By Senator Rehman Malik
I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to the victim families of this incident. May God bless the departed souls in peace, Ameen.
The whole nation has gone into shock over the news of this unfortunate tragedy of train near Liaqatpur, Rahim yar Khan which has taken above 76 lives leaving 40 injured. It is yet to be determined if this tragedy is an innocent mistake of using a gas cylinder inside a train or it was a deliberate act of terrorism or sabotage.
It needs to be thoroughly investigated but whatever the cause maybe, there should have been emergency backup for the safe escape of the passengers in times of such unexpected tragedies. I would like to point out some lapse which should have been part of the SOP for the Pakistan Railway for the safety of the passengers.
1. The scrutiny/ screening of the baggage of the train passengers should have been ensured the way it is done at the airports so that nobody is allowed to take inflammable items i.e. gas cylinder and other petroleum product etc. inside the train.
2. Railway station master with the help of railway police should have ensured to screen and should have disallowed such items.
3. There should be SOP set-up for railway as well in order to assist passengers in time of difficulty, danger or distress.
4. All train drivers must be connected with each other through official mob phone to Railway HQ & the said phone number should be displayed in every boggy.
5. The old way of pulling the chain to stop the train is gone obsolete hence it should be discarded and a new and efficient way should be introduced.
6. Safety should be ensured for passengers like other countries where the train journey is the most secured one but unfortunately it has proven to be the worst in our country where people feel unsecured to travel by train.
7. All future trains should be fire proof & with built-in safety measures.
8. Proper communication between the driver of train and Railway Guards and passengers must be ensured.
9. The present railway minister must ensure that the above measures are taken to safeguard the lives of train passengers.
10. The maintenance of inside of the train as well as the track should be made certain in order to keep the train running smoothly and safely.
This incident has reminded me of the terrorist act of Samjhota express in 2007 in which above 70 people had died and 50 were injured. Most of the people who had died were 75 Pakistani civilians killed in India and ultimately Supreme Court of India fixed the responsibility on India where in it was declared as joint act of terrorism.
I see a great level of simile of today’s incident with Samjhota train where the terrorists had planted the explosive material in bogies and got down from the train as per the statements of the eye witnesses.
I feel the same thing might have been done to this train and I propose to the investigators to take this aspect also into consideration while doing the probe as the Police also needs to investigate those passengers who got off the train long before arriving to Rahim Yar khan.
The second simile goes as per my personal observations that special kind of inflammable explosive was planted inside a garment factory killing hundreds of workers in Karachi in 2012. The owners had tried to give an impression that the factory caught fire because of boiler that exploded but I ruled it out on the spot and ordered for inquiry. I in my capacity as Interior Minister had put the name of factory owners in ECL and ordered an inquiry by JIT. I had also expressed in my presser that it seemed to be an act of terrorism which came true as it was confirmed that the explosive was used deliberately.
In today’s incident, there has been sufficient gap in between the bogies – it was not possible for the fire if caused by the cylinder to create fire balls. It is only possible if the there was some explosive material present in the three bogies as it was observed in both incidents of factory and Samjhota express.
The investigation can prove or disapprove my observations through forensic tests and to overrule all possibilities of sabotage after all we have lost so many lives.
Eye witness says the cylinders are intact and it seems that there was something planted in the air conditioning system instead.
Hence, a high powered judicial inquiry be ordered by the PM with the following TORs:
2. To determine the exact cause of incident – Foreign fire expert be included in the investigation from abroad.
3. Fix the responsibility of this lapse and punish the responsible for this tragedy.
4. Recommendations to curb such incidents
5. Renaming of Railway police to Railway security force like ASF responsible for airport security.
It is high time this public transport be made more secure and efficient by reducing the risk of such incidents.
(The writer is Former Interior Minister of Pakistan, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Chairman of Think Tank “Global Eye”. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @Senrehmanmalik)