ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Sustainable Transport (PAKSTRAN) Project organized a political dialogue in Islamabad today to reaffirm the need for sustainable transport systems in the country and to discuss the stance of prominent political parties of the country on the issue of mass transit systems.
The dialogue titled “Commuting with Dignity: A Political Dialogue on Sustainable Urban Transport in Pakistan” aimed at creating a better understanding of sustainable urban transport concepts amongst stakeholders, particularly the policy makers; and at creating further awareness of the transportation issues and how mass transit systems help address traffic congestions issues. The event, moderated by Mr. Syed Talat Hussain, a prominent media expert, helped generate debate on the advantages of mass transit systems, specifically the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transport.
The panel for the dialogue included politicians and subject experts that added to highlighting the issues and opportunities of sustainable transport in Pakistan. The objective of the event was to secure a commitment from political parties towards raising awareness of and supporting the development of mass transit systems that are safe, clean and comfortable for the citizens.
Shireen Mazari representing PTI stressed that the mindset that public transport in Pakistan, seen as a means of transportation only for the lower classes, should change. “Public transport should be for all classes of society so all can ride safely and comfortably”. Shireen Mazari also placed special emphasis on the need and implementation of laws and regulations that not only provide dignity and safety to passengers, but also regulate transport providers. She went on to explain that emissions from the transport sector can only be lowered if the number of vehicles on the road is reduced.
Marvi Memon speaking on behalf of PML-N focused attention on Vision 2025 and accentuated the importance of the Pak-China corridor that would link markets. “The Vision 2025 would hold citizens together for national uplift and progress and allow for maximum seamless connectivity,” she said. Marvi Memon discussed how projects like the Metro Bus Service helped generate employment and contributed to bridging the urban-rural divide. Ms. Memon emphasized land spatial planning in urban areas and empowerment of rural areas and villages through improved transport connectivity.
Syeda Shehla Raza, Deputy Speaker from the PPP highlighted road safety and the need for establishing a driver training and safety centers to promote responsible behavior on the road.
Col. (R) Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi of MQM said that “divisions among classes and people disappear when all sit in the same bus”.
Mian Imran Masood representing PML-Q stated that “successful transport systems that used to operate in Pakistan, such as the Faisalabad Urban Transport System (FUTS) had fallen prey to corruption and victimization at the hands of various entities and ended up in closure”. ”There needs to be a change in mindset of policy makers to allow for better mass transit systems in Pakistan,” he added. He lamented that “all such projects, irrespective of what political party was in power, ended up being shelved due to various vested interests”.
Shahi Syed from ANP said “Pakistan is plagued by terrorism and corruption and that humanity and the value of life need to be a national priority” and that the problem of transportation was not the problem of one man; rather the entire country suffered as a whole on a daily basis”.
Naeem ur Rehman representing Jamaat-e-Islami provided a background of public transport in Karachi. He informed the audience that in 60s and 70s Karachi used to have a very good public transport system with almost 60%t of the vehicles belonging to public transport and only 20% individual cars. He stressed that with proper policies and good governance the public transport can be improved again.
Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative IUCN Pakistan appreciated the involvement of political parties and the media in maintaining a positive approach towards the issue of public transport in Pakistan.
The PAKSTRAN Project is being implemented by the Government of Pakistan, through the Government of Sindh (Transport Department), Government of Punjab (Urban Unit, Planning and Development Department) and IUCN.
PAKSTRAN is supported by Global Environment Facility (GEF) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and is being implemented by Ministry of Communications, Government of Pakistan, through the Government of Sindh, Government of Punjab, and IUCN, with an objective ‘to reduce the growth of energy consumption and related greenhouse gas emissions from Pakistan’s transport sector, while simultaneously improving urban environmental conditions and improving Pakistan’s competitiveness’.