LAHORE/ISLAMABAD An elderly pensioner of Pakistan Railways (PR) lost his life Wednesday morning after he, along with many others, spent whole night waiting to get his pension outside a bank branch. The tragic end came as the department, to which the old man had given prime of his life, failed to ensure payment of dues to hundreds of pensioners even after passing of 25 additional days and crossing of a promised deadline the hungry families had been banking on. Mahmood Khan, 65, was a resident of Lalpul, Mughalpura and a retired railway employee, who had been standing in a long queue since Tuesday to get his pension for September outside the National Banks Mughalpura workshop branch. By Wednesday morning the depleted energy store of Mahmood was spent up and the poor man fell on the ground unconscious, while standing in the queue. People shifted him to nearby hospital where he was declared dead. Mahmoods family comprising his three children held Pakistan Railways responsible for the tragedy. As the incident topped media headlines and the on-site reports showed the public rage, the PR administrators demonstrated their 'generosity by announcing Rs0.5 million compensation for the bereaved family, and Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour shifted blame on the Finance Ministry for the unfortunate death, as he spoke to a private TV channel. President Asif Ali Zardari was not far behind. Taking a 'serious notice of the incident, he ordered for immediate inquiry and report. Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the president directed the Railways secretary to personally visit the Railways headquarters in Lahore and investigate the circumstances of the tragedy and the mess, and submit a report to the prime minister with a copy to Presidency within three days. The incident also led the Railways and Finance Ministry to arrange an emergency meeting and it was announced that all the working and retired employees would get their dues till November 5. Probably the message sent to the unprivileged classes was: 'Some of you will have to sacrifice their lives for the rest to get their rights. Khalid Mehmood, son of Mahmood Khan, told newsmen that he had asked his father to return home but his father was not willing to come back empty-handed. He wanted to buy gifts for his grandsons and granddaughters. He wanted to bring edibles at home, said Khalid with wet eyes. PML-N MNA Khawaja Saad Rafique visited the late Mehmoods residence and said the matter would be taken up in the National Assemblys next meeting and also in his partys rally due to held on Friday. Mahmood was not alone; there were hundreds of other pensioners who spent night outside the bank expecting to get funds as PR general manager (Operations) had promised them payment by October 25. But on the morning, the bank administration told the gathering outside the bank that there was no pension even that day too. Another former PR employee, Jaffer Hussain, too could not put up the starvation and lost consciousness. Following these incidents, announcement was made to keep the bank open for 24 hours, according to National Bank Manager Ehsan. Pakistan Railways pensioners took to protest after they were not reimbursed their pensions even after 25 days. They staged a sit-in in front of a railway carriage. These pensioners said they have nothing at home to eat and they will not go home empty-handed. PR had assured all the employee unions that salaries and pensions would be paid by October 25 and the unions had called off the strike after the assurance. PR General Manager Saeed Akhtar had also categorically stated that after receiving Rs1 billion by the federal government, the Railways had no problem with the provision of salaries and pensions and that every one of the current and retired employees would be paid by the given date. The GM had also stated that the salaries and pensions of the next month would be paid before Eidul Azha. All these claims proved wrong when hundreds of pensioners protested in front of the PR headquarters in Lahore and the regional offices all over the country including those in Karachi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Quetta. They chanted slogans against the pathetic and callous attitude of the PR authorities. Many of them said that they totally depended on pensions. The pensioners questioned that why the salaries of the PR bureaucracy were not delayed though they were higher than any worker or pensioner. They were of the view that PR admin had lied to them and the entire nation just to avoid the strike. The PR spokesperson while explaining the reason for the delay in the disbursement of salaries and pensions said that the department had transferred Rs77.73 million to 78 bank branches all over the country to ensure payment. He said the reason behind non-payment could be the unexpected bank holiday on Monday which might have delayed the transfer of funds through the banking system. He was hopeful that the matter would be resolved by Wednesday once the funds were transacted.