At the time of independence Pakistan was inherited with poor infrastructure, except for Grand Trunk (GT) Road connecting Lahore with Peshawar and onwards, the conditions of other roads linking big cities need not to be mentioned. Railway was the main source of passenger and goods transportation.
It is a commonly used proverb that there is no economic stability without political stability. Pakistan lost father of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah just after one year of its creation and with the murder of his second-in-command Liaquat Ali Khan in Rawalpindi there was political unrest. No one had the time to think of anything else except for making or breaking the governments, Economic development seemed a far goose cry.
When the political pandits failed in keeping governance intact, Sikandar Mirza the President of Pakistan clamped Martial Law in 1958 and soon after Ayub Khan, the then Army Chief took over the reins of the government in his hands. In the 1960s, which is called the decade of development world over, Ayub khan tightened his grip on power being a staunch ‘cold war’ ally of the US. With economic and technical aid from the US, Pakistan became one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. With construction of better roads, the private sector also started investing in Public Transport along with the Government Transport Service (GTS) buses.
In the 1960s, apart from air links with main cities, railway and road transport were efficient means of going from one place to another. The intra-cities like Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi etc.
But things again started changing in early 1970s with the coming in power of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) into government. The slogan of Roti, Kapra, and Makkan won 80% of seats for PPP in West Pakistan. In East Pakistan, as separatist party, Awami league won a landslide majority because of economic deprivation. Trade Unions in public sector organizations and industry emerged stronger than management with the process of “nationalization” of private sector institutions, banks, schools, hospitals and transport. But soon most of them were closed due to financial losses and mismanagement.
During the 60’s the capital was shifted from Karachi to Islamabad and along with other needs, demand for public transport increased manifold. Due to lack of housing facilities to accommodate government employees in Islamabad, most of the people made the nearby city Rawalpindi as their home. The population of Rawalpindi-Islamabad started swelling rapidly due to rural-urban migration and unrest in Karachi during late 70’s and early 80’s.
A very well organized public transport system could cater to the needs of several thousand government employees and students who play daily on the twin-cities routes. With the closure of GTS in the 1980s, private sector vans, mini buses along with taxis are the men ’s of public transport for twin-cities.
In every sector of the economy, there exists a regulatory body to monitor their activities within the purview of laid down laws and public transport is no exception in this case, but the insufficient regulations for private transport were not being implemented properly.
The main source of traveling in the capital city is 12-seat private vans, but in the absence of proper law they often carry 16 to 18 passengers in peak hour of morning and evening. One witness scares people waiting to grab a seat to reach the office or an educational institute on time. Though hundreds of vans ply on these routes of twin-cities lack proper monitoring in terms of carrying the number of passengers and following traffic rules turns the whole affair into a big mess every day. Another source of transport in the twin cities is the metro, but the metro has routes and stations which cannot be changed for any passenger.
The fares are fixed by the trade unions controlled by the van owners, which are usually exorbitantly inflated and, once increased, cannot be brought down with the decrease in fuel prices.
Article By Alvina Bangash
Image Credit By Malik Shahzad