Sindh’s government’s negligence towards infrastructure problems of Karachi and the continuing state of disrepair in large parts of the city drew Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed’s ire on Friday.
His remarks came as a Supreme Court bench heard the case regarding the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) at its Karachi registry today. Justice Gulzar Ahmed was presiding over the bench.
The advocate general Sindh, the attorney general, the chief secretary Sindh and the railways secretary, among others, were present for the hearing.
During the proceedings, the advocate general presented a copy of the Karachi Master Plan to the court for review.
He informed the court that the Green Line Bus Rapid Transit project and the Orange Line have been completed, while remaining projects are under construction.
“The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are providing funding for these projects,” he informed the court.
“The work should reflect the plans and maps you have handed over to us,” the chief justice said in response.
However, it was clear he was not satisfied with the scope of the project. “This isn’t a forward-looking transport plan: it seems that you just wanted to spend some money, distribute some funds,” the chief justice remarked.
“We should shut these projects down if that is so,” the advocate general offered.
“It doesn’t seem like you understand what we’re saying,” the chief justice said in response.
The officials, defending the time it took to complete the project, told the court that work on the Green Line had kicked off three years ago, highlighting that the project stretched from Surjani Town to Numaish.
“You could have laid roads over all of Asia in three years,” Justice Gulzar retorted. “You had the money and the people: why wasn’t the project wrapped up within a year?”
Speaking about the Orange Line project, the advocate general promised that the service would be made operational by next year.
“Why not next month?” the chief justice asked.
“It seems as if you do not pay the contractors. Go to Nazimabad, it seems like no work is being done [on the project] there,” he said.
“The parties [responsible for the project] keep changing all the time. You keep showing us these wonderful visions of the future and have turned the lives [of people living in those areas] into a living hell meanwhile,” Justice Gulzar said. “You’re fiddling as people die.”
“The Qingqi [rickshaws] have started running on the streets again. They’ll turn all your transport projects to dust,” he noted. “There’s hundreds of thousands of motorcycles on the streets.”
“University Road is a big joke; Shaheed-e-Millat Road used to be a sight once upon a time.”
“We are working. The Green Line and the Orange Line will be made operational soon,” the AG Sindh promised.
“The Red Line will be made operational by August 14,” he further promised.
“And what about the Blue and Purple Lines?” asked the chief justice.
“We are not working on those at the moment,” the AG responded.
“Please work for the country,” admonished the chief justice. “It seems you all do not work till someone stands bearing a stick over your head.”
“When will the buses start running on the roads?” Justice Gulzar asked.
“There are buses already plying the roads,” the AG Sindh answered.
“[Those] buses [currently] running on the roads are from 1955. The country’s most trash buses are running here,” the chief justice hit back.
“Will you launch the new buses when I’ve gone home? When all of my fellow [judges] have gone home?”
“Those protesting against the sorry state of affairs [in Karachi] are still standing outside, protesting. Nobody [in authority] seems the least bit bothered,” the judge remarked.
“So many people died in yesterday’s [building collapse], yet the responsible people are sleeping without a care in the world,” Justice Gulzar said.
“We have removed 20 persons from the Sindh Building Control Authority [over negligence],” the AG answered.
We want KCR revived at all costs
Later, the chief justice was briefed regarding measures being taken to revive KCR.
Different options for the revival were proposed, and the chief justice was told that 14 of the total 24 sections of the circular railway were presenting problems for the planners.
“It is not possible for us to remove encroachments on these 14 sections,” the Sindh government’s representatives pleaded. “We can make elevated tracks through these sections instead,” they suggested.
“If we stick to the 1995 plan for the circular railway, we will have to uproot a large part of the city. The Green Line and Orange Line projects will both have to be abandoned,” they warned.
“The court should accommodate the Sindh and Federal governments’ proposals in this regard,” they pleaded.
However, the chief justice was not swayed.
“You have six months to revive KCR,” he said. “There will be no further extensions.”
“Keep working on the CPEC projects — we are not concerned with them. We just want the KCR revived,” he said.
“Clearing up the routes and removing encroachments is your responsibility. The tracks and all things related to the trains have to be managed by Railways,” he said.