“If we are voted to power, we will run metro bus services in all the provinces,” Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the elected prime minister of Pakistan, promised while seeking votes during an election campaign rally at Railway Station Ground Mardan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The Metro Bus System (MBS) project, at an estimated cost of 29 billion rupees, was first started in 2012 in the metropolitan city of Lahore in Punjab. The brainchild of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, MBS became fully operational by February 2013 in collaboration with the Turkish government and local experts. The service is now jointly managed by the Traffic and Engineering Agency (TEA) and Lahore Development Authority(LDA).
MBS – covering a distance of some 27 kilometers of Lahore city – helps passengers reach homes and offices avoiding major traffic congestion at several places en route. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif - who is also president of ruling PML-N - promised to introduce the fast-track MBS services in major cities of all of Pakistan’s four provinces to help commuters reach their homes and offices on hassle-free routes.
Sheikh Rohail Asghar, a senior parliamentary leader of PML-N, talking to Truth Tracker by phone said the party chief Nawaz Sharif has categorically stated that MBS will be launched in all the four provinces. He, however, added that work on the plan has not yet started due to engagements of federal government in addressing other important issues like energy and law and order.
“…..as we have already completed the (MBS) project successfully in Lahore; so the planning part of the project for launching the service in other cities is not an issue,” Asghar tells TT.
“The government will start the (MBS) service in those cities where traffic congestion is a major problem……..and no doubt Karachi tops the list,” says the PMN-N Parliamentarian.
According to Asghar, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed the project with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang during the latter’s recent visit to Islamabad.
“The Chinese premier pledged that China will provide support in launching the metro bus services in major cities,” says Asghar.
Assistant Divisional Monitoring Officer of the Planning and Development Department of Khyber Pakhutnkhwa, Naveedullah, told Truth Tracker that the promise of introducing metro bus services had been made by PML-N.
“Now its up to the federal government to release funds for the project,” says Naveedullah.
He said, according to the plan, the Information Technology (IT) Board in the city - where the bus service is to be launched - will be responsible for the installation of electronic-ticketing booths at the bus terminals and for providing other technical support for the project.
Interim steps have not been taken yet to launch the metro bus service in other provinces, however. Parliamentarian Rohail Asghar claimed the PML-N government is committed and that soon preliminary work would begin in consultation with the provinces. Active support and facilitation of provincial governments are crucial to the project’s success, he said.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Local Government, Elections and Rural Development, Dr Inayatullah Khan - talking to Truth Tracker - said the KP government will definitely welcome Nawaz Sharif’s launch of MBS in Peshawar.
However, the minister said he had skepticism about the future of the project and fulfillment of the promise by the PMLN-led federal government which, the minister said, is more focused on the development of Punjab province only.
“….(PML-N) has got more seats from Punjab so its focus is on the development of Punjab to satisfy its electorates,” Inayatullah told Truth Tracker. The minister cited an example of federal government allocation of just one billion rupees in its Annual Development Program (ADP) for a mega-project like Lawari Tunnel in Chitral - the northernmost district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - which remained cut off for most of the time from the rest of the country due to heavy snowfall on Lowari peak.
The minister said that in order to resolve traffic jam problems in the provincial metropolis, the KP government had allocated funds for the improvement of the mass transit system.
Mamraiz khan - an expert on traffic engineering - talking to Truth Tracker said MBS is a very feasible project for Peshawar.
“The best route for MBS will be from Chughalpura up to Hayatabad town…(a route) covering almost all important business and commercial centers, government offices, educational institutions and population centers of Peshawar city,” Mr Khan tells TT.
Khan, who is currently working on a train project for Peshawar metropolitan area, however, said the metro but project would require a huge sum of money which the government could hardly afford from its empty kitty. “It seems to be a distant project at the moment,” he said.
A Punjab government contractor who played an important role in the construction of underpasses and of the Ring Road in Lahore, who wished not to be identified due to his involvement in the multi-billion project, told Truth Tracker that launching of MBS project in other cities is a dream unlikely to be fulfilled under current circumstances.
“It (MBS) is a costly project that needs billions of rupees… the government can’t afford it due to the current economic crises,” says the contractor.
Truth Tracker will, however, keep tracking the progress of the fulfillment of the promise.