PM asks Sindh to review stance on plans for Bundal Island

Published September 28, 2021
KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the groundbreaking ceremony of KCR project.—INP
KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing the groundbreaking ceremony of KCR project.—INP

• Says federal, provincial govts can’t independently handle Karachi needs
• Calls groundbreaking of Rs207bn KCR project ‘revolutionary move’
• Announces K-IV water supply will start in two years

KARACHI: Striking a tone of reconciliation, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday called for shedding “all political differences” between the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led federal government and the Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government and moving forward together for Karachi’s development.

Mr Khan asked the Sindh government to reconsider its tough stance on the federal government proposal for Bundal Island, where the Centre had planned to build a new city infrastructure by inviting real estate tycoons and builders, but the PPP administration had called Islamabad’s move an attempt to “occupy” provincial resources, putting the whole idea on the backburner.

He expressed these views while addressing a groundbreaking ceremony of the Karachi Circular Railway project at Karachi Cantt Railway Station.

The PM explained reasons why the joint strategy of Centre and Sindh on key decisions was crucial, warning that it would not be possible for either of the two administrations to independently handle growing needs of the metropolis. If plans for Karachi were not put in place immediately, he warned, “thing would turn from difficult to impossible”. “The federal and provincial governments would have to go together,” Mr Khan told the ceremony attended by federal and provincial ministers, top officials of Pakistan Railways, senior officers and legislators. “We [federal government] can’t do many things without the support of the provincial government. Similarly, the province finds it hard to move on many occasions without support of the federal government. So whatever our political differences are, we would have to leave them behind for the sake of Sindh, for the sake of Pakistan. In Karachi, we would have to work together with all due honesty and hard work.”

Mr Khan then elaborated why he spotted Karachi for his reconciliatory political approach and called the port city the “engine of growth” that promised the country’s prosperity and his dream of a poverty-free Pakistan.

“What is the importance of Karachi?” he asked before explaining that in every developed country, one single city leads their development. “It’s like an engine of growth. In the UK, you would find London playing this role. If London prospers, the UK prospers. In the US, there is New York. In Pakistan, we have Karachi.

“Believe me we are not even aware of the potential this city carries. We have not even calculated its potential yet,” the premier said.

He referred to the recently launched projects by the federal government as part of the same strategy aimed at modernising the city’s infrastructure, rebuilding its image and attracting the world to its importance as a commercial centre of Asia.

Mr Khan asserted that the Bundal Island development would benefit the people of Sindh and ultimately release pressure from Karachi. “When we would develop Bundal Island, it would ultimately bring employment for people of Sindh and release pressure from Karachi,” said the PM. “Because the way Karachi is expanding, it would be extremely difficult for any government to cater its needs or provide its utilities. The more it is expanding, the more difficult it is becoming. We need to plan about it now and immediately. We need to decide what we have to do about this city and where we have to ring fence it? No government can meet such a challenge. We came up with the same idea to stop the shapeless expansion of Lahore and brought the Ravi City project. The same idea is aimed for Bundal Island. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

He called the groundbreaking of Rs207 billion KCR project a “revolutionary move” and a “major relief” for Karachiites facing transport crisis for more than three decades.

Before his address, the premier was briefed that the KCR was a public-private partnership project with an estimated completion period of 18 to 24 months. It would be a state-of-the-art project having all modern facilities including fast-moving electric trains.

Commissioned in 1964, the KCR was originally designed to facilitate travel of Pakistan Railways employees between their workplaces (at and around the City and Cantonment railway stations) and their residences in Karachi’s eastern neighbourhoods.

Later in 1970 the service was extended in a circular shape connecting four major work areas — the city port, the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE), the Landhi Industrial Area and commercial areas such as Saddar — through 44-km tracks.

The circular railway remained the means of transportation of choice for the people of Karachi until 1984 when number of its trains was reduced. Reasons for the move included lack of maintenance and repair, a yawning gap between expenditure rising due to higher fuel and operational costs and revenue decreasing due to subsidised tickets, and the government’s inability to spend money on improvement of tracks and stations. The KCR finally shut down in 1999, forcing thousands of its daily users to travel by buses.

With KCR’s ‘groundbreaking’ ceremony and the expected launch of Green Line bus service, Prime Minister Khan was confident that the transport crisis in Karachi would be solved largely.

He also promised decades-old water crisis in the city was also meeting its solution soon. “Water supply is the second major problem of Karachi,” he said.

“Before arriving here [Karachi] earlier today, I met Wapda chairman for some brief [about K-IV project]. I am glad that they [Wapda] are confident about their progress on K-IV. He [Wapda chairman] has assured me that Karachi would be getting water supply in two years. So things are improving for Karachi and its people.”

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2021

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