Aurat Foundation’s View on the Proposed National Transport Policy for Pakistan

1. Some Principles

1.1  Foreign Loans

It is the women of Pakistan who pay back the large foreign loans that we have taken for development. They pay these loans back from their house keeping money and by denying themselves and their children basic necessities of life such as food, education, health and entertainment facilities. They are the main sufferers when their men commit suicide due to unemployment and poverty or when they become bounded labour to survive. Therefore, whatever national transport policy is framed, it should make use of local resources and not burden us with more loans and hence more misery. It is for this reason that the Aurat Foundation does not understand the involvement of the World Bank in promoting the national transport policy.

1.2  Building on What We Have

There is already a large transport sector in Pakistan and there is considerable infrastructure in the form of railways and roads. Also, there is manpower that invests in, runs, operates and maintains this sector. There is a need to build on what exists. However, to do this we need an understanding of existing assets, potentials, and constraints of the transport sector.

Without an understanding and documentation of existing assets (such as the Mughalpura Railway Workshop), potentials and constraints, no appropriate loan free policy is possible. During our deliberations, this aspect has not been touched upon adequately. How do we support, regulate, enhance the quality and build on our existing resources?  This should be the approach and this is the only way to save Pakistan from more failed grandiose projects that litter our country and for which it is we, and not their initiators and designers, are paying the price.

1.3 Energy Savings and the Environment

Whatever policy we adopt, it should result in lowering our energy bill. This points to the development of railways, electrically operated trolley buses and use of CNG as fuel. This will also improve our polluted environmental conditions which are affecting the health of our people.

1.4 Planning for Pedestrians

Most Pakistanis walk within their neighbourhoods and to get transport to their places of work and back. Whatever policy is developed, it should be pedestrian friendly and should make it a pleasure for people to walk. At present, women, children and old people are the main victims of the anti-pedestrian, anti-street environment that our transport network and planners have created.

1.5 Transport and Traffic Plans

Transport and traffic are closely related to each other and to larger issues of land-use. Pakistan’s inner cities are congested and anarchic simply because city plans have failed to develop transport terminals, warehousing, wholesale markets in new and more accessible locations. The transport policy has to link itself up with city and town planning issues otherwise it will simply fail to address the existing conditions.

1.6 Mobilisation of Knowledge

There is a lot of know-how regarding the transport sector and a number of studies have been carried out based on alternative community friendly approaches. Since grand projects have failed, not only in the transport sector but in other sectors as well, it is necessary to mobilise this alternative knowledge. The transport policy should not be a purely engineering exercise but should be subservient to existing economic, cultural and sociological conditions.

1.7  The Development of a Commuter Friendly Transport Culture

The development of a commuter friendly transport culture simply means that the various actors in the transport trade should understand each other’s requirements, have respect for each other, and create conditions of comfort both physical and social. This can be achieved by institutionalising a space for dialogue and exchange of ideas between the various actors, and by developing the means to implement their solutions. The media and relevant academic institutions can play an important role in this. The development of such a culture will help women, children and old people immensely and will increase their mobility and economic and cultural well-being.

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