WITH the long-awaited nod from the Federal Government to the Karachi Circular Railway project, the last bureaucratic hurdle has been removed for the citizens of Karachi who can now expect to see a modernized public transport sector. Building on the successful commercial launch of the Green Line BRT in January, the PTI-led federal government hopes to redeem itself in Karachi through the execution of the KCR project worth over Rs2bn. This was evident in statements by PTI leaders who described the release of funds for the project as proof of their commitment to the people of Karachi. Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar tweeted that “Karachi residents would also benefit from the latest and world-class travel service. The PTI justified its mandate from Karachi in true spirit”. Although the timing of the approval may raise some eyebrows, it is worth remembering that the federation and Sindh had been making gradual efforts to bring the KCR to life for some time. Prime Minister Imran Khan celebrated the inauguration ceremony in September 2021, while the provincial government has been busy removing encroachments along the KCR road for over a year. The authorities plan to rebuild the 44 km KCR track and supporting infrastructure within three years, before handing it over to a private company for day-to-day operations.
However, it remains to be seen whether the current political climate allows for the rapid execution of the transit project in the megacity. It is unfortunate that development programs in Pakistan are usually the first victims of political tug-of-war, a feature that has particularly come to define the relationship between the PTI-run center and the Sindh government. This was evident in the recent turf war over three tertiary care hospitals in Karachi. Regardless of the outcome of the current standoff in Islamabad, all stakeholders must protect developing programs from the political crossfire. The people of Karachi need a workable solution to their public transport problems – more than just words or plans on paper.
Posted in Dawn, March 19, 2022