AT long last, the first batch of vehicles for Karachi’s Green Line bus project arrived from China on Sunday, accompanied by much fanfare. The multibillion-rupee scheme — launched during the PML-N rule in early 2016 — finally appears to be nearing fruition, over five years since its inception. While Lahore, Islamabad and even Peshawar have witnessed dedicated public transport schemes up and running during this period, Pakistan’s biggest city has had to make do with rickety smoke-emitting jalopies from a bygone era, in which commuters risk life and limb simply to get from Point A to Point B. Cynics will say 40 buses, soon to be upped to 80, are a drop in the ocean for a city of millions. However, if one is to take an optimistic view, the arrival of the buses should be the starting point of a planned public transport infrastructure overhaul for Karachi, whereby this forsaken city gets the buses and trains it needs and deserves.
The truth is that unless the federal government, which was responsible for Sunday’s arrival of the buses, as well as the Sindh government, along with an elected local administration, work together for a proper transport plan for Karachi, matters are unlikely to improve. For example, the centre is in charge of the Green Line project, while the Sindh administration is yet to complete the Orange Line bus corridor. Several other bus lines are in the works, some of them with foreign funding. Instead of going their own way, the centre and Sindh need to hammer out a unified transport plan for Karachi through which there is connectedness between various lines and modes of transport, so that the commuter in this huge metropolis has a safe, comfortable and affordable journey. The KCR — which at this point seems like it may not see the light of day for some time to come — must also be incorporated into this grand plan, so that Karachi is given a 21st-century public transport system.
Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2021