ANY reason seems good enough to delay a revival of the Karachi Circular Railway, a project that has shown an extraordinary resilience by staying on paper for decades. The latest cause for procrastination is a vitriolic exchange between the federal and Sindh governments at a level of acerbity that could lead to its abandonment — at least during the present political dispensation. Using his own name and that of the prime minister in the third person, the federal railways minister said on Sunday if the KCR wasn’t built when Sheikh Rashid and Imran Khan were at the helm, it would never be built. More important, Mr Rashid dropped a bombshell when he claimed that no plan had yet been finalised for the KCR’s revival. The railways minister did not specify who he was blaming for the purported absence of the KCR’s design and feasibility, but the Sindh government reacted immediately, with the provincial minister for transport Awais Shah contending that the railways minister himself was “a key hurdle” when it came to one of the crucial elements of the project — encroachments. Sindh was ready to do its part, said Mr Shah, but Mr Rashid and other railway officials were the problem, adding that the encroachments would never be demolished as long as the current railways minister was in office.
It is a pity that such a vital project for a megalopolis like Karachi should fall victim to politics. Years ago, frustrated by the bureaucratic and political wrangling, Japan pulled out of the scheme, and all we can do is hope that the Chinese will show a higher degree of tolerance. It is time the federal and provincial governments showed maturity and rose above petty politics to work together to make the KCR a dream come true. Of course, a functional KCR will only meet a small portion of Karachi’s mass transit requirements: even more so given that the federal-funded green line too is making progress at a snail’s pace.
Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2019