest case’, the court had ordered action against encroachments, however, the order had not been implemented yet.

Former Railways minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad told the court that the business train launched recently between Lahore and Karachi had been given on contract to the son of MNA Abdul Ghafoor and three others. He said this train had suffered Rs100 million loss in only 10 days. He said Rs1.5 billion spare parts recently purchased from China had not yet reach Karachi. He said that huge embezzlements were made in the purchase of these spare parts, thus the court should also take notice into it. Meanwhile, the court adjourned further hearing by February 27.