And the nail
They say if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The PML-N government’s hammer is the metro bus thus every citizen of this country looks like a distressed commuter. After finishing the prioritized agenda of revolutionizing all educational and health institutions of the province and making model police stations, Khadim-e-Aala, pursuing his miracles-making-nature, thought ending pains of the last troubled section of society – the commuters. And here runs the red bus on the roads of twin cities. “More power to your elbow, Mr Sharif,” excited sycophants yell out.
Some 50 years back when the then struggling medical-world had only Stealazine on its pharmacy shelves, every mental disease was diagnosed as psychosis. No other remedy, no other disease. We have metro, we have only worried commuters. During his previous (2008-13) stint in government, Khadim-e-Aala Punjab had the ‘Sasti Roti’ and thus everyone, under the law of instrument, was suffering with starvation.
Bravo! After the elimination of all hungry folks from the model province now there are left only the conveyance-less masses and the remedy is metro bus. He rides on his own will (definitely not on the metro) and when advised otherwise on Sasti Roti, Sasti Shuhrat, he even sacked two provincial secretaries, one commissioner and three district coordination officers. Henry Adams once said: “Practical politics consists in ignoring facts.” Ignoring facts in politics may bring fruits for some badly-educated individuals but overlooking facts in governance is an inerasable sin.
Today, over-excited Prime Minister asks Pindiites why did they reject Hanif Abbasi? He himself forgets that this is the same guy who had failed to run Sasti Roti scheme as authority’s head. The transparent government is also shy of answering questions regarding financial irregularities amounting to Rs25 billion in the ‘Sasti Roti’ scheme.
A small section of the dwellers of twin cities is thrilled over the festive launch of metro bus but the government must be worried about the fact that the buildings of 125 government-run schools in Rawalpindi district have been declared partially dangerous, posing threats to the lives of thousands of students.
Another report of 2012 suggests that the buildings of around 2,700 schools out of 62,500, all over Punjab, are dangerous for thousands of students and teachers. According to a survey conducted by the Education Planning Management (EPM) as many as 2,700 buildings of schools including primary, elementary, secondary, middle and high are dangerous and need immediate attention for rehabilitation and revamping. There are also 2,000 schools functioning without roofs.
Meanwhile, the thick-skinned media managers of PML-N are busy in portraying the metro bus as a panacea terming it ‘a cure-all-project’. They believe in ‘any press is good press’. Even opposition’s rhetoric against the metro bus will buy time for ‘Your Excellency’ on the screens, they advise the men behind the Magical Metro. “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some hire public relations writers.”
Thank God justice has been speedily dispensed to Model Town victims (don’t you see Gullu is behind bars) and now after doing one of the foremost duties, Khadim-e-Aala will find time to concentrate on Orange Line. The elder Sharif adores the title ‘Sher Shah Suri Sani’ given to him for his deep-seated passion in expanding road infrastructures but he must also remember the justice of Farid Khan for which The Lion King of the 16th century was honoured with the title Sultan-ul-Adil. After conquering Bihar, he addressed the people of Sarsaram: “Justice alone is the mainstay of government and source of prosperity to the governed… injustice is the most pernicious of things; it saps the foundation of the government and brings ruin upon the realm.” Kaash insaaf bhi metro bus ka ticket hota jo har koi khareed sakta, muft ke chakar mein to adhi sadi nikal gai.
Stats speak louder than interest-driven defences by the likes of Talal Chaudhry. With more than 18 million Hepatitis B & C infected people in the country and approximately 150,000 deaths per annum, the huge spending of 165 billion on Orange Line seems criminal to many. In a province where four children are burnt alive due to broken down fire fighting apparatus and that too in its capital, the metro bus networks can’t be considered as a feather in PML-N’s cap. Before inaugurating metro bus project in Multan, dear Chief Ministerm please ask your yes-sir-bureaucracy about the maternal mortality rate in Southern Punjab and also inquire about the availability of clean drinking water in Layyah and Bhakkar.
Any project lacking grandiosity and grandeur is misfit to gratify vanity of PML-N minds. A narcissist demands loud appreciation therefore silent supply of health facilities to the helpless folks or provision of quality education to the penniless-parents’ kids are at the bottom of their development agenda. The prestigious concrete structures, visible from miles, can appease their vanity and nothing else.
I share millions of people’s view that Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro bus project is the definition of extravagance. The so-called prestigious project was launched scrapping the much more economical ‘Islamabad Bus Service Project’ of CDA. The said project was aborted in gestation just to give room to the red bus. As per the conceived plan, a private transport company had to deliver a world class transport service on build-and-operate basis but no company out of six which participated in the bidding could see a green light. The project would incorporate maximum facilities for commuters including service timetable, passengers relations, bus shelters, electronic ticketing, control room and security system had to be launched on three routes thus had been able to serve the almost entire population of the capital.
Later on, another Chinese firm M/S Youtong Bus & Truck Manufacturing Company expressed interest in running 200 extra-long buses in the capital on build-and-operate basis on dedicated Red Lanes of existing road network but the authorities turned a deaf ear to the offer. It was just a Rs2.5 billion project and had to cover the entire population of Islamabad by operating on all routes. The cheapest and delivery-oriented proposal was scrapped to accommodate Rs60 billion plus project with the highest-in-the-world BRT infrastructure cost of $20million/kilometre. Keeping my nose clean I will not repeat buzzwords of the town regarding money-matters and simply quote A Few Good Men’s dialogue, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Apart from cost and utility, the project’s transparency too carries a hell of question marks. While awarding the contract to Al-Buraq (Turkish Company) for operating the bus service, Daewoo was thrown out of bidding race as its officials reached just 15 minutes late. The sole bidder Al-Buraq won the contract without any competition. The competition might bring more revenues but who cares in King’s realm.
I end with a quote of America’s great comedian of the last century and host of You Bet Your Life, Groucho Marx: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”