The voiceless, powerless orphans

ISLAMABAD: Driving on the main Istanbul Highway, you crawl like a snail. Yet carless carelessly speed their way home or office. They pay less for the speedy and safe journey, everyday.This is where Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif lent the idea of a Metro Bus Service, otherwise called mass transport system. With the total collapse of iconic General Bus Service in the 1990s along with municipal corporations’ et al, the country was left on the mercy of expensive, lawless and insecure private transportation.Pick-pocketing to sexual harassment were everyday sufferings. Obese and insulting traffic cops only smiled for the drivers of commuter vans plying across the cities. They burnt natural gas but adjusted fares with the soaring petroleum prices. Rawalpindi’s Regional Transport Office, like elsewhere in the country, was deaf and dumb. It only understood the language of transport mafia. The civil society found municipal woes too miniscule to attract their high-valued attention. A common citizen, especially females, was doomed. When the so called khadim-e-ala brought home the idea of a metro service, the opposition found it a rip-off. The PTI saw it an election gimmick and wasteful expense on the taxpayer. From the day of its launch till to-date, the service in Lahore has won more favorable views than otherwise. The critics have only pointed out flaws that can be fixed easily with efficient management and civil society oversight. In undue haste and shadowy oversight, the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Bus Rapid Transit is fast underway at a whopping cost of Rs 23.8 billion. The bill may soar if the project completion overshoots its January 2015 deadline. Until then, the citizens are paying the cost of in multiple ways. The residents of Rawalpindi-Islamabad have driven for longer hours to reach their office or home since the groundbreaking ceremony in February. Dust particles have multiplied the spring allergy woes. In case of doubts, please visit or call outpatient department of the nearest public or private hospital. Any drug store along the Murree Road can shed light on rising trends of respiratory ailments, eye sores and skin infection, mainly resulting from the dug up roads. The project is vital as they say better late than never. However, little awareness campaign was created for the problems the citizenry may face in a year-long inconvenience. For years, Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority has divorced its social responsibility towards citizens. Marred with malpractices, financial irregularities and nepotism, it has been taking the capiltali’ites for a ride. Like so many occasion before, the CDA has not bothered to prepare and disseminate alternate routes for the commuters to save them from road rage, exhaustion besides conserving energy and time. As for the environmentalists’ concern for cutting down five-decade old pine trees, there can’t be two opinions. However, they forget to estimate carbon footprint of vehicles plying on the roads for the last two decades and its increased impact in decades to come. A proper public transport system becomes the only option for a health, environment free inter-city travel.The CDA miserably failed to visualize a mass transport system during General Musharraf’s time when a catastrophic crime of building 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th avenue highways were constructed by chopping of thousands of pine trees. The city’s master plan was defaced with impunity as if each CDA director and his bosses had taken oath under the notorious PCO. Back then, the environmentalist community was too busy elsewhere. News reports and news TV crews don’t record any protest seeking environmental impact assessment for the botanical genocide committed by an omni-potent general. However, the crimes of yesteryears don’t vindicate the follies of today. Islamabad has already become a different city. Moreover, its citizen choose parliamentary representative (NA-49) alien to the metropolis and ignorant of the issues faced. The twin cities’ metro bus project is seriously vulnerable to allegations and court intervention owing its hefty budget, lack of transparency and absence of civic responsibility. Shocking silence of the civil society over matter as important as public health, road safety and environmental cost place it as partner in ongoing wrongdoings.

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