Sindh refuses to resume public transport as KP follows Punjab’s suit

PESHAWAR/LAHORE/KARACHI: Sindh has refused to resume transport services as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa announced it is reopening all public transport from Monday, following in Punjab’s footsteps.

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Sindh refused to do so, citing the rising number of coronavirus patients in the country and a “critical situation” in the province as cases, deaths, and recoveries continued to increase simultaneously.

The announcements from the KP, Punjab, and Sindh governments came after Prime Minister Imran Khan had requested the provincial authorities to open public transport.

“I believe that whatever steps we opt for must take into account helping the most affected — our lower income strata of society,” the premier had said in a press briefing earlier today.

“When we shut public transport, we must remember we are making life difficult for the poor. So I request everyone to open public transport.

“The United States has not shut it nor has Europe. Why have we?”

Responding to the prime minister’s statement, Sindh Transport Minister Ovais Shah stated that although he respected the premier’s decision, coronavirus cases in the province were on an upward trend and the provincial government could not afford to let public transport open.

“Factory owners did not implement the SOPs after making a commitment with the government earlier,” Shah said. “Does the prime minister wish for Pakistan to become Wuhan or Italy?”

“We fear that resuming public transport operations will turn Pakistan into Italy. The prime minister has admitted that people are not adhering to the SOPs after the lockdown was eased.

“Let us work together, respected prime minister. The provinces need your help at this time,” said the minister.

KP subjects reopening to SOPs

The KP government has subjected the reopening of transport beginning Monday to the condition that the standard operating procedures (SOPs) on prevention from the deadly coronavirus would be followed by all those using transport as well as operators.

The KP chief minister’s information adviser, Ajmal Khan Wazir, said the SOPs that need to be heeded would be set up by the commissioners in collaboration with the regional transport authority and and transporters and that fares would be revised on basis of new oil prices.

Wazir added that commissioners would decide on individual routes given the coronavirus situation in their respective divisions. They would also make decisions on whether to resume inter-district roads or not, he noted.

However, decisions pertaining to routes that were part of more than one division would be taken by the KP government itself, the adviser said. He explained that the development came after consultations with the Centre.

In addition, petrol pumps are allowed to remain open round the clock, whereas hairdressers and barber shops are permitted to operate till 4pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in accordance with the SOPs.

Punjab announces reopening

Earlier today, the Punjab government also decided in principle to allow public transport to resume.

Punjab finalised the SOPs in a meeting with the transport association, with the latter’s representative agreeing to reduce the fares on the back of a steep decline in petroleum prices.

It was decided that the passengers would be obligated to wear face masks and maintain a distance of three feet during travel. Transporters were also bound to check the temperature of everyone travelling and avoid overloading their vehicles.

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