If not of corruption, Peshawar’s BRT is a proof of the PTI government’s ineptitude, incompetence and inexperience. Launched in October 2017 with April 2018 slated as the completion date, the bus project took nearly three years to complete — with several deadlines being exceeded. The delayed completion led to the cost of the project swelling to Rs66.43 billion from the initial Rs49 billion due to the frequent design changes, and then to Rs70.7 billion to account for Rs4.2 billion cost overrun. And when the BRT buses did finally hit the road, the service suffered suspension again and again — either due to a bus catching fire or an engine breaking down or for some other reason. No wonder, the project was a butt of all jokes to mock and tease the PTI and its supporters.
The project also dragged the Imran Khan-led party to the court. In July 2018, the Peshawar High Court, while hearing a slew of petitions filed by the citizens of Peshawar, ordered NAB to carry out a probe into the delays in the BRT launch and cost overruns. Then in December 2019, the same high court ordered FIA as well to look for possible corruption in the bus project. On both, the PTI’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government approached the Supreme Court and managed to get a stay over the probes ordered. And now two years on, the top court has set aside the PHC judgment and quashed the directive for NAB to investigate the project. The same bench has also extended for one more month its earlier stay order against the PHC directive for the FIA to probe the BRT project.
The top court judgment completely exonerates the PTI of a NAB probe and provides it relief in the form of a stay order over an FIA probe. However, to satisfy the principle of accountability for all, the K-P chapter of the Imran Khan-led party should present itself for a probe. Just like charity, accountability should also begin at home.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2021.
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