Peshawar’s ‘rocket’ buses becoming history

September 6, 2020

After the start of the BRT service, Peshawar is set to lose its iconic buses

The journey of Peshawar’s traditional buses is coming to an end after the opening of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service.

These buses were heavily ornamented with chimes and decorated with art. Their appearance may still inspire awe, but their service is notoriously slow. Half hanging outside the buses, their conductors can be heard shouting “Karkhano, Board, Tehkal, Saddar, Shoba, Ashnagharai”. They never miss a chance to pick up fares, to the chagrin of those already aboard.

As opposed to locals, tourists, especially foreigners, enjoy these rides. This allows them ample time to view Peshawar and its people. These buses started appearing in Peshawar in 1984. Initially, 400 such buses, called ‘rocket’ buses, were brought in from Karachi. The buses were heavily modified to reflect the local culture. Pressure horns and music systems were a must-have as drivers insisted on those.

“The government has signed an agreement with us to buy our buses at nominal rates. To avail the offer, 400 bus owners have registered with the government.” 

Talking to The News on Sunday, Haji Almas Khalil, the president of the drivers’ association, claims that the government had signed an agreement with them to buy their buses. “To avail the offer, 400 bus owners registered with the government. However, we have been given nothing so far. Everyone is busy celebrating the arrival of the BRT. The authorities and the people have all forgotten us.”

The BRT was inaugurated on August 13 by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The new service is faster and cheaper so that the traditional buses cannot compete with it. The route of the 26-kilometer BRT service covers a majority of the city.

Moreover, Khalil says the government had promised to provide jobs to the drivers/conductors in the BRT service, when the project was started.

“Ending this bus service will bring financial ruin to poor drivers and their conductors. The livelihoods of 2,000 families are linked to these buses. The government should provide some alternative to us,” he said.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Peshawar. He can be reached at [email protected]

Peshawar’s ‘rocket’ buses becoming history