Peshawar to resume BRT service after getting clearance from Chinese experts

A bus drives along the newly-built corridor of the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a rapid bus transit system running along an east-west corridor, during a test-run in Peshawar on Aug. 5, 2020. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 September 2020

Peshawar to resume BRT service after getting clearance from Chinese experts

  • PM Khan described the Bus Rapid Transit as ‘the best metro bus service available in Pakistan’ while inaugurating it in August
  • The facility was suspended within a few weeks after several buses caught fire while they were carrying passengers

PESHAWAR: A team of technical experts of a Chinese bus manufacturing company has arrived in the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to inspect the vehicles used by the city’s metro bus service after some of them caught fire recently, making commuters wonder if it was safe to travel on them.
Nearly a month after its inauguration, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service was indefinitely suspended on Wednesday after two more buses caught fire in the upscale Hayatabad locality of Peshawar.
According to the Rescue 1122 emergency service, there were no casualties and the fire that erupted in the air conditioning compartment was immediately extinguished.
“Yes, it was the fourth unfortunate incident in which two buses caught fire … Now a 20-member expert team of the bus manufacturing company has arrived from China to inspect our entire fleet and identify the causes of such incidents,” Muhammad Umair Khan, focal person for the BRT facility, told Arab News while declining to name the Chinese bus manufacturer.

In this undated photo, a metro bus can be seen in an upscale Peshawar neighborhood. The BRT facility was inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan last month who called it "the best metro bus service available in Pakistan." (Picture courtesy: TransPeshawar)

Launched in October 2017 at an estimated cost of Rs49 billion, the 27-kilometer-long BRT corridor had to be completed within a span of six months. However, the project got delayed and missed at least four deadlines in 2018 and 2019.
The long-awaited service was inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan in the second week of August who called it “the best metro bus service available in Pakistan.”
The provincial adviser on local government, Kamran Bangash, told Arab News that the BRT service was suspended on the recommendation of Chinese experts.
“The manufacturers of these buses have assured us that the service will be restored at the earliest. However, we cannot give any timeline and we will not take any risk until we get clearance from the experts,” he added.

Noorshad Wazir, a student at the University of Peshawar, told Arab News that the suspension of the service was creating problems for commuters, though he added that people were also scared to travel on theses buses.
Video footage of the latest fire incident was widely shared on social media, showing thick black smoke coming out of the bus last Wednesday.
Shortly thereafter, TransPeshawar, the company that operates the service, announced its suspension in “the best public interest” to ensure passenger safety.
Muhammad Nouman, who works as a laboratory technician in the city and frequently used the facility after its inauguration, said that the BRT was “mired in controversies such as poor management” from the outset.
“It saved many people from traffic congestion,” he said. “But now I seriously wonder if the project has provided us relief or compounded our troubles. I am also not sure if it will be safe for us to travel on these buses in the future.”
TransPeshawar has already acquired a fleet of 220 hybrid air-conditioned buses to cover the BRT corridor in the city.
“We will make sure to prevent such incidents in the future,” said the BRT focal person. “We will only resume the service after thoroughly checking all the buses and rectifying the problem.”

Pakistan gets lifeline till Feb 2021 as FATF continues to keep it on grey list

Updated 23 October 2020

Pakistan gets lifeline till Feb 2021 as FATF continues to keep it on grey list

  • The country has completed 21 out of 27 items of the global financial watchdog’s action plan, acknowledges FATF officials
  • The government of Pakistan has signaled the commitment to complete the rest of the action plan, says the FATF president

KARACHI: The global financial watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), decided on Friday to keep Pakistan on its “grey list” while acknowledging that the country had made significant progress in meeting international anti-terrorism financing norms and should not be downgraded to the “blacklist.”

The FATF began its virtual plenary meeting on October 21 under the first two-year German presidency of Dr Marcus Pleyer.

“Pakistan will remain our increased monitoring list,” he announced after the end of the conference. “The plenary recognizes that Pakistan has made progress. The government has now completed 21 out of 27 items of its action plan. The government of Pakistan has signaled the commitment to complete the rest of its action plan.”

“Even though Pakistan has made progress it needs to do more,” he continued. “It cannot stop now and needs to carry out reforms in particular to implement targeted financial sanctions and prosecuting sanctions financing terrorism.”

Responding to a question, the FATF president said that onsite inspection would be carried out after the next plenary in February 2021 to decide about Pakistan’s exclusion from the grey list.

Pakistan was placed on the list of countries with inadequate controls over terrorism financing by the FATF in June 2018.

The Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), an inter-governmental organization in the Asia-Pacific region, issued the first Follow Up Report (FUR) on Pakistan last month.

The report reflected the country’s performance until February 2020 and noted that it had complied with only two recommendations related to financial institution secrecy laws and financial intelligence units out of 40 recommendations on the effectiveness of anti-money laundering and combating financing terror (AML/CFT) system.

However, Pakistan managed to pass three crucial FATF-related laws during a joint session of parliament in September this year. With these laws, the country managed to comply with most of the legislation required by the international watchdog to strength the country’s financial system.

The FATF “strongly” urged Pakistan in February this year to complete its full action plan by June 2020, warning it would take action against the country which could include advising financial institutions to give special attention to business relations and transactions with Pakistan. Later, the deadline was extended and the country was given time until October 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pakistan also punished Hafiz Saeed, a Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader, in a terror financing case and decided to send him to prison for five and a half years.

Commenting on the FATF decision, financial experts said the decision to keep Pakistan on grey list owed to the government’s hasty legislation.

“The most vital issue relates to the roles assigned to the AML-CFT authority and self-regulatory bodies. These laws give powers to regulate AML-CFT to various government and professional bodies. They were not carefully drafted, create conflict of interest, and are complicated and ambiguous,” Dr Ikram ul Haq, a Lahore-based senior economist, said after the FATF decision.

The FATF blacklist have international pariah states like Iran and North Korea, and these countries are shunned by international financial institutions.