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DAWN - Features; April 12, 2007

April 12, 2007


Concern over religious militancy, lawlessness

By Sohail Sangi


THE major issues covered by the Sindhi press during the past week were the Lal Masjid standoff in Islamabad and the Saarc summit held in New Delhi.

Dailies Koshish and Tameer-i-Sindh, expressing alarm over the fanaticism of Taliban votaries in the federal capital, say if no action is taken against the militants, they will get bold enough to spread their net.

“The extremists would then turn the country into a laboratory for trying out their obscurantist ideas,” the Koshish warns.

Dailies Ibrat, Awami Awaz and Kawish have editorialised on the Saarc conference. The Awami Awaz praises the Saarc secretariat for conceding that the organisation has failed to achieve its objective of resolution of major issues.

The daily says 'it is time to analyse the failure’, suggesting that the host country (of the summit) should be made responsible for the implementation of the decisions..

The Kawish says the member countries will have to change their attitude for resolution of major disputes.

The newspaper also deals with the high incidence of kidnapping for ransom in Sindh, saying the recent wave shows that outlaws enjoy total impunity in the province.

The paper cites reports that police are negotiating a deal for the recovery of Omparkash, a boy from Jacobabad, while the case of Abdul Razaq got entangled in a dispute of jurisdiction between two police stations. “It seems that a handful of outlaws are stronger than the state.”

The Kawish opposes any deal with the criminals as it entails the grant of 'illegal facilities and privileges’. At the same time, the newspaper opposes police operation against dacoits as it has 'never yielded results’.

Daily Awami Awaz condemns the baton-charge on students of Karachi’s Urdu University, saying that students were agitating merely for the holding of classes regularly. “Education is the right of every citizen and to protest for it is a fundamental right, too.

Therefore the use of violence against students is unjustifiable.”

The paper writes that the Urdu University incident seems to be of a pattern as 'lawyers, journalists and teachers have been facing the wrath of the state recently’.

The Awami Awaz feels that there are some police officers who think protests disturb the rulers. “To save their own skin, they feel no compunction in roughing up innocent people agitating for their rights.”

The Ibrat, praising the activism shown by the judiciary of late, urges it to reopen the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto case. The paper says this action would allow the state machinery to do some 'soul-searching and self-accountability’.

The Tameer-i-Sindh terms unrealistic President Pervez Musharaf’s statement about missing activists. The president said in a public meeting last week that almost all the missing persons had gone to Afghanistan for jihad.

The paper says these peoplehad been picked up by secret agencies, and were not produced before any court of law. “It is better to avoid such assertions and produce the missing people in court,” the Tameer counsels the president.

The Karachi Elevated Expressway

By Arif Hasan


THE Karachi City Government has decided to build an elevated expressway, called the Karachi Elevated Expressway (KEE) from Jinnah Bridge to Quaidabad. The Expressway will pass over Moulvi Tamizzuddin Road, Club Road and Sharea Faisal. is to relieve congestion on Sharea Faisal and provide a fast link between Karachi Port and Port Qasim for port related traffic. The narrowest section of the corridor through which the KEE will pass is from the PIDC to Napier Barracks. This stretch is Karachi’s potential tourist area and contains its main five star hotels, Gymkhana Club, Sindh Club, Quaid-e-Azam Museum and Napier Barracks (which are heritage buildings). Frere Hall is also in close proximity. In this stretch the KEE will cover almost the entire road width.

As required under law an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been carried out by consultants hired by the proponent. The EIA findings are that the adverse affects of the KEE are minor and can be mitigated. At a public hearing on the EIA citizens and professional bodies expressed serious concerns on the concept and design details of the KEE. However, the design details and the financial feasibility are of secondary importance. It is the concept of an elevated expressway through the most prestigious corridor in Karachi that needs to be questioned.

The EIA has stated that elevated expressways in other countries have solved traffic problems similar to the ones faced by Sharea Faisal and that there is no other solution to these problems apart from constructing the KEE.

This view conflicts sharply with a large body of technical and academic literature on transport engineering and with the experience of a number of cities that have constructed elevated expressways through their city centres. Bangkok, Manila, Tehran, Cairo and Dubai have all constructed scores of kilometres of expressways. These expressways have not solved traffic problems and traffic conditions in these cities are far worse than Karachi. Dubai, which is nearest to us in geographical terms, is grid-locked for six to eight hours a day.

No country in the developed world today would ever dream of building an expressway to their city centres because of the environmental and aesthetic degradation that they cause. As a matter of fact, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Seoul and Paris have actually demolished their expressways and turned them into public space or housing.

This demolition has relieved traffic congestion because it has been accompanied by better traffic management, the development of a larger traffic and transportation plan, segregation of local and thorough traffic and/or the building of segregated bus ways which have supported people opting for taking the bus rather than using a car.

In our case none of these alternatives have been explored and nor is the KEE a part of a larger traffic and transportation plan. This was recognised by the consultants during the public hearing.

There are also financial issues that have not been seriously studied.

The investment by a foreign company for the KEE is to be recovered by a toll on vehicles using the KEE. At the hearing we were informed that the traffic volume on Sharea Faisal that would use the KEE was not sufficient for the company to recover their investment.

As such, it has been decided to divert all port related traffic onto the KEE in spite of the fact that other options such as the very feasible routes of the Southern and Northern Bypasses are available.

So we will now have trucks, container vehicles and tankers plying overhead the Sharea Faisal in addition to encroachment on urban space and the denial of sun light in the narrower confines of our most prestigious corridor. Again, this decision conflicts with experience for cities like Bangkok, Seoul and Manila are trying to limit or ban heavy traffic on their inner city expressways. Boston has demolished the expressway carrying heavy traffic and in Riyadh the pollution of the expressway passing through the city was so heavy that they decided to vacate the areas on either side of it and forest them. In addition, the Institute of Architects Pakistan (IAP) has pointed out that for an average toll of Rs 20 per vehicle, 143,835 vehicles per day would be required to use the expressway. Where they will come from is not known.

The building of the KEE is an ad-hoc and ill-informed decision. It is the expressed desire of the city government to turn Karachi into a “world class city”. The building of the expressway will certainly not help in achieving this objective.

© DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2007