Intl Women’s Day: Commuting a nightmare for Karachi women

Karachi: The government of Sindh is making tall claims to facilitate women, but for working women in Karachi commuting in public transport buses is a nightmare, as they face immense harassment from male commuters travelling in female compartments of crowded minibuses.

When the Pakistan is observing the International Women’s Day, the working women in its most urban city Karachi cannot commute in a respectable manner to their workplaces and back home. Though in no sector the performance of Sindh government is laudable, but the transport sector is the most corrupt and most inefficient department of the provincial government. It has miserably failed to regulate public transport not only in urban cities but also in small towns. Karachi, the home of 20million plus population is the worst urban city of the world in terms of public transport. Corruption and mismanagement are at peak in transport sector and resultantly a handful of powerful private transporters run this vital sector with a single motive to maximize their profits at the cost of commuters.

Every day dozens of women and girls are seen standing waiting at every bus stop waiting for minibuses to reach their workplaces and educational institutions but they hardly get opportunity to embark overcrowded minibuses. Even if they can manage embarking a minibus they find the compartment for female commuters crowded with male commuters. These females brave immense problems while traveling in these crowded minibuses due to their physical and mental harassment by male commuters who virtually touch them while commuting in these stuffed public transport vehicles.

Ms Musarat Khan, a student of a local university, said the government is least concerned about the problems of women. She said on the International Women Days and such other events the government ministers, advisors, ruling politicians and their lackeys made tall claims about the so-called achievements of their regime to give rights to women, but the reality is just opposite. She said if one can see female commuters of Karachi traveling in the minibuses of the city he would have a better idea about what the rulers are talking about. She said the transport department in Sindh is the most corrupt and lazy department. She suggested the chief minister of Sindh to borrow some competent officers from the transport department of Punjab province to improve public transport sector in Sindh. She asked that Metro bus system be established in Karachi on the lines of Lahore and Rawalpindi.

Noted writer and poet Humera Sarwat Siddiqui said that female compartments of minibuses for females do not provide any safety to women commuters from physical and sexual harassment. She said when the male commuters can travel in female compartments of minibuses what is the utility of establishing these separate compartments. She said women commuters are usually misbehaved by male drivers and conductors of minibuses. She said in the Indian city of Mumbai the government runs separate local trains for ladies. She said in Karachi the government should ensure strict implementation of separate compartment in minibuses for females, or better run separate buses and minibuses for women. She demanded improving public transport sector in the city to make it a real urban metropolis. She said when we are told we have a Karachi Metropolitan Corporation when see it as a joke as there is nothing of metropolitan type, especially in public transport sector of Karachi. She also asked early revival of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) on war footing.

Farzana Akbar, a worker of garment factory in Korangi, said female workers commute in very pathetic and abusive manner in the minibuses of Karachi, but the elected representatives of this city sitting in air-conditioned assemblies care least about their problems. She said women of upper class use their own cars or hire rickshaws or taxies, but the working class women travel in buses and it is really nightmare for a female to commute in a Karachi minibus. She charged that the rulers are basically Waderas and they have no idea of the life and sufferings of working class citizens of urban cities. She said only elected representatives that really belong to the working class people can realize the sorrows and sufferings of downtrodden people.

Faiza Naseem, a office secretary in a private firm, said public transport problem is the issue of all commuters of Karachi, irrespective of gender, but the female commuters are the worst sufferers as the minibuses and buses have a limited seats for females and they too are occupied by male commuters. She requested the government women rights organizations to run buses exclusive for women on busy routes of the city like M A Jinnah Road, I I Chundrigar Road, Sharah-e-Faisal, University Road, Sharah-e-Pakistan and other busy arteries to facilitate women commuters.

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