Chinese Maglev train covers 30 kilometers in 8 minutes
Relative Lands Another Super Duper Project of the Future
M A Siddiqi
May 12: Pakistan has taken a gigantic leap into the 22nd Century,
(yes the 22nd Century), and Karachi has moved overnight from a
town which shut down even its archaic Circular Railway to a Metropolis
which will soon boast of the World’s first Magnetic Levitation
(Maglev) Commercial train. All this thanks to a close relative
of General Pervez Musharraf.
miracle has been possible not because General Musharraf wants
Karachi to become modern or overcome its public transport problems
but because Brig (Retd) Aftab Siddiqi, the father-in-law of First
Son Bilal Musharraf, wanted the US$298 million Maglev contract
and got it.
beauty of the deal is that by building the golden three miles
of super fast Maglev Track, Musharraf’s relative would not
just have pocketed almost 300 million dollars, he would have pushed
Pakistan into the Guinness Book of Records for launching a project
which even the pioneering countries France and Japan are reluctant
to launch on a commercial basis. In Virginia US it is being run
on an experimental basis in a University in Old Dominion (Pix
days ago, on May 9, 2005 South Korea held a trial run for reporters.
The train was an improved version used by 120,000 people at the
1993 Daejeon Expo. It has a peak speed of 110 kilometers per hour
and can carry 135 people per compartment. Korea is planning to
start Maglev trains for people In spring 2007 and will become
the third nation to run train, after Germany and Japan.
German company Siemens is operating a high-speed Maglev train
on a 32 kilometer track from downtown Shanghai, China to the Airport,
and Japan is running an urban-style Maglev train on a 9-kilometer
track within the Nagoya Aichi Expo site, similar to Korea. Both
are experimental runs.
Korea's top company Rotem, which has been developing Maglev trains
for 17 years from the days of its antecedent, Hyundai Motor Service,
is deeply troubled. This
is because as local governments pursue LRT subways, they are reluctant
to select domestic Maglevs because it has never been operated
for doing Karachi and Pakistan this huge favor, a series of rewards
have been offered to this retired lucky Brigadier related to General
will also get as part of the overall package colossal benefits.
The Maglev Project given to him is not on Build-Operate-Transfer
(BOT) basis but on Ownership basis. He has been sanctioned one
450 MW [gas]-fired Power Plant. A Real Estate Development Commercial
Loan of $100 million to his company will be guaranteed by Pakistan
Government. A Non-Refundable Bank Guarantee of $60 million will
be paid to his company to compensate for losses in the first 6
years of Maglev Project at $10 million per annum.
all, whatever he imports will be exempted from Customs or other
duties and taxes. Whatever money he makes will be free of Income
is another matter that even after such a platinum package, 99
per cent of Karachiites would still be hanging dangerously to
diesel-emitting over-packed buses or waiting endlessly in traffic
jams in the world’s most polluted environment.
story of how Brig Siddiqi has landed another multi-billion contract,
this time beating the friendly Chinese out of the race, is not
just intriguing but fascinating and reminds analysts of the historic
statement of Sheikh Yousuf, Chairman of Husnain Construction,
the company which first hired Brig Siddiqi who used the Musharraf
connection and turned his construction business into a gold minting
machine. Yousuf achieved this just by paying a two per cent commission
to this talented father-in-law of General Musharraf’s son.
September 25, 2002, Yousuf talked to reporters at the site office
of M-3 at Ghartal, Faisalabad According to a report in Daily
Dawn, he was asked as to how much his company had been helped
by Brig Aftab Siddiqi the useful father-in-law of Bilal Musharraf.
Yousuf admitted that the gentleman had worked with his company
as a consultant. Click
to Read Full Dawn Report
he said: “It was originally agreed that he would get two
per cent of the profit from the project for 25 years, but since
the project had been converted to a government funded plan, Aftab
Siddiqi was no longer with his company. The cost of M-3 is Rs7
Yousuf also revealed that Mr Siddiqi “had been paid for
the 'services' which he rendered,” but refused to give more
details. “Everything was documented, and the payments to
Mr Siddiqi had been made through checks, the copies of which
had been provided to a number of government departments,"
at that moment his smart son rushed to the stage and asked Yousuf
not to answer more queries on the subject, according to the Dawn
report. He was obviously revealing State secrets and could get
into serious trouble and the son realized that more than the father.
was 2002 but Brig Siddiqi and Husnain Construction have never
looked back. Already in the first years of General Musharraf's
rule, this construction company, according to its Chairman, had
acquired at least 12 sick mills from the Government.
