Instead of improving the infrastructure like road, rail or air transport systems for cutting the cost of doing business and for convenience of commuters, Pakistan is undergoing retrogression in this area.

Pakistan Railways is in a shambles incurring huge losses; the national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines is a bottomless pit showing recurring financial losses despite injection of huge taxpayer’s money into the corporate body. The transport system for daily commuters all over the country is in bad shape.

A modern and efficient system of transportation is vital for the economic development. The country with a weak infrastructure for transportation is left behind on the road to progress. As they say, the history of mobility is the history of civilisation.

Hundreds of thousands of workers’ man-hours are lost waiting for transport to commute to their workplaces. It results in enormous losses in production of goods and services.

The sight of passengers travelling on rooftops and on footboards of the few available buses and minibuses in Karachi is common, but it does not concern the government. The shortage and high costs of petroleum and CNG have further aggravated the situation.

Railways: The railway is the lifeline of the transportation system for large-scale movement of passengers and promotion of national integration, as well as dispersal of freight, contributing to country’s economic growth. It is a historical legacy and a vital force in economy.

Railways traditionally play a major role in movement of passengers and freight, but this is not the case with the sinking Pakistan Railways (PR).

The losses the PR suffered in six months of the current fiscal year 2012-13 stood at Rs2.5 billion. The average per month loss is Rs2.58 billion since the present government came into power. Federal Minister for Railways Ghulam Ahmed Bilour told the Upper House of the Parliament recently that the losses have now accumulated to Rs31 billion.

Over the preceding decades, there has been no expansion; rather some features of its services have been done away with. The management of the PR has been in wrong hands. One can now see PR’s institutional collapse.

Airlines: Recently, the Supreme Court banned recruitment in the airlines while commenting that nepotism rules the roost in PIA. Though a commercial enterprise, the PIA has generally remained a fiefdom of the ministry of defence.

The airline has become unviable and is at the peak of its mismanagement, accumulating losses and surviving in an oxygen tent with bailouts funded by taxpayer’s money. The airline is an abode of the kith and kin of the government and the airlines’ management hierarchy.

According to the latest information provided by the PIA management in a briefing to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance, the airlines’ losses stood at Rs157 billion till November 30, 2012. Defence Minister Syed Naveed Qamar told the Senate last week that “PIA losses have swelled to Rs141.4 billion during the tenure of the PPP government from Rs42.4 billion in 2008”. Advocate Raja Bashir, while representing the PIA before the Supreme Court, had revealed in a report that airline had suffered a loss of Rs22.43 billion in 2012, while the loss recorded last year was Rs19.9 billion.

The sheer incompetence of the national career results in frequent technical failures, engine faults, emergency landing and inordinate flight delays. The PIA has 31 aircraft out of which only 28 are operational. It has 450 employees per plane, perhaps the highest in the world.

Road transport: The transportation network is in no better condition. For example, Karachi, the economic and financial hub with a population of over 18 million, has the poorest system of road transport. It is the only mega city of the world which does not have a mass transit system. The extreme shortage of public transport has resulted in steep rise in number of private cars and motorcycles, creating traffic jams in the city.

Till early ’70s Karachi had a better managed transport system and together with the circular railway catered to the needs of the people. It was the time when bus conductors issued tickets, auto-rickshaws and taxis plied on meters and the industry to some extent was disciplined. But today it has gone topsy-turvy.

The Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project has been in the limbo for the last over ten years despite the offer of Japan International Cooperation Agency to help in its re-installation.

According to an estimate, the city of Karachi suffers a mammoth production loss of around Rs7 billion whenever a strike is observed in the city. No survey has yet been carried out to assess the daily losses to trade and industry due to non-availability or scarcity of transport to take the commuters to their place of work.

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