Vital public transport sector in Sindh, especially mega city Karachi, is in need of urgent focus, beginning with bringing more transparency in the transport department to improve its performance.
The role of efficient public transport in better urbanisation cannot be denied as all mega urban cities attained progress and development after revamping the urban public transport systems of their industrial centres and port cities. These success stories need to be replicated in Karachi and other urban cities of Sindh.
Former city mayor of Karachi Advocate Niamatullah Khan may not be liked by his political and ideological opponents but he is undisputedly accepted as builder of modern urban Karachi. The projects of CNG buses, three bus terminals at the outer limits of the city: RCD Highway Baldia, Yusuf Goth Superhighway and the National Highway near Bin Qasim, modern roads, underpasses and flyovers were amongst the efforts to modernise Karachi that go to his credit. However, after his tenure these projects went marred with corruption and mismanagement that need to be minutely probed by the Sindh ranger, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and FIA.
No one knows where the fleet of CNG green buses introduced in Karachi by Khan. Presently, a few green buses are seen plying on Tower-Landhi route that is past used to ply on Surjani-Tower route. Sources say that there is lack of transparency in the affairs of these green buses as some contractor with close relations to a political figure of Sindh is reportedly running these green buses and murky terms and conditions which needs a close third party audit.
Similarly, the Yusuf Goth bus terminal is also reportedly run by some vested interests in non-transparent manner. The land of the bus terminal of the National Highway is reportedly encroached upon by China-cutting mafia and the Sindh rangers, NAB, FIA and other related agencies should probe into this bungling of billions of rupees.
The sources claim that trillions of rupees bungled in different projects and schemes of the transport department could be recovered and many front men of the corruption kings of queens of Sindh could be unearthed if the police, rangers, FIA, NAB and other intelligence agencies probe into the dark nexus of corrupt politicians and criminal wings.
The transport sector of Karachi is a goldmine for the corrupt elements and struggle between the provincial transport department and the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to retain powers over this sector is not without sound reasons.
However, the commuters of this city need a better public transport system, including early completion of different metro bus projects, urgent repair of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), opening of new bus routes, banning narrow-bodies minibuses and old bus, and giving soft loans and other financing incentives to the private transporters who are willing to introduce wide-bodied CNG buses on the lucrative routes of the sprawling city.
Citizens of Karachi have been demanding for decades the repair of the KCR. The KCR loop could be repaired within two months by the workers of the Pakistan Railway provided the provincial government of Sindh gives a nod. Local trains on the main track between Landhi and Tower could be run at the notice of 24 hours. However, the Karachiites are at loss to understand why the government is avoiding this simplest and most cost effective option of improving commuters’ mobility.
Urban transport plays a pivotal role in lifting and running urban economies everywhere in the world. However, the transport sector of Sindh, particularly Karachi needs transparency. It needs to purge this sector from the vultures of corruption and kickbacks, as well as incompetent and non-professional bureaucracy. It also needs better overseeing in the shape of some minister with a keen sense of urban development along with better integrity and honesty and a passion to deliver for people of Sindh and Karachi.
There is also a dire need to functionalise the disbanded Karachi Transport Corporation (KTC) and run it under the supervision of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) or some other body of traders. The possession of the depots of KTC should also be handed to such a body so that they could be used for the purpose of improving public transport sector in Karachi.
If the provincial government of Sindh, KMC, Pakistan Railways, KCCI and private transporters join hands to give the city better road and rail-based commuting systems, the economy of Karachi would grow by leaps and bounds and the true urban potential of this industrial and port city of the region could be fully tapped.