Losses reported by the business community following the Sindh High Court’s ban on movement of heavy traffic during daytime to and from Karachi Port amounts roughly to Rs200 billion every 10 days, the chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance, Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, told the Assembly Wednesday.
The SHC in March had directed the transport secretary and the city traffic police chief to immediately enforce a ban on the movement of heavy vehicles in the city during daytime.
The ban was initially introduced after a group of concerned citizens petitioned the Supreme Court, explaining how they were perturbed by the present situation of traffic in the city deteriorating day by day. They stated that the apex court had passed an order directing the traffic DIGP and the municipal authorities to immediately stop heavy vehicles from plying on roads in the daytime to maintain smooth flow of traffic.
After the ban was enforced, goods carriers went on strike to protest the restriction, arguing it would result in extra costs because their vehicles would have to cover longer distances to reach their destinations on time.
Financial losses to the business community are also mounting as industrialists struggle to access raw material and other goods in a timely manner, Parliament was told.
About 7,000 to 8,000 containers and goods carriers full of raw materials, imported food and other items travel daily from the Karachi Port to Port Qasim, Landhi and Korangi industrial areas — a distance of about 35km.
In the meeting, Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan lamented the “failure” of lawmakers in the Sindh government to resolve the issue, which has caused a massive logjam of at least 70,000 containers in the port city.
PPP lawmaker Ghulam Mustafa Shah responded saying the Sindh government is negotiating alternative routes with transporters.
Court mulls over ban
In a hearing on Saturday, the SHC ordered the stakeholders to set up a committee to frame terms of reference (TOR) and suggest routes for heavy vehicles. The next hearing is scheduled for May 20. Nisar Hussain Jafri, the chairman of newly formed Pakistan Goods Transporters Alliance, said that on Sunday they met Mayor Karachi Wasim Akhtar and finalised the TOR and suggestions which would soon be submitted to the SHC.
However, Jafri reiterated his stance that transporters never asked for any change in the route. He said transporters had been following a 2007 Supreme Court order given by the then acting chief justice Rana Bhagwandas under which heavy vehicles were allowed to move within city’s jurisdiction from 11pm to 6am.
He regretted that the SHC banned heavy vehicles’ movement on a plea that they were passing through residential areas. Jafri argued that even the new, long route involving Northern Bypass was passing through residential areas.
Stakeholders discuss ban’s inconveniences
Meanwhile, a spokesman of the Karachi port told IPP that from Tuesday no vessel could be given berth for unloading of containers at its two container terminals, i.e. Karachi International Container Terminal (KICT) and Pakistan International Container Terminal.
However, he said the KICT could use some space. For the last eight days, the import of cargo was being unloaded but no export cargo could be loaded as no containers reached the Karachi port.
The industry is claiming that on an average about Rs6bn losses were being suffered per day on account of exports alone. Mohammad Jawed Bilwani, the chairman of Pakistan Apparel Forum, said industrial units were facing storage problems as goods could not be moved out of their premises.
Exporters were facing expiry of letter of credits and could lose order, he said, adding that the perishable cargo has been hit the worst.