BRT fires

19 Sep 2020

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THE news reports about the disruption of the Peshawar BRT are disturbing. The service was suspended on Wednesday after a fourth bus in the system caught fire since the much-awaited launch of the bus rapid transit system a few weeks ago in August. Fortunately, in this instance, too, there were no casualties even though there were passengers on board when the fire erupted. The emergency situation was overcome quickly but the scare itself will take a lot of dousing, and another round of political blame game has been impossible to avoid. The project had been at the centre of a long row between the PTI government in KP and its rivals, and was flaunted as a symbol of the ruling party’s version of urban development as opposed to the PML-N model of public transport on the roads of Lahore and Multan. The project is the source of much bad blood between the political camps and the basis of criticism against Prime Minister Imran Khan’s caretakers in KP because of the time and resources spent on it. The BRT’s launch was seen as a new phase in the journey to vindicate the PTI’s determination to go ahead with a controversial project. However, the fires breaking out in the buses have threatened to prolong negative publicity for a service which needs to be run efficiently.

Over and above political expediency, the BRT is intended to facilitate the hustle and bustle of daily life in an expanding Peshawar. A project such as the BRT that was accomplished after a very visible struggle must not be left exposed to risks that can turn it into an uncontrollable mess. The first spark should have been sufficient for an efficient administration to quickly investigate the matter and put right the flaws in order to ensure the safety of commuters. After all, the BRT does not belong to a political party or a company. It is the property of the public at large, something that the ruling class and the opposition should recognise.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2020