Patience: Smaller problems lead to easier life...

Apr 09 - 15, 2007


Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar Road or I. I. Chundrigar Road could be considered the financial headquarters of Pakistan. Situated in the heart of Karachi, Sindh, it was known as McLeod Road during the Colonial rule but was later renamed after the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar. Most of the headquarters of Pakistan's financial institutions are located on the I.I. Chundrigar Road, including the State Bank of Pakistan, Habib Bank Plaza, MCB Tower, National Bank of Pakistan, Bank Al-Falah, Standard Chartered Bank, CitiBank, etc. Pakistan's most circulated Jang Newspaper is also based on I.I. Chundrigar Road. I. I. Chundrigar Road has always been the financial center of Karachi's economy. Most of the biggest businesses and financial institutions in the city have offices here including the Karachi Stock Exchange and the Karachi Cotton Exchange. British-era architecture on this street ranges from the State Bank building to the City Railway Station buildings and administrative offices. This road also preserves some of the finest private architecture from Karachi's early period.


It is the vision of Sindh Governor Ishrat Ul Ebad Khan, who directed the authorities concerned to set a time frame for the completion of various tasks for modernizing and beautification of I.I. Chundrigar Road on the pattern of other famous business streets in the world. The project is aimed at the face lifting of exterior of buildings on either side of I.I. Chundrigar Road, ensuring smooth flow of traffic, improvement of water, sewerage and electric supply system and cleanliness of the street.


Rs.162 million has been funded by the banks, financial institutions and leading business houses and organizations located at I.I. Chundrigar Road for the renovation and beautification of this famous business street, while the net cost of the project was Rs250 million alongside the anticipated completion time of 6 months. The project has been undertaken by Al-Mehran Builders, the contractor responsible for the construction of Nazimabad underpass. The construction of the road has been divided into two phases keeping in view its importance and possible difficulties to citizens. Each phase represents half the portion of the road with the initial phase starting from Merewether Tower.


'Beautification' of I. I. Chundrigar road started on March 25, 2007 after many months of delay. In the initial phase the road is ripped open and utilities and sewerage lines are being transferred to alternate locations. However traffic diversion, parking and other plans flopped as usual. From the very first working day after the closure of I. I. Chundrigar Road to public transport, the passengers of this route suffered an hours-long traffic jam and several traffic gridlocks on the diverted route from Merewether Tower towards M. A. Jinnah Road for multiple reasons. The traffic police personnel had a tough time in the field under scorching heat, and few said in the light of past experience the given diversion was not a wise decision.


A survey of the alternative routes revealed that the traffic from Keemari and West Wharf was diverted at Jinnah Bridge towards ICI bridge up to Baghdadi Chowk from where it used Ghulam Allana Road through the Kharadar Jamaat Khana up to Merewether Tower from where it was again diverted to M. A. Jinnah Road till Memon Masjid and from there it was diverted on Shahrea Liaquat towards Aram Bagh Chowk on Baba-e-Urdu Road from where it joined its old route. Things didn't work as planned by the traffic police and the city government who according to DIG traffic made this plan after coordination between them. The traffic was diverted from ICI Bridge at Baghdadi Chowk and from there on it was diverted towards Kharadar Jamaat Khana where the traffic remained jammed for more than half-an-hour due to a gridlock at the main Tower. On further movement it was noted that at Tower the traffic could not be allowed through immediately. The vehicles parked in double lanes on the road along railway warehouse occupied most of the road and what worsened the situation even further was the cars and motorcyclists who drove into the third lane on MA Jinnah Road that was supposed to be used by traffic coming towards Tower just at the beginning of M. A Jinnah Road.

The other factors that contributed in traffic blockades were the U-turns taken by cars and motorcyclists blocking the traffic from the opposite side and the parking along M. A Jinnah Road and Shahrea Liaquat. In addition to this, the non-mechanised commercial vehicles also halted the flow of traffic on the alternate route. The motorcyclists were complaining of open manholes and sewage accumulated at some points on the alternative roads. The pedestrians also suffered and mainly complained against non-stop pressure horns and the thick smoke-emitting from old, rickety buses. So far PTCL is the only authority that has publicly announced about steps taken to safeguard its network.


With the sort of busy activity schedules associated with this road. It is quite likely that this maintenance work may cost millions of worth business being lost. Therefore, it can be stated that an adverse impact on the business is definite till the time this project reaches its completion phase. Banks may suffer issues because the main clientele is the one who wants online transactions. Routine businesses may suffer due to lack of parking space, etc. Customers of any business, for that matter, would face issues with parking particularly when carrying cash. The closure of the I. I. Chundrigar Road for vehicular traffic for eight months or a year might possibly turn into an economic disaster for Karachi, and therefore, it is quite a firm believe that this project should be completed more swiftly than anything.


It is worth mentioning here that it is a fascinating project that the city government has undertaken. The city government already has a number of remarkable projects such as underpass-series and flyovers, etc, all to their account. Similarly, this project is such a huge one that no previous government has undertaken it. Patch work has been used in the past i.e. to repair the damages rather than working it out on the whole. Each rain witnesses bent in the roads that are repaired later. All these suggest that the reconstruction of the same road hasn't been considered over the recent past. Possibly because the scope seems so huge and there are so many numbers of stakeholders that it becomes really difficult to initiate such projects, anticipating a negative response from the stakeholders.


The pace of the work so far has been phenomenal. Interestingly, the way the contractor has worked so far implies that they would be quite keen on getting this one over as soon as possible. There were delays in the Nazimabad under-pass construction but once notified of, the administration assured that there was no delay from then on in the construction. The enthusiasm and agility is quite visible from the pace of work today.


Since I. I. Chundrigar Road is the financial hub, there are generally all sorts of visitors coming across. These develop the image of our nation through the infrastructural capabilities, which isn't in the best of forms today. As soon as these and many more development projects conclude, these renovated and beautified places are certain to have a better image for Pakistan in the world. The infrastructure is a depiction of the government support to trade and commerce and as per the instructions of the administration that it should look similar to a world class business street; it would most definitely illustrate a welcoming hand to the foreign investors.