Bus drivers ditch local routes for Afghan journey (April 16, 2007)

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Severe over-crowding in Peshawar’s public transport
* Dist govt to introduce 40 CNG buses

By Muhammad Shahid

PESHAWAR: Local bus drivers in Peshawar have started abandoning routes within the city to take up the more lucrative business of taking Afghan refugees to Afghanistan, leading to severe over-crowding in the city’s public transport.

Bus drivers can make much more money by taking Afghan refugees to Afghanistan than by plying the city’s roads. “We earn around Rs 200 by plying the Haji Camp-Saddar route all day,” said local bus conductor Umar Gul. “Almost half of the local bus owners and their drivers have started taking Afghan refugees to Afghanistan as they can earn thousands in a few days.” Aslam, a passenger, said, “The government should arrange separate vehicles for the refugees’ deportation. Why are we bearing the brunt of the situation?”

NWFP Transport Director Sajjid Jadoon told Daily Times there were around 30,000 registered buses, vans, coaches, taxis and rickshaws plying the city’s roads, but numerous drivers lacked permits. Asked if the government could solve the problem, he said, “Overcrowded transport exists in almost all countries, but I think our people need moral training and a sense of discipline.”

NWFP Public Transport Owners Association (PTOA) President Haji Jehangir Afridi told Daily Times there were around 180 buses plying the Peshawar-Bara route, with nearly half engaged in the Afghan refugees’ repatriation. “Nearly 60 of our buses are now in Afghanistan,” he said. “When our vehicles ply the city’s roads, traffic police trouble our drivers, but now that most of our drivers have left for Afghanistan, people are facing the problem of overcrowded buses.”

The Peshawar district government recently devised a public transport scheme to address the problem. “We have advertised our plan and asked private companies to introduce and run around 40 CNG buses in the city,” District Nazim Haji Ghulam Ali told Daily Times. He said the district government had planned to construct bus stops with cold water and fans. “Recently, Hino Pak gave us a presentation on the proposed scheme. Various transporters were also present on the occasion,” he said, adding that the scheme would cost nearly Rs 220 million. “The district government will support the concerned company in all respects,” he added.

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