• Launches Rs35bn Green Line bus service
• Expects K-IV water project to complete by Sept 2023
• Says Karachi needs autonomy with direct election of mayor
KARACHI: Striking a tone of reconciliation for a second consecutive time during his as many visits to Karachi, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday called for better coordination between Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led Centre and the Sindh administration of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for Karachi’s uplift. He made a “request” to the provincial government to participate in the health insurance scheme and approve Bundal Island’s development.
In his 13-minute address at the opening ceremony of the Green Line bus service, PM Khan was focused and sounded convinced about a few issues ranging from Karachi’s development to building new cities and from the role of the upcoming local governments in urban centres to the working relationship between the federal government and the provinces. The speech also covered sketchy details of the Karachi Transformation Plan of the federal government.
The PM, before summing up his speech, directly addressed the Sindh government with an advice that their participation in the health card scheme and nod to the development of the Bundal Island would ultimately benefit the people of the province and its economy.
“I want to ask the Sindh government to participate in the health card scheme,” he said while mentioning that it would cover every family across Punjab by March. He said it had also been extended to every corner of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, whereas the Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir governments were ready to join it.
“People in Sindh are also our people. They are also Pakistanis. They also deserve this facility that provides health insurance up to Rs1 million to each family. They can go to any hospital and avail treatment,” he remarked.
In the same breath, he asked the Sindh government to reconsider its tough stance on Bundal Island’s proposal where the federal government had planned to build a new city infrastructure and invited real estate tycoons and builders, but the PPP administration had called Islamabad’s move an attempt to “occupy” the provincial resources putting the whole idea on the backburner.
For the development of the twin islands off Karachi coast, which the federal government had initially suggested in September 2020, the prime minister elaborated on approaching challenges that demanded immediate but sustainable solutions.
The PM had made a similar appeal to the Sindh government while addressing a groundbreaking ceremony of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project at Karachi Cantt Railway Station in September.
“The Sindh government must consider its approval for the development of Bundal Island,” he said. “Our cities are growing fast and waywardly in an absolutely unorganized way. We need to develop new cities. The way our cities are expanding, we would not be able to manage them. We would not be able to provide them transport, control their sewage system or manage their water supply. We need to develop new cities like Dubai and New York. The development of these islands would benefit Sindh, its people and its economy. With the same ideology, we are building new Ravi City in Lahore. So I request you [Sindh government] to allow this [development programme].”
Mr Khan was all praise for his party leaders, especially Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, for their efforts towards completion of the Green Line bus project that suffered many hiccups over the past many years doubling its cost.
Envisaged and executed in February 2016 by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the Green Line project was originally scheduled to complete within a year at an estimated cost of around Rs16.85 billion, but its cost surged to Rs35bn mainly due to the delay in its completion.
It was approved by the Executive Committee of National Economic Council and executed by the Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Limited. In all, 80 buses for the project have arrived in the city in two consignments, removing the last hurdle in the first-ever Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) for Karachi.
There are 21 stations along the bus route from KESC Powerhouse Chowrangi in Surjani Town to Merewether Tower covering Nagan Chowrangi, North Nazimabad, Nazimabad and Gurumandir.
The PM said his government was very much confident about the completion of the K-IV project by August-September 2023 for supply of 260 million gallon water to Karachi. Mr Khan said the project had been handed over to Wapda, which was set to award its contract.
The project, officially known as Greater Karachi Water Supply Scheme, was originally launched in 2011.
PM Khan also called for stronger and resourceful municipal systems mainly in urban centres of the country. Without directly commenting on the recently passed Sindh Local Government [Amendment] Bill 2021 by the PPP government, the premier blamed weaker and ineffective local government systems in the past as key reasons that “pushed Karachi backwards”.
“I have been seeing Karachi more closely for the last five years,” he said.
He said it was so unfortunate that instead of going forward, the city was moving backward. “Karachi needs autonomy. It needs a stronger system. There should be a direct election of mayor in the city like we are bringing systems in Punjab and KPK. Look at Tehran. Despite being world sanctions, it gives you a look of the modern city. It is because of a strong and modern management system. I was told that Tehran generates US $500million a year on its own through which it manages the whole city. Then you compare it with Karachi. This city hardly collects $30m. We need to fix the management. We need a strong and modern local government system,” he asserted.
Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2021