Politics of sabotaging railway tracks grips south Pakistan, endangers lives

09:03, November 04, 2010      

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Lives of Pakistan's long distance train commuters have seriously been threatened as a series of bomb explosions entered the third consecutive day on Wednesday, damaging tracks and disrupting train traffic in southern Sindh province.

"It was sheer out of luck that the bomb exploded a moment before the train could roll down the track," a Pakistan Railways official told Xinhua by phone on anonymity from Nawabshah, a city in Sindh province.

"The explosion twisted less than a foot of the track, while the second bomb was defused successfully," he narrated the early Wednesday morning saboteur that could have turned tragic in Nawabshah, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's hometown.

Another train escaped disaster on Tuesday as a bomb exploded a minute before a train had to pass at Tando Jam near Hyderabad, the second largest urban city in Sindh province. A meter long piece of train track was damaged while two other small bombs were defused successfully. It suspended train traffic for a few hours creating panic among passengers.

Twin small intensity blasts have partially damaged a piece of railways track on Monday afternoon near Hyderabad again disrupting traffic and creating harassment. The blasts twisted almost a meter long piece of railway lines near Qasimabad residential area between Kotri and Hyderabad, local media reported.

Fortunately, the other targeted trains were also a few minutes late to reach the time-bombed spot and escaped disaster. However, they might not be luckier the next time, local watchers feared as they do not see anything on ground to guarantee the safety of thousands of kilometers long train track network.

No casualty or loss of life was reported in the incidents. Heavy contingent of police along with bomb disposal squad were quick to reach the site, but they cannot always be lucky to do the miracles, analysts believed.

In June this year, police had defused two bombs planted near the railway track in Hyderabad district.

During the same month, five bomb explosion attempts targeted railway track in Sindh. Four bomb blasts had significantly damaged railway track in district Ghotki near Sukkur in Sindh province. While one of the two planted bombs exploded partially damaging a railway track in Bin Qasim area of southern port city of Karachi.

No loss of life was reported in the incident but it did disrupted railway traffic for several hours.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for Wednesday's blast. However, a lesser known group Sindh Liberation Army (SLA) had claimed responsibility for the first two days saboteur of this week.

SLA, the splinter group is operating under "Jiye Sindh" (Long live Sindh), a Sindhi nationalist umbrella radical separatist group. It champions more rights for native Sindhi speakers and in a wider perspective an ultimate "Sindhu Desh", a controversial ideal of a separate homeland for native Sindhi language speakers.

The railway is also defaulter of its electric bills for the past couple of months as local media reported. Federal Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour had confessed the mammoth losses before local saying that a 200 billion rupees (about 2.35 billion U.S. dollars) of money injection could help his locomotives service wheels rolling.

Analysts believed that the current spate of saboteur targeting train tracks could possibly have two motives. Firstly, there is an attempt to expedite the move to privatize the troubled Pakistan Railways by certain vested interest groups that are interested in monopolizing to tap the vast money from railways.

Secondly, certain elements within the failing Railways ministry could possibly have been trying to shift the responsibility of its failures on others shoulders. Pakistan Railways is consistently suffering heavy losses, many train services have been abandoned despite commuters need and demand across Pakistan.

Despite heavily criticized train services and alternate means of mushrooming road network, railways is still the backbone both for freight shipment and passenger commutation in Pakistan. However, frightened train commuters still shiver with the thought of running over a bomb as railway patrolling cannot possibly keep the tracks free bombing pest.

Source: Xinhua


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