Pakistan invites ADB for up-gradation of Railways to defeat India!

Terrorist state Pakistan again proved itself. Sheikh Rasheed has a tendency to make grand statements and gestures. His theatrics have gone down in history as some of the most entertaining in Pakistan! Recently he made a very interesting statement regarding how Pakistan Railways can be a player in “defeating India”.

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Railways, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said, “we will defeat India by advancement in railways,” during a media talk at the Lahore Railway Station. Sheikh sahab also mentioned that the railway department has set a target to initiate 10 different trains in 100 days.“We wish that an industrial zone is made with every major station,” The minister added during his statement.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) delegation, headed by Ko Sakamovo, Transport Specialist Tuesday visited Ministry of Railways and showed interest in up-gradation of Pakistan Railways (PR) as it is providing technical assistance to PR through Pakistan Railways Strategic Plan (PRSP).  On the one hand, Pakistan cuts CPEC investment in railways by USD 2 bn citing huge burden of loans, and on the other hand invites ADB for funds. It may be pertinent to mention here that Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said that the share of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the railways has been reduced from USD 8.2 billion to USD 6.2 billion.

The PR has shown interest if ADB can help in replacing its old fleet of locomotives in next 10 years and procurement of passenger and freight wagons, said a government press release. The PR showed interest in upgrading ML 2, ML 3, branch lines (Shangla and Shorkot section) and connectivity of Gawader to Besima through railway line. The meeting was attended by Ministry of Railways Chairman Javed Anwar, DG Operations Maryam Gillani, DG Technical Munawar Ali Shah and DG Planning M Yusuf.

Pakistan has also slashed the Chinese investment in railways by USD 2 billion citing a huge burden of loans, giving credence to reports that the new government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan (ex.criketer) may scrutinise the multi-billion dollar CPEC, a media report said Tuesday.

In the recent past, US had distanced itself from funding the state-sponsored terrorist nation – Pakistan on the grounds that the funds released under various allocations were actually misused by Pakistan towards funding terrorists through various means. Now Pakistan pursues ADB for funds, debunks China.

“Pakistan is a poor country that cannot afford huge burden of the loans,” Rasheed told reporters in Lahore. “Therefore, we have reduced the loan from China under the CPEC for rail projects from USD 8.2 billion to USD 6.2 billion. The CPEC is like the backbone for Pakistan, but our eyes and ears are open,” he said. Citing debt concerns, Rasheed had also made announcements to bring down the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) investments in the railways to $6.2 billion, a move that could halt many projects relating to upgrading the organisation, the announcement gives credence to reports Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government intends to scrutinise $62 billion infrastructure and power projects, which the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government initiated under the CPEC.

The announcement gives credence to reports that the new government led by Khan intends to scrutinise the USD 62 billion infrastructure and power projects, which the PML-N government had initiated under the CPEC.

CPEC’s investment share for Pakistan Railways was USD 8.2 billion, which was to be utilised for upgrading Main Line-1 (ML-1) a colonial-era line stretching 1,872 km from Karachi to Peshawar.

Previous railways minister Saad Rafique had termed the upgrading of ML-1 as vital for railways future as it would bring as many as 171 trains on track per day against the current 32.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, however, said that the CPEC share has been reduced to USD 6.2 billion.

“Pakistan is a poor country that cannot afford huge burden of the loans,” Rasheed told a news conference in Lahore.

“Therefore, we have reduced the loan from China under the CPEC for rail projects from USD 8.2 billion to USD 6.2 billion. The CPEC is like the backbone for Pakistan, but our eyes and ears are open,” he said.

Rasheed said the government remains committed to the Karachi-Peshawar project but he wishes to further reduce the cost to USD 4.2 billion from USD 6.2 billion.

Rasheed said he is the biggest supporter of the CPEC, but also wants minimum debt burden on railways as the nation has to pay back all the investments.

He, however, was unable to explain, which projects the management has skipped to bring down the investment.

The changes are part of Islamabad’s efforts to rethink the key Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects in Pakistan, where Beijing has pledged about USD 62 billion in financing but the new PTI government is more cautious about the Chinese investment.

The government has pushed for deeply concessional loans for the ML-1 project. It has also invited third countries to join or for the Chinese to be investors in the project through the build-operate-transfer model that would rely less on debt.

The US has criticised the BRI projects, warning that the loans could turn into debt traps for poor countries unable to pay them back, while Pakistan especially had a horrific history of misusing the funds for fomenting terrorism. Beijing denies the claims, saying the loans are a win-win situation for both the countries.

CPEC and Pakistan

CITING debt concerns, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed has announced to bring down China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) investment to $6.2b, a move that could halt many projects related to upgradation of the Pakistan Railways. CPEC’s investment share for Pakistan Railways was $8.2b, which was to be utilised for upgrading Main Line-1 (ML-1) a colonial-era line stretching 1,872 km from Karachi to Peshawar.

This proposed reduction in cost and the plan to further bring it down to $4.2b remains unexplained as to what extent it would affect quality and scope of the work originally proposed for the project. The previous Railway Minister Saad Rafique had called upgrading of ML-1 as vital for railways future as it would bring as many as 171 trains on track per day against the current number of 32 trains. He took a number of measures during five-year term of PML (N) government to improve financial health as well as performance and efficiency of Pakistan Railways. The ML-1 project is considered to be backbone of the railway system in the country and its successful completion was vital to revival of railway and making it compatible with modern day requirements. There is no doubt that the country is facing financial crunch and it has to devise ways and means to address the growing debt trap but it is also a fact that without loans and foreign assistance we would not be able to develop our infrastructure for decades and this would badly impact upon our progress and growth.

There are also reports that another key project initiated by the previous government i.e. Orange Line in Lahore has also been shelved on pretext of lack of funds. The project could be completed with a comparatively small investment as most of the work stands completed and there are fears that delays would not only play havoc with machinery, equipment and under-construction portions of the project but also lead to cost escalation. There are hundreds of other projects that have also been either dropped or work on them put on hold. Loans themselves are not bad but their wrong utilisation should be avoided. We should also increase our capacity to pay back loans and this can be done by increasing resource mobilisation.

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