THURSDAY’S proceedings in the Supreme Court clearly demonstrated how divided the stakeholders are when it comes to giving Karachi a mass transit system worthy of a city of 20m. The Supreme Court’s order was realistic and modest. All it did was to ask the Sindh government to finalise within a month such basic issues as the completion of PC-1, the signing of contracts and the issuance of work order so that construction could begin on underpasses and flyovers for the Karachi Circular Railway. After a court order as far back as early last year, the Sindh government had said it had given a contract to the Frontier Works Organisation to pursue the project. However, on Thursday the FWO counsel informed the court that no PC-1 had been finalised and that it had received no funds from the provincial government. The response of the Sindh advocate general was that the FWO wanted some changes in the plan and believed some sections of the KCR route needed to be elevated. A greater surprise was in store when the FWO’s 494 group commander said that his organisation had consulted experts and come to the conclusion that it was not feasible to build underpasses and bridges in some areas and that it would be better if the KCR tracks were elevated on those sections.

Frankly, the court’s concern notwithstanding, let us forget the KCR dream. After decades of discussions all we have is the bare truth made available before their lordships. The Japanese had offered all technical and financial help, and there were moments when the CPEC, too, appeared to be in the picture, but all we have now is a lack of consensus on the fundamentals among the parties concerned. The truth is the KCR project isn’t backed by political will. In Lahore, we saw what political will can achieve by overcoming all hurdles. The KCR, too, can become a reality if someone had the will to make the dream come true. There is none.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2021

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