During the last five years, Pakistan Railways, which faced administrative and financial crisis, remained under scrutiny in the National Assembly. During the Question-Hour session, the parliamentarians inquired about the closure of Railways routes, financial difficulties, delay in salaries, corruption, land and property and other issues from the Ministry of Railways.
A total of 568 or 4 percent of the total 14,943 questions asked by the members of National Assembly during the Question-Hour session in the five parliamentary years (48 sessions of the 13th National Assembly from March 2008 to January 2013) were directed to the Ministry of Railways.
Legislators of the main opposition party PMLN asked the most number of questions – 346. Their major concern seemed to be the rights of the Pakistan Railways’ employees aired through 43 questions, followed by 24 questions about accounts, 20 about illegal occupation of land and property and 18 about different routes.
The overall trend was similar. Legislators submitted questions regarding the financial crunch (47), routes’ closure (37), and occupation of land and property (32). Parliamentarians asked a further 28 questions about planned projects to overcome the financial and administrative crisis faced by Pakistan Railways.
In a written reply in the 44 session in the fifth parliamentary year, the Minister for Railways told the National Assembly that 42.23 billion rupees in foreign loans and 40 billion rupees in indigenous loans from State Bank of Pakistan are outstanding against Pakistan Railways. However in another written reply during the same session the minister said to overcome the present crisis situation, Pakistan Railways planned repair and maintenance of existing locomotives, besides buying new ones through revenue/PSDP budget, bank loans, as well as private sector participation.
According to the Economic Affairs Survey, Pakistan Railways carried 74.9 million passengers in 2009-10, 64.9 million in 2010-11 and 25 million passengers from July 2011 to February 2012. Earnings have also dipped. From 21 billion rupees in 2009-10, the earnings came down to 18 billion rupees in 2010-11 and a little more than nine billion rupees from July 2011 to February 2012.
As many as 30% parliamentarians (101 out of the total membership of 342) – 67 male and 34 female – asked questions during the five parliamentary years. None of the legislators of BNPA, NPP and PMLF submitted questions about the Ministry of Railways. Most of the questions directed to the Ministry of Railways were asked by PMLN (340), followed by MQM (110), PPPP (78), PML (20), ANP (four), IND (three) and MMAP submitted two questions.
Overall the Ministry of Railways was prompt in providing answers to the parliamentarians’ queries. It provided answers to 491 questions while not responding to 65 questions. One question was partially answered.
|The Question Hour allows the legislature to hold the executive answerable to the public and makes the legislators aware of the activities of ministries and divisions. In the National Assembly, through a 15-day written notice, a legislator can ask a question which should be addressed to the concerned minister. The first hour of every sitting (except on Tuesdays, which is a Private Members’ Day) in the National Assembly is available for asking and answering of questions.
This report gives an overview of the questions asked on the floor of the House about the performance of the Ministry of Railways. The questions have been categorized into 80 subjects such as rights of the employees, routes, accounts, land and property, tracks, bridges, crossings, saloons, scrap material, tickets, timings, reservations etc.
 See at: http://www.finance.gov.pk/survey/chapter_12/13-TransportAndCommunications.pdf
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