But Siddiqi’s biggest catch has been in Karachi. The
story of Maglev started with the City District Government of Karachi
inviting Tenders on BOT Basis in October 2003 from the private
sector to undertake the Karachi Mass Transit, Priority One Corridor.
Two tenders were received in November
2003, one from M/s American Maglev Technologies and other from
a Chinese Company. The Chinese Company Tender was on finance cum
construct basis for US $570 million, with long term credit on
easy term made available by the Government of China.
M/s American Maglev Technologies which did not submit even the
required Bid Bond of US $1 million was awarded the Contract in
December 2004. This was done by a Special Committee headed by
a retired bureaucrat, Dr Akram Sheikh, the man planted for the
job by the master-mind behind this manipulation, the father-in-law
of the son of the President of Pakistan.
had contacted Dr Akram Sheikh who had retired as Federal Secretary.
Sheikh is well known for his dubious past as he was suspended
from service three times but was always able to work, or pay,
his way out of the black hole.
the many examples of his reputation as a “Chaloo”
officer (shrewd person) was the case of obtaining a 1000 square
yards residential plot at half a million rupees from Karachi Port
Trust in 1999. when the market price of this piece of land was
reached a deal with Sheikh that he will be made Deputy Chairman
of the Planning Commission if he promised to award the contract
of the Maglev Train to M/s American Maglev Technologies. The deal
was done and Siddiqi got the orders of his appointment from General
But before the contract could
be awarded, Siddiqi moved in as a partner of M/s American Maglev
Technologies. All other partners were replaced with Siddiqi’s
company M/s Infrastructure Development.
The contract winners had turned
into the sons-in-law of the State of Pakistan by virtue of Siddiqi’s
relationship with Musharraf. So much so that the $1 million Bid
Bond which was to be submitted with the tender, was submitted
13 months late and that too neither by M/s American Maglev Technologies
nor by M/s Infrastructure Development Company but by two Pakistani
Contractors, M/s Techno Engineering Services (Pvt.) Limited and
M/s Saadullah Khan & Brothers.
was promised and given concessions which experts quantified in
dollar terms as horrendous. Adding all exemptions and $160 million
Government and bank guarantees, this project will cost Pakistan
over $900 million. In short, thanks to Siddiqi, poor Karachiites
and the State of Pakistan will end by getting 3 miles of Maglev
Train for $900 million.
the face of it, the Maglev contract to Siddiqi would be of $300
million but these hidden costs would push the price to $900 million.
As against this huge cost, China would have done the same job
for around $500 million and that too on easy loans. But then how
would Mr Siddiqi earn his millions.
to the latest information, Siddiqi has again defaulted to sign
the Contract Agreement within the time limit, which expired in
March 2005, but thanks to you-know-who, he has managed to get
another indefinite extension.
Not knowing how the wheels in
Islamabad work and who was doing what behind the wheels, the innocent
Mayor of Karachi Naimatullah Khan announced that the first phase
of Corridor I Karachi Mass Transit Program (KMTP) would start
by December 31, 2006 with a Magnetic Levitation Train.
were aghast at the announcement as suddenly instead of improving
the smoke detectors of Karachi buses, the Nazim had thrown Pakistan
into the unknown future, while he himself is unable to determine
whether he belongs to the past, present or the future.
total length of the Maglev Train track is said to be 17 kilometers,
from Sohrab Goth to Mereweather Tower. But is such a short stretch
of rail worth deploying a super-technological invention which
was still in its embryonic stages of development in the countries
where it was invented.
are no answers and no details available to the media or the Parliament
but what is clear is that a contract of $300 million has been
awarded to a Musharraf’s relative and he has been showered
with a lot more concessions. Why all this generosity is yet to