ISLAMABAD  - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif performed on Sunday the groundbreaking of Rs 44.21 billion Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus Service (MBS) project, aimed at providing a fast and quality transport service to the people in the twin cities.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, federal ministers, members of national and provincial assemblies and senior government officials attended the ceremony.

Addressing a large gathering after unveiling the plaque of this mega project, Premier Nawaz vowed to rid the country of a host of crises through revolutionary reforms for the welfare of the masses.

“People will soon see this change,” he said and referred to a number of similar other development projects including extension of motorway up to Karachi, Islamabad-Muzaffarabad train service and the new Islamabad international airport, which would be completed by March next year.

The PM said government was also working on a plan to end power loadshedding and would add 22,000MW in the system in next four years. He said the country’s economic indicators were positive and he had directed the finance minister to ensure that the rate of US dollar against the rupee remains stable, a little below Rs 100.

Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan did see short stints of development when his government twice came into power in the ‘90s. The nuclear programme and the motorway go to his previous governments’ credit. The subsequent governments, he added, did little to serve the masses. He said that it was owing to the wrong policies of the past that the country was facing the scourge of terrorism.

The prime minister said the talks with Taliban were going ahead at a satisfactory pace and hoped that a meeting would be held between the two sides in a day or two. There will be peace and the country would get rid of extremism and terrorism, he expressed the hope.

PM Nawaz said the Metro Bus project was a reflection of his government’s commitment towards providing the best possible travelling services for the people of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. “Despite the fact that the number of PML-N seats in the twin cities have halved, we have doubled our services for the people,” he added. He said though the deadline for the completion of the project was short and it was no ordinary feat, he had firm faith in the abilities of the chief minister to accomplish this gigantic task within a short period of 10 months.

Referring to the earlier agreed upon 50-50 fund sharing formula for the project between the provincial and federal governments, he assured support of the federal government after Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif pointed out that the cost of project in Rawalpindi would be much higher, and the formula needed to be revised.

Earlier, Shahbaz in his address said the day was special as the nation is celebrating Pakistan Day and the provision of a bus service for the people of Rawalpindi and Islamabad will be a great service to them. He lauded the vision of PM Nawaz who in the ‘90s had the vision of a motorway and now he had this vision of metro bus service to facilitate the people.

Shahbaz regretted that the dream of the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah could not materialise despite the passage of so many years since independence, and sacrifices of millions of men women and children, who opted for Pakistan, did not yield any result.

The chief minister said nepotism, lack of transparency, corruption and misappropriation of funds had become order of the day. He, however, vowed that all this would end. He said those, who were critical of the Lahore and now the Rawalpindi metro bus service, failed to realise how the people in an emergency or on duty were helplessly stuck up in traffic.

Shahbaz said 175,000 people daily commuted on the Lahore metro service and they belonged to all segments of society. He said those who claimed to be well-wisher of the poor were critical of the project. He also regretted that certain political parties too were trying to gain political mileage by raising environmental issues.

A documentary shown on the occasion pointed there will be no environmental impact of the project as no green area will be affected and it will not violate Islamabad master plan. The total project cost also includes a signal-free interchange at Peshawar Morr Islamabad at a cost of Rs4.7 billion. The CM assured that adequate compensation would be paid to those whose properties and businesses would be affected.

Currently an estimated 0.5 million people daily commute between Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The service will cater to around 150,000 people daily. Initially, 60 buses will ply the 23.2km Metro Bus track from Rawalpindi to Islamabad carrying over 150,000 passengers. Almost 8.6km portion of Metro Bus in Rawalpindi, from Flashmans Hotel to Faizabad, will be elevated while in Islamabad 14.6km portions will be on ground.