One of the ironies surrounding the long talked-about revival of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) is that it became a topic of discussion in government circles, the media and at the popular level before the local trains completely ceased operating in 1999. The KCR started operations in 1964 and served commuters satisfactorily till early 1980s. It came to a complete stop sometimes in 1999 ostensibly because many wagons came out on the roads. The defunct Karachi Transport Corporation unsuccessfully introduced one ‘ingenious idea’ after another to tackle the issue of commute in the sprawling city. Later some private omnibuses started plying the roads, and they too gradually disappeared. For the past several years, Karachi has been without a mass transit system.
The incumbent CJP is taking a keen interest in the revival of the KCR. It is through his efforts that much of the KCR land that had been encroached upon has been cleared. On Wednesday, during the hearing of a petition in Islamabad pertaining to losses suffered by the Pakistan Railways, Justice Ahmed told Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed to restore the KCR within three months. The minister claimed 85% encroachments on KCR land had been cleared, and on Tuesday night a three-storey building constructed on KCR land was demolished. The demolition has rendered occupants of the building homeless. The homeless people say they had invested their life savings to get their apartments. This shows the frightening level of corruption prevailing in our society and the incredible gullibility of the people. The need for greed remains a big question.
The CJP told the minister not to hand over the KCR to the Sindh government as it would meet the same fate as road transport. We are hopeful that the CJP’s efforts towards an early revival of KCR would give the desired results.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2020.