PML-N activists celebrate opening of Orange Line train in a ‘mock ceremony’ at GPO Chowk. — White Star
PML-N activists celebrate opening of Orange Line train in a ‘mock ceremony’ at GPO Chowk. — White Star

LAHORE: The Punjab government is all set for the trial run of the Orange Line Metro train on completion of its infrastructure today (Tuesday), considering the criticism the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) made against the project over the years.

The PML-N, on the other hand, celebrated the opening of the project and ‘inaugurated’ the metro train at a ‘mock ceremony’ here on Monday. Its leadership terms the metro train its gift to the Lahorites.

Punjab Transport Minister Jahanzaib Khichi along with Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan will inaugurate the train’s technical run. The plan of inaugurating the technical run by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has been withdrawn along the plans to flutter flexes bearing the prime minister and chief minister pictures.

While the PTI government continued criticising the metro train project, telling the public that about Rs300bn spent on the metro train project could have been invested in the provision of quality health and education facilities to the masses, PTI leaders say the government reluctantly completed the project to fulfill international commitment with China and a gesture that it owned Chine-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.

PML-N Punjab spokesperson Azma Bokhari has termed it a wise decision of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar not to inaugurate the metro train as its credit goes to former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif.

PTI govt set to start technical run today

“The metro train could have been completed about a year ago if the PTI had not approached courts and blocked the development work for 11 months,” she said.

Ms Bokhari said Shahbaz had promised that he would ensure provision of decent and inexpensive public transport to the masses in Lahore.

“If in the government, Mr Sharif would have run the Green Line and Purple Line public transport also in the city,” Ms Bokhari said.

She said the PTI government did not fund many of Shahbaz government development projects in its two development budgets.

“The claimants of austerity wasted millions of rupees on their austerity and visits on helicopters,” Ms Bokhari chided the PTI government.

The PTI government spokespersons say the government had broken the bad tradition of dumping previous government’s all projects and referred to the Pervaiz Elahi government’s public-oriented projects, including the surgical tower, institutes of cardiology in Wazirabad and Multan that remained dumped for one decade of Mr Sharif’s rule in Punjab.

Responding to the PML-N’s celebrations on the opening of the metro train, the PTI spokesperson said the project was of the Punjab government completed with the public money.

“It is no one’s personal project or completed with anyone’s personal funding,” the spokesperson said.

“Credit goes to the PTI government for completing the project, which would now be the government’s test to ensure public money is used judiciously for subsidy and there should be no leakage,” he said.

“The government is now in process of preparing Operations and Maintenance (O&M) contract and has a plan to advertise it in a couple of months,” the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, at the mock inauguration ceremony, PML-N leader Rana Mubashir Javed said the train project was not yet complete but the Punjab government was going to inaugurate it. Owing to delay in the project, he claimed, the Chinese engineers were annoyed with the Punjab government.

Ataullah Tarar said only Nawaz Sharif had brought development and prosperity to Pakistan. Referring to the construction of motorways and 12,000MW electricity, he said PML-N’s opposition had also tried to stop the motorway project by filing several applications.

Mr Tarar said Shahbaz had personally monitored the establishment of Orange Line Metro Train and added the PTI government in Peshawar could not complete the BRT. He urged the NAB chairman to take notice of delay and escalation of cost of the BRT project in Peshawar.

PML-N leader Khwaja Hassaan, who is considered a man behind completing the orange line train project, said this transport project was public and environment friendly. He said the 250,000 people who would travel by the train would appreciate Nawaz and Shahbaz for their vision for public service. He said the metro bus project was also running successfully in Lahore.

Mr Hassaan said the PML-N government had thwarted all attempts to stop the development of metro train project.

“Metro train is a gift of China for Pakistan,” he said and added that some 5,000 people would get jobs in this transport project.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019