LAHORE - The Pakistan Railways came under fire at a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee yesterday when the members were informed that the management had hammered out a ‘proposal’ to settle a dispute with the Royal Palm Golf and Country Club set up on the PR land on terms and conditions which is estimated to have caused the facility a loss of some 10 billion rupees.

The management told the body of parliamentarians that the proposal had been submitted to the Supreme Court, which had already taken up the matter.

The idea of submitting the proposal to the apex court angered some of the committee members.

“Why does the Supreme Court want arbitration in this case? Why the Railways is now offering proposal to those who allegedly committed corruption in Royal Palm deal? Railways is weakening its stance on the issue. The honorable court must determine who committed corruption in the deal,” observed a fuming PPP Senator Taj Haider, a member of the committee on Railways.

JUI-F Senator Hafiz Hamdullah asked if the Supreme Court issues a verdict on PR proposal, who would pinpoint the culprits of the deal?

Senator Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hassani presided over the meeting held at the Railways Headquarters.

Matters concerning Saindak railway track, scrap theft, auction details and performance of railways police with particular reference to their ability to clear encroachments were also on the agenda.

Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq was also present in the meeting. The Royal Palm Club was established in Lahore in 2001 on a prized plot of 103 acres the Railways leased to a private firm at a throwaway price. According to some estimates, the land deal has caused Rs10 billion loss to the national exchequer.

When the deal was struck, the PML-N was in opposition. Its leaders incessantly alleged that ‘mega corruption’ was involved in the deal.

The PR management, however, said the proposal for settlement was submitted in the Supreme Court on the direction of the apex court.

It may be recalled that a former minister of state for railways Ishaq Khakwani had taken the matter to the Supreme Court and it is his petition upon which the apex court will decide the matter.

Talking to The Nation Khakwani said he would not accept any kind of deal between the PR and the Royal Palm administration since he was the petitioner.

He recalled that after the previous hearing Khawaja Saad had taken him to his office and handed him over a proposal which the Railways had prepared for negotiation with the club administration. But, he added, he took the draft for review.

“I have not been able to go through it so far. I don’t know what proposal has been offered from the Railways to Royal Palm. I will defend my case in the Supreme Court and will not accept any deal. Railways is respondent in my case and it cannot enter into any deal with the club administration,” he explained.

Khakwani said he was ready to appear before the Senate Committee if called for any briefing on the matter.

Chairman of the committee directed the Railways administration to present the proposal documents submitted in the SC and all other details before the Senate Committee in its next meeting scheduled to be held in December.

Sardar Fateh Muhammad was furious over the reports that the Saindak railways track had completely disappeared. The ministry of petroleum and natural resources had built the 38.1km long track from Saindak to Taftan in 1990 at a cost of Rs24.43 million for transportation of cooper and other minerals from Balochistan to other parts. The track however vanished with the period of time for “unknown reasons.”

The chairman issued direction to secretary petroleum and railways management for appearing before the committee with all details in next meeting.

“It was the national asset and vital for trade from Balochistan to other parts of the country. I will personally hold inquiry into the matter. Responsible and corrupt involved in the matter will not be spared,” said Senator Feteh.

The Senate body was informed about the Railways’ step to check scrap theft and ensuring its fair auction. The committee was informed that the Railways had prepared a scrap policy to ensure impartial sale of scrap.

The senators felt the need to improve the performance of Pakistan Railways Police. The committee was told that the PR was investing Rs one billion for purchasing latest equipment and revamping police infrastructure.

Sardar Fateh observed that Rs one billion was small amount for the purpose since the Railways’ infrastructure security could not be ensured without an efficient and well-equipped Railways police.

PR Minister Kh Saad Rafique said the Railways had not itself offered proposal to Royal Palm administration but it had been forwarded on Supreme Court direction.

“Everything will be fair and will not be done outside the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Railways will be the maximum beneficiary if its offer is accepted,” he held.

Senator Mrs Zahida Khan, Senator Malik Najuml Hassan, Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi, Senator Nasreen Jalil, Senator Sardar Azam Khan Musakhel, Senator Zafrullah Khan Dhandla, Senator Lt Gen (r) Salahuddin Tirmizi, Senator Islamuddin Shaikh and Senator Samina Abid were the other members of the committee.

The committee appreciated the role of Railways Minister Kh Saad Rafique for bringing improvement in the performance of the public utility.