There is a unanimous consensus that Karachi needs an efficient and viable transport system to ease the woes of its 20 million residents that face trouble commuting every day. The Green Line Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) that was inaugurated by the Prime Minister himself on Friday holds promise. However to state that it is the Holy Grail to Karachi’s transportation problems is a stretch. What it is in reality is just another project in the name of development that will be the focus of a storm of criticism, if it is executed in the same autocratic way the infamous Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) Project has been implemented so far.
Development of infrastructure for transport has always been the PML-N’s forte, even in their previous terms. While such initiatives are extremely essential for economic progression, when each project is marred with scandals of wide scale corruption and lack of accountability, they become a burden and an insult to hardworking taxpayers and the national exchequer. The OLMT is no different, not only has the project sealed the fate of various precious heritage sites of Lahore like Shalamar Gardens, General Post Office, Supreme Court-Lahore Registry, Mauj Darya Shrine and Chauburji, it also promises to displace thousands of residents that have been living there since generations.
The main point of dissent over the OLMT has been the way this project has almost been an obsession for the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, who has bulldozed all legislative filters in the political system to achieve what he envisioned. The fact remains that everything from the construction work to the law making process, has been carried out dictatorially, without any accountability or satisfying the relative stakeholders. Despite a Prohibitory Injunctive Order, directing the government to put a stop to the construction work, the government through the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has been continuously violating the order of the Lahore High Court. If that is not dictatorial then what is?
The OLMT project has been criticised of overlooking the mobility needs of 98% of the population of the city while spending over $3 billion in public money, and the BRT boasts of the same discrepancies, despite what the PM likes to believe. Karachi has a plethora of problems that need absolutely urgent attention, like provision of safe drinking water, sewage facilities and urban waste management. Once all of those are set in order it is absolutely justified to spend millions of dollars on mega transport projects.