Thousands of minibuses that charge fare as per use of diesel, but actually run on cheap CNG vanished from the city roads on Saturday as the Sui Southern Gas Company announced weekly gas station closure.
Karachi commuters suffer this trauma every week as the weekly CNG closure like all weather electricity load shedding has become a regular feature of the city life.
Sindh transport minister Akhtar Jadoon previous day told on the floor of Sindh Assembly that public transport buses of what he called ‘the first world war era’ are plying in Karachi and the commuters problems would stay unless new public transport vehicles are introduced.
He advocated giving new route permits to narrow-bodied minibuses, which is the old demand of Karachi transporters.
However, the fact is that in all urban cities of the world road-based public transport systems are based not on narrow-bodied minibuses, but wide-bodied buses with ample seating capacity to cater the needs of urban commuters.
Interestingly, when Lahore is soon to open the first bus rapid system of Pakistan, Karachi is still content with the medieval mode of public transport, just because the powerful clout of private public transporters, commonly called transport mafia of Karachi, opposes any idea that might affect their huge profit margins being earned by running junkyard type minibuses on the city roads.
It is said that majority of the minibuses running of Karachi roads have no emergency exit doors or even properly functioning headlights and speedometers.
They continue to run with roof racks to load passengers there in a very risky manner despite the clear-cut instructions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to dismantle these roof railings.
A complete overhauling of the road-based public transport system Karachi is a must.
To streamline the public transport system all diesel and petrol based buses, minibuses and coaches should be removed from the city roads in two or three phases, and only wide bodied large buses, solely run on CNG be allowed to ply in Karachi.
Proper color code, engine fitness, proper driving license, realistic bus fares and the issuance of tickets to commuters after getting fare from them should be strictly followed. The time is ripe now to stop treating Karachi commuters like sheep and goat. They should be treated as educated and civilized citizens of a mega urban city.
However, it would be only possible when the political parties enjoying mandate in Karachi realize their responsibilities and raise a strong voice for betterment of commuting system in their city to facilitate their voters.
For more than 10 years the vital project of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) has been in limbo, showing a sad but real fact that the political leadership of Karachi is least interested in solving the problems of Karachi commuters.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Pakistan Peoples’ Party-Parliamentarian (PPP-P) and Awami National Party (ANP) enjoy the Karachi mandate and they should have to think about giving their voters a modern public transport system to replace the present medieval mode of commuting, a tarnish on the face of a modern urban Karachi.