Minister of Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique during a press conference has said that an amount of $12 billion would be required to “completely revamp” its infrastructure. With such an exorbitant figure, does the Minister plan to have bullet trains, or trains that can magically levitate? While the development of Pakistan Railways is indeed a worthy task, there are legitimate fears of corruption, making the revival of the railways unhopeful. Due to decades of management national institutions including Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Railways and Pakistan Steel Mills stand out like sore thumbs and any plan to give them more money has to be viewed with caution.

In May NAB filed corruption references against the former Pakistan Railway chief controller of purchase Zahoor Khattak, former Pakistan Railway general manager (Operation) Saeed Akhtar, former Pakistan Railway chief controller of stores Sameeullah Khan and Pak Steel Traders Contractor Zeeshan Ahmad. The accused were alleged to have violated Public Procurement Rules, 2004. Without advertising in the press, the officials of Pakistan Railways in connivance with the contractor, Pak Steel Traders, awarded contract for procurement of 500 million tons pig iron to Pak Steel Traders, causing a loss of millions of rupees to the national exchequer. Such acts of misappropriated funds and contracting are rampant in state owned enterprises.

The government has allocated a sum of Rs 41,000 million under Public Sector Development Project (PSDP) for Railways division, and yet the Minister needs more to improve the sector. When millions of rupees were beings spent on inter city Metro projects by his colleagues, where was Mr Rafique and his proposal to revamp the railways instead? Why was transport within Lahore and Rawalpindi given precedence over national transport infrastructure? The amount is almost as much as our dollar reserves. Chinese assistance is already giving him $3.69 billion under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to upgrade the Karachi-Peshawar line. Let's see these improvements first, before hearing demands for more money.