LAHORE  - Pakistan is expected to start manufacturing locomotives for railways at its Risalpur factory during the next 10 years as a result of the efforts being made at present to rehabilitate the facility with foreign collaboration, the minister for railways said Monday.

Khwaja Saad Rafiq said in an interview to TheNation, Waqt News and Nawa-i-Waqt that the shortage of locomotives was one of the most serious problems at present and the government was exploring all options to get them in adequate numbers.

While talks were going on with South Korea to get used locomotives, a delegation was also being sent to Croatia to assess the possibility of any deal with them. China was yet another source from where Pakistan could meet its requirements, the minister said.

Khwaja Saad said he was determined to make the railways a profitable organisation of international standard. But despite best efforts at least 10 years would be needed to achieve the target.

The minister has repeatedly stated that the railways would not be privatised and in case of a decision to the contrary, he would resign.

Giving details of his plan, Khwaja said, in the first two years the direction would be set right and then the pace of work would be expedited in all areas. “We’ll try to cover the distance of three, four years in one year”. He believed that losses would be brought down to zero in five years.

Replying to a question, he said the most serious blow was administered to the Pakistan Railways during the Zia-era, when the National Logistics Cell (NLC) was set up needlessly, bringing an end to the railways’ monopoly in freight. During the subsequent periods also, he said, the railways was neglected and road transport was given preferential treatment.

When pointed out that successive governments pinned the responsibility of the decline on their predecessors but none took any punitive action against such characters, the minister said in the prevailing circumstances he would prefer to concentrate on setting new priorities. For this purpose, he said, he was trying to appoint efficient officers with impeccable integrity on all top positions. Simultaneously, he said, action has also been started against the corrupt elements, and 14 corruption cases have already been referred to the National Accountability Bureau, with some more in the offing.

Lands under the occupation of unscrupulous elements are being retrieved, tenants are being forced to pay reasonable rents or vacate the premises. Talks are in progress with the ‘defaulters’ to recover outstanding amounts from them.

In response to a question, the minister said the deal with the Royal Palms Club, negotiated by a retired general in the Musharraf era, was not acceptable and was being reviewed. At present, he said, the Supreme Court and the NAB were also among the stakeholders and an agreement acceptable all of them would be hammered out. The Club owners, he said, would have to pay much more than what they were paying at present.

Answering another question, Saad Rafiq said civil courts were issuing stay orders against the railways without hearing the institution’s point of view. Urging such courts to review their conduct, he said, in case they didn’t, the government would take the matter to the apex court.

About the attacks on railways in Balochistan, he said the provincial government, the FC and the Railways were formulating a strategy to avert them. He said missiles would be responded with missiles and talks with talks.

According to him, the multiple reductions in railways fares had yielded very positive results. The number of passengers has gone up as also the revenues. He said two-thirds locomotives would be reserved for freight and one third for passenger trains. Freight trains would be given preference as they generated more revenues. He said railways would start metro services in Lahore and Karachi as soon as possible.