The Minister of Railways, Sheikh Rasheed, recently alleged that Pakistan and China had renegotiated the cost of the MR1 project and the price had been brought down from eight to six billion. The population was nothing but joyed to hear this decision because it fits right into the austerity plans that the government is following and cuts anywhere in costs mean that more attention can be given to human development, as promised by the government. However, Mr Wang Lei, Executive Managing Director of China Railway Corporation (International) Limited (CRCC), has categorically rejected these claims of cost reduction, stating no renegotiation or approach on the subject has been made - which puts a huge question mark on the credibility of the statements made by the Minister of Railways.

This is quite an awkward situation for Sheikh Rasheed; he was asked by the media to explain how he had managed to reduce the cost of the project by a whopping two billion rupees when he initially made the announcement, but no explanation was forthcoming. With this statement by the Mr Lei, the country is left to ponder what miraculous mathematics was used by the Minister of Railways to come up with his claim. We are left with two options – either the Minister simply lied, seeking to join the austerity drive that was sweeping government circles in those days, or he has unilaterally made alterations to the project – reducing product quality or cutting miscellaneous amenities – without taking our Chinese partners on board. Both are gross violations that demand censure. An explanation from the Sheikh Rasheed is now of paramount importance; not just to clear his own actions, but to solve the diplomatic crisis that his words have led too.

The country, no doubt, needs an economic miracle at this point to save itself from the challenges being faced right now and the austerity measures give the economy and the people the required boost but the statements being made must be supported by evidence.

Fickle promises will not be accepted this time. There are greater means of accountability and many now act as the interest articulators of the masses. It would be a good time for the government to keep a check on the promises being made and ensure only those are mentioned which are feasible to deliver because the masses do understand that it will take some time get the country on the right direction, but that cannot be done by overpromising beyond capacity.