Pedestrians walk on road as car dealers occupy footpaths

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Some very busy roads in Karachi are seen with pedestrians walking dangerously between moving traffic. These pedestrians are not necessarily risk lovers but are compelled to walk while negotiating with the moving traffic as footpaths of these roads are occupied by car dealers.

In other parts of the world this could be taken as a law violation, but busy arteries of Karachi like New MA Jinnah and Khalid bin Waleed Road are the living example of this blatant violation of pedestrians’ rights. For the last two decades, the city has been witnessing this violation of law and both print and electronic media are crying hoarse, but the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC),  traffic police and other related departments of provincial government of Sindh are least concerned about the rights and safety of pedestrians.

New MA Jinnah Road and Khalid bin Waleed Road are amongst the very busy arteries of the city, where perpetual traffic jams could be witnessed on any working day, especially during rush hours. The reason is that local car dealers who own shops along these roads, or who have converted residential areas or parking spaces illegally into shops, use footpaths and two to three lanes of road to park their cars that are put on display to attract buyers.

Taking advantage of frequent visits of motorists, dozens of tire-changing shops have also been established there, which also change tires of vehicles on footpaths roads. Taking opportunities car washing men also do their business on footpaths and so the food sellers and other vendors. The net result is that pedestrians could not walk on footpaths as they are totally occupied by the cars put on display, while motorists also brave long traffic jams as two to three lanes of the road is also occupied by illegal parking.

In past there was a proposal by the then commissioner Karachi to declare New MA Jinnah Road and Khalid bin Waleed Road as charged parking areas and posters and banners in this regard were also erected there, but the powerful car dealer mafia easily managed to get this worthy proposal shelved, as 95 per cent of illegally-parked cars on roads and footpaths include the merchandise of car dealers and they could not afford to pay parking charges as they have to park their cars daily. In fact there cars are parked there at night when the dealers’ shops are closed on footpaths in front of closed shutters of their shops.

Why the city administration and KMC tolerates this glaring violation of parking laws and pedestrians rights? Answer is simple: Because the business of car selling is dominated by very powerful and wealthy people, having good connections in the corridors of power. In fact in some cases some very senior officials own these showrooms covertly, or provide finance for them from their black money.

The case of New MA Jinnah Road is very peculiar as its footpaths are constructed so wide that any car could be easily parked on them. Despite repeated suggestions of the citizens and civil society, no iron grills are being erected along them, so that they could be only used by walking purpose and not for parking cars or vending stalls.

It was hoped that the change of chief minister of the province would result in some betterment in these areas, regarding respecting the rights of pedestrians and vacating footpaths from the car dealers and erected iron grills or cemented Jersey barriers or Jersey walls along them so that they could not be used for vehicle parking or vending purpose, but so far nothing concrete could be seen to mitigate the sufferings of pedestrians and ending crippling traffic jams in these areas.

Presently, traffic police is shown in these areas, particularly at the New MA Jinnah Road, who discourage multi-lane parking along the road, but still a few lanes of the road and its whole footpaths are occupied by illegal vehicle parking mafia.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Karachi Deputy Mayor Arshad A Vohra should personally surprise visits to these areas and order erecting of iron grills or jersey walls along all the roads where car dealers do their business, particularly New M A Jinnah Road and Khalid bin Waleed Road to secure their footpaths and ensure their exclusive use for the pedestrians.

When pedestrians walk on any road and car dealers do business on its footpath, it sends a sorry message to the onlookers regarding the level and quality of governance. However, when one of the busiest roads of the largest and most educated city of Pakistan offer such sad scenario the rulers of Sindh and city fathers of Karachi must take a serious notice.