ISLAMABAD - The Senate was informed on Tuesday that Pakistan Railways suffered a loss of Rs32.769 billion during the financial year 2018-19 and the incumbent PTI government only brought down the losses of the state-run network of freight and passengers rail by Rs3.853 billion during the same year.

Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed informed the house that that accounts of Pakistan Railways for the financial year 2018-19 have been closed and according these un-audited accounts, the railways brought down its losses to Rs32.769 billion as compared to Rs36.622 billion losses for the financial year 2017-18.

“The deficit was decreased by Rs3.853 billion despite that Pakistan Railways had to spend an additional amount of Rs3.169 billion on account of increases in high speed diesel fuel prices, pays and pensions and depreciation of Pakistani rupee against US Dollar,” the minister said in his written reply in response to the question posed by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Mushtaq Ahmed.

Describing steps to improve financial position of the department, the minister further said that Pakistan Railways has started 24 new trains with the “same rolling stock and human resources which resulted in additional revenue earning of Rs4.938 billion as compared to the last financial year 2017-18.”

He further said that introduction of EFI locomotives and Trains Track System has contributed in reducing the fuel consumption by 2.000 million litres. Responding to another questions, Sheikh Rasheed informed the house that five major train accidents happened in the country from August 2018 to November 2019, claiming lives of 112 passengers and injuring 123 others. He said the rest of incidents were because of derailments and minor nature accidents.

He further said that Rs93 million compensation had been paid to deceased families and Rs4.8 million had been given to the injured under an official policy and further disbursement was in process.

On a point of public importance, PTI Senator Zeshan Khanzada drew the attention of the house towards the outbreak of coronavirus in the Chinese central city of Wuhan and questioned from the government what measures it had taken the prevent from the deadly virus.

“The issue is alarming for Pakistan because the new year holidays of Chinese workers are going to an end and those involved in projects in Pakistan would be returning to their workplace,” he said.

 “What arrangements the government has made at the airports and what precautionary measures have been taken by the National Health Services Ministry and Ministry of Interior,” he asked.

He said many countries, including US had issued travel advisories asking their citizens not to unnecessarily travel to China. He suspected that no such advisory had also been issued by Pakistan.

He said China was building 10,000-bed hospital within next 10 days to cope with the deadly virus and showed his concerns that Pakistan lacked such a capacity. He warned that the situation might be uncontrollable if such virus was detected locally.

Senate Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwala, who was presiding over the session, referred the matter to the house committee on national health services, with the direction to submit its report to the house in next five days. Earlier, the opposition staged protest walkouts from the house twice. The first walkout was staged during the question hour to protest over absence of two ministers. Interior Minister Ijaz Ahmad Shah and Minister for Narcotics Control Shehryar Afridi were not present in the house to answer questions related to their ministries.

The interference of at least two treasury lawmakers during the speech of PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi irked the opposition to stage second walkout from the house. Abbasi, while taking part in discussion on presidential address to the joint sitting of the Parliament, criticised President Dr Arif Alvi for promulgation of ordinances even when the Parliament was in session.

PTI Senator Waleed Iqbal objected to his remarks. On this, Senator Abbasi said: “Constitution only bars discussing conduct of the judges.”

With two PTI lawmakers, including Waleed Iqbal and Mohsin Aziz continued to pass remarks during his speech, he left his speech incomplete followed by a protest walkout.