Govt shies away from removing minibus roof-racks

Karachi: Sindh government and its related departments are shying away from removing killer roof-racks from the minibuses of Karachi, despite the fact that more than one ago the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the apex court of the country, in Karachi law and order case had instructed the authorities to remove the roof-racks from minibuses of the city.

In Karachi all public transport minibuses have installed racks on their rooftops, and swarms of commuters travelling perching on these rooftops is the peculiar characteristic of the roads of Karachi, one of the top ten urban metropolises of the world. Unlike other mega urban cities of the world and even this region, the public transport sector has remained constantly neglected in Karachi. Two most successful public transport systems of Karachi – the road-based Karachi Transport Corporation (KTC) and rail-based Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) – were deliberately failed to benefit the mafia of private public transporters, who buy very old and road-unfit vehicles from Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa and Punjab and run them as minibuses and coaches in Karachi.

Travelling on roof-racks of minibuses is dangerous a commuters often all from them. Such cases are seen almost every day, but the government, traffic police and Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) do not take any step to save lives and limbs of citizens. The powerful clout of private transporter has made even it possible that the government is not implementing the directives of the apex court of the country.

Altaf Shakoor, president of Pasban, a citizens’ rights organization, says the whole system of privately operated public transport system of Karachi is based on a single point: to maximize the profits of transporters at the cost of commuters. He said the government is not playing its constitutional role to safeguard the rights of citizens. He said a new class of minibuses called ‘coaches’ was introduced in Karachi allowing them to charge more fare on the condition that they would run on seat-by-seat basis. These coaches legally were not allowed to run with commuters standing in them.

They were allowed to get embarked a commuter if a vacant seat is available. But the owners of the coaches are not only violating this legal requirement but even allowing commuters to sit on their rooftops. He said the government is not discharging its responsibility to take action against the owners of these coaches and safeguard the rights of commuters. He said the government should abolish the coaches and allow them to run like other ordinary minibuses without the privilege of charging more fare. He said public transporters are also fleecing the government and citizens, as they consume cheap CNG but charge their fares on the use of costly diesel. He said this is simply a cheating with people but the government and its related agencies have also turned the blind eye towards this injustice.

Shakoor asked the government and traffic police to immediately remove roof-racks from all minibuses and coaches of Karachi and also implement the official colour code of public transport vehicles. Only those minibuses be allowed to ply on the road that are painted with the official public transport colour: red by wide-bodied buses, and yellow for the minibuses.

Recently, in a meeting with government the public transporters had agreed to remove the roof-racks from their minibuses and coaches voluntarily, but this pledge has yet to be implemented, as the government is not serious to get its writ upheld in society. Minibuses and coaches with roof-racks still ply on the city roads making a mockery of laws and rules.

Altaf Shakoor requested the Sindh governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan, chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, transport minister Aijaz Jakhrani to take notice of the minibuses running on the Karachi streets with killer roof-racks and order their immediate removal as the per the directives of the apex court to save lives of commuters and give a civic look to Karachi streets.

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