Sindh’s chief minister has made it clear that his government will not allow the construction of the Main Line-1 (ML-1) project of the Pakistan Railways as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) at the cost of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) or at the cost of the people of the city.
CM Syed Murad Ali Shah said this on Monday while speaking in the provincial assembly, which adopted a resolution through majority vote urging the federal government to give the highest priority to the KCR project as part of CPEC as well as Prime Minister Imran Khan to take up the issue during his upcoming visit of China.
In his remarks before the adoption of the resolution, Shah said the Centre intended to build the ML-1 project as part of CPEC while using an 18-kilometre portion of the railway track from the City Railway Station to the Drigh Road Railway Station, which was originally meant for the KCR.
He said that no doubt ML-1 was a communication project of national importance, but it should not be built at the cost of the KCR, adding that at the same time, the KCR was an equally important project, but the construction of ML-1 using the same railway track would affect the proposed revival of the KCR.
The CM said his government had already duly conveyed its objections regarding the use of the 18km railway track within the city for building ML-1. He said the KCR had remained in full operation from 1964 to 1984, but later on the deterioration in the project started taking place, and until 1999 the circular train service was altogether stopped.
He said the old track of the KCR existed in the city (of which the 18km portion from the City Railway Station to the Drigh Road Railway Station is a part), and the provincial government wanted to revive the railway line along modern lines.
“Don’t disturb this track, as doing so will be equal to building this project [ML-1] at the cost of the people of Karachi. Look for alternatives, as this project should be built somewhere else or in an elevated manner.”
He said the KCR had duly been made part of CPEC back in 2016, when he had visited Beijing to attend the meeting of CPEC’s Joint Coordination Committee, adding that there was no way the project would not be raised or discussed in the PM’s forthcoming visit of China.
The CM said that earlier he had written two letters to the incumbent PM — the last one was written this August— while the Planning & Development Department of his government had separately sent two letters to the relevant federal authorities on the KCR, but no response had been received from the Centre on the issue.
He said that once the House passed the latest resolution for expeditious progress on
the KCR, he would immediately write another letter to the PM urging him to raise the issue of the KCR in his visit to China. “If PM sahib has already left for China by the time my letter reaches Islamabad, we will request his staff to immediately forward it to China.”
The CM expressed regret that in his latest conversation with the media, the federal P&D minister had enumerated a number of projects to be taken up by the PM in his visit to China, but the list did not include the KCR despite the scheme already being a part of CPEC.
Shah said the Centre should provide sovereign guarantee to the KCR project as part of CPEC so that it was built on a priority basis. He also complained that the progress on CPEC projects in the country had slowed down in the past several months.
“There’s no issue if you don’t like Murad Ali Shah, but please don’t ignore the projects of Sindh, as all of our projects have already been delayed,” the chief executive urged the federal administration.
The opposition lawmakers opposed the passage of the resolution in favour of the expeditious progress on KCR. The resolution was presented in the House by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party’s MPA Ghanwer Ali Khan Isran.
The motion stated: “This House resolves and recommends to the government to approach the federal government to accord the highest priority to the Karachi Circular Railway project. “The KCR project was included in CPEC on the request of the Government of Sindh in the year 2016 and since then, the project has been diligently followed by the government.
“It is noteworthy to state that so far several DO [demi-official] letters have been written by the chief minister to the federal government in the last three years, the most recent of which was written in August 2019.
“The Government of Sindh has participated in all the relevant technical forums relating to CPEC projects, including the Joint Working Group and the 6th, 7th and 8th Joint Coordination Committee meetings in Islamabad and in China held between 2017 and 2018.
“The government of China’s representatives acknowledged the feasibility of the KCR and agreed to include the same in its portfolio. It may be noted that it is the Government of Sindh which is taking full responsibility for the loan and its repayment while the federal government is to only provide sovereign guarantees.
“It has been reported that the Prime Minister of Pakistan in his upcoming visit to China will be engaging to secure support for ML-1 (the Karachi to Peshawar railway track) and not the KCR. Hence, again Karachi and the national development which is to be realised by investing in mass transport in Karachi will be ignored.
“It is stated that the KCR project by all means is a project of national importance and not only the people of Karachi but the entire economy will benefit from the KCR project. “Further, this House resolves that the first right of way on the 18 kilometres from Drigh Road to the City Station and the Karachi Port should be accorded to the KCR in the best interest of the people of the city of Karachi.
“Moreover, an alternate route, preferably an elevated track, may be established by the federal government for the purpose of ML-1. This House further implores and demands that the prime minister should make all endeavours to make the KCR project a top priority in his forthcoming trip to China.”