Karachi BRT, a blessing or mystery?

Karachi BRT a blessing or a mystery

This article will particularly highlight the issue of absence of Mass Transit System in the city of Karachi. Launching of Karachi BRT is the most awaited news and people are waiting to hear that news since last 4 years, read the full article to know about the insight and depth of the issue

Karachi is having the population of around 15 million, and right now the 7th largest city of the world in terms of population according to United Nations 2018 estimates. And you will get amazed to know a very unique thing about this city that, “It does not have any government operated public transport system”. The people used to travel through their Motorcycles and Cars, and people travels to around 10-12 kilometres daily through their privately managed vehicles to get to their workplaces. People used to spend a quarter of their income to meet their transportation expenses.

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Mass transit systems in cities of other countries scaling similar to Karachi

Other cities of such a huge scale like Karachi in terms of both area and population usually establishes and manages mass transit systems. Our neighboring country India is having its largest city in this list called Mumbai and Mumbai is having best Mass transit system in India, called Mumbai Suburban Railway, more than 53% of Mumbai’s overall population uses MSR.

Indian Rapid Transit system

Our another neighbor and our best friend China is having its city Shanghai in that top 10 list of largest cities, it is also having one of the best mass transit systems of all time called Shanghai Metro rapid-transit system. SMRTS is being established with 16 lines now to accommodate most of the passengers, because majority of the population likes to travel through SMRTS.

Shanghai rapid transit system

A failed attempt of running Karachi BRT by Ex-Mayor Mustafa Kamal

During the tenure of General Musharraf’s government when Karachi was being run by the City District Government Karachi (CDGK) under the leadership of Ex-Mayor Mustafa Kamal, at that time people of Karachi were being facilitated by the Green Bus Service. But after a short span of time the service got retarded due to the lack of funds for their maintenance and paying salaries to the staff.

Failed Karachi Green Bus service

Karachi has become so much isolated since the end of General Musharraf’s reign in terms of attention and focus by both provincial and federal governments. CDGK was being suspended by the provincial government of Sindh with a controversial type of ordinance. The ordinance was passed in the Sindh Assembly, since then the city of Karachi has now been thrown far away to get attention.

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Initiative of perfectly designed (never being completed) Karachi BRT in 2016

In 2014, during Nawaz Sharif’s reign the federal government approves the sanction of fund to execute the initiation of some Mass Transit system in Karachi called Karachi Bus Rapid Transit System (Karachi BRT). After a long period of two years in 2016 the project was being started. The ending date of that project which was announced by the government stated around in the starting months of 2017 maybe April or May. But it never had been made possible; no one was looking interested in the completion of that project. It seems like that the project has been completed and putted in pending intentionally. If you look around the main maintenance station of the buses settled at the Surjani Town and all the special route being constructed for that Karachi BRT you will assume that the project is already completed.

Incomplete station of Karachi BRT Project
3D Aerial View of Station of Karachi BRT
Interior view of Karachi BRT Station
Peshawar BRT Bus going to be used in Karachi as well
Bus being used in Peshawar BRT expected to be used in Karachi BRT as well

Serious mysteries behind its incomplete route

The Karachi BRT was planned initially to get established from Surjani Town till Tower. But due to unknown reasons its route hardly managed to reach till the start of the M.A. Jinnah road. If you head forward from there you will only see big digs and under-construction areas where no construction activity can be seen since last many months.

No interest shown by the provincial government in Karachi BRT project

Since the end of General Musharraf’s Era till right now Sindh Government lies in the hands of Pakistan People Party. They comes sometimes with the support of MQM, and sometimes they got succeeded in making government solely in Sindh. As right now they are sitting in the assembly. Since 1970 Karachi was always being the capital of Sindh. But if you visit Karachi for the first time you are definitely not going to consider it as a capital. It never looks like a capital, your brain and heart wouldn’t permit you to believe that!

Due to the absence of Mass Transit System in this mega city and financial hub of Pakistan the condition is unbearable. The scenario of roads and traffic has reached its worst condition and are narrating the story of ignorance themselves.

Sindh government don’t want to interfere in the project at all. They claims that this is a project being initiated by Federal Government, they don’t have the authority and not even the resources to complete the work of the Karachi BRT project.

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Federal Government of PTI’s efforts to launch Karachi BRT project till now

On 20th June 2020, Federal Government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) signed an agreement for the sanction of loan amounting to $235million from Asian Development Bank (ADB). That loan had been approved by ADB on 5th July 2019 to help in developing a Bus Transit System in Karachi.

ceremony for signing of Agreement of loan from ADB

Now the citizens of Pakistan belongs to and residing in Karachi are desperately waiting for the Federal Government of PTI to complete this huge project. Because, PTI is having heavy mandate from Karachi. The entire majority of National Assembly seats of Karachi were being collected by PTI in the last elections. Some were also being won by MQM and PPP. Now people of Karachi are looking at the federal government with high hopes. I can guarantee it that if PTI’s government launches that Karachi BRT sooner, then they are going to white wash in the next elections.

Karachiites are suffering

Karachiites are very much disheartened with the behavior and response of the government of all levels. That includes Local, Provincial as well as Federal Government, because they can see that they are generating all the revenue for the country, but still having no positive response from any of the political powers.

An effective solution is awaited

Federal Government need to sit with provincial government and offer them partnership in the project to some extent. FG should commit with SG to give them the credit as well for participating in the completion of this mega project. It is certain that this couldn’t be possible without support of the different local authorities, especially provincial government. If you go to the flash back you will see that the provincial government in Punjab with the support of Federal Government led by same political power of PML-N got succeeded in completing the same nature of projects in Lahore, Rawalpindi-Islamabad and Multan. Same sort of project was being completed in Peshawar, KPK in August 2020 after letting PTI to rule at the province for 7 whole years.

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Decision of partnership with Sindh Government in the Karachi BRT project could be a difficult one for PTI. But they have to think about it immediately in the great interest of the people of Karachi. Otherwise people of Karachi are going to give tough time to all the political parties in the next elections. The ratio of output could be quite low due to the disheartening behavior of the government at all the levels.

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Story by: Talha Ali Hashmi (Creative Head, MTD), Talha is a researcher possessing a degree in Environmental Studies. He is a certified Environmentalist from Technical University of Denmark. He is writing on Current Affairs, Environmental Management, Education and Technology since last 8 years

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