ISLAMABAD - Crossing Pakistan in long-distance trips every day, hundreds of thousands of Muslim commuters will soon have their long-demanded prayer section as railway authorities have launched a plan to redesign all trains to accommodate Muslim worshippers.
It was a long-time and legitimate demand, which should have been met much earlier, Saad Rafiq, the federal minister for railway told OnIslam.net.
But, it's never too late. Thousands of passengers -both male and female- will Inshaullah soon have designated area to offer prayer onboard in each railway car, the minister added.
Redesigning of the railway cars has already begun soon after the decision was announced. I have directed the railway authorities to accomplish the task as soon as possible, he maintained.
The redesigning of the railway cars, according to authorities, will be completed in phases. Long-route trains are being redesigned in the first phase.
Redesigning of hundreds of railway cars is not an easy task, especially when you are running out of money. It will take time, Saad said.
But let me assure you, it will take time but not long time- a few months, he maintained.
Demanded be Muslim commuters for years, the authority has taken the decision to re-design the railways cars in order to carve out the proposed prayer sections.
The prayer section will have a digital compass to tell the passengers about the direction of Qibl'ah with the moving train changes its direction.
Saad, a senior leader of ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) that has formed the government in the wake of a victory in May 2013 general elections, has accepted the railway ministry as a challenge as rampant corruption, bad governance, and lack of efficiency have brought this important mean of transport to a virtual collapse.
Numbers of railway passengers have ostensibly reduced during last five years due to lack of facilities, and inordinate delays.
I have taken this as a challenge. I admit that it is not an east terrain to ride, but it is not impossible either, he observed.
Creation of a passenger friendly atmosphere is the most-wanted requirement for the rejuvenation of railway.
Railway authorities think that designation of special prayer section in railway cars will help attract the passengers who use other means of transport.
Thousands of passengers do not prefer to travel by train because they do not want to miss their prayers, a senior railway official, who asked for anonymity, told OnIslam.net.
They prefer buses especially on long routes because they take a break for every prayer.
He said the proposal for allocation of prayer section in railway cars had been by the pending for a long time due to reasons better known to the previous governments.
Perhaps, the so-called enlightened governments did not want themselves to be tagged with fundamentalism, the official said in a lighter vein referring to the governments of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf and left-wing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
We can attract thousands of passengers, especially belonging to northwestern parts of Pakistan, through this step, he said referring to Pashtuns who are considered more religion-inclined than any other community in Pakistan.
They usually travel by bus in order to avail the opportunity of saying their prayers on time.
The railway official hopes that the provision of prayer section will also reduce the incidence of delays of trains.
It has been a permanent complaint that passengers pull the emergency chain to stop the train at various railway stations as their colleagues of family members offer prayer on the platform, he observed.
Timing is very crucial in railway journey. Even two-minute delay can disturb the entire schedule of the journey, particularly on a long route, he remarked.
The ministry decision won applaud from Pakistani commuters including traders and students as well.
I have hardly travelled by train because I did not want to lose prayer on time and with Jammat, Manzoor Hussein, a Karachi-based trader told OnIslam.net.
Being a trader, travel is a routine affair for Hussein, but he always preferred to travel by bus or car.
The bus drivers always give you a 15 to 20-minute break to wash yourself and say prayer. They manage things in an order whereby passengers can offer prayer, and they get their vehicles rechecked and refueled at a same time.
Although, train is more comfortable and safer mode as compared to bus or car due to law and order problem in various areas, however, I did not use that due to unavailability of a proper place for prayer, he added.
But, now, I have no reason to avoid this safer mode of journey, a smiling Hussein said.
Zahid Awan, a student of Jamia Binoria seminary in Karachi, too hails the decision.
I do not know whether or not the railway would attract passengers after this step, but it would attract the blessing of Allah for sure, Awan told OnIslam.net.
I am excited to travel by train after a long time not only it is more comfortable than bus but because it will have an exclusive prayer section, he maintained.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net