Since coming into power, the Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has taken various steps for the betterment of overall situation in the province. In his latest endeavors, he has begun to look at some of the most complex issues faced by the dizzying megalopolis of Karachi and appears ready to make a few hard decisions. Murad Ali Shah wants to bring about drastic changes in the traffic management system, mirroring the hopes and expectations of millions of motorists in the city. He has spotted the link between chronic traffic jams and the existence of commercial plazas on Tariq Road, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Ayesha Manzil, Clifton and Shahrea Faisal, where shops and godowns have taken the place of parking lots. This violation of the law has gone unnoticed for years on end. Reclamation of these spaces is thus important for all concerned. The CM’s efforts to clear the city’s heavily clogged arteries and force developers to freeze all commercial activities in building basements may not be entirely successful in the end but at least the chief executive of the province is prepared to change the city for the better. By ordering the traffic police to mount an operation against those using the basements of commercial buildings for commercial purposes rather than parking, the chief minister is displaying the kind of resolve needed to ease traffic congestion in the city. The ultimate aim is to enforce building layout plans and restrict the parking of vehicles on major roads – an issue that escaped the attention of successive chief ministers for decades. It will be a huge challenge considering the sheer size of the city and its vast road network which spreads over 10,000 kilometres. The fact that 1,186 vehicles are added to the city’s roads every day makes the task more difficult. Some ingenuous solutions will also have to be found to rid Karachi of the traffic woes.
The controversial project
The Government of Punjab is once again the subject of criticism for the controversial Orange Line project.Lahore is an old city, and heritage sites are thick on the ground. The planners and constructors of the Orange Line were well aware from the outset where these sites were and their vulnerability, many being hundreds of years old. In this instance civil society holds the moral high ground, and the government looks shifty and evasive. Let the letter of the law be upheld and let the scrutineers go about their. Pakistan is home to and custodian of some of the great ‘heritage’ sites of the world – and it is proving to be an indifferent guardian in some instances. The Lahore Orange Line Metro Train has courted controversy and the anger of civil society from the outset as it appears to either flout the rules and regulations that determine how close the construction may come to heritage sites, or run as close as possible to the edge of legality as it can. Once again it is the courts that have ridden to the rescue, and a hearing at the High Court in Lahore on Monday 3rdApril made it abundantly clear that the honourable justices were not going to allow ‘anyone’ to destroy heritage sites in the city. Such is their concern that they have decided to hear in this matter daily. Legal arguments by the Punjab government attempt to negate those put up by 10 petitions against the project. These had restrained the government from pursuing construction of any structure within a distance of 200 feet from any of 11 designated heritage sites. The government did nothing to strengthen its case when the court was informed that the UNESCO Reactive Monitoring Team that wanted to visit Pakistan to ascertain the strength or otherwise of the various arguments being advanced – had not been granted permission and not been issued with visas. Both sides have valid points to make. There is a real need to upgrade mass transit systems as the cities grow across the country, but this cannot be at the expense of those sites of which Pakistan is a custodian into perpetuity