Shortage of public buses
Lahore is no different from Karachi in terms of public transport availability. Things are similar all over Punjab. The Lahore Transport Company bus service has ceased operation on more than 30 routes. The metro train service, which cost billions, has also failed to cater to the needs of commuters. Now these trains are carrying far fewer commuters than their capacity due to the lack of feeder buses. For a population of more than 15 million, Lahore has only 55 feeder buses for the metro bus service, which covers only one route.
Motorcycle rickshaws, commonly known as Qingqi, are filling the gap created due to the unsatisfactory state of public transport. These rickshaws are unregulated and so the authorities have little control over them. The transport department has failed in its attempts to regularise and rationalise them owing to the lack of coordination between the relevant departments. Qingqi rickshaws have been involved in 136,768 traffic accidents in the province between January 2018 and December 2020, leading to many fatalities. This is because most rickshaw drivers are untrained and overloading on these vehicles.
The provincial transport minister has promised to replace Qingqi rickshaws with four-wheeler electric vehicles. However, this seems to be impractical considering the shortage of electricity in the country. Why are government departments failing to do their duty the way they should? Surprise raids by officials and ministers would drive their subordinates to address public issues efficiently? We, the people, have never heard of such raids, unfortunately. Even absolute monarchs toured cities and villages in disguise to see how their officials were serving the people. Recently, the PM office has issued show-cause notices to several officers of the Punjab bureaucracy for their alleged inefficiency. This initiative from the top would set in motion the system of surprise raids. At present there is no check on officials; they are free to make people run around endlessly. No one asks them what they are getting their salaries for?
The Afghan Taliban have warned Nato forces against staying in the country after the May 1 deadline that was agreed under the group’s deal with the US last year. The threat is not surprising, nor is the expectation that Nato forces won’t meet the May 1 deadline. This is because the deadline was agreed to by the former US President Donald Trump after little-to-no consultation with Nato partners or even America’s own military leadership.
Indeed, US and Nato military leaders have been warning since day one that a hard deadline could be impossible to meet as any withdrawal would have to be properly managed to avoid leaving behind a void. But Trump never considered peace and stability in Afghanistan as a factor. His priority was always getting any deal done and bringing the troops home as an election ploy. He even tried pushing for all US troops to return stateside before the election, forcing his military leaders to take the unprecedented step of shooting down the suggestion in public.
But that is not to say that the foreign troops should be extending their stay indefinitely. The peace deal, by and large, remains acceptable to all parties to the Afghan conflict. The US should work with Nato to offer the right amount of carrots so that the Taliban accept some form of an extension. We all know that the stick alone has failed to yield results.
At the same time, while the US and Nato claim the uptick in violence is the reason they will have to extend their stay, we cannot ignore the fact that it takes two to tango. In this case, the government in Kabul, at the bare minimum, must share blame for the violence. Keep in mind that they are the ones that refused to come to the table when Trump told them to, which led to continuing military exchanges with the Taliban.
Yes, it may have been insulting to be given orders, but sovereignty is something that the Afghan government lacks. The government is wholly propped up by the US and its allies. By refusing to listen to their masters, they are dooming the people of Afghanistan.