If BRT Peshawar is still incomplete under PTI, what chance does BRT Karachi stand?

Published: March 27, 2019

Eleven out of 32 stations of the BRT are yet to be prepared while only 21 out of 200 buses have reached Peshawar and the rest have to be imported. PHOTO: TWITTER/ IFTIKHAR FIRDOUS

Peshawar’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) seems to be a never-ending project as once again Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’ s (PTI) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government has postponed its launch. The inauguration ceremony of the BRT was supposed to be held on March 23rd, but because the project is yet to be finished, K-P Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, after consulting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, decided to cancel the opening ceremony.

Ever since PTI announced to launch BRT in October 2017, the project has seen many delays because of the inefficient management. The BRT is a 26 kilometre-long bus corridor designed to carry thousands of passengers throughout the city of Peshawar. PTI’s K-P government launched the project to counter the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s infrastructure-based narrative.

In Punjab, PML-N has built three metro bus services in Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi, and also introduced the Metro train, which for some unknown reason is not being launched by the PTI government. Imran, a critic of the infrastructure-based development work of PML-N and especially the Metro bus, took a U-turn in 2017 after being questioned about the absence of mega projects in K-P.

Perhaps Imran assumed that launching a Metro Bus service in Peshawar will be an easy task which will not only improve his party’s image in the eyes of its vote bank but will also elevate his name for finishing a project at a lower cost compared to the ones in Lahore, Multan or Rawalpindi.

PTI slammed PML-N for corruption and alleged that they were minting money by receiving commissions in the transport projects. They claimed they will unmask PML-N’s reality and show the nation how Metros are built in a cost-effective manner.

However, after almost 18 months since this project began, the BRT cost has climbed to Rs68.7 billion and since work still remains unfinished, the estimated cost is likely to grow, making it the most expensive Metro Bus service being built in the country.

The 27 kilometre-long Lahore Metro Bus service was built at the cost of Rs30 billion, the 23 kilometre-long Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus at Rs44.84 billion, and the Multan Metro Bus at approximately Rs28 billion. Therefore, the expensive and unfinished BRT is further proof of the careless and inept governance of PTI.

Had this BRT project been delayed in any other city in Sindh where Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) governs or if, during its tenure, PML-N had failed to meet the deadline, the heavens would have befallen till now.

Eleven out of 32 stations of the BRT are yet to be prepared whereas only 21 out of 200 buses have reached Peshawar and the rest have to be imported. Adding to this, due to poor drainage system, surrounding areas of BRT have suffered. In the midst of recent rainfall, many of the shops in the vicinity faced losses due to the leakage of water from BRT. Even an underpass had to be built again when the engineers realised that the one built was too narrow for a bus to pass.

In many areas, the construction had to be stopped due to poor drainage or because the route was creating disturbance for the traffic on the road. This unfinished BRT project gives us a glimpse of the working methodology of the PTI. It seems that the party does not believe in paperwork and does not go into details, which is alarming in itself since they are handling such a massive project.

Instead of concentrating on developing the vision to help the country out of the current stagnation, Imran is only interested in talking about unrealistic promises that he can’t keep whilst bashing and criticising his political opponents.

It has been a tale of blunders, yet the government keeps on giving deadline after deadline despite knowing that the project has not been finished yet.

Adding to this abysmal situation, recently the PTI federal government has taken over the Karachi’s Green Line BRT project since it faced the same delayed fate as the bus service in Peshawar. Since Imran is interested in making Karachi his political fort, he has not only allocated money from the federal government resources but has virtually also taken over the project.

There is nothing wrong with taking over this project considering the Sindh government’s inability to finish it since December 2017; however, keeping in view the dismal performance of PTI with the BRT Peshawar project, one can’t help but worry whether they are the best possible party to handle this. Imran started BRT Peshawar for political gain and seems to do be doing the same in Karachi but will BRT Karachi also share the same fate and turn into a never-ending project? If that does happen, not only will it let down Karachi and its people but PTI’s image will take a massive hit for messing up two consecutive transport projects.

There should be a special mention here for Shehbaz Sharif, who built three Metro Bus projects and an Orange Line train with no delays or hiccups. The only delay in the Orange Line was caused by petitioners who took a stay order against it. Despite that hindrance, he managed to finish the project before the end of his term.

CM Khan, on the other hand, has ordered an inquiry into the reason why the project is being delayed. However, should he not have been on top of things from the start or was he only going to take action when something went wrong?

Since BRT is PTI’s own conceived and executed project, it is appropriate to worry about the other projects PTI has taken under its belt. The construction of homes and the creation of jobs for the masses feel like empty promises at the moment. After all, it is easy to announce a project and make promises to the public, however, it takes more than words to actually fulfil your commitments and implement such large scale projects. PTI needs to learn the art of governance and especially needs to be taught how to manage bureaucracy, otherwise the party will only regret the chances it wasted.

As we wait for PTI to learn these skills and turn a new leaf, the BRT Peshawar project needs thorough investigation by the anti-graft watchdog and the culprits who are responsible for the downfall of this project need to be brought to justice. Wasting the country’s money due to inefficiency, at a time when we cannot afford it, should be dealt with immediately.

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar

The writer is a columnist and writes for various English and Urdu publications. He tweets at @rjimad (twitter.com/rjimad)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.