LAHORE: The country’s first Metro Bus Service (MBS), the much-trumpeted and much-discussed project of the Punjab government in collaboration with the Turkish government, became operational on Sunday.
The MBS was jointly inaugurated by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bakir Bozdage and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif with full pomp and show at an impressive ceremony held at Nishtar Colony here.PML-N President Nawaz Sharif and Istanbul Deputy Mayor Ahmad Salamat were also present at the ceremony as guests of honour. Special seats were allotted to representatives of labourers, lawyers, nurses, senior citizens, women and a representative of the contractors on the stage.
Ambassadors and high commissioners of 24 countries, including Mauritius, Malaysia, India, Australia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland, Iran, Argentina and others participated in the opening ceremony. In total, diplomats of 52 countries were present on the occasion. Six ambassadors participated along with their spouses as well.
Speaking at the ceremony, Turkish deputy premier said that the launching of the metro bus was a clear signal that Pakistan was moving in the right directionand a bright future was ahead for it. He said he had been especially sent by Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan to participate in the event as a sign of brotherly relations between the two countries.
“The people of Turkey and the Muslims of the subcontinent have had brotherly relations even before the creation of both the countries,” he added. Bakir Bozdage said they (in Turkey) were teaching the next generations to maintain good brotherly relations with Pakistan which had done a lot for Turkey in testing times. “We cannot forget the great sacrifices of Muslims of the subcontinent during the Khilafat Movement,” he added.
He said trade remained on the lower side between the two countries adding that “now a linking point will be trade.” He urged Muslim countries to enhance bilateral trade.Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, addressing the ceremony, said the inauguration of the metro bus project was a historic day for Pakistan and the whole nation as the project was a milestone towards transforming Pakistan into a just and equitable society in the real sense. He regretted that the country was being divided into the rich and the poor classes. He said on the one hand, the aristocracy has air-conditioned and bullet-proof vehicles, and on the other hand people have ramshackle and crowded buses.
He said on the one hand we have helicopters and aeroplanes for some persons, while on the other people have to travel by smoky motorcycle rickshaws and wait for many hours. He said the latest model vehicles of the elite openly ridicule the deprivation and despondencies of the poor. He said the division between the rich and the poor classes is no less than a tragedy, but the metro bus system was the beginning of a new journey of minimising the divide. Rich and poor will travel together in metro buses, he said.Shahbaz said labourers working in factories, their owners, patients and doctors, political leaders and the common people, ulema and their followers as well as the ministers and the chief minister will also travel in metro buses.
He said day and night work has been undertaken to complete the great project, due to which the common man will not have to waste his time while waiting for transport. He hoped the traffic rush would also be minimised as one bus has the capacity to carry 150 passengers. He said the investment of Rs30 billion made on the great metro bus project would be returned to the nation, InshaAllah, within four and a half years, due to the saving of time and fuel, and productivity targets would also be achieved.
He said the vision of the welfare of the common man is behind this splendid metro bus system. He said one of those critics who say that the project had cost Rs70 billion or even Rs90 billion, is currently visiting Lahore as a ‘guest’. He said had the metro bus project been made by him or his cronies, it would have cost not merely Rs90 billion but Rs200 billion and would have taken many years to complete. He wished that the metro bus project should also be launched in Karachi which is the economic gateway of Pakistan. He said he took the vision of the great metro bus project from his Quaid Nawaz Sharif who is the builder of the Motorway. He said the metro bus system would spread throughout the country.
Shahbaz thanked citizens, traders, shopkeepers and persons belonging to all walks of life who bore difficulties and saw their business affected but did not protest during the construction of the project. The CM said over 25,000 labourers worked day and night, and engineers, contractors, the institutions concerned, government departments and officers completed the great project in a record time.
The CM appreciated the efficiency of the Planning & Development chairman, secretary finance, secretary Communication & Works, DG LDA, managing director Punjab Metro Bus Authority, chief traffic officer, Tepa, Nespak and all persons who worked on the great project. He announced a special prize of Rs30 million for distribution among the workers who worked day and night on the project. Shahbaz also gave prizes of Rs500,000 each to the labourers who showed outstanding performance while he distributed commendatory certificates among the contractors and senior officials for their splendid performance during the execution of the project.Earlier, LDA Chairman Ahad Khan Cheema and Metro Bus Authority MD Sibtain Fazle Haleem gave a brief view of the metro bus service. – PT