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August 15, 2020

PM’s praise for Khattak for conceiving BRT, but no mention of its many failures

National

August 15, 2020

PESHAWAR: It was understandable that eyebrows were raised and there was a chuckle when Prime Minister Imran Khan praised his Defence Minister Pervez Khattak for envisioning the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in 2017 for providing modern transport service to the people.

Nobody expected the prime minister to praise someone for conceiving a project that suffered from ill-planning, faulty design, cost overruns and delays. Pervez Khattak, who was the chief minister when work on the BRT started in October 2017 and to everyone’s surprise promised to get it completed in six months, faced heavy criticism as the project dragged on and made life miserable for citizens living and working in the congested city. Videos surfaced on social media cursing him and criticizing the ruling PTI for failing to complete it within the sanctioned cost and timeline.

Nearly three years later and costing more than Rs66 billion, the BRT with its 27 kilometres long main corridor and 60-kms long feeder routes has been inaugurated and buses have started plying even though opposition politicians are arguing that the project isn’t complete.

While the prime minister heaped praise where none was due on Pervez Khattak just for presenting the idea of BRT, the present Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has time and again in recent days conceded that it was a mistake to claim that the project would be completed in six months. He too must have been taken by surprise by the prime minister’s praise for Pervez Khattak, but being a gentleman you cannot expect him to react. Other senior PTI leaders have been terming the BRT as a sore point for their government and its Achilles heel. It gave an opportunity to the opposition to criticize the PTI like never before as the cost of the project was huge. Memories are short, but Imran Khan had reservations about the BRT but also all other metro bus projects initiated by the previous PML-N government as he termed these a waste of money. In his view, public money should be spent on education, health and other pro-people projects to benefit the citizens instead of wasting it on roads, buildings and other schemes involving the use of cement and steel.

However, he gave the go-ahead to Pervez Khattak to undertake the BRT setting aside his own objections to it. The prime minister has described the BRT as the best metro in Pakistan and said it would help solve Peshawar’s traffic congestion problems. This claim would be put to test in due course of time as those using the BRT buses are the best judge of its quality of service.