Our railway is in a decrepit state, and any move to bring it out of this mess is countered by more efforts to stall the already sluggish development. The blast in Rajanpur that derailed a train and left four dead is an example of the limited amount of sabotage required to cripple an entire route. The train was on its way from Peshawar to Karachi, and was already halfway over the device, when a time bomb was detonated on the tracks. The explosion left dozens injured a five foot ditch in its wake. The Baloch Republican Army claimed responsibility. This attack came only ten days after the approval to beef up security in various railway stations of Punjab, and highlights just how fruitless those measures would have been when faced with an attack such as this. The tracks cannot be guarded relentlessly, which means they are easy targets for anyone looking to disrupt the flow of railway traffic.

After five and a half years, the Mughalpura dry port of Lahore has also been reopened, which has enabled freight trains to carry goods to and from Karachi. A route that promises revenues of around 2.7 million rupees each passage, with thousands of jobs also being provided; this positive step can only help in the long run. Pakistan Railways is one of the many state-run enterprises that have suffered due to poor management in the past. The basic infrastructure was laid down by the British during their rule in the subcontinent, and no substantial enhancements have been made since then. The lack of functional engines, and the inability to buy more means that their biggest source of revenue, transporting cargo through various parts of the country, has been sidelined in favor of the less lucrative business of carrying passengers. This cannot be helped given that as a state owned service, their first responsibility lies with the people. A major chunk of their revenue however, is also forgone because of this.

It seems that so far, Khawaja Saad Rafique is not doing too poorly as the Railways Minister. His job is more thankless than most. He has been tasked with bringing the Railways to a state where consistent bailouts are no longer necessary. The sad part is that every time a step is taken in the right direction, one thing or another gives rise to even more issues than before. The damage in Rajanpur will take 48 hours to be repaired. Those that died are lost forever. And this attack, like so many others, reveals the extent of trouble we are in, even while trying to come up with a solution.