KARACHI: Just a day after the federal government clearly stated that the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project was not likely to be expanded anytime soon, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah informed Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique on Friday that the traffic issues of the metropolis could only be solved with the establishment of a modern KCR system.
Mr Rafique held a meeting with the Sindh CM here in which the two sides agreed to remove all the hurdles to start mega projects of national interest, including KCR, laying of railway tracks to transport Thar coal to upcountry, functionalisation of different airports and resolution of land dispute between the provincial government and the Civil Aviation Authority on top priority basis.
“Karachi is a megalopolis city and its traffic issues can only be solved with the establishment of a modern KCR system which would be supplemented and integrated with different BRT lines,” Mr Shah reminded the railways minister.
“The KCR was included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) priority projects and approved by the CPEC-related Joint Coordination Committee in December 2016. The ECNEC had approved the project at a cost of Rs207.54 billion, including Chinese loan of $1.971 billion.”
The railways minister informed the meeting participants that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was scheduled to visit China very soon and he would also accompany him in the crucial trip.
The development of the KCR, he said, was on the agenda of the discussion and hopefully it would be approved with mutual understanding of the two countries.
The chief minister said that time had come to fuel all the coal-fired power projects of the country with indigenous Thar coal. This would not only save the foreign exchange, but would also be cheaper than the imported coal, he said and urged the railway minister to expedite laying of the railway tracks from Thar coal mines to the main line.
The meeting, after thorough discussion on different tracks, finally approved a 105-kilometre track from Thar coal fields to New Chhor halt station on Mirpurkhas-Khokhrapar Section.
It was decided that the existing signalling system on Mirpurkhas-New Chhor section would be improved and two universal loops with a length of 700 meter on all crossing stations from Mirpurkhas to Chhor would be established.
MQM wants early completion of KCR
Later, the railways minister also visited the temporary headquarters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan in Bahadurabad and met with its senior leaders.
Being the ally of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz at the Centre, the MQM-P called for ‘special attention’ from the federal government towards early completion of KCR, which has become a distant dream for Karachi despite clear orders from the Supreme Court for its complete restoration.
The two sides shared thoughts on various issues ranging from politics to federal-funded development projects in Karachi.
In the interaction with media, the federal minister and the MQM-P appeared much confident about the future of their political partnership and federal government-funded projects in Karachi.
“We have shared our observations and suggestions with the federal minister [Khawaj Saad Rafique] regarding the KCR,” said MQM-P leader Amir Khan.“It’s a very crucial project for the people of Karachi and it requires special attention from the Centre. So we have asked him for early completion of the project.”
He said similarly, several issues were discussed during the meeting. “As far as our deal with the federal government is concerned, a committee between the two parties is already there to ensure implementation on the points we had agreed upon.”
The federal minister said that his party believed in a long-term partnership and called the MQM-P a strong ally in the federal government.
Saad Rafique said he had discussed Karachi development projects with the MQM-P leadership in detail and praised the leaders of the ally party for being “smart and experienced”.
Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2022